To The Man Who Called Maternity Leave a ‘Holiday’.

Last week, while listening to a radio podcast, I heard the presenter – a well known South African figure – lambasting the new Zealand Prime Minister for not only A) announcing her pregnancy as an unmarried woman (gasp) but B) doing it so in front of her home in her ‘casual wear’ (the horrors) and C) daring to admit that she would be taking a 6 week break for maternity leave. The host spent a good 10 minutes accusing Jacinda Arden (the PM) of neglecting her country duties while she basically took a 6 week holiday.

My blood boiled, and the milk I was expressing curdled. I was pissed. Perhaps he caught me at a bad time – having recently birthed a baby of my own – but I just had to send him an email to speak up on behalf women, and men everywhere, who take ma or pa-ternity leave.

Here is my response:

I listened with interest to your commentary on the Prime Minister of New Zealands pregnancy announcement, and your thoughts around her 6 weeks of maternity ‘leave’. 

I have a 2 month old baby. Which means I have been on leave for 2 weeks longer than Jacinda Arden will. Let me tell you, 6 weeks, when taking into consideration the average lifespan of a human (71.6 years in the case of a New Zealander) means that she will get to spend a precious 0.16% of her life with her newborn, before real life takes over. Of that measly 0.16% about 3/4 of that will be spent (if she had a C section) recovering from a traumatic surgery, feeding, expressing, cleaning, de-vomiting, nappy changing, crying, trying to fit into clothes that aren’t spandex and cooking and cleaning (because shame, these poor new Zealanders do not have the luxury of hired help like we do), all whilst trying to keep a tiny human infant alive. She will, I am almost certain also still be doing her job (vice PM or not, one does not just forget how to rule a country because they’ve shoved a watermelon out of their vagina). So whilst I agree that she sounds like she ate all her vowels for breakfast, I disagree wholeheartedly that you think 6 weeks is too long. Au contraire, 6 weeks is but a drop in the ocean. Even we have better labour laws than that. The poor woman is going to need 6 weeks just to shrink her uterus back to size. 
I know all of this, because whilst I may not be a Prime Minister, I am a new mom of my second child. I took 29 days off of work before going back to my second job (photography) and shooting a 11 hour wedding. In 2 months time I will return to my corporate job as a Marketing Manager. I shoot 5-7 jobs a week, edit most nights past midnight, wake up at 1 and 4 am to feed, don’t actually sleep in between feeds because I’m too busy hating my husbands worthless nipples and wondering about important issues like ‘how do they get the toothpaste in the tube to come out in different coloured stripes’. I  get up at 6 am to get my son ready for school and then head to the gym and in-between still try to run a house, look after my toddler and be a decent functioning human being. Hell, I type this while hanging like a fruit bat from a girls dinner that involved way too much red wine and tequila. Oh, and I’ve also just baked and iced a 4 tier birthday cake for my toddlers 3rd party tomorrow, taken 36 cupcakes out of the oven and glue gunned party hats onto plastic dinosaurs. All while my left boob leaked because I’d forgotten to shove a breast pad in my overly-sexy maternity bra. 
I absolutely realise how martyr’ish this sounds, but I just had to put it out there and challenge you on your anti child anti maternity leave stance. Having a baby, and yes even when by choice, is the hardest ad most wonderful thing I have ever done. And whilst some women may use it as an excuse to let their pubic hair grow to Rapunzel lengths and shop in Checkers in their stokies, many of us, like myself, take it in their stride and adopt it as one more role to add to their already fat CV.
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The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Mates

I have strep throat. Which is actually a good thing, as strep throat always means I’ve gone away with the girls. There have been some deviations to the strep – such as the plague like rash that covered my legs in Zanzibar, or the double bronchitis and laryngitis that rendered me to the sick bay in Dullstroom.

This weekend marked another year of what we’ve fondly labeled ‘Team Vino’. An annual getaway with the girls to a (generally) local destination in SA. I don’t know why, but this trip has been my favourite one so far. It might have something to do with the 40+ bottles of wine consumed over the space of 48 hours, or the ‘only 2 hour ‘cos I’m hungover’ hike which turned into a 6 hour trek through some of the finest countryside South Africa has to offer. It may have something to do with the box of grape cigarettes bought, when none of us is a smoker, the cheese and biscuits for breakfast, the 4 pm pizza and champagne or the very flamboyant ‘special friend’ Johann who we met at the local backpackers for shots of Potency and red lipstick.

