Day #267 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…President of South Africa spoke last night…Holding our breath…

Colorful trees blooming in the neighborhood.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2015 while living in Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu, Fiji where we spent the Christmas holidays. For more, please click here.

The Christmas season is upon the world and for most, this will be a very different holiday than most years. With gatherings being held to a minimum with COVID-19 restrictions, which we hope people will observe for their safety and the safety of loved ones and friends, it will be an unusual year.

Access to the Qaraniquo river in the neighborhood.

The rollout of the vaccine couldn’t come soon enough. But, from what we’re reading on the news (true or not), many poor countries such as South Africa, will only have enough to vaccinate only one-tenth of the population, which ultimately won’t offer any global protection to its people and visitors.

With this in mind, we doubt we’ll be able to get the vaccine if we so choose, while in South Africa. This article explains that this poor country cannot afford the low-temperature equipment to safely store the vaccine at adequate below zero temperatures. The virus will continue to rage in the country while we’re there. We’re hoping to remain safe in Marloth Park.

What happened to this tree? It appears there’s been human intervention.

Last night South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa conducted a speech about the rise in cases. Here is the link to the full text of his speech. Our dear friends, Linda and Ken in Johannesburg watched the speech on TV and reported the results to me by text. Of course, I was concerned the borders would be closed once again shutting down tourism, subsequently preventing us from flying out on January 12, 2021.

Thankfully, no such action is being taken at this point. Many of the restrictions imposed by Cyril during the past nine months are again re-enacted as Covid-19 cases rise, such as no alcohol sold over the weekends, curfews at 10:00 pm, mandatory mask-wearing, handwashing, and social distancing in any public venues, shops, restrictions on the number of people attending celebrations, and more, all of which is subject to fines or six months in jail if violated.

Flowering shrubs line the boulevard.

However, we have no doubt that the first time we head to Komatipoort, and it’s overly crowded streets and shops, that mask-wearing will be at a minimum. In that case, we’ll choose to shop in small, less well-stocked shops in Marloth Park as needed. We will drive to Komatipoort for pellets for the wildlife since this purchase enables us to stay in the car while the trunk is loaded with the 40 kg (88 pound) bags.

We’ll figure it all out, even without the vaccine, and do our best to avoid contracting the virus, taking every possible precaution. At this point, our imminent concern is getting there safely when flying on three flights and going through four airports in the process.

We’d never encountered this particular flower.

Of course, everything could change in the next 28 days when we head to the Mumbai International Airport for our flight in the middle of the night. If gatherings during the holiday season, resulting in even more outrageous increases in cases in South Africa, Cyril could easily decide to close the borders once again, crippling the much-needed tourism business in the country.

Thanks to Linda and Ken for updating me late last night. I wasn’t able to fall asleep anyway, knowing this speech was imminent at 8:00 pm, South Africa time, and midnight here in India. By 1:15 am, I finally drifted off to a night filled with dreams about Christmas and buying gifts, while living in various houses in my distant past.  Hum…

It was only a short walk from our holiday home to the river.

Have a pleasant day.

Photo from one year ago today, December 15, 2019:

We attended a brunch with Tom’s sisters and spouses, at the resort in Arizona, highlighting “omelets in a bag.” Here is Tom’s three-egg omelet after it came out of the bag. For more photos, please click here.

Nuances of life in a developing country…Managing tech issues…

Tom was engrossed in watching the ski movie on the projection screen in Baka Blues bar/restaurant in the Arts Village.

With another power outage last night shortly after dinner continuing well into the night after we’d gone to be, we lay there feeling hot and sticky with no cooling fan to lighten the air’s thickness, counting how many days we’ve been without electricity.

We’ll have spent a total of 119 days living on two islands in Fiji since arriving by prop plane on September 8, 2015 and soon to depart on January 4, 2016, only one week from today.

Running through all the days and nights we spent without power in Vanua Levu and now again in Viti Levu, in all we counted 11 days of our time in this developing country.

In the past, I’ve tactlessly referred to a few countries as “third world” and for that, I apologize to all the citizens of many countries for using this archaic expression.

In today’s world the term “developing” country is more appropriate in describing countries that may not have access to funds to provide the utmost in consistent, reliable utility and wifi services with Fiji falling into that category.

There were few diners at Baka Blues in Arts Village at our early arrival time.

Fiji, in its desire and intent in providing free medical care, good schools, and low taxes finds itself forfeiting some other aspects to life in their country; good roads, programs for the elderly, and certain assistance programs often found in other parts of the world in more “developed” countries, resulting in higher tax rates and costs of living.

