A trip to Stellenbosch is always a trip down memory lane. It’s not like I plan it that way, but you spend 3 years of your life as a young carefree somebody having an absolute jol somewhere and revisit it when you’re a tired, older someone going through not the easiest of times and it’s bound to turn into a “remember this”, “let’s go see if that’s still there” time.
Which isn’t a bad thing. Turns out ‘de Vos’ – the kafee (because that’s what we called it then) that we used to frequent in pyjama bottoms and slippers at about 11 at night during exam times to buy a snack, or cigarettes but mostly to avoid studying and to see who else was avoiding studying too – is still there. Except it’s now a beautiful block of flats, and the kafee, is now a café,with sophisticated flat whites to go. There’ll be no promises to the lady behind the till that you’ll pay her for the niknaks tomorrow at the 2014 version of the place.
Ofcourse, there was the necessary drive past our residences. Both of us hold our res’ so dearly – where I never really was initiated into mine, and Hawk sort of left his prematurely. The blue rooster is still blue, and so now is the rest of the building. Sonop looks improved, home to a new set of girls, who probably also hide their student card (and building access) under the mat so they don’t have to carry it out with them and shocking the ‘deurwag’ with stories and false names on their drunken return. My old res. The hallways of which hold the memories of varsity friendships – laughter, drama, tears, swearing (we were able to do that openly, no parental control you know – the small wins). The first (and only) time I owned a bunny (albeit for 2 days – it’s a really long story!) happened here. And studying. What we were, after all, there to do. (Let’s be honest though, how we managed who knows. The study centre was an all night hook up party and the bib, well – pretty much also).
The tennis courts, that separated Helshoogte (The blue rooster building) my own res, and that of my favourite boys res (I wasn’t a fan of the res, just turns out I had a weird inclination to the boys that attended it. The ‘skakeling’ I had with them in my first year involved a watermelon fight, an annual tradition with day-girls, which I was back then. None of those boys materialised into great loves, but a few effected some of the decisions of my life to date actually) – I digress, the tennis courts… The very tennis courts that would reveal that my boyfriend (now husband) was in town, because more than anything he’d be found taking set after set off his best mate and inevitably someone would pop their head into my room and let me know he was there – those tennis courts, were gone. Devastatingly a building (perhaps another res?) with a coffee shop (another sophisticated one) at it’s entrance, has been built in their place. A breakfast run between Simonsberg and Sonop will just never be the same. Mostly because you could now stop for a coffee before even making it home.
The neelsie, so different but yet still smelling the same, where many a hangover was cured by peasants corner coffee (in the days where a hangover only lasted an hour or two and you still went to class and didn’t hide under your duvet all day proclaiming “I’m too old for this” – because you weren’t). Peasants corner – the styrofoam cups of instant coffee: my daily fix, that started my addiction some 14 years ago. The hatch still exists – I doubt the establishment does. Sometimes I’m thrilled that my taste in coffee (wine, men etc) has improved since those days.
Twelve years. It feels like yesterday. Except it doesn’t. So many years – the rose tint on the glasses we wear as we trip back in time. The house parties, the table-dancing (where do you think it started?), the pseudo-Melrose place-complex where we spent third year. The bush-diving resulting in sneaky kisses, class (where I recall more socialising than listening or note-taking). No complicated smartphones that kept you from looking up. We looked up back then. No sent items, or delivered ticks, or ‘last seen online’. Never knowing if you actually drunk texted or not (Nokia 3210’s had no such functionality). Mornings after were guilt free. Mostly anyway. To declare undying (except it was so fickle in reality) love – you needed to be bolder than send an SMS. You needed to arrive at their res, wake them up. And tell them. Oh wait – perhaps that was only me. And the 6 girls who drove me there and cheered me on.
We spent a lot of time in pyjamas. We ate a lot of smoked chicken salad (2nd year), slap chips (first year – they don’t call it 1st year syndrome for nothing) and cheese on toast (3rd year – paying rent made life expensive!). We ‘deurnagged’, had ‘herr’s’ and ‘uitstelled’ – all words that there just isn’t an adequate english translation for to this day.
There’s a memory on every corner. (Quite literally as we spent most of our time on foot. Pedestrians rule this little town, don’t ever forget that or you will knock someone over if you’re driving). Some good, some sad, some are just flickers of what could be a memory – but I still can’t quite piece it together. Even 12 years on.
Stellenbosch is my soul-home. It was only 3 years. But it has my heart.
Ok truth: I didn’t even look back when I left. I was so done with being there. But like most things in life, with some hindsight and a whole lot of adult wisdom, you realise how amazing a time was, and how you shouldn’t have taken it for granted. You got to also love those rose tinted glasses that 12 years later brings.