So Thankful…

(Chapman’s Peak Drive – Gorgeous)

Wow, it’s hard to believe that I moved to Pretoria exactly three months ago to the day! Where has the time gone?!?

(Stunning city of Hermanus)

(Across the street from our hotel)

(Lovely stop for a beer)

I’m feeling completely settled in my new home; am absolutely loving my job and my co-workers; am starting to navigate quite comfortably around the city; and I’ve already met the man of my dreams….not bad for new beginnings! In fact, I’m happier than I’ve been in years!

(Southern Right Whales)

(Whale watching from the coastline)

(Even the clouds resembled whales in Hermanus!)

There’s something magical about returning to Africa – I often wake up feeling giddy just knowing that South Africa is now my home! Africa suits my personality as well as my lifestyle; plus, my work in this region is incredibly more meaningful!

(Hiking in Fernkloof Reserve)

(Fernkloof Reserve)

(Grotto Beach….on a cold, windy day)

Since my arrival, the majority of my time and energy has been focused on putting together my strategic information team – an amazing group of people that I feel honored to work with! Unfortunately, there was quite a lag between my predecessor’s departure and my arrival, leaving the remaining staff overworked and spread way too thin. Fortunately, we are now fully staffed and each person on the team has a clear understanding of his or her specific roles and responsibilities. Am excited to see where the SI team takes things from here!

(Wine tasting in Hermanus)

(Wine pairing at Creation Winery)

Pretoria itself is a bit sterile and somewhat boring – I live in the heart of the suburbs in an incredibly wealthy (and white) part of town. But my home is gorgeous…and my neighborhood boasts some trendy boutique shops, bars and restaurants! And despite the mundane atmosphere, the entire region, with its blooming Jacaranda trees, lush gardens and interesting landscapes, is simply stunning….and as an added bonus, it’s a great launching pad to other destinations throughout South Africa!

(Cape Town’s stunning coastline)

(Girl dancing at Simon’s Town)

(Amy and Connie)

In between work and the daily grind of life, I’ve been able to travel. My first stop –Hermanus, often described as the ‘Riviera of the South’, which offers the best shore-based whale watching in the world! My colleague, Connie, and I hunkered down on the cliffs in Walker Bay to view Southern Right Whales.

(Boulder’s Bay)

(Jack Ass Penguins)

(Penguin’s Eye)

Each year these whales make a several thousand-kilometer migration, from sub -Antarctic waters to South Africa, South America (around Chile and Argentina) and in parts of Australia and New Zealand. Pretty remarkable!

(More penguins)

(Jackass Penguin)

(More stunning views)

We were able to watch these majestic and graceful creatures breach, fluke, and spout water out of their blowholes with their distinctive V-shaped cloud of vapor.

(Kirstenbosch Gardens)

(Bird of Paradise)

(Guinea Fowl)

We must’ve seen at least 25 whales throughout our whale watching adventures, yet sadly, all were pretty far out to sea – so I wasn’t able to capture any decent photos….but I still relished each and every moment.

(Bo-Kaap District)


(Camps Bay)

(Beach at Camps Bay)

Hermanus itself is a gorgeous little town, with quaint boutiques, markets and shops, upscale restaurants, and wonderful outdoor attractions! We hiked the trails in Fernkloof nature reserve, explored the unique cliff path that hugs the coast from one side of town to the other, and walked up and down Grotto Beach – one of the most striking South African beaches, with 18 kilometers of unspoilt coastline!

(Ladies weekend in Cape Town)

(Another wine tour…)

And no trip to the region is complete without a wine tour – and fortunately, Hermanus offers a myriad of incredible award winning wines to taste! I am rather new to the wine tasting scene, but am quickly discovering that ‘tasting’ is the operative word. I definitely need to pace myself, as I was pretty sloshed after our first stop….and a typical tour includes four or five wineries!

Amy and Russell
(Amy and Russell)

The scenery at the wineries are outlandish….I continuously marvel at their beauty! My favorite stop of the day was Creation, situated high up the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Each wine they poured seemed to get better and better, with more robust flavors! And it was my first time to experience wine pairing….where I was able to discover the subtle nuances of combining food and wine to create the ultimate taste sensation!

(Mid-week party at my house)

(Heidi and Asara)

Needless to say, I’m starting to stock up on some amazing wines, yet I’m still far from being a wine connoisseur!


(Russell and Chico)

Following our Hermanus adventure, we worked our way back to Cape Town – my favorite city in the whole wide world! Talk about magnificent views, stunning landscapes, delicious food, and all around quaint beauty! I would move here in a heartbeat!

(My first visitor – Niki from Peace Corps Jamaica days…)

(Chico is LOVING his new home)

In addition to all the standard sites – Table Mountain, the V&A waterfront, Simon’s Town, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Camps Bay, my favorite was exploring Bo-Kaap, the Malay Quarter of Cape Town. The history of this region, with its brightly colored houses, Muslim saints shrines and beautiful Mosques, is fascinating!

East London, South Africa
(My first site visit – East London)


I returned to Cape Town two weeks later for a ladies weekend – consisting of fine dining, spas, and lots of wine tours! We rented an AMAZING house in De Waterkant, a trendy area with some of the city’s best restaurants and wine bars!

(Hiking in Magaliesburg)

(Jauk in Magalies)

Sadly, it was on this trip that I received the news that my Grandmother (at 98) had passed away! I’m grateful that she had the good fortune of living a long, happy life…but was heartbroken knowing that I wasn’t there for her in the end.

Amy & Russell
(Amy and Russell at Botanical Gardens)

Both she and my grandfather played an influential role in my life, especially during my early childhood and formative years! They managed to keep me (and my siblings) grounded in what was an incredibly chaotic and dysfunctional home. My parents did the best they could, but considering that they divorced when we were quite young, followed by my mother being diagnosed with cancer that same year – it was a lot for a child to process!

(Picnic at the cheese farm)

As an adult, I look back on those years with a profound appreciation of the gift that my grandparents provided: security, structure, self-esteem and a sense of family! Friday nights were our night…the one day of the week where we sat down at the table as a family! I cherish those Friday night meals….and have fond memories of our time together…the endless games of gin rummy, Gram’s needlepoint, Grampa’s pipe-smoking, making popcorn, watching “Barnaby Jones” and even washing our hair in the kitchen sink!

Amy & Gram
(Amy and Gram)

(Gram with Sami, Aunt Rita and Shelley)

Sadly, the death of my Grandmother marks the end of an era (as my Grandfather passed away while I was still in the Peace Corps almost twenty years ago)! She was the matriarch of the family, pulling distant relatives together from far and wide for special occasions! I worry that there will be fewer and fewer occasions where our extended relatives will come together…the onus is now on the younger generations to ensure open lines of communication and to actively build the familial ties that bond us together.

(Gram on her 95th birthday)

(Gram with my siblings)

(Gram with her grandchildren)

And seeing that today is Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for many things in my life! My loving and supportive family, my amazing friends from all over the world, my health, my rewarding career, and the on-going opportunities I have to explore different nations and lands. Am truly grateful for all that I have…

(Makes me miss my family on Thanksgiving…)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family back in the states! I especially feel homesick around the holidays.

Sending much love to all,

1 comment to So Thankful…

  • Rust en Vrede’s Estate wine is one of the most amazing red blends I’ve ever had. It’s rare to find here stateside, but, relatively speaking, it’s in your new back yard!

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