Stretching Our Legs

One of the great things about staying at Jock Safari Lodge is that on their concession in Kruger National Park, you can do things that members of the general public visiting the park aren’t allowed to do.  So you can ride in a vehicle with open sides and a trained game ranger. You can also stop and get out of the vehicle to “stretch your legs” during long game viewing drives.

DSC_0519DSC_0515DSC_0631 (2)DSC_0418

This stops usually coincide with sunrise or sunset and you have sundowners and the ladies try to find some kind of shrub that will suffice as facilities, since you have been riding on a bumpy road for a few hours. And then after the business is taken care of, you enjoy the spectacular views.WP_20150814_17_17_33_ProDSC_0514DSC_0752If you are doing a proper safari, you probably have eaten far too much in between game drives, and so those few minutes out of the jeep to stretch your legs feel so great.

However, in addition to the mid-drive stretches, at Jock Safari Lodge, they also offer walking safaris, something that we wanted to take advantage of one day.  Again, it seems like food on safari is really plentiful.  I cannot say no to it either.  I have the best of intentions to exercise, but who wants to hang out on a treadmill on vacation, particularly when the other options are to get a spa treatment, laze by a pool, or watch the animals pass by from your day bed overlook?

The walking safari was one of my favorite parts of our trip to Jock. We walked to some rocks across the river where the resident lion herd sometimes laze about with their cubs, but we didn’t spot them. In fact, we didn’t see any animals, except at a very far distance during the walk, but it was amazing nonetheless.  It was an opportunity to spot some of the smaller parts of the ecosystem that one tends to overlook when racing around in a Land Rover looking for big cats.  It was quiet, peaceful, and there was the thrill that at any moment in time, a possible dangerous situation could emerge. Perhaps we would stumble on a herd of elephant or grazing buffalo.  And then I wondered, what would we have done if the lions would have been at the rocks we visited?

One of the other guides, Lazarus, showed us small things like the eggs of praying mantises.

DSC_0667We walked single file, led by two guides who carried rifles in case of emergency.  They never have had to use them, but they shared with us some of the closer escapes that they had on other occasions.

DSC_0670WP_20150814_10_46_52_ProDSC_0669WP_20150814_10_46_08_ProThese rocks were our destination. When we reached them, since the lions were not there, we climbed to the top for amazing views across the river.

DSC_0674Can you spot the giraffes in the distance in the above photo?

DSC_0677It was hot, and I was sweaty and not particularly attractive, but I loved every second of it.

Here was our view of Jock from our lofty perch:

DSC_0679DSC_0680Scrubby, beautiful Kruger in the dry season. I am so happy my soles were able to tread in your soils, if only for a short time.

A Tale of Two University Systems

I spoke before of the wonderful opportunity that I had to tour the University of Cape Town Libraries when I was in South Africa in August. I fell in love with the vibrancy of the University of Cape Town campus in the short time I was on it. A few weeks ago, when South African university administrators announced the need for fees to rise some 10% the next year and the students reacted with peaceful, large scale protests, I watched with sympathy of both sides of the issue. I feel sympathy for universities who have seen their budgets severely cut by the government at the same time the South African rand has lost significant value versus the US Dollar, meaning that costs are significantly greater. At the same time, I feel incredible sympathy for South African students attempting to get an education that seems cost prohibitive for most families. In South Africa only 4% of the population has an income greater than 500,000 ZAR per year ($36,590.60 per year at the exchange rate I just checked). So imagine having to pay a university fee for one child of 150,000 ZAR per year. Imagine being a poor black South African with no access to any kind of financing except the most predatory kind. Absolutely, I stood with the students in the #feesmustfall movement, and most university faculty and staff stood with students too. Truly, the accountable party here is the South African government that has slashed spending on higher education. Today, after meeting with university administrators President Zuma announced, in a small victory for the students that fees for 2016-2017 would remain unchanged. So certainly, the movement could count some success, even though the larger issue, the lack of necessary government spending on higher education, largely has remained unaddressed. Sadly, the universities, seeking to provide outstanding higher education to students appear to be the losers here – they won’t charge higher fees, but the cannot expect higher levels of support from the South African government either.

