Tag Archives: student life

Good ol’ G-Spot, EC

It’s been nearly a year since I finished up in Grahamstown. I was rather keen to leave, when the time came, but I miss it now. It’s the same as missing school though. You know, best days of your life and all that.

Now, I wasn’t particularly fond of Grahamstown. I was a city girl, from Johannesburg, and I somehow ended up in one of the most poorly run provinces of the country, in a town that didn’t even have a McDonald’s. Or a Woolworths Food. When people asked me if I was enjoying it, I would tell them how much I like the University, my course and the overall student life. I would explain how convenient being in a small town was because you can literally walk to any destination worth your while in the town. You hardly needed to worry about having a designated driver, the only time you really wanted a car was when it was raining or when you had to carry your 5L water up the hill (which is closer to 25L by the time you get to the top!). And this is where I would start talking about the problems.

We had no water. We would go for weeks with no running water. In my residence, we had 73 girls all sharing 2 toilets. There were minimal washing facilities – you could go to the gym, but that was so busy and eventually dirty and they ran out of water pressure too from trying to meet the demand. One benefit: the university paid for 2L of bottled drinking water every day. If you were smart, you would let this accumulate so you didn’t have to drink the tap water, which was sometimes brown, sometimes smelled like a chlorine factory blew up.

Water protest gif

One of the water outages was so bad, we held a march in protest. The truck that was meant to come fix the situation went missing, and then was found to have not even left Johannesburg yet. When they got to Grahamstown, they could not install the pump because there was no electricity. The electricity problem was another bad one. Slightly more liveable, because you don’t have to live in each other’s filth, but not cool when you are trying to study. Most of the power failures happened during exam time, naturally. Sometimes even in the middle of your exam. It was tedious, but I guess we all learned to live with it.

High street

The High Street, one of the most lovely views of the Cathedral and the quaintness of Grahamstown. Along this road you will find most of the restaurants, plenty of pharmacies, and plenty of dodgy car guards

I suppose, if anything, it taught us to be grateful. We learned to appreciate when we did have certain things, like water and lights on at home, because after all, these are luxuries that many people do not have access to at all, obviously in Grahamstown, but even in South Africa in general. But, you know, perspective only comes after the hard times… I’m very glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore, but I have new problems that have come about with living back in the city. Now I can just reminisce about the beauty and quaintness that was Grahamstown. I learnt a lot from being there, I had a fabulous experience, met the most amazing people, and met a lot of different people with different backgrounds and different opinions. We were all shoved into one teeny backwards town, forced to live alongside each other, and that is why Rhodents are generally so open minded and fun (but also well-rounded and responsible individuals).

IMG_7000

Once you get over the gnawing absence of things that were once a staple sight in a civilized town, you start to notice the beauty of the old buildings, and the heritage that came along with them. You eventually realise why people would want to keep making the trip down every year for the National Arts Fest (apart from general art-appreciation, of course).

Cnr High Street and Cuyler Cathedral with Jacarandas

Grocott's

Grahamstown is home to some lovely old buildings and some significant South African Heritage. The old newspaper buildings could have something to do with the Rhodes School of Journalism’s reputation perhaps?

High street court

Provost

Provost coffee shop was established here shortly before I left. While I wasn’t a massive fan of their coffee, their location was great – set in an old battalion-related building (or something like that), as were their delicious freshly-baked croissants

Grahamstown grows on you. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to stay there forever. I had an awesome time while I was there, great memories, but I am happy to be moving onto other things as well now in my life. For now, I think I will go have a reminiscent mare up in Northam.

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A bright idea – Revelations Grahamstown

It’s amazing what new management can do. In my first year at Grahamstown there was this random little coffee shop at the only shopping centre in town. Sometimes you’d hear of people going there, but mostly it felt like walking past some long-forgotten church, or the University library at the start of the New Year (when people have forgotten how much work they could actually be getting done in there). Now, Revelations Café is a go-to food-spot, especially if you like your cakes.

eat coffee tea signageThey had a great revamp and gained popularity again in 2012, with all sorts of wonderful specials to draw in the crowds. Not only were the prices reasonable and competitive, but also the quality of the food was really above the common Grahamstown standard.