I won’t get into the political climate of Fiji or other countries. Bottom line, the power has gone out on 11 different days since our arrival…10% of the time. We experienced a similar situation while living in Kenya a few years ago, frequent power outages at times lasting for over 24 hours.

Then again, living in the US, we experienced a few days of power outages every few years as a result of downed power lines from intense spring and summer storms, resulting in our eventual purchase of a gas-powered generator wired to the whole house. Those reasons for the outages may be different, although they were nonetheless annoying and inconvenient.

My biggest concern is always the food in the refrigerator and the power not being restored in time to salvage our entire cold food supply. Secondly, our concerns for running down the batteries on our phones and laptops to the point where we can no longer read or entertain ourselves, instead, sitting in the dark twiddling our thumbs, are not pleasing by any means.

The lack of fans to keep the air moving is the next concern when often the heat and humidity have contributed to the power outage when those with air-con are running their units and others, like us, running multiple floor and ceiling fans constantly.

Most diners don’t head out to bar/restaurants until later in the evening. It was quiet while we were there around 6:45 pm.

Of course, we’ve been thrilled to have screens in this more modern house in Pacific Harbour, a rarity in most developing countries. The locals seem to become immune to the bites of the mozzies and more comfortable allowing a wide array of insects and other creatures free access into their homes when leaving doors wide open. 

We’re not quite there yet and may never be. For us, it’s the mozzies more than other creatures that prevent us from leaving doors and windows without screens open all day to allow for more airflow.

When the power returned during the night, we were thrilled. We’ve learned to prepare before going to bed when the power is out; unplug the TV so it doesn’t come back on with the power; turn off lights and fans in living areas and turn on the fans in the bedroom to avoid the necessity of getting out of bed if the power is restored during the night.

There was that.  Then, over the past several days, my Windows 8.1 touchscreen laptop, purchased in Hawaii last year, developed some issues. I won’t bore our less-interested-in-technology readers as to the extent of the issues which were wide in scope. 

The only solution was to “refresh” my PC which always results in a loss of many apps and downloaded programs I use (such as MS Office) with the necessity of spending an entire day to restore these programs and apps. 

Tom enjoyed his fries and onion rings but said the beef had a spicy flavor he didn’t care for. We were in a restaurant that had a Cajun flavor most likely resulting in the use of a grill seasoned with the spices which he doesn’t like.  It was bo fault of the restaurant.

Over these years I’ve sweat bullets when either of us had what may have proven to be irreparable computer issues. Now, with more experience in repairing issues and with the experience of purchasing a new (inferior brand) laptop a few years ago in South Africa (I’d dropped and broke the screen making it unusable), I take these issues in stride. No longer do my palms sweat and no longer does my heart race while attempting to figure out a solution.

Using a cloud service to store all of our important files and documents and with our external two terabytes hard drive which we use frequently to back up our data, the bigger concern revolves around where and how to purchase a replacement if necessary.

If a new computer is to be shipped to us, there’s no way to avoid paying customs fees or such potential fees when exiting the country. In any case, yesterday, before the power went out, I was able to restore my laptop to 95% efficiency leaving only one touchscreen issue preventing me from performing the frequently used right to left-hand gesture swipe.

Need I say, I looked online for hours to find a solution for this remaining issue. Either the suggestions didn’t work or were impractical for my system. I even contacted Acer, the manufacturer, and “spoke” to one of their tech reps via a chat, requesting a solution to no avail. She said, “Do a refresh of the system,” which I’d already done.

I’ve decided to live with the remaining issues instead implementing a few extra clicks to perform a similar task, with a “workaround” for the rest. It will do for now. When we’ll be able to purchase new equipment remains a mystery at this point, most likely waiting until it’s absolutely a must resulting in our paying customs and shipping fees for a replacement for one, if not both of us.

My salad was fabulous with smoky flavored chicken and extra hard-boiled eggs. There was no dressing on the menu that worked for me so I ordered a side of sour cream, usually a good alternative.

On the agenda today?  It’s been raining 11 days in a row, soaking bursts, making walking and going out unappealing. The laundry I’d washed and hung two days ago is still damp. I may have to bring it indoors to hang it around the house, hoping it will soon dry from the airflow of the fans. 

Life in the tropics as we’ve known it over this past year including a tremendous number of rainy days, coupled with many days without power, leaves us feeling good about the next leg of our journey; easy days cruising; cool, sunny, and less humid 89 days in New Zealand; and then off to another tropical climate in Bali which by April, we’ll be ready to enjoy once again.

