The summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere…Longest day…Fijians forgo political correctness and celebrates Christmas..

Christmas tree on the set of FijiOne news channel.

Today is the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere,  the longest day of the year. It’s the first day of summer to those of us south of the equator and the first day of winter to those north of the equator. 

We never paid attention to this phenomenon in the Southern Hemisphere in our old lives, never giving it a single thought. Living south of the equator gives us another perspective of the massive size of the earth. Here are a few facts:

“Northern Hemisphere Summer Solstice

Southern Hemisphere Summer Solstice

(Australia, New Zealand, South America, Southern Africa)

First Day of Summer?

The first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter can either be defined using astronomical events like solstices and equinoxes, or they can be determined based on meteorological factors, average temperatures.

In the USA and some other areas in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice marks the first day of summer. However, the official date for the first day of summer varies depending on the country’s climate.”

There are no poinsettias or Christmas cactus plants in the stores, only colorful flowers blooming year-round.

As well as our observation of the massive size of the earth and its many differences, it’s a good time of year with the holidays imminent to acknowledge that the Christmas season, although celebrated by no less than 32% of the world’s population, obviously isn’t celebrated by all. 

Many other non-Christians celebrate the Christmas season as a time to acknowledge their own faith with the accompanying festivities and gratitude. To speculate that 50% of the world’s population observe the Christmas season in one manner or another is not impractical by some estimates.

With “political correctness” seeming more important than good wishes for those who do celebrate, we all struggle with to whom to say “Merry Christmas” and to whom we say “Happy Holidays” when in fact many of those who do not observe Christmas have no particular holiday they’re celebrating at the moment. It’s perplexing.

Saying “Happy Holidays” to a person who’s not celebrating a holiday is comparable to saying “Happy Birthday” when it’s not their birthday. Duh?

Suva Market’s Christmas Celebration
This year’s Suva Market vendors’ Christmas photo. (Not our photo)

In Fiji, they toss political correctness aside and say “Merry Christmas” to all. Fijians are warm and friendly people, kind and generous, never with an intent to offend or hurt anyone of any nationality or religious affiliation. 

Banners flew over the downtown area in Suva with “Merry Christmas” proudly emblazoned with a “no worries” attitude (a popular expression in the South Pacific and the UK) as to who this may apply to or not. If it doesn’t apply, “no worries,” look away, ignore it and move along.

Fijians don’t purchase and decorate trees for Christmas. They have all of Nature’s bounty to celebrate every day of the year.

What if we all simply expressed our holiday greeting of the moment to those we’d like to address with our own celebratory expressions such as a lofty, “Happy Chanukah,” or “Happy Diwali” responding to those offering their personal heartfelt message with a simple, “And to you as well!”

When Diwali, the Hinduism holiday and five-day Festival of Lights celebrating good over evil, occurred while we were in Vanua Levu signs were posted all over the village announcing the upcoming celebrations. 

No doubt, signs celebrating Christmas are scattered throughout the village now. No one is offended. Let those who chose to announce and celebrate their special holiday and we can all choose to observe it or not. It’s not that complicated.

No, I won’t go into a tirade about PC behavior in many parts of the world and how it’s become difficult to speak without careful forethought on what may spew out of our mouths to avoid “offending” someone. 

As a child in a public venue in the 1950’s I don’t recall hearing anyone spewing derogatory comments about any religion, people, or faction. They were kind. Overall, aren’t people still kind 60 plus years later? 

It takes only a moment to stop to appreciate the colorful surroundings in Fiji.

Well, at least while we’re in Fiji this Christmas season we can say “Merry Christmas” and if someone says “Happy Bodhi Day (on Bodhi Day, Buddhists from the Mahayana tradition celebrate the Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment), we’ll simply say, “And, to you as well!”

The heat, humidity, and pouring rain have continued for five days and five nights. Our laundry didn’t dry after three days so I brought it indoors hoping it will dry.

Today, we’re off to the Arts Village for a few supplies and chickens. Two weeks from today, we’ll be boarding the ship to New Zealand. Sixteen months from today, we’ll be boarding the ship to Seattle. 

Tomorrow, in this part of the world, on December 23rd  is Tom’s birthday which we’ll celebrate. And, I’ll say, “Happy Birthday” only to him but…in this case, he won’t reply, “And, to you as well!” 

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2014:

One year ago today, we moved into the house next door which we’d continue to share with TJ, Sarah, Nik, and Jayden while our other two families, arriving the next day, shared the house next door. For more photos, please click here.

Foreigners buying real estate in Fiji…Chinese gaining a foothold…

Upon seeing this ship from the fast-moving taxi in traffic, we were curious as to the purpose of this vessel. Upon returning home we discovered this: “The Yuan Wang 3 is at the Suva Harbour. The vessel is used for tracking and support of satellite and intercontinental ballistic missiles by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of the People’s Republic of China.”

Fiji is fast growing as a desired tropical paradise in which to own real estate. A recent headline:

“November 27, 2015, 1:24 pm

Fiji’s political stability spurs buyers to seek piece of paradise

The country’s return to democracy and growing economy are attracting more foreign investors to its idyllic shores

It may be several thousand miles from Hollywood and Silicon Valley but Fiji is a partial home to some of California’s more notable residents. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has a superyacht, “Dragon Fly”, lapping the crystal clear waters while film star Mel Gibson owns an island just a speedboat ride away.

The attractions are clear: a tropical climate, some of the world’s best surfing, and a dazzling array of beaches. Yet while Fiji is a playground for the super-rich, it is also fast becoming a magnet for property investors.”

To continue with the remainder of this news story, please click here.

Moving quickly in traffic, it was impossible to focus on clearer photos of the satellites on this Chinese ship in the Suva harbor. For more details on this ship, please click here.

To single out China as a major player in the development market, is not unrealistic. As we drove along the highways, we saw flags flying in the breeze one after another in groupings over massive plots of oceanfront property, all indicating future development.

With a minimum of readily available experienced labor and many Fijians already serving the needs of their own people, developing these properties may be challenging with the necessity of bringing in laborers from other parts of the world.

With the abundance of hotels and vacation homes we’ve noted on the two most populated islands, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, we wonder how much in demand houses built on large tracts of land will appeal to the general world population as a preferred retirement or vacation’/holiday property, especially during these times of uncertainty.

Many homes are offered for sale.  Here’s a link to homes for sale.  Here’s a link to a money converter where you can convert these prices to your country’s currency.

Many times, in these past almost four months in Fiji, we’ve discussed how ideal Fiji maybe for the retiree on a limited budget. With reasonable rentals and housing prices, free medical care for all including visitors and expats, the low cost of purchasing groceries, vegetables with fruit for the picking on most plots of land, it could actually be the ideal environment for those on a fixed income.

A single person on standard US Social Security most likely couldn’t afford it alone, but a pair living together with some back up funds possibly could make it renting a modest home, living a lot less frugally than necessary in the US with its medical care and dental care, prescription costs, housing and food costs over the top.

That’s not to say, we’re considering it. We’re not. Although, everywhere we live, we engage in many conversations as to whether the current location would be a possible place to live out our days, if we ever needed to stop traveling. 

Many homes appeared to be built ten to twenty years ago, prior to the economic crash.

For us, we’d only stop due to health concerns.  In that case, we may prefer to be close to top-notch medical care as opposed to the limitations of the availability of the most current medical technology and procedures, such as in Fiji in the free hospital.  We’ve heard the care is good, although many tourists and ex-pats choose private hospitals for a fee, as opposed to the “free” hospitals. 

Fiji is an island paradise.  The areas in which we’ve lived are more remote than many popular tourist locations.  Living in a house as opposed to a hotel creates an entirely different sense and feel.

Living in a house isn’t luxurious or romantic when we cook, clean and fen for ourselves most days.  Here, a weekly cleaning person for three hours reduces some of the work, but day to day, we live like the rest of the world; making the bed, doing dishes, sweeping the floor, cleaning the bathroom and on and on.

