Skip to content

saturday market
Saturday Market

You find yourself with nothing to do on a Saturday morning, but the weather is beautiful. What to do?

Well among the typical South African answers of hiking a mountain, going biking, or any variety of outdoors activities [South Africans love the outdoors], a staple of a weekend morning is going to the market. Now when I share this with friends back home, I can just see their thoughts resorting to the select pictures of far-away markets they may have seen in some National Geographic issue. As such, I want you to take whatever market you are imagining, and upgrade it.

South Africa has markets like what you’re imagining- wooden crates full of fresh fruits and veggies, staples for a week of cooking, maybe even something hot and cheap to eat. However, what few may imagine is that South Africa has some of the most beautiful, diverse, and lively markets out there. Markets like the Neighborgoods Market, which exists in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, sell locally made goods from upscale jewelry to different spreads to fudge to Rooibos flavored beer and beyond. It’s the type of place that you can celebrate the weekend by strolling with friends, tasting tidbits of everything, splurging on something you probably don’t need but must have, and listen to live music. It is, by far, my favorite way to spend a weekend morning and gives you a nice chance to celebrate small businesses and local flavors.

Here in Stellenbosch, despite being a small town, we too have our markets to offer. One being the Stellenbosch Slow Market, and the other being the Route 44 Market. Both, unsurprisingly, are hosted at vineyards, as Stellenbosch is in the heart of South African wine country.

saturday market 3
Checking out the delicious food

True to form, the markets are, though joyful, also a reminder of wealth inequality within the country. Though the prices of goods may not seem high for a Western visitor, or a wealthy white South African, they are not the “place to be” so-to-say for the normal South African citizen. If the cost of your meal at the market is R60 (about $6) or the sweater you buy is R150 ($15) and you are paid the South African minimum wage of R10- that’s 1 U.S. Dollar an hour, these markets just aren’t feasible to visit, nor do they supply the types of goods that you’re looking for. As such, and perhaps this is the case too of Farmer’s Markets in the United States, these markets attract a specific section of the population and though fun, are only representative of the more upscale version of the market.

sheeps head
"Smiley" or Sheep's head

However, markets of a different kind are a staple nonetheless. I’ve gone to township markets where everyone from grandparents to children are playing and eating. In fact, it was there that I first tried a “smiley” which is a barbequed sheep’s head. I’ve also been to markets in Johannesburg that sell locally grown staple foods and working-man’s food for R2 ($0.25). No matter what market you attend, you will find something adventurous to eat, a true taste of the country, and friendly locals who will be glad to have you there. So if you ever have the chance in any country, my biggest suggestion is to find the markets!

photo 1 (1)
Playing chess by the Seine

It still feels unreal, but I am solidly, on Parisian ground.

My visa came two days later than what was expected so I booked the next available flight and hopped on the plane. Talk about reckless, eh? I am staying with a friend at the moment while trying to find housing for myself, which made me kind of regret not taking GW's offer on housing. (A little advice reference for future GW students)

It feels very weird to be in Paris again. I have never expected myself to be living in a European country for a period of time that requires a long-stay visa. I walk on the streets and wonder how just two days ago, I was at home in China. And how 46 days ago, I was in Peru. And three months ago, I was in DC. I don't know why but the way waiters first address me in French and then switching to English after seeing me struggling with my order really annoys me. I think I was more frustrated at myself that two years of not speaking French had made me felt less confident. But the discomfort quickly faded away after I conversed in French with someone and he complimented my french. (Maybe to him, me speaking French is like the equivalent of a monkey speaking English, simply astounding and unexpected that he felt the need to "wow" in encouragement.)

My friend and I explored the center of Paris in the past two days. I tried to get my bank account and phone set up but since I arrived on saturday, nothing was open. Sciences Po mentioned how there are some banks that have partnerships with them that will give you 80 euros or something. I'll blog about it next week when I have everything set up.

photo 2 (1)
Badminton on the Seine

Today we were walking on Quai d'Orsay along the Seine and we had a lot of fun. Along the riverbank, there was this street that was full of entertainment including photo galleries and chalk wall and tepees to chill in. We settled down for a game of chess, which was for free. There were games like backgammon and uno and other board games around us as well, which we thought was a very nice idea for a family outing. Next to the free board games there was free badminton playing. It was the weirdest sport I have ever played haha. We used a squash racket to hit a shuttlecock that had a bottom similar to a tennis ball. I thought, me with my Asian heritage plus being the president for club badminton, I'd be able to show off my crazy badminton skills but no. Low and behold, it was windy and I almost smashed a Russian girl in the face and her dad did not look to pleased. We quickly slithered away after that.