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2014:

This was one of our favorite photos while on the Big Island. The entire family took an evening trip to Mount Kilauea to see the erupting volcano and we captured this shot more by a fluke than anything. It was exciting for our kids and grandkids to see an erupting volcano with us. Who has ever had an opportunity to see an erupting volcano in a lifetime? For more volcano photos, please click here.

The value of creature comforts…

A resort in the area is in the process of renovation. This cute pool feature would certainly be fun for kids.

We often don’t realize how much some of the most basic amenities in a property can make life easier.  Let’s face it, we came from a life entrenched in creature comforts that when the least uncomfortable or annoying scenarios presented themselves there was usually a remedy that could it turn around.

Too hot? Turn on the AC. Bed uncomfortable? Buy a new bed or a foam mattress topper. Have a painful elbow?  Head to the doctor for an MRI, a diagnosis including a physical therapy plan along with a prescription for the pain. Bugs running across the floor? Call Terminex or Orkin for a full house treatment.

I could go on and on with the availability of solutions in our old lives, most of which we no longer have in the midst of this life. Bed uncomfortable? Suck it up. Bugs biting? Wear DEET. Bath towel scratchy after hanging outside? Use the towel to exfoliate the skin when drying off. No mushrooms at the market? Cook something else.

The specials menu at a local restaurant, the Water’s Edge. We’ll certainly visit this spot with many options that may work for me.

There’s always a workaround. Here in this well-equipped house, at 3:30 am I got up to go the bathroom to find an enormous cockroach running across the floor. Kill it? Nah, no shoes handy. Do my thing and head back to bed.

This morning while getting into the shower, an enormous gecko or lizard type creature ran up the wall.  Scream? No. Get into the shower and start my day.

Yesterday, midday, we had no water, not at any faucets throughout the house. Using the provided house phone I called Richard at the rental office. Moments later he called back to let us know the water was out all over the area and would eventually come back on. Did I  press him for “when?” No. We wait patiently. If we needed to flush the toilet we’d use a bucket of water from the pool. 

Most likely, with Tom’s recent buzz cut in Savusavu, he won’t need to visit this barbershop in Arts Village before we leave for the cruise.

An hour later the water was flowing once again, apparently a common occurrence in these parts, something to do with water pressure to the area. So far, there’s been no power outages but we expect it to occur during our remaining 25 days in Pacific Harbour.

No grocery store within an hour’s drive that has the basic ingredients we need? Pay the taxi fare of FJD $120, USD $56 to get to Suva to a market or make do with what we have on hand, which we’ll have done during the first third of our time in Pacific Harbour.

When the driver for the airport pickup took us to a market other than we’d  requested, we asked if this market had a lot of products. He insisted we’d find everything. Unable to find half the basic items on our list, we have to return to Suva once again. 

The interior of a shop with many locally made shirts, dresses and jewelry.

Did we complain? Nah, what’s the point? We were exhausted and didn’t make a enough of a fuss about going to the market Susan had recommended hoping this other market would have what we needed. It didn’t.  Next week, we’ll be more insistent on going to the correct market. Sometimes, we falter in our persistence and diligence.

In our old lives, if we stopped at a market that didn’t have what we needed, we hopped back in the car to drive to another market only a few minutes away.

This custom made deep bench is offered for sale for FJD $3,000, USD $1,396.

These past mornings, Tom’s been using an old French press for making our coffee. There are two in the house.  Neither works well when both are old and worn, yet he’s figured out how to make it work to the best of his ability. Our coffee is outstanding with few grounds remaining at the bottom of the cup.

Yesterday, we purchased this coffee filter online that will make perfect drip type coffee without an electric coffee machine. At US $16, FJD $34, it will serve us well. Thanks to sister Julie for her suggestions on using such a filter for making coffee that is easily portable.

Yesterday, we spent time by the pool. The plastic molded chaise lounges (in excellent condition) are meant to be topped with a cushy pad. Not the case here. We tossed a beach towel atop it, making ourselves as comfortable as possible. 

In our old lives, we’d have driven to the patio store to purchase thick pads for the two chairs, never feeling uncomfortable again by the pool. In most vacation homes, typically these pads aren’t included when many renters would fail to bring them indoors after use.

The Arts Village has a beautiful pond weaving in and out of the area.

With no baking pans, roasting pans or cookie sheets, we purchased flimsy throw away tinfoil pans that cause everything to stick. No parchment paper here. The flimsy tinfoil sticks. Heavily greasing the pans with ghee and coconut oil is the only solution. 