I suspect however, that this girls weekend was my favourite because in-between the drunken karaoke, the debate over the decline in bobby pins, or the hysterical laughter upon finding out that the UFO we were all convinced was floating on the horizon was in fact a far away mountain fire, this weekend was all about 8 very close friends, spending 2 very special days together.

It was about 3 hours in to the mountain hike when one friend commented (look, it could be due to dehydration, but go with me) “we are all so smart, and great, and clever, and nice”. And she’s right. The 8 of us, some friends from high school and some picked up along the way, are some of the most creative, smart, savvy, intelligent and funny people that I have the privilege of calling my friends. There’s Alison, who I have been friends with for 27 years. Alison is the smartest chick I know. She’s the one who’s trying to convince me to start a podcast on the blog. She’s a terrific hugger, and she doesn’t give a shit about your personal space issues. She’s also the only person I know who hair is always ‘blowing in the wind’ perfect in photographs. When I grow up I want to be like Allison.

There’s Ilona. I met Ilona through a series of circumstances which weren’t terribly pleasant – but like the light at the end of the tunnel, there she was. All bronzed legs, boobs and loud laughter. Ilona is always up for anything. She’s my go to person when I’m in desperate need of a glass of wine. Or a shot of tequila. She’s the first person to get involved. She’s also a terrific dancer, a bloody genius and has a daughter who is going to rule the world one day. Ilona doesn’t give a shit about most things, but she gives a whole lot for her friends. Ilona was the witness at our wedding. That’s how much I trust her.

Amy is my sister from another Mister. It’s sometimes hard to explain the relationship we have. Other girls are loud ‘squeals and ohmigodss’ and hugs. Amy and I are tinned soup and Pick n Pay vests. We know what the other person is thinking and tend to communicate in silence a lot of the time. Amy is revoltingly skinny. She borrows my clothes and looks magnificent in them. Amy ‘bought’ me a cleaner as a housewarming, that’s the kind of person she is. Amy too, is bloody smart, and she’ll Web MD your ass in a nano second. Funny rash? Amy will tell you what it is before it has a chance to itch.

If it does begin to itch, then Candice will have the cream for it. Candles, as I fondly refer to her, came into my life like a rocket ship. It’s hard to picture time before her. If you ever need a motivational pep talk, or someone to talk you down from a ledge, call Candice. She will throw profanities like confetti, but man alive it’s a treat. Candice always looks amazing. Dolled up, dressed down, no makeup or dressed in a burlap sack, she pulls it off.

“Hey Candles, where did you get that burlap sack”

“The burlap sack store”

Speaking of clothes, I’ve resolved to never ask Kerith where she ‘got those great leggings from’ because the answer is always something along the lines of ‘The South of France’. Possibly the most well travelled person I know, Kerith and I share a strong love for makeup and sarcasm. Kerith will also always tell you about things that you have no interest in hearing, but she doesn’t care, and tells you anyway. Just this weekend she went on for about 25 minutes about a local dam and its history. It’s a bloody good thing I like you, Kerith.

Remember I told you that Candice will always have that cream for that rash? Lauren is the one who makes sure that there is sufficient cream left in the tub. My favourite A typer, Lauren and I met when we each had broken wings. We nursed ourselves back to full flight on a diet of quiche, Greys Anatomy and Red Wine. Lauren says I saved her, I say she saved me. Either way, we found ach other and rely heavily on our conversations of what gym programme to do on a certain day, what tagine is right for which curry and when the best time to plant a seasonal vegetable is.

Have you ever seen a close up of the sun? That’s pretty much how bright Shannons smile is. She is possible the most radiant soul I have ever met. Almost as well traveled as Kerith, and as up for anything as Ilona, Shannon is the biggest sport of them all. Just last year she took up triathlon, and I’m pretty certain next year she’s going to be winning them. If one ever needs a glass of wine, Shannon will be there with the corkscrew. She’s also flipping clever. And attractive. An all rounder really.