Nonetheless, it has been moving for me seeing the pictures and reading the accounts of the #feesmustfall movement. It has been moving to read the support of academics for democratizing higher education and making it more accessible to all regardless of race or income level. It is moving to see young people come together and take action against entrenched political forces to demand a better future. It has been moving to see students of all socio-economic groups and races come together and work on behalf of a common goal. I think about those beautiful students that I saw when I visited the campus and the power through unity they showed, and wow, I would be proud to teach those kids. I would be proud that those kids were representing my country.

I cannot help but contrast that with what has been going on in my own state with my own university system. Today, it was announced that a political hack from the Bush Administration would be our next university system president. Yes, there has been dissention about the process of the Board of Governors selecting this person. Yes, there has been dissention about the politicization of the Board of Governors in the past five years that the Republicans have controlled the NC General Assembly. Yes, people have grumbled when successive legislative budgets have cut university budgets leading to higher tuition costs for all students. Yes, we have grumbled when the legislature told us that we couldn’t use a higher percentage of state funding for need-based financial aid. We have been disillusioned about it all. But where is the outcry like in South Africa? Where is the coordinated action? Where is the unity? We shrug our shoulders and write comments and editorials in the News and Observer and then we just roll our eyes and accept it. At this place that we call “The University of the People”, we hold our noses but ultimately fall in line with the changing face of higher education in this state. I wonder what extremes it will take for us to be like those students, parents, and academics in South Africa and demand loudly and uniformly until our voices are heard by those in power something different. I don’t know if that is even possible in our American oligarchy anymore. I don’t know if it is that the people just truly lack any power anymore or if it is rather that we are too lazy to try to wield our power anymore.

The End of It.

This morning, I packed up an enormous plastic container full of breastfeeding and breastpumping supplies that I will not be using anymore. Yesterday was my last day of pumping, and although I made it much longer than I thought I would have, I still cried looking at that box full of gear. I hugged my babies and apologized to them for not doing better. It was really hard and yet in hindsight, I still feel like I should have done more. I endured considerable pain to try to get my boys milk. I had giant blisters, blood, cracks, mastitis, and clogged ducks. I spent so much money on supplements and prescriptions. I spent so much time at doctors’ appointments. I had such a strict pumping schedule that completely ruled my life. I pumped in cars, at work, in airports, on planes. I pumped in hotels and at game lodges with monkeys watching me curiously. I froze many, many bags of milk and fretted about transporting milk. I cried when my babies wouldn’t latch, and then cried some more when they did latch, and then cried some more when they stopped caring about latching. I bought pillows, covers, shirts, dresses, and so many bras. I cheered on the handful of times I was able to tandem nurse the boys at the same time, felt like I was at a turning point and from then on, it was going to be smooth sailing, only to find that the next time, they had no desire to nurse the same way. I nursed them wearing a surgical mask when I had the flu. I nursed them while listening to Simon and Garfunkel and singing The Boxer out loud. Even when I was producing more than 50 ounces of milk a day for them, it wasn’t enough. I still had to supplement them with formula.

The best that I can say is that I tried really hard, and now it is over. I didn’t make it a year. I made it ten months. In the beginning, I didn’t know if I was going to make it two weeks. Then, I didn’t know if I was going to make it a month, then six weeks, then three months, then six months, then eight months, then if I was going to be able to keep a supply while we were in South Africa. I made it until now. I don’t know if that is enough. I know babies grow up, and I am so excited about the little people they are becoming, but I miss that time with just me and them and Simon and Garfunkel. It hurt like hell physically, but it went by way too quickly.

My dad was here for the past week and a half and left on Friday. The boys miss him already.

Seeing the Animals

The last time we went to South Africa, I wrote separate posts about experiences viewing different animals.  If only I had the time to do that these days…but I digress. I want to write a separate post about the day we did a walking safari, because that experience was very distinct, but I am going to have to group all of the others together.  I am sorry if that disappoints, but I don’t think anyone cares that much.  We stayed at Jock Safari Lodge for three nights, meaning that we took six game drives, plus our drives to and from the amazing Skukuza airport, which is inside of the Kruger National Park. The size of Kruger National Park is vast, and many of the herd animals like Wildebeest and Buffalo had migrated to a different part of the park while we were there.  We did manage to see a few herd animals scraggling behind, so we saw some Wildebeest and Buffalo (so our big 5 viewing experience was complete), but not the giant herds of them. We saw a few other herd animals too, like sad zebras left behind.