Pacific Harbour is exactly one of those types of neighborhoods the Chinese and others will be developing in the future with homes in varying price ranges.  Some communities may be more upscale for the more affluent.

Owning a home wouldn’t be a lot unlike how we’re living now, except those doing so may afford full time household help for all cooking, cleaning and daily tasks. For us, even if that were possible, we imagine that in time we’d become bored and antsy.

We’ve lived in more upscale homes in our travels. We’ve lived in modest homes in our travels. For us, it’s basically the same. Once the familiarity of the lush surroundings settles in, it becomes the familiarity and joy of “how” we live our daily lives that make it rich and rewarding. 

With a pool, if possible, working wifi, a comfortable bed and furniture, and a few screens on windows, an ample size refrigerator, we feel as of its all the luxury we need. If we have an amazing view, its a bonus. Ants? Bugs? Mozzies? They’re everywhere regardless of the amenities or value of a property. We’ve learned to live with them.

A private drive to an upscale home in our neighborhood.

For buyers of vacation property and travelers throughout the world, Fiji fulfills all of their dreams and expectations. Thus, the purchase of real estate will continue to appeal to both individuals and large corporations.

Two weeks from today, we fly away to our next location grateful for the experience of living in Fiji on two islands for a total of four months. Once again, on our last day, we’ll include the expenses for the month in Viti Levu and a grand total for the four-month period.  Perhaps, for those considering a long-term stay in Fiji, this information may be helpful.

Tom’s watching the clock so he can begin watching today’s Minnesota Vikings football game from the NFL GamePass app (only for use outside the US) on his computer using the HDMI cord plugged into the flat-screen TV. It’s funny that having a TV has become a luxury! Oh, good grief, I was just flicking through the channels for news and found today’s Vikings game, live on Fiji TV! Go figure.

Happy day to all during this holiday season and always!

Photo from one year ago today, December 21, 2014:

Tom and TJ looking out at the sea for whale blowholes, a common sighting in the area of our two vacation homes. In another day, the rest of the family would begin to arrive. For details, please click here.

Credit card compromised…How to handle…Out to dinner with friends in Fiji…

Danny, Samantha, me, and Tom, standing outside our house in Pacific Harbour, Fiji.

Handling our five credit cards requires a certain amount of attention other than merely paying off the balance each month. The vast amounts we charge on the cards often including rents for three months, full cruise fares, pricey airline tickets, long term car rentals, groceries, and dining out. The new statements can be well into the thousands in a given month.

Keeping an eye on these expenses for their accuracy and for any potential unknown expenses, excess fees or instances of fraud drives me to check online every few days. 

With a tile for each credit card company on my touch screen desktop in Windows 8, it takes only seconds to log in and check each of the five cards with the fact they’re all from only two banks making the process easier. We seldom find an error.  When we do, we contact the toll-free number on the card and get to work to solve the problem.

Last year around this same time, one of the credit card companies had contacted us by phone and email to notify us of fraud charges that hadn’t yet posted in “pending transactions” making it impossible for us to see online. 

Danny’s curry dinner, which he said was good.

The credit card company’s system is sophisticated enough to be able to pick up “test” charges used by credit card fraud companies and individuals to determine if they will in fact be able to use the card for larger purchases.

Over the past year, most of our cards have been replaced with the supposedly more secure cards containing “computerized chips.” However, having these cards with chips hasn’t prevented fraud on the cards.

A few days ago, we received a fraud alert to which I immediately responded with a phone call. Yes, Tom’s card number with a chip that replaced his compromised card last December was compromised and charges had started rolling in, first in “test” charges for $1 and then hotel bills and fuel charges in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. 

How did this happen? This occurred both last year and this year (in December) on the card, we use most often when Tom usually handles the checking-out using that particular card when we’re dining out and purchasing products and groceries. 

We’ve been in Fiji for almost four months. Most likely at some establishment where we’d paid using the card, the number was noted and “sold” to those who conduct such illegal behavior across the globe. 

The upper portion of my plate contained the salad with the entrée on the bottom right. There was a tiny portion of squid, perhaps a tablespoon. To balance my meals carbs and protein, I must eat a larger portion of protein at least 6 ounces. Thus, I ordered a small steak, which worked well. (The plate appears larger in this photo).

The fact that we’re in Fiji didn’t necessarily create a greater risk. This transpires throughout the world with billions of dollars each year. No one is exempt from the potential risk.

It may surprise some, but when this happens, it’s not a personal serious situation. It is definitely not as serious and destructive as “identity theft” when a person’s entire credit profile is compromised, which may result in the life-changing destruction of one’s entire creditworthiness. A compromised credit card is a simple process for the customer:

1.  Immediately respond to the email and/or phone card from the credit card. Those with late payments or a poor credit card history may hesitate to return the call when they may assume the call is for collection purposes. Failure to respond to the inquiry can, in fact, create a more difficult situation after the fraudulent charges have been posted.

2. The quicker one returns the call, the better, using the phone number on the back of the card (for added security). The bank’s fraud department wants to decipher which charges the customer actually made as opposed to those charges made fraudulently to avoid further fraudulent charges. When doing so, the customer will not be charged any amount for the fraudulent charges. The concept that you’ll only be charged the first USD $50 is not true unless you are aware of some obscure stipulation in the bank’s regulations that allows for such a charge.  It’s unlikely.

3.  Carefully review all the charges you’ve made with the fraud department representative We’ve read online that there have been a few rare instances whereby customers of less than ideal ethics attempted to pass off some of their own purchases as fraudulent when they were not, hoping they’d “go away” during this process.  This behavior, in itself, is fraud and may result in termination of the card, bad credit ratings, and possible legal charges. 

4.  Upon the bank’s recommendation destroy the card from which the charges were made and any other cards with the same number. The card will no longer work after the company has posted the number as compromised. We usually cut the card into tiny pieces and dispose of the pieces. Even if the card could be pieced together as in a puzzle the fact the number has been flagged, it would never work anyway.

Tom and Samantha had the burger topped with egg and fries.

5.  When the new card arrives in the mail, immediately sign and activate the card which has a new number.Visit every website where you may have stored the card for frequent purchases, and change both the number and expiration date which will also be new, or the next time you make a purchase it will be declined. The three or four-digit number of the back near your signature will also have changed. Use your best judgment, only releasing this number of highly secure and reputable sites.

Done and done. When chip technology is used on a shared account, Tom and I each have a separate number as opposed to sharing the same card number. Thus, my card, a different number, wasn’t compromised. Until we receive the new card in an upcoming supplies shipment while in NZ, we’ll use other cards or my same card for this particular account.

While traveling, every 60 days, we contact the credit card companies either by phone or online to notify them of “travel alerts,” specifically in which countries we’ll be using the card including when we’re in the US in May 2017. The alerts only last 60 days. This information prevents the card from being declined when rightfully making purchases while traveling. This must be done each time one leaves their home country to avoid the resulting embarrassment and delays.

Feel free to contact us if any of this is confusing, or better yet, your credit card provider with specific personal inquiries.

On to the second part of today’s post. First off, our newly made friends, Samantha and Danny (he’s from Minnesota, she’s from Wisconsin, small world) have left Fiji to return to their new home in Seattle, where Danny returns to his medical residency (sure, Tom asked if Danny worked at “Seattle Grace”) and Samantha to her social work practice.

We noticed the lily pad flowers close at night as darkness fell while we dined at Oasis Restaurant.

You may ask, “How do we refer to people we met for short periods as “friends? Doesn’t a friendship require time and nurturing?”

In this life, with access only to short term relationships, we prefer to call those with whom we especially connect and interact in social settings, as friends. For us, these short-term interactions possess a special meaning often staying in touch for years to come. 

Dinner at the Oasis Restaurant at the Art Village was enjoyable with the lively conversation between the four of us. Tom enjoyed his burger, as the best of the three burgers he’s had to date in Pacific Harbour. 

My entrée was tricky; the portion tiny although tasty, a spicy squid and vegetable stir fry (no sugar, starch soy sauce or rice). It was no more than one cup of food with a small side salad without dressing. 