Cake

Their cakes would be one of their major draw factors: they are made perfectly every time and they have a really nice wide variety. I was disappointed to learn that they don’t actually make these on site, however. The cakes are supplied by Chateaux Gateaux. Since learning this, it appears that a huge number of coffee shops have their cakes supplied by them too. So Revelations’ cakes aren’t all that special, though they are really delicious (and you can’t beat mass-produced consistency sometimes, can you?).

Breakfast specials are great on a student budget, but a real omelette is a nice and wholesome break away from res food

Breakfast specials are great on a student budget, but a real omelette is a nice and wholesome break away from res food

Their breakfasts are definitely winners. Sometimes they offer a breakfast special, though their breakfast menu options are worth spending the extra money on. They are generous with their portions, particularly in their omelettes.

Waffles are good for breakfast too... Revelations knows how to maximise on the Bar One too, which is great!

Waffles are good for breakfast too… Revelations knows how to maximise on the Bar One too, which is great!

Revelations offers lunch and dinner options as well. On a student budget a lot of the dinner choices are a bit excessive, though they are around the same price as you would expect to pay in other larger towns and cities, and the quality is good (think café burgers rather than steakhouse burgers though). Their wide range can cater for a number of dietary requirements (healthier options and vegetarian options, for example), but it does make decisions really hard.

Chicken and bacon wrap with a berry smoothie, a wholesome healthy lunch (that is also delicious)

Chicken and bacon wrap with a berry smoothie, a wholesome healthy lunch (that is also delicious)

Chicken , bacon, apple and blue cheese salad with a Mango smoothie. This was a half portion too, so they are really generous

Chicken , bacon, apple and blue cheese salad with a Mango smoothie. This was a half portion too, so they are really generous

You can enjoy their delicious smoothies out under the trees or you can cuddle up under cover on the couch with a decadent hot chocolate (complete with marshmallows, whipped cream and a flake), which makes it ideal for summer or winter treats.

Banana and almond smoothie and a vanilla milkshake. The smoothie was delicious, but it could have done well with a bigger straw because the nuts were not too finely chopped

Banana and almond smoothie and a vanilla milkshake. The smoothie was delicious, but it could have done well with a bigger straw because the nuts were not too finely chopped

Generally their service is very friendly, though relaxed enough that you remember you are not in a large town where waiters are there to pander immediately to your every whim.

They have a larger than average tea selection, and great options for teatime accompaniments

They have a larger than average tea selection, and great options for teatime accompaniments

This café is definitely worth a visit when in Grahamstown, and also good for regular treats with friends (just not on a Sunday, unfortunately).

Added bonus: they have free wifi.

Sisa the Barista

“I did a course and then I fell in love with this once I started go into roastary; the fragrance took me and I fell in love with everything about coffee.”

Sisa likes to experiment. These were a sample of a particularly interesting test involving mint and vanilla (among other secret things...)

Sisa likes to experiment. These were a sample of a particularly interesting test involving mint and vanilla (among other secret things…)

Three years ago, Sisa Mapetu started a journey that he probably never saw leading to a new life in Grahamstown. From initially working as a waiter, to potentially working for a logistics company, to ending up as the friendliest barista on our little campus in Grahamstown, his journey sounds like one of true love.

Since he did his barista course three years ago, Sisa has been developing his skills and competing in barrister competitions. The competitions involve demonstrating a thorough knowledge of coffee and its subtle flavours, as well as a demonstration of your coffee skills, requiring competitors to produce 12 espresso drinks in 15 minutes.