What did we see so many of? Elephants. I cannot tell you how many different elephants we saw.  Elephants in the riverbed! Elephants knocking down trees! Elephants in the road! Elephants! Elephants! Elephants!

DSC_0691DSC_0608DSC_0426Now it just so happens that aside from the carnivores, elephants are my favorite animals to see. Seriously, if I had nowhere to go and all of the time in the world, I could sit and watch a herd of elephants all day, or even a week, month, even longer.  Maybe I was just missing my babies tremendously, but seeing mother elephants protecting their young calves made me weep.  It is so much beauty to witness. DSC_0383DSC_0328DSC_0305

That is scientifically the fewest number of elephant pictures that I possibly could have included considering that I took approximately 452 different pictures of them.  I couldn’t possibly understate how many elephants we saw.

Is it possible to talk about seeing elephants and not then discuss seeing giraffes?  I feel like they automatically go together, even though I didn’t see them together in Kruger.  We saw many lonely juvenile male giraffes. I don’t know where the others were but all of those adolescents were out and about.

DSC_0412DSC_0551DSC_0396DSC_0828Within the barren landscape of Kruger at the end of its winter dry season, giraffes feature beautifully.

We didn’t see the elusive black rhinos, which are pretty rare in the wild these days, but Kruger boasts the largest concentration of white rhinos, and the southern part of the park, where we were, particularly boasts large numbers. So we easily saw a dozen of them. Of course, there large numbers is also why they are being poached there all the time. This year is on record for being even worse than last year in terms of number of rhino poached. They are being poached at such a rate, that I hope when we take the boys to South Africa in seven to eight years, there are still white rhino left to be seen in the wild. DSC_0560DSC_0663

It was the dry season, so water was scare but we did manage to find a couple of spots with enough of the liquid stuff to attract a hippo or two and a crocodile.

DSC_0746DSC_0819Here is your friendly neighborhood warthog too:


So now that I have your attention by discussing the animals that people are mostly interested in, here is the middle part of the post when I talk about birds!  Yes, people don’t care about birds the same way.  It really is a shame, because the bird life of Kruger is amazing. It even made a bird watching convert out of me (sadly, up until now, my sister Melissa was the only birder of our family). I am sorry if you think birds are boring. Just scroll past and go down to the end if you must.

For those of you still with me, here is a yellow-billed hornbill, just like Zasu in the Lion King.  We saw loads of these birds.DSC_0414Maybe you prefer some birds of prey?

DSC_0504DSC_0523These Bataleur Eagles and their brilliant orange faces were some of my favorite birds to view.  I love birds that are mating pairs for life. DSC_0806

Probably the most beautiful birds we saw were these beautiful saddle-billed storks, one of the big six birds of Kruger.DSC_0437DSC_0439They two are generally found in a mating pair.

Alright, enough with the birds.  How about an adorable dwarf mongoose?

DSC_0642Or how about those pesky Chacma baboons?DSC_0552No, you probably want to see those things that can kill those pesky baboons. Well, I finally saw one of those, a majestically beautiful leopard who had just killed a chacma baboon and was saving him for dinner.

DSC_0587We saw his baboon kill up a tree, and when we came back for our evening game drive, we saw him feasting upon his kill.

DSC_0704DSC_0728 (2)DSC_0732I am sorry, but after finally seeing leopards in the wild, I am pretty confident there there is not a more beautiful animal to behold.  I feel pretty strongly about it.  Finding that leopard was a lot of work for our experienced ranger, Jan, but what finally gave the leopard’s spot away wasn’t the leopard himself, who was well-concealed in the bush, but a skittish young hyena who was looking for some scraps.

DSC_0564We later saw a female leopard in the tall, dry grass tracking a lone impala.  Sadly, the impala got away, and the leopard’s hard work tracking went unrewarded.

DSC_0781Speaking of hyenas, we saw several packs of them as well.  Who knew I would feel so affectionately towards hyena pups?