We walked along Champs-Elysee after that and saw this impressive golden gate. We stopped and realized it was the entrance to Abercrombie and Fitch. Fanciest place I've been in Paris yet. For a moment I thought I was walking in the gardens of Versailles, if not for the strong cologne that always infuses the air around Abercrombie and Fitch within a five mile radius.


photo 3
Already smelling the cologne...
photo 4
Abercrombie & Fitch, Parisian style


The welcome program starts tomorrow. Apparently the French has a really different system than the States and the welcome program is mainly about teaching the methodologies that are going to be used for French studies. I’m excited, yet a bit scared, because I heard it’s quite hard, the French wanting to be precise and elegant and everything, but we will see. This time next week, I’d be able to tell you more about the educational difference between France and the United States. Until then!




By mcbitter

In French courses over the years, I’ve learned a lot about France - its language, culture, and government, to name a few topics. (GW’s French department is, in my opinion, intent on creating a well-rounded understanding of France and the Francophone community within its students - something for which I’m grateful now, as I'm traveling to Paris in exactly one week!)

One thing that I learned about in classes is French politics, and how much it contrasts with that of the United States. Perhaps the most obvious difference is the multi-party system. Instead of having two main political parties like the Democrats and Republicans from which nearly all officials come, the French have what seems like a plethora of parties. (The number of parties was actually a little overwhelming the first time I encountered it.) Two of the most well-known are the Parti Socialiste (the Socialist Party) on the left, from which current president François Hollande was elected, and l’Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, or l’UMP (the Union for a Popular Movement), the right party of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Other parties, without naming them all, include:

  • Le Front National (the National Front; far right)
  • Le Nouveau Centre (the New Center; right)
  • Le Mouvement Démocratique (the Democratic Movement; middle)
  • Europe Ecologie Les Verts (the Green Party; left)

France also has a different set of rules to govern the actions of these and other political parties, especially around campaign season. Each verified candidate in an election must receive the same amount of time on radio and television broadcast programs. Additionally, the government regulates the amount of money that candidates can spend campaigning and that individual donors can contribute. According to a TIME article (link below), companies, unions, and special interest groups are not allowed to provide political funding at all! To top it all off, France recognizes an official campaign period that only lasts two weeks before voting. (And here we are, watching political advertisements for what seems like months on end.)

While I won't encounter a presidential election during my name in France (the next is schedule for the spring of 2017), I certainly enjoy learning about their political customs, especially when they differ so greatly than ours. I wonder what our political landscape would look like if we adopted some of their policies?

Learn more about French politics and campaigns with this TIME article:


By kendallpaynenewmedia

To put into words how you identify yourself is quite an interesting task. You see to identify yourself, you must first know yourself and this is not always as easy as it sounds. Every person in this world has a million different forces and factors that make up who they are, but most people, if faced with this question, would freeze.

I can’t say that one thing or even a few things have made me who I am today. Every experience, every moment that I have had has affected me. When defining my identity I have to look at all the different cultures and background that have affected my life so far. ...continue reading "Identifying"

In traveling to England for the first time, there are a litany of things that I'm excited to see, but there are also many things from back home that I will miss. Here's a quick list what I'll miss about living in the states.

1. Driving. This is actually my biggest pet peeve regarding both DC and London. As a native San Diegan, I have to drive everywhere: to the store, to the gym, even to my mailbox. I’ve learnt to take solace in the inevitable amount of driving that I do, and it’s come to be one of the things I love most about my daily routine. London, unfortunately, will not provide me with the opportunity to drive. Not only do they drive on the left side of the road, the dashboard and interior of English cars are completely flipped. Furthermore, London traffic is supposed to be notoriously bad, worse than traffic in DC, even.

2. No fish. In London, seafood is a quintessential part of thee cuisine. Whether it's upscale dining or a fish and chips stand, it's difficult to escape the English seafood. This is rather unfortunate for me, because all seafood makes me quite ill. Don't get me wrong; if you're visiting London, I encourage you to try it, but it's just not for me.

3. Sunshine. Perhaps it's my own personal bias, but there is no place in the world that has sunshine like my San Diego hometown. In London, it's dreary and rainy pretty much every day. One of the biggest tips I've received is to bring a raincoat and a good umbrella; apparently, I'll need them.

4. TV. Of course this was going to be on the list! I have a finite amount of time living in London; I don't want to waste it watching my favorite shows on Amazon Prime and Netflix. But how will I get through an entire 4 months without my Arrow or Parenthood fix? Of course, I won't be completely without visual entertainment. Nerd that I am, I've already familiarized myself with British television: from dramas like Doctor Who or Broadchurch, humorous "factual" programing like Top Gear, or channel 4 panel shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats or Mock the Week, I think I have my British TV bases covered.