As an “intermittent fasting” advocate consuming one meal, no snacks a day, a one-cup portion of food with a salad without dressing won’t cut it. After the small entrée arrived, I ordered a steak, which was quite good, cooked to perfection. 

We shared a taxi ride home, hugged goodbye, and had the driver take today’s main photo of the four of us, once outside our house. It was wonderful to spend time with this lovely honeymoon couple and we’re grateful to our host Susan who encouraged our meeting.

Last night, we dined at Baka Blues in the Arts Village, which we’ll share photos and stories in an upcoming post in a few days. For today, we’re content to stay in on a rainy, hot, and humid day preparing enough of a dish to last for a few upcoming meals and to freeze the balance for a later date, as we wind down the time in Pacific Harbour, Fiji.

For our readers, take a break from the busy activities of the holiday season, grab a cup of coffee or tea and read our posts as they’ll continue through each day of the season with Tom’s upcoming birthday celebration on the 23rd, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Photo from one year ago today, December 20, 2014:

Tom is at the far left.  TJ is in the middle and Jayden is on the far right after they decided they also needed haircuts. Three generations of Lymans having haircut simultaneously. Too cute! This was the last day, the hair salon was taking customers. They were closing the next day for the arrival of the lava flowing from Mount Kilauea. For more info and close up photos, please click here.

Another cultural story of life for Fijian people as shared by our driver…

Often houses are tightly packed onto a smaller plot of land.

Spending the better part of a day with Alfaan proved to be a perfect opportunity to hear about life for many locals of both Fijian and Indo-Fijian descent on the island of Viti Levu, the largest island in the Fijian chain.

Although Alfaan is quite shy, he readily responded to my endless inquiry of his lifestyle after receiving his permission to ask him questions that may be construed of a personal nature. 

Fijians are a humble people, never to brag or to seek acceptance or popularity in their daily lives other than the joy derived from family life and the exquisite nature surrounding them, provided by the Almighty per their personal belief system.

For our previous story of life for the local Fijian people, please click here.

His ancestors immigrated from India to Fiji in the 1800s, not by choice, but by force of British rule to live as indentured laborers, in essence slaves, mainly to farm sugar cane and also as laborers in other fields. 

Fruit is readily available for picking in most villages saving the locals the cost of purchasing fruit.

“The contracts of the indentured labourers, which they called girmit (agreements), required them to work in Fiji for a period of five years. Living conditions on the sugar cane plantations, on which most of the girmityas (indentured labourers) worked, were often squalid, degrading and brutal. Hovels known as “coolie lines” dotted the landscape.

Public outrage in the United Kingdom at such abuses was a factor in the decision to halt the scheme in 1916. All existing indenture was cancelled on January 1,

His family has passed down sorrowful stories through the generations of the difficult lives they’d lived, the horrors they experienced without freedom which didn’t fully occur until Fiji gained its independence in 1970, a great day of celebration in Fiji during which this year we were living in Savusavu, Vanua Levu.

Alfaan never knew his great-grandparents although he heard their stories from his grandparents who were born in Fiji.  To say the Fijians are “a proud people” is a misnomer. The intense humility they possess has made them “grateful people.” Above all, they value family, friendships, caring for one another, and hard work.

As mentioned in our above previous post (see the link), there are no governmental subsidies or handouts in this country. One must earn a living and in doing so, at minimal wages are able to care for those who cannot work.

(Some of our photos are blurry, taken from the fast-moving car through the windshield). Locals waiting for at the bus stop.

Alfaan has a wife and two boys, ages 4 and 7. He lives in a small house he owns, passed down through generations.  His income is minimal working for the tour company as a taxi driver, using company-owned vehicles.

He doesn’t own a car and walks 20 minutes each way to catch a bus to the tour company to pick up a vehicle for the day and returns home, often after 12 to 16 hour days, by bus and another 20 minute walk..  He lives in a neighboring village approximately 9 kg, 5.7 miles, from Pacific Harbour.

He’s paid FJD $21, USD $9.75 per day, six days a week. He’s allowed to keep tips he earned, turning in all the taxi fares at the end of the day. His tips may be minimal on many days when few tourists tip generously in Fiji, especially when they’ve read online on numerous websites that Fijians don’t expect tips. 

Goodness. Their humility keeps them from “expecting” tips, but they certainly need them and in most cases deserve them. We’ve made every effort to be generous with this in mind, not only in Fiji but in many other poverty-stricken countries.

An upcoming round trip taxi fare to the Pearl for Tom’s birthday on the 23rd only requires a taxi fare of FJD $6, USD $2.79. Would a meager 10% tip, the maximum most tourists pay, be of any benefit on top of his FJD $21, USD $9.75? Hardly. 

Rarely, do native Fijians live in houses such as these with pools, manicured lawns, and a variety of amenities? Most of these homes are owned by foreigners from the US, Asia, and Europe,

An extremely frugal and modest life is the only option. To accomplish this Alfaan has a garden which he maintains daily able to harvest all the produce needs of the family of four.  There are multiple fruit trees offering luscious fruit year-round which his children, particularly love, often walking about with a slice of fresh-picked pineapple or mango in their sticky little hands.

Alfaan has 10 egg-producing free-roaming chickens plus an additional four roosters. They are able to collect 10 eggs per day. They don’t slaughter their chickens. Occasionally, a wild dog will kill one of their chickens, which is disheartening for the entire family.  They purchase chicken and beef from other locals. 

Each week, early in the morning he goes fishing, often able to catch ample fish to feed the family for many meals. Having a refrigerator enables him to freeze fish for future meals when he’s been able to catch larger species. Sadly, the reef fish may contain toxic chemicals and bacteria which has prevented our purchase of local fish while in Fiji.   
For one another, the locals offer affordable prices on other meat which allows them to include a variety of protein sources. With four grass-fed only milk-producing cows on their land, they’re able to acquire enough milk for the family with his wife making other simple dairy products for the family. Alfaan arises at 5:00 am each morning to milk the cows and tend to the garden. 

Here again, he never slaughters their cows instead appreciating their ability to provide their children with nourishing fresh milk without chemicals, preservatives and processing.

Local successful business owners may own modest homes on land such as this.

They rarely go to a grocery store other than for rice, sugar, flour, and a few household goods and never frequent a farmers market. With this type of income it’s impossible to indulge in grocery shopping.

Diabetes and obesity are rampant in Fiji. Why? Flour, sugar, and rice are cheap and the Fijian people eat considerable amounts of home baked bread and baked goods to offset hunger and supplement meals. 

“The rate of diabetes in Fiji is among the highest in the world. Estimates range between one in five and one in four people are affected by the disease. A diabetes-related amputation is carried out by surgeons in Fiji every 12 hours. It is estimated also that 33% of patients on the surgical wards are people with diabetes.”

These statistic are frightening for these hard-working people and easily understood when the one major benefit provided by the government, free medical care, has multitudes of Fijian people heading to the hospital for their free medication and insulin injections.

When asking Fijians about diabetes, they easily acknowledge the prevalence relaying horrific stories of amputations and ancillary disease as a result of diabetes in their family members and friends. The natural solution for remedying this fast-growing worldwide disease through diet is costly and impractical for those living in poverty.

Building and renovated homes in Fiji provides work opportunities for the locals.

They can hardly afford a diet of fresh meats, low starch vegetables, no sugar and grains, comparable to my way of eating. This problem only continues to grow in poverty-stricken countries such as Fiji. And yet, a lucky few, somehow are immune to the ravages of diabetes living well into old age. 

Smoking is common in Fiji with the cost of making cigarettes relatively inexpensive. Kava, the intoxicating beverage, is also popular among locals often provided among family and friends who are able to harvest the kava plant readily grown in these parts.

Alfaan explained he does have a TV, stove, refrigerator, and washing machine all of which he purchased second hand by saving his meager tips over a period of a year. He happily shared this story and if for only a glimmer, I saw a sense of pride, it was over this fact…making life a little easier for his wife and family bringing him great joy and happiness. 