DSC_0540DSC_0397And then, of course there were the lions. We had some pretty amazing lion sightings at Shamwari, so at first I wasn’t thinking they were high on my priority list to see.  The first night drive, we saw a pride of female lions that made me very, very sad. One of the females was injured with a prominent broken leg that she could barely walk on, and only did so with tremendous pain.  It looked dreadful. She was very emaciated and struggling to keep up with the other three female lions.  DSC_0373DSC_0372DSC_0377Honestly, it made me cry.  When a lion is in that state, she isn’t long for this world, and I hated seeing her suffer.  I know, that is nature, but it doesn’t make it any easier to witness a majestic animal reduced to that state and suffering.  After that sighting, I didn’t know if I wanted to see any more lions.  But then, as we ticked off the game drives, we came to our last morning and we still hadn’t seen any males.  I realized, I would feel very, very incomplete about the experience without seeing a male lion.  That morning, we were in for a treat. Right when the sun was rising, we had a beautiful sighting.

DSC_0766DSC_0770I know I said the leopard is the most beautiful animal to see, but that dark maned lion was the handsomest lion that I ever have seen. Even more amazing was hearing his morning roars.

Yes, I think I will end this Kruger post with that, because I still hear his sounds in my dreams as a call for me to return to Kruger.

Boys on Chairs

I left my nice camera in Virginia Beach when we left from my sister’s house on Sunday. That stinks because the boys are ten months old today and now, I don’t have my nice camera to take their ten month old pictures. My brain is still not functioning at very high capacity.

And yes, I realize that I haven’t finished my South Africa blogs, and while I know the world is waiting with baited breath for my story of finally seeing a leopard, that will have to wait. I don’t have my nice camera to take their ten month old pictures but I can post a few pictures from our weekend trip to Blowing Rock a few weeks ago. The boys are growing so fast and I am just amazed by it. I realize, it isn’t novel that children grow up, it happens to everyone, but to witness the rapidity with which it happens when it is your own offspring, it really hits you how quickly life goes by.

So we stayed at a condo in Blowing Rock and enjoyed these two little boys first trip to the mountains.


We also took a trip to Grandfather Mountain to take the boys across the Mile High Swinging Bridge. It was an overcast, drizzly day but we enjoyed the views anyway. Despite the weather, I was in considerably higher spirits than the last time when I was at Blowing Rock (although I missed Knightley being with us on this outing).


There were spots of early fall colors.  This view of the swinging bridge probably makes it seem less daunting than the view when you are crossing it (It is visible way up high at the top of the mountain):


I am sure it was the first of many trips to the mountains. I cannot wait until the boys are big enough for Tweetsie Railroad and a whole additional level of mountain novelty.


The Way we Krugered


Bounding along in open-topped vehicles is one of my favorite activities. I don’t care if my hair is blown to smithereens. The less paved the roads are, the better. The older and squeakier the seats are, the better. The fewer other people are around, the better. Bonus points if the vehicle has to make frequent stops because of animals crossing the way and if the stench of a variety of animal excrement is heavy in the air.

The above criteria indicates why there is nothing more that I love than being in a national park or game reserve somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. The beauty of a national park is that it feels even wilder, because it is a preservation of something as it is, not a recreation of something as it once was. All of this is a long way to introduce what would otherwise be the easily stated conclusion that I loved the time we spent in Kruger National Park on our recent trip to South Africa.

When deciding where to stay for our trip to Kruger, I recalled the wonderful time that we had spent at the Shamwari Game Reserve on our prior trip to South Africa.  Shamwari has a sister lodge, Jock Safari Lodge, that operates in Kruger National Park. What is great about Jock Safari Lodge is that it is actually situated in Kruger National Park, which is enormous.  Even better, Jock has a private concession within Kruger National Park, which means that only Jock guests can go on game drives in the concession. This is incredibly nice because traffic can get quite hectic along the public roads in southern Kruger, where Jock is situated.  So at Jock, you get the best of both worlds – you are in the national park, but you feel like you are in a private game reserve.  The game rangers do take you in the public roads to get to other areas of the park for viewing, but they know the area so well, they know which routes to take to avoid the traffic and to have the best game viewing experience.  Here was our first view of the lodge after being picked up from the Skukuza airport:


I really don’t think we could have picked a better place to stay for our first trip to Kruger.  While certainly the private game reserves around Sabi Sand boarding Kruger boast more luxury, I enjoyed the laid back attitude, kindness, and deep knowledge of the people who work at Jock.  I loved our thatched cottage as well. It felt a little luxurious, a little rustic, and completely relaxing.


