Many months ago I was incredibly grateful to make it down to Washington, D.C. for the Women's March on Washington. My major motivation for getting myself there was to march with the 500 Women Scientists group started by some fantastic friends from CU Boulder.
Below is an email I sent to some college girlfriends about the experience and some photos I took with my iPhone that day. More about my photos used in some of the material for 500WS can be found here. The photo above actually made it into Science.
I feel really lucky that DC was an easy option for me. The bus wasn't too expensive and still allowed me to work most of Friday and get into DC before it was too late to navigate the metro. And then, I was able to stay at the home of one of the 500WS organizers who I know from CU Boulder. There were good friends from Boulder and new friends from Wyoming. There must have been 14 women in the 2 bedroom house.
Things started early on Saturday with reporters in and out of the house and all of us trying to figure out what to carry and which phone numbers to sharpie on our arms just in case. I don't think I spoke to a single reporter. Oops, I need to be better about standing up. It did feel good to see my purple flower on everything.
So, we eventually made it to our rally spot pretty early and there I saw some other ladies from my cohort at CU. I hadn't realized just how much I have been missing familiar women friends. It felt so good to be with that group again. I lucked out in grad school with a cohort of women (and one man) who were good scientists and were also wonderful educators and communicators. That group always helped me to feel very grounded in my own passions in grad school. It has been wonderful to see what we have all done with our various skill sets.
We stood like sardines through about 5 hours of rally speeches. We heard Gloria, Ashley Judd, Alicia Keyes, Janelle Monáe (maybe my favorite), and totally missed Madonna. The crowd felt diverse to me. Lots of men, lots of people of color, lots of ages. I felt pretty good about that. There was some complaining about all the standing, then a good friend totally snapped at some folks during the call and response of mothers and the names of their children who have died due to police brutality. It was an important moment.
I felt overcome with emotion and gratitude. I felt hopeful. It was amazing for people to cheer for us and for science. I cringed at Trump Hotel.
We marched until dark, got home to refuel and finally drink water and then had a really long meeting about next steps. Mostly our focus will be education about climate change and the importance of science and research in everyone's life. Flint Michigan should be an example for everyone, Zika, etc. etc. We are also working on a science education outreach to red areas program. We had that meeting at the home of someone whose parents are social scientists and their opinions were golden....if a bit on the academic side. They were trying to help us find ways to communicate on the level of people who don't believe in climate change. It is hard. Really really hard.
Sunday was more of me watching the organizers do press. During the time it took me to get Saturday's dreadlock out of my hair, they did an hour long interview. Goals.
The bus home was full of speeches from local teachers, professors, cosmetologists, mothers of trans children, women from South Africa who have seen this shit before, women who had unsafe abortions, women whose lives were made better because they had access to abortions, teenagers who were scared for immigrant friends, young black women who had just done their first march and mother-daughter teams who marched for each other.
I am glad it was an option for me and relieved that it has proven to be such a helpful group for staying motivated and organized.
Cape Town and the Karoo Scrub
Upon our arrival to the craziness of city life in Cape Town, we had wifi at our amazing hotel, so....no writing for a bit. We stayed close to the Kristenbosch Botanical Gardens and spent quite a bit of time there birding and plant watching and hiking.
We accomplished most things on our to do list.
Driving east and a little north of Cape Town to bird the dry hot thorny bush scrub. Nothing says honeymoon like all of those things put together! We had a bit of a rough time navigating the traffic of CT this morning, but once we emerged on the other side, there were mountains, mist, and after a long tunnel through a mountain, we were shot out on the other much drier side. Wine country...and Karoo scrub country.
Last night we at burgers, drank Guinness and appetizered on chicken livers! Yum.
We spent some lovely time exploring the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve. The little towns nearby were great too, but of course, I didn't get photos. The scene really reminded me of the Australian outback. If you want to see some photos of the towns in the area, check this out!
That is me pointing at my husband on hour 6 of our day in 95F heat remembering the promise that we would, in fact, make it to the wineries before sundown.
And....we were off!
We made it to the only one that was still open, Mont Rochelle, but one was plenty! We did not see Richard Branson though.
The botanical garden and...a hotel robe!!!
Husband looking lovingly at a protea of some sort.
My love for this guy and rusks runs deep!
Best breakfast ever. Lumberjack appetite!
Dress code, you say? I say, dazzle/distract them with power-clashing!
We left Kruger and slept at Old Joe's Kaia under a circus tent mosquito net on a giant bed with organic cotton sheets and a hurricane shower. We arrived late because after a day of checking out the Blyde River Canyon area at God's Window and Bourke's Potholes, we booked it up to Mount Sheba preserve to catch a very quick look at a Gurney's Sugarbird. You see, Sugarbirds are relatives of the Australian honeyeaters we both studied for our PhDs. Then, we went back down through Pilgrim's Rest to Graskop for dinner at Canimambo which served tasty dishes from Mozambique.