Of course, he has no computer, no smartphone, and only a flip-type phone provided by the taxi company. He’s been able to browse online on a few occasions through public services and friends.  Surprisingly, he has a good understanding of the Internet.

He watches world news on TV and is well versed on local and world affairs as well as customs in some other countries, much of which he derives from tourists who share their stories with him. He’s never traveled outside the island but has experienced flying in a four-seat prop plane with a friend a few years ago. He loved being able to see his homeland from above although he was terrified during the one-time experience.

The Fijian people appreciate the sea and lush vegetation in their homeland, welcoming rain for enhancing the water supply and growing their produce. 

Many make assumptions that local workers are unkempt with little regard for personal hygiene. We’ve yet to notice a single Fijian worker smelling of body odor or shabbily dressed.  Even the outdoor workers appear in tidy clothing which most often is old, maybe worn, or recycled which doesn’t prevent any locals from a keen desire for cleanliness. They may have access to a makeshift outdoor shower or a simple shower inside their homes.

Alfaan explained how grateful he is to have electricity and running water, neither he had growing up. Evenings were spent reading by candlelight, telling stories, and playing simple games. Today, when time allows they watch TV, play games, and read. There are no iPads for children in Fiji. 

Alfaan’s story is different than the last cultural story we posted while living in Savusavu for three months. He earns over three times (with tips) the monthly income of the household help in Savusavu, FJD $200, USD $93. 

His meager monthly income of roughly FJD $525, USD $248 (plus tips) is hardly sufficient income to support a family of four. And yet, his joy and appreciation for his life are evident in his demeanor and kindness. His eyes twinkle when he speaks of his family and his lifestyle.

Crab holes are commonly seen close to the beach. Alfaan explained he fishes for crab often able to bring dozens home for his family and friends.

How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to interact with these gracious people. We treat them with equality, kindness, and patience, even if on a rare off-day when we may have a less than ideal experience.

Alfaan hesitated when I asked him how he is treated by most tourists. After careful thought, he finally shared that many tourists, not all, will complain about a variety of things most of which he can do little, if anything, to remedy; the weather, the heat, the bugs, the occasional delay for a pickup (Fiji time), a disappointing trip or venue and on and on.

Long ago, we decided not to be “those tourists” which has become easy for us. Then again, we’re often in a location for an extended period, not on an expensive one week vacation where a sense of urgency may prevail for some tourists.

Now, as our time in Fiji winds down, we relish in the gift we’ve acquired over this past almost four months offering us a greater understanding of life among the Fijian people. 

Once again, we’re in awe of our surroundings and its people, even with the unimportant nuances we encounter each day; extreme heat and humidity, power outages (yesterday), ants, mozzies, limited products at the market, and of course, “Fiji time.”

We have all the time in the world for these special people.

Photo from one year ago today, December 19, 2014:

This is a news-generated photo from the lava crossing Apa’a Street (in our neighborhood) taken on October 25, 2014, shortly before our arrival. Visitors were prevented from getting close to the lava although we were able to do so on a few occasions during our stay on the Big Island. Please click here for details. 

Part 2…Road trip…Tour of Suva, the capital city…

TappooCity, the four story mall in Suva surprised us with its familiar brands.

Suva, the capital city of Fiji with its over 330 islands has population stats as follows:

  • Capital City: Suva (88,271 pop.)
    (175,399 metro)
  • Fiji Population: 849,000 (2010 est.)

Driving through the countryside as we made our way to Suva in an hour (each way) reminded us of many tropical climate countries we visited over these past years with an abundance of banana, palm, and coconut trees, the lush green hills, fields, and mountains with one pasture after another of cows and horses grazing off the land. Beautifully familiar, but always pleasant to see.

Driving in hired car with vehicles behind us, with no shoulder or spot to stop for photos, I’ve given up attempting to take good photos from the moving vehicle. It just doesn’t work. 

Many popular brands of flat-screen TVs. Many residents, including many in the lower-income ranges, have TVs and satellite dishes.

When we have a rental car, Tom is masterful at anticipating when to stop before the words, even leave my lips when we spot a good photo op. He manages to find an appropriate stopping point and turns around if necessary to ensure I’m able to take the shot.  He never ceases to amaze me.

A hired driver? Not so much the case when they don’t know our preferences for photos. Well, perhaps Okee Dokee in South Africa knew, who stopped at each photo-worthy scenes long before we even spotted them. 

How many times I’ve wished we could have packed her up and taken her with us. We’re happy for her when last Saturday she was a beautiful bride marrying the man of her dreams. Thank goodness for Facebook and email for keeping us informed about special people we’ve come to adore in our travels.

Furnishings and housewares of every type is available.

Once we entered the city limits of Suva, the city streets were jammed with cars honking as they maneuvered a mishmash bottleneck of many streets joining at most intersections. Jaywalkers were everywhere making a driver’s attention intense in an attempt to avoid hitting a pedestrian. There was hardly an opportunity to stop for photos.

An occasional crosswalk brought fewer walkers across the road than other non-marked areas. It could have been a busy intersection anywhere in the world. Our eyes dashed back and forth at the endless shops, office buildings (not skyscrapers), restaurants and markets and numerous cell/data stores each packed with many locals and tourists seeking the best possible deals of the day.

There are rows upon rows of exquisite colorful Hindu gowns worn by Indo-Fijian women on special occasions. 

Our goal while downtown was simple; visit the Suva Municipal Market (a huge farmers market) and drive-by various points of interest to take photos of the more popular tourist attractions in the center of the city. 

Keeping in mind, I was feeling awful from a poor prior night’s sleep with hardly enough energy to open the heavy door of the SUV, I knew getting out of the vehicle more often than we had to, was not on the agenda.

Typical kitchen appliances in familiar brands were offered for sale. Pricing on these items was a bit higher than in larger countries. The tea pots listed at FJD $119, are USD $55.

Tom, who’s interest in big cities has waned more than mine over time, was content to do only as much as I felt up to. In all of our travels, he has never insisted we see anymore than is on my radar on any sightseeing tour.  Overall sightseeing is not necessarily on Tom’s radar, unless its something really big like safari, historic and military sites and outrageous scenery. I get this and we adjust accordingly. 

Busy cities and shops are definitely outside his realm of interest, although he’ll always come along if its of interest to me. Fodder for posting each day falls into my wheelhouse leaving me open to seeing anything of interest locally that may inspire a story.

I was fascinated with the gorgeous women’s Indo-Fijian gowns.  Surprisingly reasonably prices they were elaborate costumes with many layers of colorful silky fabrics. 

After the awe-inspiring trip to the farmers market, where for awhile I almost forgot feeling tired, our driver was waiting for us outside the parking ramp.  With a need for a quick restroom break, Alfaan directed us to the fourth floor of the building in front of us, the popular giant, multilevel mall, TappooCity which attracts tourists and locals alike.

It was surprising that a trip to the restroom necessitated making our way through this enormous mall, searching for escalators on each level. (The few elevators were jammed). This allowed us to see how many foreign brands monopolized each level of the mall with familiar brand merchandise we haven’t seen since Hawaii. 

Had I felt better, I’d have enjoyed perusing the racks.

Even while in Australia for three months, we never recognized as many brand names of clothing, shoes, appliances, housewares with an endless array of cosmetics and accessories, a shopping enthusiast paradise. 

Prices were reasonable for the merchandise when on several occasions I stopped to peruse price tags, my mind performing quick calculations from FJD to USD. I’ll still hold firm to my assessment that its cheap to live in Fiji, as long as one knows where to go to shop.  Suva definitely fulfills the needs and expectations of any buyer from around the globe. 

The food court appeared typical for malls although we didn’t recognize many of the vendors.

Finally, we were back in the car, ready to move along. At that point, I advised Alfaan and Tom I was  fast running out of steam and asked if we could head toward the area of the grocery stores.  I was determined I could eek out a little energy to shop and be done for the day. In any case, we didn’t return home until almost 4 pm ample time to wash the produce, put away the groceries and prepare what I hadn’t yet prepped for dinner.