I loved the products in the bath!


Yes, I am still 100% a sucker for a mosquito net. Someday, I will live in a place where I can sleep with open windows and doors and only need my mosquito net for protection at night.

Like at Shamwari, at Jock, each cottage comes equipped with its own plunge pool, and even though it was winter, it was hot enough during the day for me to actually contemplate swimming in ours.


Each room also has a shaded sala (outdoor daybed) for great napping and awesome game viewing during the hot part of the day when you are hanging out around the lodge instead of on a game drive. It overlooks the river, but since we were there in the dry season, the river was dry.


It is pretty ideal for naps and reading, and spotting the occasional passer-by like this old chap:


The main lodge was welcoming and comfortable as well.


In other posts I will write about all of the great sightings we had of wildlife while at Kruger (I FINALLY SAW SOME LEOPARDS!!), but I just want to mention Jock Safari Lodge is completely wonderful because of the people who work there.  Our ranger, Jan, taught us so many things, like how to lure out giant baboon spiders to how white rhinos create their maidens.


Also, there is a certain fearlessness about various types of animal dung that totally helped to change my relationship with my own children’s diapers.

I really cannot say enough good things about Jock Safari Lodge.  The only slight disappointment that we had is that the Internet connection there was terrible.  It wasn’t just that I couldn’t Skype with the boys while we were there, but it was that I couldn’t even send or receive an email about them. So while we were there, I had a mild case of anxiety about not know what was going on with them. If I didn’t have infant twins on the other side of the world, the lack of reliable Internet wouldn’t have troubled me at all.  In fact, next time we go to Jock, I won’t have the slightest concern about it because the boys will be with us. Yes, I am already counting down to our next trip, to be taken sometime after the boys are six years old when they can officially ride in an open-topped safari vehicle for game viewing.  I prefer my game viewing detached from the rest of the world and with messy, wind blown hair.DSC_0478


Finally, if you haven’t ever read Jock of the Bushveld, from whom Jock Safari Lodge derives its name, you should. I know Knightley approved of us staying in a safari lodge named after a dog.

Experiences with the Fabled Work/Life Balance

I promise to resume my South Africa posts. Right now though, I want to write about something that is weighing on me a little bit more. In anticipating having children, I could never have predicted the profound effect they would have on my career. This is for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is that I changed career tacks a while back to move into law librarianship and academia in some part because I thought it would give me considerably more flexibility with my anticipated future family than my law practice which demanded an unpredictable court schedule. I made that career compromise early. However, when I moved into this career path, I didn’t just lose the ambition or competitiveness that earmarked my entire academic and professional identity. I became a law librarian because I thought I would be a good one, intended to take the work seriously, and hoped to rise to the top of my profession. It wasn’t just that I “loved books”, as starts every application for library school. Rather, I care deeply about preserving our legal heritage, researching the law, and teaching the next generation of lawyers.

Up until this past year, my career in law librarianship has more or less gone according to plan. Yes, part of that is luck, but also, I think that I worked hard to be good at what I do. I worked my way up and ended up at a university that I love above all others. But this year, things have gotten hard as I have realized that now that I have children, things are not as easy as they once were. Yes, even in the non-cutthroat world of academic law libraries, as it turns out, having children changes how people treat you at work.

I sensed this early on, even during my pregnancy. I committed to only taking eight weeks of maternity leave even before I had my c-section. I felt so lucky to not go into early labor because if I would have and my kids would have needed NICU time, as common for many twins, I honestly didn’t know how I would handle my work situation. First off, concerning the practical need for pay, as state employees in North Carolina, we have no paid maternity leave. We are only entitled to 12 unpaid weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act, and that leave runs concurrently with any accumulated paid vacation or medical leave that we use. I could only use accumulated paid medical leave during the time of my “recovery” from my C-section, so only for six weeks. Secondly, we had two active searches for librarians that I would be supervising going on, so I knew I would need to be involved in that. Thirdly, I just got a sense that for me, taking a longer period of leave would signal that I was less committed to my job, and I didn’t want to send that message. Unspoken and implied messages coming from a variety of people indicated to me that I would have to show my commitment. So truthfully, even though I took eight weeks where I didn’t come into the law school, only two of those weeks did I not actually work at all. The other weeks, during any spare moments when I successfully got the twins to nap at the same time during the day, I was working, not sleeping.

