At first I kept my new adventure moving to Stellenbosch on the down low, because when you mention the word Stellenbosch or anywhere in and around Cape Town, the whole of Pretoria seem to become experts in this particular region. But as time went by, I had to let the cat out of the bag, because my excuses for why I needed boxes became a bit far fetched.
“I’m moving to Stellenbosch in 3 weeks’ time,” I mumbled under my breath one sunny afternoon. At first everyone just looked at me like I had just told them I’m not a Blue Bulls supporter. It didn’t take to long for the news to sink in and one by one they shared their own bits of knowledge about the Western Cape province with me.
It’s now been a month since I moved to Stellenbosch and I decided to share my newfound perspective on this place I now call home.
The first things that caught my eye
The streets of Stellenbosch are so clean! Coming from a place where litter is everywhere, it took me a few seconds to grasp this state of things. And while still in shock about the lack of rubbish, it also hit me: there were NO POTHOLES here! The roads leading me to Paarl, Somerset West or just back home from work are all in such good condition. I can drive with ease in and out of Stellenbosch, with no worries about a massive pothole that will take me on a journey to the center of the earth.
One day as I’m turning left into Ryneveld street (a very proud moment because I found my way without using my GPS), I suddenly feel like I’m back in the Netherlands; the small streets with corner coffee shops, tables on the pavement and people driving past me on bicycles all reminded me of my time spent in Europe. I was beginning to feel a bit more at home.
As I’m feeling more and more comfortable between the mountains of Stellenbosch, I start to adjust to the pace of the people around me. In Pretoria everything happens in fast forward, you are always in a hurry. Whether you are just getting food or just wandering in the mall, you have to put on your sneakers and run with the stream. The people of Stellenbosch take a few seconds to breathe and like to take their time. I love this about this town and its people, the relaxed pace gives me more time to acknowledge the things around me.
And of course the idea that the ocean is a mere 20 minutes away is something my brain just can’t understand. For someone who grew up in Gauteng and the North West, the sea walks hand-in-hand with December vacation. When my family and I went on summer holiday we had this thing; the person that first calls out “I see the sea,” gets an ice cream! And now I’m getting an ice cream every time I visit friends in Somerset West!
My first kiss in Ceres
Never have I felt so loved than on my first road trip in the Western Cape. We were on our way to a team building weekend, and I persuaded our designated driver to make a pit stop for some much-needed Rennies (Brutal Fruit and chronic heartburn are not the best of friends).
I jumped out of the van and ran into the nearest shop, one of those small supermarkets with Coca-Cola branding and people sitting in front of the entrance. My persuasiveness is apparently on point because my colleague actually agreed to come with me, to his regret!
At the counter with a packet of Rennies in my hand, this toothless old lady came up to me, pulled me closer as if I was the best thing since sliced bread and started kissing me all over my face. No one has ever kissed me like that before. She then turned to my colleague and started kissing him as well. We were apparently the most beautiful humans this old lady had ever seen. Somehow we managed to pull away without being smooched on the mouth, quickly made a duck for it, fled back to the van and drove off like Jason Statton in every Transporter movie.
That time with the baboons in the shower
The most common question my Valie friends back in Pretoria ask me is: “Have you made any friends yet?” Honestly, the thought of sitting in a bar and bombarding the first person ordering a Black Label has crossed my mind many times. Luckily, it hasn’t been necessary! The Black Label part yes, but not attacking a stranger with awkward small talk about how the parking meters work.
Lucky for me there is no fear when your best friend from university is near and the moment I arrived in Stellenbosch she invited me on an adventure with some of her friends to their farm in the Koue Bokkeveld.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this: you are standing between mountains as far as your eye can see, under the cold water of an outdoor shower, washing away every bit of the city. You open your eyes to appreciate the view one more time. And suddenly, you are met with 5 baboons running towards you at full speed from the mountain top, just as you’ve whipped up a nice and foamy shampoo lather in your hair.
No, this isn’t a scene from King Kong.This actually happened.
At that exact moment the adrenaline kicked in and I started running and screaming like a girl in a low budget horror film until the baboons stopped in their tracks. After a while I calmed down and realised I still had shampoo in my hair. But just like in King Kong (yes, the baboons looked like giant, monstrous apes at that moment) my friend came to my rescue. While I rinsed the shampoo out of my hair, he stood on top of the rock trying to scare the lurking baboons away. Luckily they soon decided wasn’t the Ann to their King Kong and went on with their lives in the mountains of the Koue Bokkeveld.
Here are a few tips on how to survive being the new girl on the block:
- When your coworkers invite you for a beer at Akker in your first week, jump at the opportunity and maybe, just maybe, you can call them friends after a while.
- Capetonians are going to laugh at the way you pronounce words, but don’t change it. Your pronunciation is a good party trick to have in any awkward situation.
- When you see a celebrity on your first day, keep it cool. Don’t shout at your boss to take a photo of you looking like a stalker.
- When a cute guy claims to be 21, don’t believe him.
- Change your Facebook to private. You don’t want your coworkers to compare your Matric farewell to a meme of Honey Boo Boo.
- Find your way home without using a GPS.
- Always get excited when you drive past mountains; and when you hear waves crashing, remember that you are blessed to call this place home.
Have you recently moved to a new place? Share your stories in the comments below!