As mentioned yesterday, Cost-U-Less was comparable to a less well-stocked Sam’s Club or Costco, carrying many of the same brands in bulk sizes. None of this worked for us with our short remaining time in Pacific Harbour. After an exhaustive search through the big warehouse, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. 

We found three escalators are various areas in the mall to get us to the fourth floor for the restrooms.

Oddly, Tom lingered in Cost-U-Less, curious to the items they carried particularly the candy and snacks, none of which he’s had in many months.  Although he was tempted he didn’t purchase anything as I kept my mouth shut. From there we headed to IGA New World market where we found some, not all, of the items remaining on our list.

Over these past few years he’d gained back 25 of the 40 pounds, 11 of the 18 kg, he’d originally lost in 2011 when he joined me in this way of eating.  It wasn’t necessarily from eating junk food which he only does on cruises and when dining in restaurants, but more due to eating too much low carb food having breakfast and a lunch snack day after day. There’s no way of eating that one can consume vast amounts of food and never gain an ounce.

Many departments in the massive store consisted of a wide array of merchandise.

Over the past few months, he’s cut back on the number of meals per day and is now back to his original weight loss of 40 pounds, 18 kg, easily fitting into all of his pants and shirts minus the big belly pulling tight on the buttons. I’m thrilled for the improvement in his health having rid himself of the dangerous disease producing belly fat. (Link is to the Mayo Clinic on the dangers of belly fat).

Sure, in a little over two weeks we’ll be on a 14 night cruise. Once we settle in New Zealand for three months after the cruise with more readily available food products, in no time at all, he’ll drop whatever 10 pounds, 4.5 kg he may gain on the cruise, typical for most cruise passengers. We don’t eat lunch or snacks on cruises which if we indulged further he may gain 15 pounds, 6.8 kg, or more.

Speaking of food, last night we had dinner with Samantha and Danny at Oasis in the Arts Village. In tomorrow’s post we’ll share a photo taken of the four of us by the taxi driver, food photos and some of the remaining photos from the visit to Suva. Plus, we’ll be sharing a cultural story of life for locals in Fiji.

A less busy side street in downtown Suva.

Paeta is here today cleaning the house.  Another glorious sunny day will take us out to the pool for a cooling swim in this heat as soon as the pool guy, her brother, is done cleaning the pool. 

Tomorrow evening, Saturday, we’ll be heading back to the Arts Village to try yet another restaurant. Gee…this dining out thing is fun, affordable and easy here!

For those preparing for the busy holiday season, we wish every one of our readers safe and meaningful experiences. We continue to treasure your readership which for us, that along with good health are the greatest gifts we can possibly receive. A heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for being beside us during this unusual life we live.

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2014:

Tom got a kick out of the fact that we visited the Lyman Museum with the family one year ago in Hilo on the Big Island. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Road trip…Tour of Suva, the capital city…

Breathtaking shades of pink.

With it planned for over a week, we’re looking forward to getting out to see some of the sites in Suva on Wednesday morning as well as take a trip to a pharmacy and market for a few remaining items on our list.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday night, I barely slept all night, tossing and turning, reading intermittently, and spending hours wide awake just laying there most of the night. I wasn’t necessarily in a state of worry.

As we’d seen at the huge farmers market in Cairns, Australia, beautiful bouquets of locally grown flowers are offered for sale.

I had most of Wednesday’s post completed so there’d be no issue uploading before our 11:00 am driver appeared in his air-conditioned vehicle on a very hot and humid day. I was feeling fine. There was no reason not to be sleeping at least for six hours, my usual skimpy night’s allotment.

Never a good sleeper, fitful most nights, and always an early bird, if I’d get a full six-hours,  even in a few segments, I’d feel fine. But, yesterday morning, dragging myself out of bed, I knew I was in trouble. Most likely I hadn’t slept three hours off and on. 

Individual flowers for those who prefer to make their own arrangements.

The thought of sightseeing, shopping, and taking photos all day didn’t seem possible in my exhausted state.  Had we been staying in, it would have been easy to pamper myself resting for a few hours here and there, although I can’t nap during the day, never have. 

Making certain everything we’d need for dinner when we returned home took every last bit of energy I could muster;  making the salad, slicing the cucumber, and preparing the vegetables wiped me out further. With roasted chicken planned as the entrée, by the time we left, dinner was under control. 

No photo can do justice to illustrate the massive size of this market.

We could have dined out, but I knew by the time we returned home, my comfy long tee-shirt would be my single article of clothing on a hot day while Tom languished in his swimsuit with no shirt, his usual warm day outfit.

Ready to go at 11:00 am, Alfaan arrived with the newer SUV, another driver with Alamanda Tours. The round trip fare for the day was FJD $100, USD $46.70 plus we gave Alfa a generous trip for his fabulous help, even pushing the cart of the New World Market and helping carry the groceries into the house. 

Lettuce is easily found at this market at FJD $1, USD $.47 per bunch.

By the end of the day, I was determined to notify the tour company that we wanted Alfaan as our permanent driver going forward which I did by email upon returning home. This morning I received a confirmation that they’d arrange for him to handle all of our trips.

As it turned out, during the long drive each way, sitting in the front seat, in my exhausted state, I interviewed Alfaan for details on his lifestyle as a local Indo-Fijian and will share his story in a few days. He was eager to answer my questions while I was enthralled by his interesting responses.

This Women’s Centre has clothing, handbags, and jewelry for women only.

Had I felt better, we surely would have visited more sites. I just didn’t have the energy to do much walking although, in all, we walked a fair amount. We did what I could and by 2:30 pm, I’d was done-in and ready to wrap up the day.

We’d made it to the pharmacy to purchase contact lens solution to ensure I have enough for the upcoming cruise and my second bottle of fingernail polish in order to do my own pedicures. 

Handmade ribbon bouquets for the holiday season and other celebrations.

Through these past three-plus years, I’ve managed to get by with one bottle of red fast dry polish.  Now, it’s thick and unusable and going into the trash. I purchased a regular polish (no fast dry here) in a pinkish color which most likely will get me through the next three years. 

We also purchased 3% hydrogen peroxide which we use regularly when brushing our teeth and for mouth rinsing after we’ve done the daily coconut oil teeth pulling we’ve described in earlier posts. (Please write if you’d like more info).

Handwoven bags made onsite at the Women’s Centre.

At the end of the day, we headed to the Cost-U-Less store which is comparable to a lesser version of Sam’s Club or Costco. We walked out empty-handed when they had few items on our list and only huge sizes of most food products, not suitable for our remaining 18 days in Fiji.

Alfaan drove us the short distance to the New World Market, similar to the same-named market in Savusavu and although we couldn’t find a number of items, we wrapped it up and headed home. Aside from eggs, cream and produce, we won’t need to grocery shop again other than purchasing the chickens each week.

The locals hope to earn a reasonable day’s wage working in the market. But, most tourists don’t purchase produce when they’re staying in hotels and resorts, other than fruit. Mostly, the customers were Fijians.

Finally, back home, I was grateful I’d prepped everything for dinner other than toss the salad, cook the veggies and reheat a chicken.  We’d purchased many veggies at the huge farmer’s market in Savu, known as the Suva Municipal Market, as shown in these photos, one of the biggest we’ve seen to date. 

I washed everything putting it away, relieved when done, anxiously to plop into my comfy chair with a fan blowing on me. It must have been 90F, 32 C inside the house when we entered. When it hadn’t cooled off by the time I lumbered off to bed at 9:30 as late as I possibly could, we turned on the wall AC for the first time. I needed to sleep.

Not unlike the rest of the world, Fijians have cell phones and are often found talking loudly in public.

Today, I’m feeling much better although I awoke dozens of times during the night when the air-con cycled through various stages. Unless it’s as hot tonight as it was last night, most likely we won’t use it again. Hot or noisy, which is preferable?

Tonight, we’re meeting honeymoon couple, Samantha and Danny, for dinner at the Water’s Edge restaurant at 6 pm. We’re looking forward to a casual dinner out with this lovely couple who Susan, the owner of both houses, encouraged us all to get together.

