I’m writing this in an adorable coffee shop right near our hotel called Bean There. It made me happy, and I can tell you bluntly it’s because it’s a little slice of the West, as apparent by it’s free WiFi. But you’ll hear all about that in a few minutes!
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As a conclusion to the hustle and bustle of the beginning of the trip, our final few days were pretty chill. We visited one of the wine countries in South Africa for a concert, an area called Stellenbosch. Our tour guide explained that Stellenbosch has over 140 wineries, which may help explain why the booze was so much cheaper than in America. After having an unremarkable concert at the University of Stellenbosch and seeing some of their pretty campus, we headed out for another church concert. While I haven’t mentioned it up until now, this is the third time that we were served the splendor that is bobotie, and I highly recommend giving it a try. Bobotie is basically just ground beef with some spices and a crispy crust on top. It sounds easy. However, it was just as delicious the third time as it was the second and the first, and considering it was made for a group of 88 college guys it must be easy to make in large batches. It’s sweet but savory, meaty but tender. If you can make lasagna you can probably make bobotie, and while I can’t vouch for the quality of this recipe, I’ve found one HERE that the adventurous can try.
Our set list at this concert was just as good as the last, and our Afrikaans was thankfully improving. What stood out to me at this concert was that while the other choirs were, frankly, pretty bad, they performed American pieces. From classics such as Can You Hear the Love Tonight? and Rufus Wainwright’s Hallelujah, we got to feel what it was like to have our music sung to us just as we sang their music to them, and it was really special. I can only describe it as feeling warm fuzzies, as only that very detailed, precise description eloquently captures the moment. But that really is the only way I can describe it. The music was stylistically poor and the artificial harmonies were sometimes painful, but knowing that they were trying to connect with us and hearing a little Americana put me in a pleasant place. I wouldn’t listen again, the musician in me would combust. But in the moment it was…well, just plain nice.
The next day I deviated from the itinerary and made my own adventure. Instead of running from dawn until dusk like almost every other day, I took off a day to sleep in, catch up on email, and explore around my hotel with a friend. Our first stop after a late hotel breakfast was a cute coffee shop called Bean There. It definitely catered to Westerners in both its extended hours and its rare, free Wifi. Wifi in South Africa was at best sketchy and most of the time simply too janky to reliably connect, and most places closed at 6 on the weekdays and all day Sunday. This small haven was open 7 days a week and had better-than-average Wifi, even if by American standards it was slow. If you want to learn to appreciate the Internet, travel to South Africa.
From there we checked out one of the many local markets in the surrounding area. It was on Long St, which was definitely a tourist site because we saw three markets within a few blocks of the hotel. You were expected to barter in these markets and I forgot to bring any cash with me so I only browsed. Regardless, my bartering skills are on par with my lion taming skills, and even with my safari sojourn earlier in the trip I can tell you I am not cut out for haggling. Some clubbers were naturals and got an original price of 1,200 rand (the local currency) down to 150. I can only stare in awe, because the one time I bought anything from a bartering shop I took the first price he gave me.
The final stop of our venture before our final, successful concert that evening was a lunch spot called Mama Africa’s Café. The name sits with me a little funny, however the food was excellent. I split a sampler of five African meats, throwing in an extra buck to add on warthog. My favorite was the crocodile meat. Crocodile meat is (somehow) white as opposed to red, and it was as tender and juicy as red meat while maintaining smoothness of white. The ostrich meat was also good, though I no longer remember the taste enough to describe it (I could never be a food critic). I do recall, however, that the warthog was disappointing. It was dry and bland, and considering the preparation of the other meats I assume that’s just the taste. But regardless, the fact that I could try these six meats (even if I don’t know what kudu is—though now I know what it tastes like!) was a really cool experience. That is, until we got the bill and realized it was over double our average meal from the trip. However, I regret nothing from that day. I may have missed some of the tourist hotspots, but I forged my own adventure and had a relaxing day that, frankly, was more interesting to experience and is probably much more interesting to read than the days about the history of South Africa. And besides I’d rather spend money trying delicacies in South Africa than at Starbucks back at home. And- for better or for worse- that’s saying a lot.