Because I have liked my current job, I haven’t actively been looking for another one, but I did see one opportunity for a position that I thought would be another good step up for me this past year. I applied, and got the interview. However, as it turns out, asking for pumping breaks because you are still nursing your children, while talking to staff about your belief in the virtue of a flexible work environment for the needs of all employees (regardless of family status) doesn’t sit well with some administrators. So yes, it was the first library job that I interviewed for, but I didn’t get. I was okay with it, as I thought, that’s okay, I can go back to my old job confident in the knowledge that I will have opportunities for career growth there.

Only now, it is clear that isn’t the case here. I feel like an idiot for being duped into thinking that I could show my commitment and be given those opportunities here. I feel stupid for thinking that doing things like hardly taking any maternity leave would make any difference; because it is quite clear to me now, that it is impossible for me to ever be able to do enough. There will always be something more that I need to prove, and I cannot. I can only pay our nanny to work a certain number of hours during the week, and also even more than that, I respect that she is a person too that has family obligations she needs to attend to. So now, when I cannot stay for a late afternoon/evening meeting, then it is another strike against me, even though I am here between 7:00 and 7:30 every morning.

I recognize how privileged I am to be in my position. I had my kids later than most, allowing me the opportunity to gain more work experience and advance in my career. My job in academia is more flexible than what most people have, in spite of all of the pressures I feel about my time, I don’t have a clock-in, clock-out paid by the hour job. But I also have a husband who must travel for his career (we moved here for mine), and frequently that travel comes at the last minute, so I have to be the one at home. Not only that, I really like my boys (in addition to loving them as their Mom), and I want to be home with them for meaningful periods of the day too. I want to have structured periods of my daily schedule where it is all about them and nothing else.

The American economy is not set up for this. I am not the first person to recognize this. Our economy is still entirely based around the notion of the stay-at-home Mom and the working Dad. It is why we have no meaningful paid maternity leave in this country as compared with just about every other country in the world. It is also why being a mother is one of the single highest indicators of poverty (particularly for single mothers).

Sure, I get the Cheryl Sandberg Lean In crowd, but it is really, really hard. Even when you want to succeed and you work hard to succeed, you cannot change the perceptions of other people. You cannot change the fact that a different standard is going to be applied to you no matter how hard you try to work to prove that prejudice wrong. You cannot change the fact that you have to prove yourself every day, and that even if you passed the test thrown up at you the day before, failing the current day’s test really means you failed them all to someone else.

Sometimes I feel like being a working mother means facing the disdain of both sides that may take it to extremes: some stay-at-home Moms who think you are failing your children because you aren’t at home with them all day, and some child-free working women who feel like you are a traitor to your feminism by not forgoing having kids altogether. You cannot win with either group. You cannot give 100% of everything to both, as that is numerically impossible, so you have to go it alone and trust in yourself to figure out how to apportion your time between your different demands, and trust that whatever apportionment that you assign, it will be enough. You have to keep reminding yourself that not only is it enough, but you can do your jobs better than anyone else can. You know your children better than anyone else. You know your job better than anyone else. No one else can do it as well as you. You have to be your own cheerleader, because no one else is going to do it for you. You just have to accept the fact that to someone else, whatever you do is never going to be good enough.

Yes, this makes me a little bit jaded and more bitter, but I am tough and I can plow through it. I feel like I have dealt with considerable shit in my life with feeling rejected by other people and so I can suck it up and not let other people break me, even if it means I have already committed career suicide by my choice to have children. However, it doesn’t mean that I have to accept it for me or for anyone else.

Every day, I wake up no later than 5:00 am and get out of bed knowing that in that day, I want my efforts to be my best for my boys. It is one reason that I take work so seriously, because when I go to work I want it to be meaningful if it is going to take me away physically from them. I want to work for them because I want them to see that everyone has a part to play, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, in making the world better. But now, I see things as they are and realize that in this country when it comes to working mothers, you are expected to do it on your own. You have to motivate yourself to keep going every single day.