Although I asked the vendor the name of this item, I was unable to understand his response. Looking online, I couldn’t find it. Any ideas?

I’m now in the process of laundering all of Tom’s cruise clothing which on this beautiful sunny day will readily dry carefully hung on hangers on the clothesline. Yesterday, we purchased a roll of plastic bags. 

The day before we depart to fly to Sydney we’ll carefully wrap each cruise item in an individual bag for wrinkle-free clothing when we unpack on the cruise. This has proven to be the perfect solution for wrinkle-free clothes upon unpacking.

Fruit of unknown variety. They looked like pears but upon closer inspection, we weren’t certain.

We’ll be back tomorrow and over the next several days with more photos from the trip to Suva and later share details of tonight’s dinner at another new dining establishment.

Today’s another scorcher. Soon, we’ll head out to the pool for a refreshing swim. Enjoy the day!

  Photo from one year ago today, December 17, 2014:

Our family members found a level spot easier for getting in and out of the Kapoho tide pools. With no post on this date one year ago, here is the link from the prior day’s visit to the tide pool and why we stayed behind rather than walk over the uneven terrain of massive lava rocks. 

Christmas while on the move…Very different…

Colorful trees blooming in the neighborhood.

As we roll into the holiday season, we wish every one of every nationality a happy holiday season for their appropriate holidays throughout the world whatever they may be.

For us, Christmas and New Year’s are the holidays we’ve celebrated all of our lives with a passion for their meaning and for sharing it with our family and friends. Life is different now. 

We don’t have family nearby and for the short time we’ve been in Fiji, we haven’t made many friends as we’d done in  Marloth Park, South Africa during the holidays. 

Access to the Qaraniquo river in the neighborhood.

So easily we recall, only two years ago, the wonderful times we spent during the holidays and after, even spending Christmas Eve at the home of people we’d never met until that night, Kathy and Don, including their friends Linda and Ken all of whom we got together on many other occasions. 

That year on Christmas day we made new friends, Hettie and Piet, when we shared a table at Jabula Lodge later getting together again who continue to warm our hearts with great memories.

There are many more we could name, friends we made in Marloth Park…Okee Dokee, who has married a few days ago, much to our delight. And, Louise and Danie, our hosts during our stay, who will always be in our hearts and minds. And Dawn and Leon, the owners of Jabula who always welcomed us with warmth, hugs, and open arms. 

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

We had a going-away party before leaving Marloth Park for the friends who remained in the area into February when on the last day we were heading to Morocco for our remaining two and a half months of living on the African continent.

Making those types of relationships, all of which we happily maintain through Facebook has remained with us as special memories we’ll always treasure. But, many locations don’t provide the unique opportunity to make friends as readily as was the case in Marloth Park.

Then, of course, there are the countless friends we made due to our friendship with Richard while in Kauai.  Although our four-month stay on that exquisite island wasn’t over the holidays, every occasion together with our new friends felt like a holiday to us.

Flowering shrubs line the boulevard.

We’re rather gregarious. We easily reach out to start conversations with others and having done so has left us with valued memories from many cruises throughout the world, one of the main reasons we’ve loved cruising as much as we do.  

Boarding another cruise in Sydney in less than three weeks is exciting knowing how friendly and welcoming the Australian people and other cruisers from all over the world will be in this environment.

Yesterday, Tom received an email from a lovely couple we met on a cruise, simply “stopping by” to say hello.  Each time we hear from people we’ve met along the way, we more thrilled than we can describe.

We’ve never encountered this particular flower.

Of course, we miss family and friends. Yesterday, we spoke with grandson Vincent on his 10th birthday. It was wonderful to hear his voice. It’s always meaningful and emotional to speak with our kids and grandkids. 

When we think it was a year ago that 12 of our family members were with us in Hawaii during the Christmas season, it seems so long ago, and yet, in many ways, as we review the “year-ago photos” it feels as if it was only yesterday.

Now, the holidays? Over these years, we’ve reframed our thinking. The spiritual aspects remains in our hearts and minds. The Christmas tree, the lights, the decorations, the gifts for each other, the baking, the hundreds of mailed cards, the parties…are all things of the past. We don’t miss any of that.

A dock on the river appears to be shared by neighbors.

Always the proverbial host and hostess, we now relish in our quiet times and events we plan for ourselves; a holiday dinner out, a birthday or anniversary celebration…no gifts, no cards…content to be together, content to live this life. 

Selfish? Perhaps. But that’s ok. We all have the right to make choices for our lives. As the clock seems to tick faster now than at any other time in our lives we’ve chosen to “live life on our own terms,” a decision many desire to make but few seldom do, fearing recrimination, criticism, and disdain from loved ones. Fearing guilt.  We bear no guilt for our decisions.

And bless the hearts of those who happily live their lives in loving care and service of the needs of their family members and friends. We lovingly and thoughtfully did that all of our lives with aging parents and other family members who are no longer with us, having passed long before we left.

Its only a short walk from our house to the river.

Our kids are all in their 40’s. They’re all mature and responsible and take good care of their lives and their families.  Although not easy for them, they had to let us go live the dream we never knew we had until after my 25 years of bad health was reversed due to a change of diet and for the first time, I was well enough to travel feeling healthy and strong.

Grab life while you can! It can change on a dime. In one day’s time, something could happen and I’d no longer feel as well as I do today, able to continue on. And the inevitable…old age. Good grief. 

In 26 months I’ll be 70 years old. Tom will be 65. How many 70 year old seniors are hauling their share of baggage, traipsing all over the world without a home base, without storage, with only a few possessions in their current location, without a family doctor, without familiar stopping/resting/repacking points to “call their own” and tackling adventures they never imagined possible?

We’re happy. We’re happy during the holiday season, Christmas and New Year’s, friends at our side or not. All that we have loved, all that we continue to love, and all that we will love in the future is in our hands. 

May your holiday season be filled with happiness and fulfillment in all you chose to embrace.

Photo from one year ago today, December 15, 2014:

The swimming area at Isaac Hale beach which we visited on a sunny day, meeting a delightful woman from Colorado. Kathy was a college professor and moved to the island 13 years ago to lighten the load of a stressful life. She seemed happy and fulfilled. For more details, please click here.

Cranking out the plans…Acquiring visas for the not-so-savvy-Internet users…

Fiji décor made from some type of small vines.

Everything about our lives requires planning. Oh, I’m not complaining. It just “goes with the territory.” At times, we chuckle over the irony. One cannot settle back and let the days roll out, one after another, routines firmly in place, comforting and easy.

This morning, Tom held up the contents of the remaining ground coffee he’d put into a Ziplock bag and said, “This looks like enough coffee left including the one unopened bag to last us, doesn’t it?” 

Looking at the bag, I shook my head, “No, Honey, we’ll need to buy one more bag of coffee.”

They don’t sell ground coffee anywhere in Pacific Harbour. Tomorrow, we’re heading back to Suva where the airport is located, for sightseeing and shopping, a 70-minute taxi ride each way, FJD $100, USD $46.83 (cost for the round trip).  It would be worth buying one more package. If we ran out it wouldn’t be worth the time and taxi fare to drive back to Suva only for coffee.

A cloudy evening at the beach.

Yesterday, I completed our menu and accompanying grocery list for the 19 remaining days in Pacific Harbour, a combination of cooking and dining out. We scheduled dining out on six occasions, one including Tom’s birthday on December 23rd at the #1 rated (Trip Advisor) restaurant in Pacific Harbour, Seduce at the Pearl, a luxury resort.  

On Christmas Day we’ll return to the Pearl for the Christmas lunch buffet at the Riviera Restaurant. Yesterday, I booked the reservation, paying the required 50% deposit over the phone. We haven’t decided on New Year’s Eve with no specific festivities as yet posted. 

Leaving us with approximately 13 nights to cook, six of which we’ll have roasted chickens for which I’ll prepare a variety of side dishes, our grocery list really boils down to the equivalent of two week’s grocery shopping. Each week, we’ll head to Arts Village to pick up the chickens as we’re doing today with a stop at the nearby vegetable stand to fill in what we’ll need.

