Roeland Street is a street I pass almost every day to get to campus and back. It is situated in the Western Cape. It is on the eastern side of the city, the beginning of the street is actually in front of the parliament where St John’s Road and Plein Street come together. In simple terms it starts just as one leaves Plein Street which is close to parliament. It is quite vibey and buzzy like most streets in town. As I walk passed this street every day to come to campus and head off home I encounter many people and things.
Strangely enough, I never knew there ever existed a place called Roeland Street in town until I started school here at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2015, probably because I don’t live close to town and if I ever were to be in town I would mostly be in Adderley, Long or Loop Street. So the first time I’ve ever heard of it was to go and write my entrance test at CPUT.I quickly familiarised myself with the street and it soon became a home away from home for me. It’s a street I walk via almost every single day of my life. But, there is something in this in this street or should I say my journey through it that makes me slightly uncomfortable.
Back in 2014, after I matriculated, I decided to go and study at Stellenbosch University. Taking a train to Stellenbosch everyday (which is a long way from home) and then taking a brisk walk from the train station to my first class, which most of the time was at the Wilcocks Building. I’d walk via places with picturesque views, it was so green and the flowers always seemed to be blossoming in their own way. The serenity, the peacefulness of that journey to campus always had me at ease with myself. Even though that passage lasted like 2-3 minutes, my journey to campus was always bliss. Like Roeland Street I also passed places where people socialized a lot. These places were called Bohemia, Happy oak etc. Very jolly places indeed.
Just like Stellenbosch my walk down Roeland Street to my new campus (which is not so new anymore since I’m in my second year now) is just as exciting and beautiful. But as I explained, my walks down that passage in Stellenbosch was peaceful and compared to that my road down Roeland is quite noisy. Being in the city of Cape Town, the roads are always busy with people hurrying to their destinations. This road makes me worry more about my life than that passage I walked through in Stellenbosch. Back when I was in “Stellies” life seemed simple. That road was not always full of people trying to intimidate you, always thinking they’re better than you. Don’t get me wrong, I know what’s happening in Stellenbosch and I wouldn’t want to come across as someone who supports the beautiful place with all the negativity coming from it as well. If I had my way though I’d like to place that passage I walked down every day in 2014 and put it in Roeland Street. That would be my “Alternative Roeland Street”; a place where my life seemed simple again and where I wasn’t feeling like I was constantly forced onto the fast lane. Roeland Street is wonderful as it is but if I had the power to plant that piece of Stellenbosch to replace Roeland Street with I would do it in an instant. That passage made me feel safe and worthy. My clothes, my looks and everything superficial just felt like it would never define me. But in Roeland my life is just not that simple anymore. Chasing paper (money) is what seems to be the norm, everywhere I look I see someone looking very business-like and posh cars chasing down the road. Not to mention the presidential entourage rushing down the main road because they need to get to parliament for the state of the nation address, the sirens that go off just so that we know “who has arrived” makes me want to roll my eyes all the time. I say that is intimidation on the highest level, the hierarchy of people within the country with regards to class is truly visible at that moment.
But the thing is, Roeland Street has been around since the earliest days of Cape Town, and is an essential part to the City’s existence, but I’d love my alternative Roeland Street more.