Sunday, November 12, 2006

Stellenbosch: A Mini-Rainforest, A Monument, A Struggle Between Tact and Curiosity

This little bioecosystem, which might have looked more at home in Central America, was in fact right at the foot of the Afrikaans Monument, a tubular concrete totem that would have looked at home in an aquarium surrounded by sea monkeys.

My disposable camera couldn't quite capture the towering structure itself. And given my limited knowledge of the country's past, I felt a little weird being there in the first place. Was such a monument a good idea?

I recalled hearing that vacation time brought many of township residents to the previously all-white public beaches. No worries about such a crowd flocking here, I guessed.

As the tour guide continued, I tried to follow along and keep an open mind. This represented the language of the residents I'd previously mistaken for German tourists, most of whom had just gone about their business and lived their lives, about as involved in political decisions as I am with the daily policy workings of my government.

But surely the monument had caused some controversy. I was curious. I wanted to ask. But, like with many of my visits to foreign countries, I tempered this with a desire not to be rude. There was probably much under the surface a tourist couldn't grasp, and would look like a moron or oaf asking, particularly given that "moron" and "oaf" are common stereotypes of the US passport-holder.

"*Meh*," I eventually thought and wandered off to look at the foliage.

The guide saw me sneak off and deftly corraled the tour and his well-informed exposition in that direction. Botany, indeed safer ground.

Nelson Mandela wants you to click here.

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