Yesterday, I baked our favorite low carb coconut cookies in two batches using one of the smallish tinfoil pans. We noticed the cookies were a greasy when we each ate two last night after dinner. We didn’t complain. We’ll figure it out.

With only a few adapters and two power strips in our possession, plugging in all of our digital equipment is tricky. Each time I use the flat iron, we have to unplug everything in one adapter so I can use it in the bathroom. We’ve had to do this everywhere we’ve traveled except in the US with 110V, as opposed to 220V in most other countries.

The natural habitat provides an environment for many species of birds. 

The kitchen has a double sink, a luxury, particularly for Tom who does the dishes after dinner. There’s even a dish rack for drying. We’re thrilled with these amenities.

With excellent wifi, a 32″ flat screen TV with Nat Geo Wild  or BBC news running in the background, our entertainment needs are met while we continue to watch our favorite shows on my laptop most nights after dinner. Next week, we’ll be sightseeing. Saturday night, we’re heading out for dinner.

Seeing these pink flower lily pads was a first. 

Lounging poolside on a sunny day reminded us of how fortunate we are. Swimming in the cool water in the pool, recently cleaned with only one hornet struggling to survive (we didn’t help since we’re both allergic), we both languished in the water. We hadn’t been in a pool since Kauai many moons ago after joining the local golf course for the fitness center and the pool. 

Are we content? Uncomfortable? Not at all. The bed is fabulous, the house is roomy and in meticulous condition.  The ants, gecko and cockroaches are all a part of life in the tropics. 

Sayings on the wall outside a restaurant in Arts Village.

Through the past 38 months since leaving our old lives behind workarounds have been a vital aspect of our lives. In many cases, we’ve simply forfeited the need or desire for certain comforts and amenities, never taking anything for granted or never making an assumption that the next house will be as good as or better than the last. 

In part, the anticipation of each new home adds to our adventures. As long as we continue to savor the positive, we can easily leave the less desirable in our wake. I won’t say its always easy but so far, we haven’t once said or even thought to ourselves, “Let’s pack it in.”

Instead, we say, “Let’s pack it up…to head to the next location.”


Photo from one year ago today, December 10, 2014:

Family day at Akaka Falls on the Big Island with Jayden, Sarah Nik and TJ.  For more details, please click here.

“Getting our ducks in a row…”

Tom shot this photo from our veranda of a barge, the ferry and a tugboat passing by. Great shot, Honey!

With only 28 days until we depart this island, its time to begin planning our next month on the main island in Fiji, a short tiny prop plane flight away. It goes without saying that a one month holiday or vacation would require a certain amount of planning beyond the initial research and booking.

I try to imagine what it would have been like in our old lives if we were planning a one month vacation in a remote area of an island when we were only four weeks from departure.

In essence, that’s us each time we move. This morning I wrote to the owner asking the address of the property which generally owners don’t divulge until close to the rental period for the sake of some perceived security in waiting to do so. 

After recently watching a David Attenborough documentary on the in-depth life cycle of caterpillars, we had an entirely new perspective on these amazing creatures with two entirely different lifecycles as they eventually morph into butterflies.  We spotted this one on the veranda a few days ago.

Once the final payment is made in full which we paid a few months ago, most likely there’s little risk for an owner in the renter having the address. The bigger risk for the owner is once the renter moves in if they fail to be responsible. That’s never us.

As for a renter, there’s a degree of risk:
1.  The property could not be there. It could have been a scam for which we’re prepaid $1000’s. We take that risk each time we move. There’s insurance for this risk, for which we’ve evaluated the cost via risk factor and for us, it would be $1000’s per year, not worth the expense.
2.  The property could be different than as described in the listing.  his happened to us in January 2013, on our first vacation home outside the US in Belize. We left in a week, losing one month’s rent, but couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We found a fabulous resort where we lived for two remaining months with the ocean outside our door.  It was glorious.

Never again, did we suffer such disappointment. We have no doubt it will occur sometime in the future and stay mindful and prepared for that eventuality. We’ve budgeted for this type of potential loss. 

A Paul Gauguin cruise ship sailed by our view. It would have been fun to take a cruise in this area, but we’ve already done so and will do so again on our several upcoming cruises touring the perimeter and surrounding islands in Australia.

The best way for the average traveler to financially prepare for such an occurrence is to purchase the insurance, but the time and effort to find another location on short notice is an equally big risk, especially for us when we stay for extended periods in most locations.

We’ve come to accept that if we plan to stay for less than a month, it may be easier and more suitable to stay in a hotel, as we’d done over a year ago in Paris and London for a little over two weeks in each city. 