So there you have it, just 7 of my closest friends. There are more, so many more, and in each of them I have found a friend soul mate.

There’s just something about spending time with those you love the most, and the busier our lives get, the harder it is to do. We’ve already planned next years trip – ideas of Botswana, Namibia, Seychelles and Mauritius are doing the rounds. I don’t care. As long as I end up with these girls by my side, a couple of bottles of wine and some lifelong memories, I’ll be happy.

Even if it means more strep throat.

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Zanzibar
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Tofu, Mozambique
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Vall Dam
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Zanzibar
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Zanzibar
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Zanzibar
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"The One With 5 Steaks and An EggPlant"

Do you remember this episode of FRIENDS? The one where they all go out for dinner, and end up splitting the bill even though 3 of the 5 ordered the bare minimum off the menu to save some bucks? 

That was me yesterday. Not with regards to the food thing – I’m quite a splurger when it comes to my grub – but I felt like the ‘Phoebe’ of the group at our girls dinner last night when the conversation turned to holidays. It went a little something like this:

Guys, let’s do another girls trip!

Yes! Keen, November?

Me: “Sorry? November, as in TWENTY FOURTEEN? (Secretly hoping that somewhere like Magaliesberg would be on the list of choices)

Alas, the destinations that cropped up were closer to Prague, Amsterdam, Greece and Brazil, and with every new country that was thrown out my heart sunk a little bit further into my chest. Knowing full well I could never afford an overseas holiday that soon, let alone anytime in the next year.

The conversation went on, and on with each person delegated a task of researching certain destinations, while I avoided eye contact and tried not to cry into my Chenin Blanc. 

How do they do it, I asked myself – why, when we all work hard am I the one who is (seemingly) constantly worried about money. This of course then turns into a self hating spiral of despair. You’re not as thin as someone, not as talented, not as good an athlete. Your car isn’t as nice, your home isn’t as big, your partner not as generous. I bet people never complicate you behind your back. I bet they never consider you to be amazing. 

STOP. 

Needless to say a gorgeous evening out with my incredible mates left me feeling really sad – and the only person to blame was myself. 

It’s so hard to not compare yourself with others. And it’s also very dangerous too. I need to stop. I don’t want to be the Phoebe anymore. 

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The Rankin Honey Moon Part Two – Pangkor Laut

Known as ‘One Island, One resort’ Pangkor Laut resort and Spa is a tropical paradise nestled on a tiny island on the Straits of Malacca. Even though the island itself is 300 acres, only around 2 kms of the island itself have been used for the resort – which means it’s tiny, intimate and just perfect.

A Map of Pangkor Laut
A Map of Pangkor Laut

All passengers leave a dock in the town of Lemut – about a 4.5 hour drive from Kuala Lampur – and catch a 20 minute speed boat to the resort. Once there, you are captive and cannot leave – nothing wrong with that until you see the prices of the 3 available restaurants. Being a guest on the resort means you need to eat and drink at their restaurants and bars. In the first instalment of the Honeymoon series I mentioned how pricey alcohol was in Malaysia – but Pangkor took it to the next level with their fares and even food was ridiculously pricey. We soon adopted the ‘When in Rome’ mentality and decided to stop converting to Rands otherwise we would have ruined the 5 days spent there. But just to give you an idea – the cheapest bottle of wine was R600 (Douglas Green nonetheless) and the average main meal (Noodles, chicken etc) cost around 100 RM (about R350). A meal of seafood or something a bit more exotic would set you back around R700. Scary.

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clear water

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pool and sea villas

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villas on the beach

We stayed in the hill villa – a gorgeous suite overlooking the lush forest and ocean. Everything about this place was 5 star – from the service, to the food to the personal touches. After day 1 every staff member greeted us by name and the place felt like home.
The Island pretty much forces you to relax and enjoy – so this was the part of Honeymoon where would could kick back slightly and enjoy doing nothing. Except, Barry and I find it almost impossible to ‘do nothing’ so we found things to keep us busy.