5. Knowledge of my surroundings. Though I look forward to seeing and exploring London, the fact is it's a little frightening to enter a foreign country with little knowledge about the shops and hang-outs near my apartment. Will I accidentally stumble into a bad part of town? Successfully navigate the tube system? Be able to find Argos when I need it? I hope so; I plan to make it my personal mission to learn and explore as much about London as I can whilst I'm there.

By claudiainpune

The task of describing myself to someone new always gives me a little bit of anxiety. Whether it’s an interview, essay, or just plain small talk, having to discuss my entire being in a few sentences leaves me blindsided. I guess a good place to start would be that I was born and raised in Miami, Fl, a city with a 70% Hispanic population demographic. Because of my upbringing, I feel that my identity can be split into three parts: my Cuban maternal side, my Peruvian paternal side, and my American conjunction of the two. ...continue reading "Introduction to me"

By sreyavaidya

I landed in Surat, a buzzling and expanding city in the state of Gujarat in early July. I arrived with a suitcase full of Purell and a head full of preconceived notions that had me glancing back nervously for pickpockets and stalkers at every turn. The person I see six weeks later is much different, the kind of difference the protagonist in a cheesy coming-of-age movie undergoes.

Before I begin to chronicle my adventures through the streets of Rabat and map the changes it brings in me, it is important to understand my starting point. My starting point for Morocco begins at the end of my time India. ...continue reading "Beginnings"

By anuhyabobba

More often that not, it seems that the ‘study’ aspect of studying abroad is considered more secondary to the true experience of immersing yourself in a culture you are unfamiliar with. But, the courses I have been taking through my program have been a beautiful complement to my time in Buenos Aires.

To start off with, I have not taken Spanish prior to coming here. I only have a background in French, which helps tremendously in learning Spanish. Because I am at a beginner level, I have Spanish from Monday to Thursday with two different professors. From the beginning, they only spoke to us in Spanish, which was overwhelming but now I am so glad that they do. It forces me to pay more attention to the vocabulary I learn from class or from my host family and to then connect the dots together to understand what they are saying. Being in Buenos Aires itself while doing this is nothing short of what I needed. I am able to leave the classroom and put the language to use daily, and I see myself picking it up faster and faster each day.

I absolutely love the courses I am taking here. Latin America had always been a component in my previous classes -- never the focus. To be taking three classes that deal with issues areas within the region is what I have looked forward to all last year. One is called “Drugs and Violence in Latin American Literature and the Arts.” I came in with the misconception that it would focus largely on subjective violence -- in essence, people killing people or other acts of physical violence. But, the professor focuses more largely on systemic violence or what causes this subjective violence we see on TV to happen. The other two courses I am taking are centered around Argentina, one dealing with its environment and one with its history. All three of these courses overlap and remain more interesting than the next. There are often field trips to museums or such for these classes, which adds to the experience even more. I am able to really delve into what has been a interest of mine for a while, and being able to discuss what I learn with my host family adds a new perspective each time.

Learning about Latin American in the U.S. compared to learning about it within the region itself has been vastly different and eye opening. Being in Buenos Aires itself gives you further context to the history and politics and literature I learn about in class at IES, which makes for a more deeper understanding. While in the U.S., you can learn about all of these subject areas but the context and the views of the people from the region itself can go missing from time to time. But, what I have learned at GWU has definitely given a solid background for me to expand my interest and knowledge to greater heights.

By rbhargava

Another week gone and many more adventures to talk about! This past week I was able to visit a game reserve on Tuesday, go on a tour of Stellenbosch with the university's Senior Director of Community Interaction, help paint a classroom at the Lynedoch school, and revisit Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope and the penguins at Boulders Beach on Sunday. At the game reserve I had my first "safari," as we went on a tour of the reserve and saw springbock, zebra, giraffes, kudu, and others. Nothing like a real safari, but its a start! This week I want to focus on wineries here at Stellenbosch (this is the wine capital of the country...and Africa), and my second time to Cape Point and Boulders Beach.

From an economic standpoint, Stellenbosch is known for one thing only - wine. Along with two other towns nearby - Franschoek and Paarl, the majority of wine on the continent is produced here. Just in the Stellenbosch area, there are over 200 different wineries. This means Stellenbosch is one of the richest areas in the country, with some of the poorest people working on some of the nicest wine estates in the world. One can drive from the illegal and informal settlement - Enkanini - to a posh wine estate like Delaire Graff in less than 10 minutes. To see such a stark difference in wealth in one area is always shocking, and I always wonder how the owners of many of these wineries can live the way they do when their neighbors live in such poverty. Thanks to my Cities, Sustainability, and Community class I have been able to learn about some of the history behind a few wineries, and what a few of them are doing to combat the vast inequalities that exist in the Stellenbosch area today, and the problems that apartheid created.