Dining out for every meal is the only obstacle of staying in a hotel and of course, the cost which is generally higher than a vacation home of some type. The space limitations of a hotel don’t bother us. After all, we easily spend weeks on a cruise in an under 200 square foot (19 square meters) cabin, managing fine without feeling confined.

Closer view of the cruise ship with passengers on their verandas. We always book a “veranda or balcony cabin” as opposed to those shown below the veranda levels which include “ocean view” and “inside cabins” none of which has appealed to us. Being able to stand outside day or night has been a highly enjoyable aspect of cruising.

As for “getting our ducks in a row,” preparing for the next location requires considerable online research along with many conversations by email with the owner or manager. 

In the case of the upcoming next house in Pacific Harbour, Fiji, we’ve already had numerous chats with Susan, the owner, who’s been very helpful and informative.

With the house 89 miles, 144 kilometers from the airport, prearranging transportation is vital. It’s not a “grab a taxi” kind of ride. Susan suggested an air-conditioned shuttle service which most likely is a van type vehicle.

A tug boat passing at a distance.

How easily we recall the shuttle service we used for the four-hour drive on rough roads with no AC from Belize City to Placencia in 90F, 32C. We assumed at that point that this would be our reality for the long haul and anything better would be a bonus. We assumed correctly. Anytime we have a vehicle with AC for long drives, we’re pleasantly pleased and surprised.

Also, in many taxis and shuttles, if we’re getting a “deal” for the transportation we don’t ask the driver to turn on the AC with the outrageous cost of fuel on many islands. For example, here in Savusavu with Rasnesh, our round trip cost to the village including helping us carry the groceries to the house totals USD $13.92, FJD $30.  We don’t ask him to turn on the AC.

Originally, he’d quoted us USD $9.28, FJD $20 for the round trip. But, after a few trips, we negotiated upwards if he’s helped carry our entire week’s groceries up the long, steep, and uneven path to the house. It takes him, young and strapping as he is, an extra five minutes and worth every penny of the extra USD $4.64, FJD $10 to us.

A barge passing at a distance.

As for transportation in the upcoming Pacific Harbour, Susan suggested it’s not worth renting a car when there’s plenty of equally low-cost drivers in the area and many markets and restaurants within walking distance. 

The thought of being able to walk to go out to lunch or dinner, if we can find a suitable restaurant for my diet, is exciting. Here, we don’t attempt an evening out when the walk to the house in the dark would surely be too treacherous along with the fact that we’d been unable to find suitable dining establishments for my needs. 

Don’t get me wrong, there appear to be some excellent restaurants in Savusavu as reviewed by tourists on TripAdvisor. It’s just the tricky diet that keeps us from trying, when this area is less populated by tourists than many others thus, most restaurants serve the local starchy, sugary sauces and foods I can’t eat, savored (rightfully so) by most tourists.

If I didn’t eat this way, surely I dragged Tom out to lunch for which he’d go kicking and screaming when he can’t stand the taste of the spices in typical tropical meals. 

This doesn’t mean I don’t season our food. I do so with gusto. Over the years I’ve learned how much he’ll tolerate while still enjoying the meal. Undoubtedly, his taste buds have branched out but, curry and/or Moroccan seasoning is not his thing. 

With the mosquitos on a rampage after dark,  as food for the bats, we’ve had difficultly standing outside to take photos of the flying bats we see through the windows as darkness falls. We took this photo through the glass door, excited it came out as well as it did.  Having had a fear of bats most of my life, I am no longer fearful of these important mammals, vital to the ecosystem.

Today, we’ll arrange the shuttle from the airport in Nadi (pronounced Nan-di in Fijian) to Pacific Harbour and once settled, a taxi to the market to purchase groceries and supplies for our first meal in the new location.  Much of this, we’ll figure out as we go. 

With our experience these past three years, we’ve been able to take many of the steps in these transitions in our stride. Moving and packing everything we own every few months has its challenges, more in the anticipation than in doing so. 

Packing takes no more than an hour at most, unpacking 30 minutes. “Getting our ducks in a row” in a new location seems to take a few days as we become familiar with the new property and its surroundings. 

For the most part, we enjoy the process, especially once we’ve arrived in the new location with all of our bags in tow and discover the property is what we’d expected.  We both sigh with relief knowing one more step in our journey has brought us to our “new home” wherever that may be.

Its been raining for the past three days and nights. The heat has lessened although the humidity is high. There are no ants or fruit flies in view. We’re content. May all of you be content as well!

Photo from one year ago today, November 8, 2014:

The Maui countryside took our breath away as we drove on roads far from the main highways. For more details, please click here.