The beach at Pangkor Laut is exquisite. On some days we were lucky to have it to ourselves. On nights when it rained though I was devastated at the amount of garbage that floated in from surrounding Islands. The rubbish tainted a lot of the trip for me – and even though they had cleaners every hour I still battled to get the image of pollution out of my head. I experienced the same thing on a trip to Mozambique last year – so I am just generally sensitive to the waste and pollution humans create. In all the resorts we stayed we were supplied with endless bottles of free drinking water – I’m sure this alone is a huge contributing factor the the ocean pollution.

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arriving at the beach

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the beach

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On the second night we were invited to a ‘Welcome’ cocktail party at the resort. Here we took full advantage of the free flowing booze – just like every other guest there.

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On one of the days we decided to take part in a Jungle trek (mainly to get some exercise in between all the food and beer). Armed with water and hiking shoes we soon discovered it was a mere 500 m trek through the island – which still took us over 2 hours as our guide was very thorough and very informative…it’s also about 40 degrees and 100% humidity which makes traversing through a rainforest somewhat tricky. On the lookout for snakes – as I had fund one the day before (a small harmless paradise tree snake) we soon realised there may be a bigger threat on the Island; According to Aris, our guide, wild boars had been swimming to the island and setting up camp there. Not overly concerned we carried on walking until we stumbled across a pack and happened to be in the middle of a mom and her baby. Our 7 day old wedding vows flew out the window as we made a mad dash for the closest area of safety. Later that day at lunch Barry missed standing on a black viper by about 1 cm while we were at lunch. Mass excitement ensued as our terrified water herded us away and called a snake wrangler.

Our guide showing us a hole from the wild boars
Our guide showing us a hole from the wild boars
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Spider

black viper

On another day, friends we had met on the hike – Ziggy and Tim – managed to hire a speed boat and we all decided to head across to the Island of Pangkor for the day. The place was like a floating China Town – full of the tackiest buildings and tourist spots – a Donald Duck themed church included. Here we had lunch, bought beer and booze** to smuggle back into our resort and hired a pink minibus taxi to take us on a tour of Pangkor. Most places in Malaysia to me seemed ‘unfinished’ and Pangkor was no different – it’s a messy heaving colourful place filled with people, souvenirs and rubble. I love it.

** On buying booze – we found a 1 litre bottle of Vodka which we stored in water bottles to put the ‘pep’ in our Pepsis at the pool (don’t think us cheap – the average cocktail was a few hundred bucks!). The problem was that it soon became hard to tell the difference between the water bottles and the vodka bottles. One night, particularly parched I took several swigs from a ‘water’ bottle – and was smashed for the entire night.

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barry reads a map in Pangkor

pink taxis

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The remainder of our 5 days on the Island was spent swimming, sleeping, reading, eating (think deep fried whole soft shell crabs), drinking (ice cold Tiger and Asahi beers), Spa’ing (just me and my Lomi-Lomi masseuse sent from the Hawaiian heavens) and enjoying the beauty and tranquility of the area.

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R600 bottle of wine

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lying by the pool

Friends, this is also the place where I was introduced to ‘The Cronut’. A Cronut is the most delectable pastry – it’s where donut meets croissant and I could not get enough. I had one or 2 every single day. This photo is of my breakfast – cronut, capers and brie. Delicious right?

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calamari

buffet dinner

Breakfast with Mike and Linda

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at dinner

Next stop: Penang

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A Bush Break

I’m writing this from a PC. 

For those who know me, that’s a mighty big statement considering I haven’t used one of these things in over 10 years. I hate it. I’m going to try and embrace it, but that still doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy this transition. Consider this my disclaimer for any spelling errors which may occur. This silver trackpad from hell has a mind of it’s own.

That aside, I spent 5 days last week at my parent s bush house in Mabalingwe. I had resigned from my job and had a few days in which to unwind and de-stress before the new gig (hence the PC)

Highlights of the weekend defintely included 

1. My mothers face when my future father in-law arrived with 2 cases of beer. For 2 days

2. Watching ‘In the Womb’ with my parents. I don’t care how old you are, watching two golden retrievers do the jiggy is always going to be awkward

2b. Knowing my mother is going to read this post.

3. The pack of mice chewing through the tool box. And the tools

4. My father screeching to a halt in the game vehicle next to a spitting cobra, then gently playing with it with his cap to help me get a decent photo.