In his first attempt three years ago, Sisa placed second. He hopes to outperform everyone in next year’s competition by developing his signature drink early on, and ensuring he does not underestimate his competition, as he has done in the past. “I just have to know that everyone is a tough competitor, I have to respect that. The guys that are competing for the first time, I must treat them as the same level as me.” From an outsider’s perspective, his drive and enthusiasm for the coffee definitely make him winner material. We shall see what the July competition holds for him.

Sisa has filled in a wonderful niche on campus. Handmade Coffees is a great little shop, perfectly positioned, but Sisa really adds a wonderful element to the cosy nook. He is friendly, always welcoming passers by, and he really seems to connect with his regulars. His appreciation of the bean is contagious.

“What gets me about it is that there’s always something new comes out, something new motivating me.” Sisa likes to experiment with new flavours, which can be quite an experience for the testers. Mint with my coffee was definitely a first…

Another test turned out like a cookies and cream iced coffee - do you get any better?  That friendly smile, and that loving touch when working on his creations really makes him a truly super local Barista.

Another test turned out like a cookies and cream iced coffee – do you get any better?
That friendly smile, and that loving touch when working on his creations really makes him a truly super local Barista.

Sisa also likes to cook, experimenting with different food flavours as well. He hopes to open his own restaurant one day. “This barrister profession is opening a lot of doors for me to achieve that, because, especially in this company, there are a lot of opportunities where I can actually expand in future.”

“What actually motivates me more, is that every time I get to work at the machine, it’s just it’s just the fragrance just (chuckles) brings me into loving it.”

His favourite coffee drink: Espresso and Macchiato.

“Those are my best because I achieve what I want very quick into it because they are quite short and then they go straight where I want them. I get bored when I drink the cappuccinos and the lattes because I only drink them half and then I’ve achieved what I want but the espressos, the combination hits the spot.

The reason I like the espresso is because I understand every coffee that I make and how it must taste. So I’m looking for those flavours of the espresso in the coffee that I’m making. If you can perfect an espresso, then you can perfect any other drink.”

His view on latte art: It’s good.

“Latte art is good, it’s a lovely cherry on top. But when you get to understand the profession you get to know that the taste is more important. Latte art is good as there, but good coffee doesn’t need good latte art. You can make a good coffee without good latte art, but it’s there to grab the attention of the drinker.”

Dining Hall dinners can’t be all that bad… Can they?

Dining hall dinners are the biggest challenge for the fussy eaters in Res. You can have chicken, or something whose name you don’t recognise… And more often than not, people will order anything, and just grab slices of bread to make a sandwich, or they will organise something in their room, like microwave pasta, 2 minute noodles, or take-aways. At least the lunches aren’t quite this bad.

This is a collection of most of the dinners I experience on our two week meal cycle.

Week 1

Chicken stew and dumpling (but actually it's just a ball of flavourless dough that apparently tastes ok if you add stuff to it)

Chicken stew and dumpling (but actually it’s just a ball of flavourless dough that apparently tastes ok if you add stuff to it)

Tuesday: Bean wrap (vegetarian option)

Tuesday: Bean wrap (vegetarian option)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: One of the good ones: Grilled sirloin with cheesecake (some of the best we could know)

Wednesday: One of the good ones: Grilled sirloin with cheesecake (some of the best we could know)

Thursday: "Grilled chicken strips" with health bread (pretty darn good bread)

Thursday: “Grilled chicken strips” with health bread (pretty darn good bread)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday: roast chicken again

Friday: roast chicken again

Saturday: Chicken schnitzel. One of those meals that reminds me of home. Generally the rice is also done quite nicely as well

Saturday: Chicken schnitzel. One of those meals that reminds me of home. Generally the rice is also done quite nicely as well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday: tuna wraps with tomato and mozzarella cheese. This one is quite delicious if you like tuna

Sunday: tuna wraps with tomato and mozzarella cheese. This one is quite delicious if you like tuna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2

Monday: chicken stirfry (looks just like the grilled chicken strips, but ok) with a wrap and an apple crumble-type dessert

