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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 rbhargava

Hello friends and welcome to the first edition of many blog posts to come on my adventures and experiences at Stellenbosch University. Although I'm no expert on the region, I want to start off this post with a little background on the region and the university. Stellenbosch is in the heart of South Africa's Cape Winelands, and is 30 miles away from Cape Town. Today, its wine may make it famous, but the university keeps this city alive. With about 30,000 students, the university is ranked second in South Africa after the University of Cape Town, and is a major academic center in the country. As such, the city attracts some of the smartest minds in the country and is an important part of the Western Cape's economy. What I really want to highlight is the university's history. As the top Afrikaan university, Stellenbosch is unfortunately also known as the birthplace of apartheid. With that said, the university and city today ironically face many of the repercussions of the policies it helped create. The city is one of the most unequal places on Earth, with deeply segregated communities ranging from the wealthy whites on one side of town, coloreds on the other, and blacks in a far off corner. A foreigner would never see these differences, as Stellenbosch does well to hide these systemic problems behind the facades of beautiful Cape Dutch architecture and the majestic mountains that make Stellenbosch the beautiful valley town that it is. It is important to keep all of this in mind, as 20 years after apartheid - Stellenbosch is both the perfect example of the rainbow nation, and the perfect example of everything that has held South Africa back.

With the scene set and on a lighter note, let me talk more about my first week here in South Africa! As part of the CIEE study abroad program I am on (called Sustainability and Community), I spent my first week at the Sustainability Institute in a small town outside Stellenbosch called Lynedoch. Set in the midst of some of the country's best wineries, I had the chance to get my first exposure of South Africa from a sustainable development perspective - learning about issues of food security from a local farmer, hearing about one winery's efforts to become greener from a former VP, and talking to researchers about efforts being taken to improve the living standards and environment of the informal settlement in Stellenbosch called Enkanini. Hearing from these individuals and many more gave me a great overview of what Stellenbosch is all about.

Skipping ahead, after a fantastic praxis week at the Sustainability Institute, I went on a tour of the peninsula with my program (there's only two of us on the program) on Saturday. Having only been at and near Stellenbosch since arriving, I had yet to see the Cape Town. Driving there, we passed an endless line of informal settlements that was a strong reminder of the stark divisions that have come to define the country today. Cape Town of course was as beautiful as any city I've seen, and we had the chance to drive up Signal Hill, a beautiful vantage point from which most of Cape Town can be seen. Driving down the peninsula, we were able to stop at Boulders Beach in Simonstown, where hundreds of penguins were waddling around on the beach...a sight like no other! We also stopped at the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point at the very end of the peninsula - the southwestern most part of Africa. Reflecting back on this day trip around the peninsula, the Cape Town area is full of absolutely beautiful places and is blessed with some of the most diverse wildlife on the planet, but the abundant inequalities among whites, coloreds, and blacks make it difficult to call Cape Town a great city.


By juliaraewagner

This week, we started working on our country case studies. As the sustainability nerd on board, I immediately signed up to examine the urban environment of Ahmedabad.

While Ahmedabad has a long legacy of industry, in 1992, the city opened up to capitalism in a big way, inviting in foreign industries to settle down by doling out incentives. Soon enough, indsutrial estates sprouted up all over the city, most of which continue to grow today. My group and I decided that we couldn't examine the urban environment without understanding the disposal of waste and pollution.

Our faculty advisors partnered us with some local environmental institutions, and they connected us to some industries around the city. One thing that surprised me about our visits was that all of these factory owners and public officials were open to meeting with us, even on short notice. It may have been the Gujarati tradition of hospitality or simply the fact that the industry barons simply did not feel threatened by a bunch of college students. Whatever the reason, we couldn't help but notice that we were given access to the behind-the-scenes that we would never have experienced in the United States.

First we toured the chemical waste treatment center of the city where all of the industries send their effluent. The city has built a massive pipeline to transport it. Next we traveled to a dye factory where we saw the water going through its primary treatment; the end product, a frothy liquid with an orange hue, certainly didn't seem to be too clean. Finally, we visited the discharge point where all of the water is released into the river. This site as definitely the most striking as the thick, black water exiting the pipes did not serve to convince us that the water was at all fit to drink. Most striking were the agricultural fields sitting on the other side of the river.

It's easy to point fingers and make claims that India simply does not do enough to keep its natural resources safe. What is harder to recognize is that these problems occur all over the world, even in the US. We quickly forget about all of the Superfund sites and chemical spills like the one that happened in West Virginia recently. American industries might be more stealthy about how they handle waste, but our country too has a long legacy of pollution.