5. Mom and Dad reminding me at every opportunity just how lazy/forgetful/messy I was at 12. I think they forget I’m a bit older now.

6. The 2 sets of inlaws bonding over beer, braais and brandewyn

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The Proposal

This is our story – and sure to go down in the books as one with many laughs and comedy of errors!

A few months ago Barry – the then boyfriend – ‘won’ a sales award at work. Yay for us we thought as he claimed a free weekend away at a venue of his choice. In true Barry style he kept the destination a surprise, only mentioning it would be in The Kruger Park area. (I of course used every available opportunity to remind him that he couldn’t claim this as a romantic gesture, as it was a free holiday…Barry just nodded and smiled). We booked the dates, I took leave and we carried on as normal. A few weeks later I happened to be planning one of my besties bachelorette parties, and while liaising with the other Bridesmaids we decided on a date, booked the venue and bought the theatre tickets. Cock Up #1 – I had now double booked the bachelorette and our weekend away.

I first became suspicious when Barry reacted in a not-so-calm manner, and was seen sighing and huffing and puffing on the phone and email to his ‘boss’ to try reschedule. Panic calmed down to relief when the holiday was pushed out by a week (Shame, I had now added on an extra 7 days of panic for the poor boy)

The night before we were due to leave I booked a spray tan to test out before the above-mentioned Bride-to be’s wedding, thinking that should it go orange (it did), tan my hands and feet an obscure shade of tangerine (it did) and make me look like Snooki (you guessed it) at least there would be no-one to see me on our weekend away. Haha, jokes on me. Cock-up #2.

Friday morning we leave for the destination – incident free apart from me whining like a baby about my post spray tan catastrophe tequila induced hangover – and arrive at a rather larny Rose farm/Spa/Slice of Heaven – Summerfields Estate. Ooh I say to Barry, this is quite nice hey – Your company has really spoilt us. Barry just nodded and smiled.(Disclaimer, all his work had to do with the engagement weekend was give him leave -the rest was up to him, and his 3 months of planing really paid off!)

Post (mouthgasm) lunch and quick nap we decide to go to The Kruger Park for a late afternoon game drive. It was fairly chilly and drizzly at this point so I pop on my comfy hoodie and granny loafers. As my dad would say – nothing brings the man out in me like the bush. Poor Barry (isn’t he lovely for loving me?)

We arrive in the Kruger Park after several confusing who-is-our-driver-what-the-hell-is-going-on-moments and finally hop on our game vehicle. Sans any other guests… Ding dong Kearney! After half an hour of driving and chatting to our wonderful ranger Pat, we pull up infront of a massive koppie and get told we can go up it to have a sundowner (we had a trusty 6 pack of Castle Lite with us).

I walk up this bloody hill to find a tatty old blanket and a bunch of daisies in a broken vase, knocked down from the wind. Panic stricken I point an accusatory finger at Barry and to the offering in front of me and say ‘What The F*ck Is This!?’. Barry looks back at me with such confusion on his face that any inkling of a proposal evaporated. (Turns out the folk at the Kruger Park had added the ‘rock picnic’ in – much to even Barrys surprise.)

So, Cock-up up #3 is now the ring is in the backpack in the game vehicle, and we are standing on top of said hill like awkward fairies. ‘Let me go get your phone’ says Barry. ‘No babe, we dont need it’ I say. This goes on for a few seconds until he shouts in satisfaction ‘Instagram, you need to Instagram!’ and promptly runs back to the vehicle. All the while our game ranger is animal spotting with his rifle and pretending to ignore us’

I wont go into the whole proposal part, just to say that despite the sweet but slightly tacky efforts from the Park (they even threw in a bottle of JC Le Roux, despite requests from my now fiance to send ANYTHING but JC) it was a proposal that couldn’t have suited me better. The bush, my love and some wonderful stories to tell for many years to come!

PS – Glad to report that while I still looked like an Oros man, the rest of the weekend went off as smoothly as could be and I managed to drink my body weight (a skill!) in delicious bubbly and tequila.

Happy days!

The Rock On The Rock
The Rock On The Rock

Celebrations
Celebrations

 

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