Monday: chicken stirfry (looks just like the grilled chicken strips, but ok) with a wrap and an apple crumble-type dessert

Tuesday: chicken curry. This was definitely on a bad day, not the most appetising piece of chicken I've seen

Tuesday: chicken curry. This was definitely on a bad day, not the most appetising piece of chicken I’ve seen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: Sweet potatoes with grilled soya sausages (yes vegetarian option). It comes with chocolate mousse. This one is a good one, especially because you score some cheese with those protein-packed viennas

Wednesday: Sweet potatoes with grilled soya sausages (yes vegetarian option). It comes with chocolate mousse. This one is a good one, especially because you score some cheese with those protein-packed viennas

Saturday: Cape Malay style mutton curry. This can be a good meal, but one can be put off sometimes by the fatty or gristly bits that occasionally put a dampener on the meal

Saturday: Cape Malay style mutton curry. This can be a good meal, but one can be put off sometimes by the fatty or gristly bits that occasionally put a dampener on the meal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday: Mexican enchiladas. Basically another vegetarian bean wrap. But hey: cheese is always a win

Sunday: Mexican enchiladas. Basically another vegetarian bean wrap. But hey: cheese is always a win

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2

I suppose when I look at it like this it really isn’t that bad… But the lunches are definitely better. I also feel that they really skimp on the vegetables. When I ask for lots of vegetables, I get a normal sized serving. When I ask for less rice, or a small amount of rice, they halve it, and I still end up getting served more than I would if I had dished it up myself. I only have a few more weeks in this town, not many more dinner cycles left. I will enjoy my last days here! The food isn’t bad enough to change that.

Also be warned that I need to review just about every restaurant in this town before that time is up, so much delicious content is on its way.

Classiest treats in Grahamstown

Haricot’s deli and bistro is definitely one of the classiest little cafés in town. Situated very near campus, right across the road from The Rat & Parrot, a local drinking hangout that makes truly fabulous pizza, Haricot’s provides the quaintest little treats and meals. However, for “sophistication” such as this, you really do pay rather heftily in some cases. I went there for a “first date” last year, and (apart from the school children who were out with their families) it was a really romantic venue to take someone for that kind of thing (where it really is a treat) It’s not all expensive, though, so a student can really make it work out for them.

Their cookies are delicious: chocolate and white chocolate chip. They go really well with the hot chocolate

Their cookies are delicious: chocolate and white chocolate chip. They go really well with the hot chocolate

Haricot’s makes the best hot chocolate in town, as far as I’ve had (and I have had quite a few). It’s really cosy in there, and I’ve decided that that’s where I like to get work done, if I feel like working in a coffee shop (which I do, of course). It is also a competitively priced hot chocolate.

I could really sit there all day working, so long as I had a steady stream of that fluffy, creamy goodness

I could really sit there all day working, so long as I had a steady stream of that fluffy, creamy goodness

I went there for breakfast with a friend of mine over the weekend. I had French toast, she had a croissant with jam and cheese. While her croissant was a fair bit smaller than my meal, it was about a third of the price.

More hot chocolate as we try decide from the numerous great options

More hot chocolate as we try decide from the numerous great options

Croissant with jam and cheese - note: it is smaller than it looks in the photo, but big enough

Croissant with jam and cheese – note: it is smaller than it looks in the photo, but big enough

They are also makers of wonderful different breads, which explains the unusual choice of bread in this French toast meal. It was also the first time I had maple syrup: I can't say I'm a fan as it tasted too much like plant (like tree bark or something)

They are also makers of wonderful different breads, which explains the unusual choice of bread in this French toast meal. It was also the first time I had maple syrup: I can’t say I’m a fan as it tasted too much like plant (like tree bark or something)

They do cake, of course. The cakes are pretty, sometimes they are extravagant, but all the time they are  really pricey. Granted, they are large slices, so maybe it works out well if you go there and share a slice with a friend. But when you’re paying the same price for one piece of cake as you are for a full take-away burger with large chips and a drink, you have to question your sweet tooth. I tend to stick to their cupcakes, which are more reasonably priced, and which are also really delicious.