Rewinding a bit, in the early 1990s when it became evident that apartheid was ending, the local government here gave decades-long land contracts to wineries and farms in the area to keep blacks from owning property. This left much of the area as they were before - white-owned wineries with underpaid black employees. Some wineries took a stand. Spier, for example, a few years ago decided to give some of the land that it was unjustly given years ago through these land contracts to a black farmer. This man, Eric, still farms the land today, but officially the land is still owned by Spier. More recently, another winery by the name of Salms Delta excavated the entire site to uncover its history - from Africans living there thousands of years ago to the slave labor that the winery used in the 18th and 19th centuries. The owner of the winery then decided to give back to the community by creating a museum displaying the history and honoring those that were oppressed for hundreds of years at the winery. He also made all the employees at the winery part-owners, so that it became one of the first, and possibly the only, winery in the region that is owned by the workers. Many other wineries in the area are becoming sustainable, both environmentally and socially, which is a great step in the right direction. But as I mentioned earlier, I think there is still a long way to go until the wine industry here becomes a more respectable and conscious industry.

Moving on, today I returned to Cape Point and Boulders Beach on a trip organized by the international students office at Stellenbosch. Luckily, today was the warmest and sunniest day yet, with temperatures going up into the low 80s! Seeing the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point in the sun was a rare occasion, as the Cape of Good Hope used to be called the Cape of Storms for a reason. The cape is located at the end of the peninsula and marks the south-western most point in Africa (the southern-most point is further east down the coast), and is home to one of six floral kingdoms in the world - the Cape Floral Kingdom. There are over 9,000 species of fynbos in the floral kingdom, with over 2,000 just on Table Mountain...more species than all of the UK. So, hiking up Cape Point and then to Cape of Good Hope meant hiking through one of the most diverse and unique floral regions of the world. We managed to also hike down to a pristine and empty beach in between Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope and run into the freezing cold water.

Following our time at the tip of the peninsula, we drove up to Simonstown to go to Boulders Beach, where there is a large African penguin colony. The African penguin is the only penguin native to Africa, and only lives in South Africa. The beach has raised wooden walkways so that the penguins are not disturbed and can move freely, and every which way you look you can find penguins hiding underneath the walkways, sleeping in the bushes, or chilling on the beach. This time around, many penguins walked right up to the walkway and stared at us, almost as if we were the ones in the zoo. As an endangered species, one has to worry about the safety of the penguins, and Boulders Beach definitely seems like an encroachment of one of the few spaces the penguins have left. While walking back to our bus from the beach, we found a penguin inside a large sewage pipe hiding in the shade. I don't know how he ended up there or if he was stuck, but I hope efforts are increasing in protecting such a wonderful animal.

By clairemac93

It’s funny how when you’re abroad, you realize that once familiar things are actually of foreign origin. Case in point- the band Goldfish. I’ve been listening to Goldfish for years in the States, assuming they were some West Coast phenomenon or just someone’s weird yet awesome basement creation. Turns out, to my astonishment, that the band Goldfish hails from Cape Town. I was half shocked that this band had made an influence all the way across the world, and half disappointed that I had not discovered a diamond in the rough, but conversely a band quite established in South Africa.

In a way, it hardly surprises me that Goldfish would come from the Western Cape. Though kwaito music is the most popular music genre by numbers, house music or DJ-remixes are much more popular in the Western Cape and among the younger generation. Pretty much anything you can fist pump to is of preference to my fellow students at Stellenbosch as well as many in Cape Town. I like Goldfish because they’re upbeat and different from most bands that are popular these days. Additionally, perhaps inspired by the band the Gorillaz, they use self-created animations in almost all of their music videos. If you can, check out their old music- including songs like Hold Tight or Soundtracks and Comebacks which ties in a lot more jazzy-feels than their current music!

A second band which is worth a listen, also hailing from Cape Town, is Nomadic Orchestra. I was lucky enough during my recent trip to Johannesburg to be able to see them at Kitchener’s in downtown (similar to the Black Cat, for my Washington readers). They were by far the best band I've seen perform live. They’re comprised of a guitarist, tuba player, drummer, saxophonist, and trumpet player. Their music is almost entirely instrumental and has a slight middle-eastern influence. Check ‘em out!