Yes, it sucks for me, but it sucks even worse for women who are raising children on their own, don’t have the educational privileges I did, or don’t have the economic ability to pay for good child care. Our economic, business, and social climates for working moms in this country do not benefit anyone, I contend. They do not benefit Moms, already stressed out. They do not make for happy, productive work places when people don’t feel career satisfaction because they feel slighted and mistreated. They do not benefit children to have their mothers treated this way. Our hyper-competitive, hyper-capitalist society just leaves all of us feeling alienated because we are all struggling for whatever tiny share of the pie is left over. Its a zero sum game and in this country, working mothers are the losers in the workplace.

If you haven’t read this article by Anne-Marie Slaughter, I would highly encourage you to. She is a professor at Princeton and clearly is able to articulate all of this much better than I can. For example, if I could share this part with some people in my life right now, I absolutely would:

“The discipline, organization, and sheer endurance it takes to succeed at top levels with young children at home is easily comparable to running 20 to 40 miles a week. But that’s rarely how employers see things, not only when making allowances, but when making promotions. Perhaps because people choose to have children? People also choose to run marathons.”

Along the Whale Route


Although the focus of the second week of our trip when we were mostly in Cape Town was my conference, I did want to enjoy a few things with David that I didn’t have the opportunity to do last time we were in Cape Town. On one of the slow days at the conference, we decided to head out on a trip down to Hermanus along the South African whale route. We took a leisurely drive down the coast along the side of False Bay that we hadn’t seen before. We drove through the resort towns of the Strand and beach towns like Gordon’s Bay and Betty’s Bay. The weather was lovely and the views were breathtaking all along the way. Unfortunately, this was the day that I neglected to refill my camera with my battery that I had charged the night before. I am such a forgetful genius these days. Although my phone’s camera didn’t do too badly, it still didn’t capture all that we saw quite the same way, but I did the best I could.

We arrived in Hermanus with some time to spare before our boat departed so we walked around and explored the little town and took in some more amazing coastal views.

Can you spot the dassie (hyrax) in the above picture?There are actually two. If you click on the picture to make it larger, you might be able to find them. We saw several on the rocks. I still get a kick out of the fact that these little guys have elephants as their closest living relatives.


Finally, it was time to head out on the boat to see if we could spot any of these:

That would be the Southern Right Whale. Apparently, they were named the Right Whales, because European whalers identified them as the “right” whales to kill because they wouldn’t sink the boats the way other whales would.


We looked pretty stylish on our life vests. I don’t know why the crew insisted that we wear them the entire time, because I never had been on any kind of boat tour where that was the case, but I guessed it was probably based on some past experience, so I trusted their judgment on this. Also, no doubt the ocean is freezing there and the waves were pretty high. It is funny how being a parent changes you, as now I feel like being overly cautious and prudent is completely second nature.

The views from the boat back to the shore were also lovely. Directly south of Hermanus is a protected area of coastline that is beautiful, and I would love to go back there and explore it on foot.


Did we see whales? Yes, we did. We actually saw several as there was a mating party in full effect. However, my photography skills when it comes to whales sucks, particularly considering all I had was my phone camera.


I realize that picture is a fairly anticlimactic to an entry that is supposed to be about whales. I get that. The whales were nice and all, but really I just enjoyed a day to get out and see some more of South Africa. After a very late lunch in town, we headed back for the two hour drive back to Cape Town, heading more inland this time. It was spectacular seeing all the lovely farms nestled in valleys. You are driving in the countryside and through the mountains until you peek over Sir Lowry’s pass and see the Cape Flats in front of you. It is too beautiful to try to describe and I lack the photographs to do it justice.

South Africa Eats: From the Simple to the Sublime

Really, when I go to South Africa, I would be entirely content consuming only the following three things:


Those would be my Stoneys, plenty of cups of rooibos tea, and milk tarts. All the milk tarts. I realize, one of those three things (the rooibos tea) I have no problems finding in the US. Another one of those three things I can make in the US I have the time and energy (these days I don’t). But those Stoneys, are still so elusive. So here is my happiness at consuming my first Stoney at the Skukuza airport, which is yet another reason why that airport is just about the most perfect airport on this planet.