With every day’s meals and dining out plans on my online calendar, it’s easy to ensure we’ll have enough on hand, leaving little unused food behind. In Fiji, steaks and roasts are tough. Mince beef and pork, chicken and canned Pacific wild-caught salmon (for me) and tuna (for Tom) from which we make two separate salads with celery, onions, hard-boiled eggs, and homemade dressing. These are the only main dish options that work for both of us. The mince works well with other ingredients for a dozen or so recipes we alternate depending on available ingredients.

We often spot the lali in Fiji, the wood hand carved ceremonial announcement bell.

We don’t purchase locally caught fish when we’ve heard and read online that much of the fish caught is done so in the toxic reefs close to the shore. Considerable sewage disposal goes into the ocean here.  No, thank you for the fish. (Most restaurants purchase seafood from suppliers which are often imported).

With the limited cooking options for our way of eating and the availability of great restaurants in this area, we’re happy to dine out a few times each week. 

On Saturday night, I felt like a kid in a candy store when we dined out, not due to the fact that I didn’t have to cook, but more so due to being out among people, the fanfare, the special meals prepared for me, and the pleasant surroundings. 

Other than Tom’s upcoming birthday dinner at the fancy restaurant which will be more expensive, I doubt we’ll spend more than FJD $100, USD $46.83 on any single occasion dining out even with a beer for Tom and Fiji water for me. With taxi fare relatively low cost, it’s a no brainer for us.

Pool table and bar at the Uprising Beach Resort.

With the grocery list on a handy app on my phone for tomorrow big shopping trip and today’s return trip to Art Village to wander about and to pick up the two roasted chickens, (we called yesterday and placed the order) we’re feeling comfortable that the food situation for our remaining days is in place. 

Of course, if opportunities arise that we decide to dine out on additional occasions, we can forgo one of the chickens on any given day.  We always like to keep our options open with a goal of flexibility.

Another area of planning during this remaining period centers around clothing for the upcoming cruise.  Mine are all washed, hung to dry, and wrinkle-free on hangers in the closet. Thursday, I’ll begin washing all of Tom’s clothing and bleaching all of his “tidy whities” which become greyish when the washing is done by household help.

I’m now the household laundress don’t mix whites and darks if I can help it. At the moment, I’m otherwise totally caught up on laundry with virtually no ironing on the horizon. I haven’t ironed in over three years.

Its common to see “parasitic plants” where coconuts are attached to an earthy structure eventually grow a coconut palm.

Besides food and laundry, we’re in the process of reviewing the required visas we may need over the next year making notes on the calendar as to dates we need to apply online using the cruise line’s recommend CIBT service

It costs a little more to use this and other such services than applying on our own but we’d be highly concerned about shipping our passports while living in a foreign country as opposed to doing it easily online, scanning, and sending documents by email.

Sadly, many senior travelers, unfamiliar with using the Internet burden themselves with copying and mailing all their documents including their passports to various consulates in order to acquire visas when any of it may be lost in the mail or stuck sitting on someone’s desk. 

If any of our readers find they need help using such a service, asking anyone of the younger generation could easily solve the problem when they’ve grown up with iPads, smartphones, and computers on their laps. In today’s world, it’s astounding what even a six-year-old can accomplish online.

Tom, at dinner, looking forward to his first beer in many months. Although, finally having some “starch” including bread and fries was more on his mind.

Also, if you need further reassurance from us, please don’t hesitate to contact us by posting a comment at the end of any day’s post or by clicking the email link at the top right of the post. Other than travel days, we’ll reply within 12 hours at most (due to the time difference).

In an hour, our driver will collect us for the drive to the Art Village. It’s a 45-minute walk each way which we could manage but who wants to carry two greasy chickens and a few other items in the heat and humidity attracting flies and mosquitoes? At a taxi fare of no more than FJD $10, USD $4.68 for the round trip, it’s worth it.

Living this life requires planning.  Moving every one to three months is a daunting task. Moving on and off every two or fewer weeks on cruises is also challenging. 

Although we don’t have to move furniture and household goods it does require forethought and careful planning. It’s necessary to condense every material item we own to fit into three suitcases, one duffel bag, one computer bag, and one yellow Costco bag. 

As we peruse everything sitting out at this point, we’re always in awe of how it manages to fit in those few bags. My cruise clothing consisted of one medium load washed in cold water with one hand washed item. Tom’s won’t be much more. For us, our limited supply of “stuff” elicits a sense of satisfaction over what we’ve been willing to let go of. How we’ve changed that way!

We’ll be back tomorrow with more new photos posting before we depart at 11:00 am for the day in Suva, the capital city of the Fiji Islands. For those of you on the other side of the International Dateline, have a fabulous Monday and for the rest of the world, enjoy Tuesday! 

Photo from one year ago today, December 15, 2014:

Grandsons Jayden and Nik checking out the roaring surf outside the vacation rental in the Big Island of Hawai’i. For more details, please click here.

Part 2…It was a Bollywood night at the Uprising!…Health concerns while cruising…

 Our video of the Bollywood dancers on Saturday night at the Uprising Beach Resort.

Our new friends and neighbors, the honeymoon couple from Minnesota and Wisconsin, stopped by to take us up on our offer of borrowing one of our two wifi dongles. We’d offered several days ago when they weren’t able to get online at their vacation rental house after trying for several days. 

With over 16 gigs left on Tom’s device, it was unlikely we’d use the balance before leaving Fiji.  With our upcoming cruise in three weeks and five other cruises circumventing Australia, it would have been nice to be able to use the balance of the data on the devices when the ship docks in Fiji on a few occasions. Unfortunately, the data on the SIM cards expires 60 days from topping it off.

The Bollywood dancers prepared for their performance.

With wifi expensive and metered on most cruise ships (a few ships are offering an unlimited package), it would have saved us metered data time while in Fiji ports. Long ago, we decided to stay on the ship when in ports we’ve visited in the past, unless there’s a particular venue we missed on a prior visit. 

Yesterday, we checked in for the upcoming cruise on January 5th. Always a time-consuming process, requiring that both passports and a credit card be available during the online check-in, we worked our way through “pages” of inquiries. With no printer (our portable printer died) we’re unable to print the copies they request for check-in at the pier.

A band performed before and after the dancers.

Over these past years of travel, we’ve learned that paper copies of transport documents simply aren’t necessary other than for passports and visas. For the greatest ease, we take a photo of our “tickets” on my phone, bringing up the photo as needed when we check-in. 

There’s never been a single occasion where this has been a problem. The days of finding a printer at the hotel or an “office supply” store in a small remote village are long in the past. 

This method also applies to flights, trains, tour venues, and cruises. We even used the photo of our tickets when boarding the Eurostar (the Chunnel) when we traveled from Paris to London in August 2014.

The locals perform their routine on Saturday nights.

It’s hard to imagine we’ll be aboard a cruise in three weeks. It will have been seven months since our last cruise ended in Sydney when we immediately flew to Cairns, picked up a rental car, and drove to Trinity Beach where we lived for three months. 

Our biggest concern when cruising has been avoiding the “cruise cough” which can spoil a number of days of cruising. Of the 11 cruises on which we’ve sailed to date, we’ve ended up with the cough three or four times.  Preferring not to whine here, we haven’t made a big deal. But this time, we’re determined to avoid any illness. 

Regardless of a passenger’s immune system, it’s easy to fall prey to one of the many cruise-related illnesses including the dreaded Norovirus which fortunately we’ve never contracted. Fanatics about washing our hands, not shaking hands, and steering clear of others who appear sick, we still have become ill.

There was a post blocking part of our view but I didn’t want to obstruct anyone else’s view by standing.

