Monday, April 23, 2012

Senekal: A weekend at my roommate's home

On our way to visit Clarens, about an hour and a half from Senekal
Throughout my journey in South Africa there I have been fortunate enough to have a roommate who has consistently showered me with kindness during the many challenges I have endured.  She had invited me to her home in a town about an hour and a half away called Senekal for well over a month now and our schedules finally matched up a weekend in April.
            Traveling is always an adventure but there are certainly times where I wish I had a home cooked meal. I felt so comfortable and at home with my roommate and her family. They are some of the kindest people I have ever had the chance of meeting and accommodated me to the point where I truly felt like I was in my own house. I took advantage of the chance to learn new recipes from her mom like Bobotie and Malva pudding, two very Afrikaans meals which are delicious. I also took the opportunity to listen and learn about her parent’s experiences growing up and living in the Apartheid era and their transition into a democratic South Africa. I have found that everyone in this country has a story and if you are just willing to listen, you will learn more than any text book or class could ever teach you. My roommate’s mom is the epitome of what it means to reconcile and transform your spirit. She spoke to me about what it was like growing up with the propaganda of the Apartheid. She said that what the government was telling her and her family about non-whites was a form of brainwashing. She said that she was ashamed to say she believed what the government said about non-whites. When the Apartheid ended in 1994 and Nelson Mandel became president she made a conscious decision to be open and change. Today she works in the townships with the very same kinds of people that she wouldn’t have worked with if the Apartheid hadn’t ended. She is an exceptional woman and an example of how change is really possible if you keep an open heart.
Bobotie (Ba-boy-tee)

            Her mother is a social worker and we visited a near by township where she works. Townships are places where the government made all the colored and blacks live during the Apartheid. They are on the out skirts of cities and towns and non whites who worked in the cities or towns would have to take taxis and buses to get to their jobs and still do. The government made the townships like this so only the whites could live close enough to walk and enjoy the city amenities. Today, many white people have not visited townships because they have a reputation and stigma for being dangerous and crime ridden. This reputation stems from some truth, but it’s the same truth that can be said for many big cities. I visited homes and churches in different townships and I have yet to meet or experience people who wanted to harm me. I was met with gratitude above all else, because the people were happy to see a white person and a foreigner coming to visit and see a township for themselves. My advice for visiting a township would be the same for visiting other unfamiliar places: common sense. Don’t go into certain areas alone, don’t walk around at night, and use your instincts.
These are some of the backyard structures in the townships in Senekal.
Golden Gate National park, Free State
            Her mother took us to a cute little town called Clarens. It’s a beautiful artsy town, set against the beginnings of the Drakensburg Mountains, a nature lover's niche. It is very touristy and a popular place for guesthouses and weekend getaways. Does this sound familiar? When I visited it reminded me a lot of Boone, but the South African version. There are cute restaurants and lots of art galleries. It is a lovely place and not far from another beautiful place, Golden Gate National Park. The colors and scenery were beautiful. We only spent the day visiting these two places but Golden Gate is a perfect place for a weekend of camping. Maybe next time J

I can’t wait to bring back the recipes I’ve acquired. I’m going to have a South African style dinner party when I get back. (It’s a shame you’ll be abroad Javier!)

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