Cutest and fluffiest little chocolate cupcakes

Cutest and fluffiest little chocolate cupcakes

The cupcake they have a solid reputation for, of course, is the red velvet cupcake, and it really is amazing. Make sure you get it fresh, otherwise the buttercream frosting (it tasted like buttercream more than cream cheese frosting, but I could possibly be wrong) will go a bit too hard, and their fresh frosting is light and fluffy and delicious, so don’t miss out.

This cupcake cheered me up after a very bleak morning today. Thank you, Red Velvet Cupcake, I love your fluffy sweetness

This cupcake cheered me up after a very bleak morning today. Thank you, Red Velvet Cupcake, I love your fluffy sweetness

Being a vegetarian is hard…

… and I am quite happy not being one. I am really not having a dig at vegetarians, I think you are all wonderful, and I am inspired by how strongly you uphold your convictions.

But it’s not for me. I understand that this can be a sensitive topic: I read somewhere that telling a vegetarian that you will eat meat and they can just not, is kinda like saying that they should just let you continue murdering people while they choose not to participate in such activities (something along those lines…). This is somewhat extreme, but if it’s really something that you believe in, then that view has some sense in it. “You just go stand over there with your celibates, and I’ll continue over here with my raping ways…” So that just got very serious. But something to think about, perhaps, when you’re opposing someone else’s views and forcing them to just let you get away with it, without them standing up for something that they feel strongly about.

BUT! I tried Meatless-Monday‘s this week. It was interesting. I had my boiled egg and coffee for breakfast (not trying out vegan just yet), a spinach and feta pie for lunch (something I had not yet tried, being a huge fan of chicken pies instead), and then dinner. Dinner was my “epiphany”. I had Caponata, something which, before coming to University, I had never heard of before. Maybe you haven’t either.

In our dining hall, it looks nothing like this. But you can kind of get the idea of what’s in it, or what it looks like

It is an eggplant-based dish, and the way it was prepared in our dining hall (where we are treated to a number of new and unusual meal options) was with a lot of cheese, and almost like a lasagne-type bake dish. The cheese was great, mostly because it is quite a rarity on the dining hall menu.

It wasn’t a bad meal at all, but by this time I think I was noticing the lack of protein in my diet for the day, and when I had finished eating, I felt like I had just eaten a side of a full meal: where is my meat?! All these veggies had me feeling unsatisfied. I felt full and not really hungry anymore (there was quite a lot to the meal: all that eggplant, gosh!) but I did not feel as though I had eaten the main part of my meal.

So well done to the vegetarians (and especially the vegans!) for sticking to this type of diet on a daily basis. I’m not really a big meat-eater, but by the end of my Meatless Monday I really felt like I had eaten a lot of plants. It was probably also psychological, but that would still be a factor in a novice Veggie too. I just hope you are getting enough of the right nutrients (says the Human Kineticist and Ergonomist in me).

Study time

Travels are over and now I have had to return to my studies, away from home as well, so it’s almost like I am travelling.

Student life in Grahamstown is really vibrant, and as small as this frontier town is, there is always something to do. For the next month or so, my posts will be focusing more on the Student Life in and around Grahamstown, the stereotypical exploits of 18-25-year-olds (or thereabouts), and the many ways that I get myself involved in the community.

Grahamstown

I will post photographs of Grahamstown in the hope that you can experience some of its beauty captured, so you can see the views I experience every day as I walk to and from lectures, practicals, tutorials, and sports.

Occasionally I may post some news to the site, but we’ll see how it goes, I’m more likely to post links to the Rhodes University newspaper Activate’s (turning 65-years-old this year) website where most of my stories will be featured.

All this as I bide my time until 2 April. The East awaits me…