Ryan Freer is a senior Political Science major from Yorkville, IL. He participated in the
Nation Building in the New South Africa study abroad program this summer.
Q: We love new foods. Tell us about the best dish you had in South Africa?
A. The best dish, I think was the mealie pap. It kind of looks like mashed potatoes, but it’s very stiff usually. It can be made more or less firm, but that’s the way it’s usualy served. Add a side of upens—sheep intestines—and you have yourself a traditional South African meal!! Another favorite restaurant is African Gold in Johannesburg. If you go on the program, you’ll probably go there as one of your last nights in country. It’s a set course menu of dishes from all across Africa. Everything is worth trying, especially the malva pudding. It’s like a really moist monkey bread. And while not exactly a recipe per se, but I tried a tonic cola & lemonade drink. Delicious.
Q: Let us in on a local secret or a tip future study abroaders can’t miss.
A: In Cape Town, down the street from your apartment, there’s a restaurant called the Big Route. Best place to go for a drink, a pizza (the springbok pizza is my favorite) and the tiramisu is incredible. Oh, and there’s free Wi-Fi for customers.
Q: What don’t you miss about South Africa?
A: Sad to say, having Wi-Fi almost anywhere you go. It’s in the restaurants and other places you go, but 9 times out of 10 there’s a password you have to ask for—as a paying customer. It made it difficult to post daily blogs, keep in contact with friends and family back home. Oh and if you and a friend have an iPhone, just use iMessage to talk to them. It doesn’t use international data from your phone package, which can be quite expensive. So in short, the digital/technology part of travelling is a hassle, BUT if you take it as a time to be detached from technology, you won’t miss out on the beautiful beautiful things Africa, and traveling in general, has to offer to you: sights, sounds and people.
Q: Talk it up – what sort of new vocabulary did you pick up abroad?
A: In Cape Town, but in South African lingo too, you’ll hear “izzit?” a lot. It’s when you say something unbelievable and it’s comparable to “is it really?” Also, when parting ways with someone or as a way of saying thank you, you hear something like “shap.” I’m not sure of the translation, but I took it as either “thank you,” “peace,” or something along those lines. When you travel, it’s the smallest things and cultural differences you find interesting or at least should take appreciation in.
Q: Did anything specific shock or surprise you about South Africa?
A: Africa being Africa, and South Africa being an increasing Western country, you have modern day things we’re used to seeing but with its own African vestiges of tribal culture and history. You may or may not be familiar with, in villages and tribes, the local medicine man who used herbs to cure illnesses and etc.; kind of like the local doctor. Well, when I was in Cape Town one day, a solicitor handed me a piece of paper offering their services (there’s a huge demand for silver and gold too, by the way), and later that night I looked at it and couldn’t believe what I saw. It was a flyer for “Dr. Tina,” a medicine man who could help you—exact quotes here— with “financial problems,” “bring back lost lover—1 day guaranteed,” “get your job back immediately,” “win big court cases,” with “body pains, asthma, blood pressure, diabetic, etc…,” just to name a few. On one hand it was hilarious to see that results were guaranteed, but on the other hand when reflecting how traditional African cultures and Western cultures blend, it was really interesting to think about. I still kept the flyer as a comedic souvenir.
Q. With such a busy schedule, what do you do in your free time?
A: Weekends, or any other day you have down time, there are a few places to go within walking distance. Sea Point or the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, is full of shopping, just going for a stroll and get near the ocean. You can buy a ticket on one of the topless/half buses for R150 (about $15) and it’s a day ticket that takes you on a tour all around the city. The blue line takes you around the peninsula and you have the opportunity to go wine tasting. I would highly suggest it, especially closer to the end of your stay as a great way to cap off your trip: great views and great wine. I don’t suggest staying in your room doing homework unless necessary.
Think of it like this: you’re in Africa, and the world is literally at your fingertips. Go out and enjoy it. Experience something new, and yes, do as the locals do. Talk to people, too! Mostly anyone is willing to share their story, and everyone has a story to tell. You may be surprised when you start chatting with a seemingly normal person and find out the amazing places they’ve been, people they’ve met and the things they’ve experienced.
Go to the Green Market Square for your souvenirs. Unfortunately most vendors will be very adamant about you coming to look at their items, but if you see something you like, barter with them. It can be fun and they’ll respect you more for it. Just know what’s a good price. One guy wanted me to pay about $50 for two items, but I got him down to $21.