We slept delightfully well at Old Joe's and awoke at our usual 5am time and wondered around the amazing grounds. That place was a real gem with tons of trails and gardens and a lovely pool. We had signed up for the vegan breakfast and it was a true slow food experience. It was the best vegan meal I've ever experienced...even if it did make us panic a bit about making it to Joburg to catch our flight.
Cape Town bound!
Kruger National Park, Lower Sabi and Skukuza
4/10/16 Lower Sabie journal ramblings
7pmish chillin at the #50s plaza with a braii fueled by ironwood after another spectacular day burned into our eyes. Holy shit, we covered so much ground today (140ks @50 by law), but it took us from 8am until 6pm. We went from our gloriuos perch atop the Olifants River cliffs through some really hot and dry country. We saw lots of mopani shrubland, viewed a pond with a a dead tree containing two different species of weaver nests, White-winged terns, a group of hippos, elephants drinking water, Egyptian geese, Vervet monkeys, Black-winged stilts, Dabchicks (Little grebes), and the whole shebang. Overwhelming.
Between the turnoff Lower Sabie and Lower Sabie, we checked out two overlooks. We looked down on cacti-esque trees down onto really sparsely vegetated red and rocky soil.
Leopard Tortoise moving at bird-nerd speed
African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and my fearless driver. Apparently that huge bone shield on their heads is called a "boss." It is sort of like chest hair emerging from a field shirt. Also, I think they look a lot like Arthur's friend Francine, but apparently she is an orangutan. Who knew. At any rate, her hairdo is very boss-like.
Lion pride traffic jam and Broville units = science
Blue wildabeests, Nothing-to-see-here giraffe and an Egret-topped rhino nap
Burchell's Zebra (Equus burchelli)
Fever trees (Vachellia xanthophloea) have greenish bark and are one of the few species where photosynthesis takes place in the bark.
Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)
And another Lilac-breasted roller
I'm not getting enough writing time in. We arrived at Skukuza at 1:55pm today after a bumpy backroad meander from Lower Sabie. We saw Temminck's coursers whose very red heads matched the soil. It was hot! We ate tuna salad while watching White-fronted bee eaters fish in the water, Hamerkops take naps, Vervet monkeys groom, Pied kingfishers pounce on the water, and an amazing, but nameless (to me) tree gave us shade.
5pm The golden sun just faded on the railroad bridge that I can see from our bungalow #84 with "no view." At least 12 hours of birding today. We went to whatever fancy pants steakhouse exists here for some delightfully cheap drinks and sunset. What a beautiful, but crazy scene. It was super ooey gooey great (that might be my champagne talking). And wifi. Blow your mind. Wifi. Crazy. Then, we went to the shop to get some kudu and wildebeest, and cooked some pasta, I showed Eliot how to use a old school (born before 1982) can opener, and we had a lovely meal.
prime real estate
When they both finally arose from their bath, the had a butt war of epic proportions attempting to nudge each other out of the clay soak.
Day 2 at Skukuza, last night in Kruger
Hot. Overwhelmed by animals and rapid-fire range shifts. Birding all day every day. Today we saw some kind of mongoose, five rhinos all of which we think were White rhinos.
I have a lot to say about how nice it was to have no working phone, but I also went through hashtag withdrawal, so here are a few:
Questions that we would google if we could:
Why do some of the giraffes look like they have warts?
What's a group of giraffes called?
Are males darker? Just coincidence?
Do males and females hang out together?
Kruger National Park, Olifants vicinity
From my journal:
The braided river below is spectacular! Hippos, lines of elephants drinking and river-crossing, giraffes, and huge flocks of birds. We tried for a while today to find a Red-crested korhaan. It sounded like someone tapping a pick axe on a rock, but then there was a song. We finally put two and two together and figured it out with some research. Luckily, we bumped into the sound a little later in the day and were able to watch them, which is my favorite way to commit a sound to an animal in my memory. We did a short loop near camp and came back early to drink beer and eat nachos at the overlook restaurant (honeymoon....remember???), then headed back out on a road that winded along the river where we managed to find many impala, waterbucks, hippos, Fish eagles, Egyptian geese galore, and a double rainbow. Yep, a double rainbow. A good sign. Superb day!
Eliot nearly convinced me of a rare sighting of a Pel's fishing owl, but after many hours and then an entire night of being perched on the same Boulder (capitalized in my journal because it was once my place name home, so I'll leave it), we realized it was an elusive Pel's fishing owl rock. Trickster.
I think my our sheets are made from old woven barbie doll hair and combined with Lariam are giving me very bad dreams.
Olifants curtains for our view of the Olifants River
Marabou stork soaring and a Helmeted guinea fowl foraging
Waterbuck mimics dead tree shape
Camp Olifants and tire repair
Cape glossy starling