On Tuesday a group of fifteen of us went to Stellenbosch for a wine tour. What really amazes me about Cape Town is how in an hour’s drive we went from the city’s cosmopolitan vibe and lush suburbs, through sprawling informal settlements and then into the historic town of Stellenbosch. Townships and informal settlements have historically been redlined by physical boundaries such as highways and train-tracks, and it couldn’t have been more evident than along the stretch of highway between Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch is an old Dutch town with Stellenbosch University at it’s heart. The streets are lined with huge oak trees that were planted by the Dutch for making wine-barrels, but they took too well to the African sun and grew too fast for the wood to be suitable for the wine-barrels. Now the university students say you’re not a real student until an acorn falls on your head. The surrounding farmlands reminded me of Tuscany with it’s scattered vineyards. We made our rounds to four different wine farms, sampling a variety of wines and gorging ourselves on an assortment of cheeses and chocolates. The next day we had some time to explore Stellenbosch and the University before heading back to Cape Town.
On Saturday we all had our first IES class. We went to three different field sites where we will be focusing our research and service learning for the semester. The two that really struck me were the informal settlements of Egoli and Imizamo Yethu. Both informal settlements began as squatter camps on private land and have expanded exponentially, Egoli across abandoned farmlands and Imizamo Yethu up the hills of Hout Bay. Imizamo Yetho has some infrastructure, including water and electricity, but since Egoli is on private land the residents have very limited water and no electricity, and often face evictions from landowners. I’m really looking forward to working in these communities for the semester, learning more about their situation and what our class can do to improve their quality of life.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Alex Paone is a junior at the University of Vermont, majoring in Anthropology and double-minoring in African Studies and Geography. He enjoys photography, cooking, hiking and has a passion for travel. Alex is looking forward to calling Cape Town home and also exploring more of Africa beyond Cape Town and South Africa.</span></p>