That could only be matched by my happiness at afternoon tea at Jock Safari Lodge with milk tarts and milky rooibos tea.


So yes, that would have been enough for me. But it is South Africa where the food is delicious and that isn’t all there is! Since this was our second trip to South Africa, I took a little more time to do some research and make some reservations for restaurants in Cape Town before the trip.

One of the big goals was to eat at The Test Kitchen, which this year moved up to #28 on the list of best restaurants in the world. Let me tell you, it was not easy to get a reservation. I couldn’t manage to get in for a dinner, but we did get a lunch (I had to cancel the afternoon tea reservation I had scheduled at the Mt. Nelson hotel) and it was so worth it. David and I don’t get out much these days to fine dining locations (our last meal at the Fearrington House the Saturday before the babies were born and our trip over to Chef and the Farmer are the only two other times we have really indulged in the past year). I may have forgotten what it is like to eat at places like Dinner with Heston Blumenthal, but Chef Luke Dale-Roberts did not disappoint. Our five course lunch was pretty much the best meal that I have had in a very, very long time. Here was the menu:


Here was the foie gras course which was probably my favorite:


I don’t understand how difficult it must be to be a chef like Dale-Roberts and consistently come up with inventive, amazing food that tastes so delicious and is unlike anything else. That is a mark of creativity, artistry, and brilliance that I cannot comprehend. I can only be grateful to consume it.

We did manage to get in to Dale-Robert’s other restaurant, The Pot Luck Club, for dinner our second night in Cape Town. Just eating at that place would have been enough. It is a small plates, tapas style place, and every dish we had was more delicious than the one before. The menu is divided into six different “tastes” for your palate, and the outstanding servers recommend trying a few items from each of the different flavors. I don’t know what my favorite dish was, but the fish sliders, springbok tartare, and the beef filet were pretty big standouts. The dessert I ordered was a poached meringue, which was light, delicious, and probably my most favorite dessert (aside from my milk tarts), that I had the entire time I was there.


Also, the view at the Pot Luck Club beats the ground floor view of the Test Kitchen. It sits on the top floor of the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.


Both restaurants have open kitchens where you watch the masters at work.


If you are planning a trip to Cape Town, plan in advance enough to get into both restaurants.

We ate so much other good food, I could write a very long entry about that. But, I will just write about a few other places. This time, we hit Willoughby & Co twice for lunch in the V&A Waterfront. They have great, fresh seafood and the place gets packed, but we hit it early enough that we were able to get seated right away. The first time, we went for the more traditional seafood fare – fish and chips, mussels, and such. We noticed everyone else was ordering the sushi, so we headed back a second time for some sushi, and we understood why everyone else was ordering it. It was pretty impressive for South African sushi, probably some of the best sushi I had in quite some time (certainly better than Durham sushi). DSC02702DSC02701

We had a great meal at Dash at the Queen Victoria Hotel. They also had an especially photogenic, as well as delicious, foie gras appetizer.


Probably my favorite restaurant view at the V&A came from Mondiall. Even better than their view, though was the delicious enormous burger that I had there (photo not provided). It was juicy and messy and I devoured it way to quickly.

I shouldn’t neglect to mention that the V&A has great quick eats too thanks to the V&A Food Market. They had great street food plus lots of locally made goodness. One night for dinner, David and I just grabbed a selection of different samosas and some yogurt smoothies from the Market to take back to our hotel room to watch the Chelsea game, and it was just about perfect (except Chelsea lost).

Finally, if we are talking about perfect views and dining, I should talk about two other places. The day we went to Hermanus to watch the whales, we ate a lovely seafood lunch at Lemon Butta watching the whales in the bay.


If you are into watching “the scene” at Camps Bay, it can be easily done at La Belle Bistro and Bakery where we had a delightfully unplanned late lunch.


I haven’t even mentioned the great food at Jock’s Safari Lodge, nor numerous other places where we ate, but suffice it to say, if you genuinely enjoy the kind of food you get at the confluence of many cultures, then South Africa is the place for you. If you are like me and are trying to lose baby weight, it is not the place for you.