Implementing a few new protective actions, we’ve emphatically decided on the following:

1.  Twice-daily mouth rinsing with pure organic unrefined coconut oil for at least 10 minutes on each occasion.
2.  Twice-daily mouth rinsing for 5 minutes with hydrogen peroxide (kills bacteria and happens to whiten teeth).
3.  Under no circumstances touch another guest; not a hand, not a shoulder, not a hug. When hearing a sensitive type of story from a guest, it’s easy for women to reach over and touch her hand in a supportive manner, especially me. Many people aren’t offended by the kind and caring touch of another. Men are less inclined to do this.  I know these simple acts have been instrumental in our previous illnesses when in most cases I’ve become ill first, then Tom.
4.  Washing hands immediately before and after eating and using offered sanitizer at every possible opportunity.
5.  Using a linen napkin wrapped around our hands when serving ourselves in buffet restaurants, immediately tossing the napkin after serving, taking a new napkin to use with the meal.
6.  Carrying hand sanitizers. We have several packets of these we carry with us throughout the ship that cleans both surfaces and hands. I have no concern over the dry skin using these frequently can cause. A swipe of coconut oil on my hands totally reduces any dryness. As a matter of fact, I’ve been using coconut oil as a face and body lotion both mornings and nights and am thrilled with the results.

The couples were in sync while dancing the traditional Bollywood type performance.

Hopefully, these amped-up proactive measures will serve us well.

Yesterday, we decided on a long walk to the neighboring market we’d yet to visit located in a gas station on the Hibiscus Highway. At our relatively leisurely pace on the rock-covered roads, we estimated we’d be gone for over an hour. With an overcast sky, the walking was easier than on a sunny day.

Over the past three days, it’s been cloudy for most of the day, making walking a little easier. The mozzies aren’t as bad here during the day as they were in Savusavu.

Many of the guests joined in the dancing. Neither of us likes to participate “on stage” during performances of any type. It’s never us on the stage!

When we dined outdoors on Saturday night at the Uprising Beach Resort, only a few swipes of repellent kept me free from bites. The only bites I’ve received have been while hanging the laundry outside especially on these cloudy days. Learning my lesson, I now use repellent on laundry days.

As for the walk, we checked out the merchandise in two tiny markets finding little we use when all the meats were of unknown origin and frozen and with no produce other than potatoes and onions.

Leaving the area of the markets we spotted a vegetable stand across the highway. Could we possibly find lettuce, a product difficult to find in Fiji? Alas, we were in luck. We purchased six small bunches of lettuce, a few carrots, and a bunch of green onions for a total of FJD $10, USD $4.69. 

Another view of the astounding sunset on Saturday night at the Uprising Beach Resort.

Tom only had FJD $20 bills in his wallet. The kindly vendor had no change suggesting we take the produce and return when we have a $10 bill. When we head out tomorrow for the roasted chickens at the Arts Village, we’ll get change and stop to pay her on the return drive.

The ants are under control. There are no cockroaches running across the polished wood floors. We have plenty to keep us busy at home today and we’re as content as we can be. 

May your day be filled with contentment and ease.

Photo from one year ago today, December 14, 2014:

TJ is the king of video, rather than taking still photos. He does a great job. The scenery on the many drives we took together on the Big Island was outstanding. For more details, please click here.

Part 1…It was a Bollywood night at the Uprising!…

The sun was already behind this hill when we arrived, but the colors remained long enough for me to take a few shots.

Going out to dinner last night proved to be more fun than we’d expected. We always have fun when we go out and also when we don’t, but we had no idea that Saturday night at the Uprising Beach Resort would include Bollywood entertainment.

As we entered the Uprising Beachside Resort.

We (me, particularly) became fans of Bollywood dancing, having watched it years ago on a few dance competition type shows and also after scenes in the popular movie, Slumdog Millionaire.

Signs were posted for the night’s specials.

Once we arrived at the Uprising Beach Resort for dinner we discovered that it was Bollywood night. Preferring reservations early in the evening is a must if we plan to take photos before dark, so a 6:30 reservation always seems to work well.

As we entered the bar, we spotted this gingerbread house.

It was raining when we arrived, but soon cleared in time for the 7:30 Bollywood performance on the lawn, a short distance from where we were seated at a cozy table for two. I took many photos which we’ll share over the next few days. By the final set of the sun, we were able to grab a few shots of the amazing sight we’re sharing here today. 

The menu options befitting my way of eating were reasonably good, especially when our waitress summoned the chef to our table.  Showing him the food list on my phone, he shook his head, acknowledging the good and the bad. 

The pool and deck at the resort were packed with guests. While we dined, a guest playing ball in the pool dislocated his shoulder. It was quite a painful sight to see as they whisked him off for medical care.

He seemed excited to make me a suitable grilled seafood platter atop a bed of roasted vegetables.  Assuming the portion would be too small to satisfy my appetite, I ordered a Caesar salad with both the croutons (for Tom) and dressing on the side. 

The bar at the resort.

Tom ordered the burger and fries, which looked delicious, although he thought it was bland and unseasoned. Go figure. The guy who doesn’t like spices likes some seasoning on his meat. (I always well season protein sources to avoid bland tasting food).

Arriving early, we had several options as to which table we’d choose. As it turned out, we chose a table that gave us ringside seats to the Bollywood show.

My meal was over the top. Since I don’t consume any vegetable oils, only butter, coconut, and olive oil, dining in restaurants can be tricky when most foods are sautéed in who-knows-what-kind of cheap vegetable oil. The chef promised he’d cook my seafood in a spotless skillet using butter, olive oil, and fresh garlic. 

We could only imagine how pretty it would have been on a sunny, cloudless evening.

With big chunks of squid, a half dozen head-on prawns, and a variety of unknown locally caught fish it couldn’t have appealed to me more. My Caesar salad, with huge uncut Bibb lettuce leaves, bits of bacon, and a soft-cooked egg on the top would have been more enjoyable had the leaves been cut into pieces as opposed to each entire leaf. 

We chose a table near this two-seater close to the lawn.

Served on a large square wooded platter as were all the meals, it was awkward cutting the leaves. I always eat salad the European way, after the main course. That way, my entrée is warm while I eat it. Having salad after dinner tricks my brain into thinking of it as “dessert” when I don’t order any sugary desserts.

It was raining as I took this photo while close to the water’s edge.

In essence, I ordered two entrees when the salad was listed as an entrée portion.  Rarely do any type of starters (appetizers) work for me. This wasn’t the first time I’d ordered two entrées. 

Tom’s big burger and fries. Our total bill for dinner with bottled Fiji water for me and one beer for Tom, including tax and tip was FJD $91.08, USD $42.72. 

When one doesn’t include any starchy sides with a meal, only the protein, and a few veggies, it’s often inadequate to feel satisfied when the entrée portions are small. When cooking at “home” I can easily add a number of suitable sides and control for adequate portions.

My Caesar salad on a wooden board.

In any case, the food was good and we’d consider returning on another occasion. The atmosphere was ideal with the Uprising Beachside Resort. The service was friendly but included way too much “hovering” over our table with little knowledge of the menu offerings. We assumed the waitperson was new and we treated her kindly and appreciatively.

My entrée of seafood atop a bed of roasted vegetables.  It was delicious.

The chef stopped back at our table to see if his “special” entrée was satisfactory. I enthusiastically assured him it was perfect (which it was) and didn’t bother to comment about the salad. As always, we attempt to avoid being the “ugly American” by maintaining a friendly and appreciative stance.  

In the long run, staying positive even when products or services aren’t perfect has been our motto which ultimately avoids us experiencing angst and frustration. Unless something we’re served has bugs on it, is spoiled in some manner, or is uncooked, we don’t ask for a refund. 

It was almost dark as the sun made its final descent.

We stayed longer than we’d expected, almost to 9:00 pm when we had a little difficulty getting the taxi driver back to pick us up. He’d gone to the wrong restaurant, leaving us waiting outside the Uprising for 15 minutes, finally calling him a second and a third time. Oh, well, in the realm of things, it’s no big deal.

Today, another walk is on the horizon when and if the rain stops. If the sun stays comes out, it may be a good day to spend time by the pool. We’re content to spend a day at “home” while looking forward to two outings planned by Wednesday.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with a fun Bollywood video and lots more photos.

Have a fabulous day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 13, 2014:

Tom and grandson Jayden walking to a secluded scenic spot we stumbled upon. For more details, please click here.