Invitations to my 75th birthday party went out today…Done with our immigration documents…Tuesday we head to Nelspruit to deliver the docs in person, as required…

Norman and his friends stopped by today.

Gosh, we wish we could invite everyone we know and like in Marloth Park. But based on the venue, we can only manage 25 to 30 guests. This morning, Louise and I sent out all the invitations on WhatsApp. In a matter of minutes,  we had no less than 12 RSVPs and expect to see many more in days to come as our invitees check their calendars and get back to us.

It’s funny to be planning my own party, but it’s a whole lot easier for me and Louise to do it than leaving it to Tom. Yesterday, we ordered 12 bottles of Prosecco, 12 bottles each of red and white wines. All we have left to buy is dry roses, and we already have several cases of Tom’s favorite local beer, Lion, which is hard to find at local shops.

I am making two birthday cakes, one regular and one keto, on the day of the event. Louise and Danie are helping with all the food. They are experts at this, and we so appreciate the help. Their helper Martha will come and do all the dishes the next morning.

We named this male warthog, Tusker, for his giant tusks.

As stipulated on the invitations, I specified, “Please, no gifts!” which I mean sincerely. My luggage has absolutely no room for anything other than what I already have. Plus, finding gift items with limited shops with few selections here in the bush makes gift buying too challenging.

We look forward to our guests arriving in casual attire, and if they drink beer and wine, they don’t need to bring anything. If not, they can get their choice of drinks. The party starts at 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs., and can easily go long into the night. This is no sundowner party. It could well go late into the night, which is OK with us.

It wasn’t easy creating the guest list. No doubt, we had to leave some people out that we would have invited if we’d had a different venue, but it all boiled down to one aspect: connections. It’s all about those unique connections with people whose hugs and conversations warm my heart, and in this magical place, unique connections can easily be made.

Tusker and a little bushbuck sharing pellets.

Sure, I’ll be missing many of the close friendships we’ve made here in Marloth Park, who may not be here now: Rita and Gerhard, Kathy and Don, Linda and Ken, Lynne and Mick, Janet and Steve, and dozens more we have mentioned in past posts whom we’ve come to know and love. We can’t possibly name everyone here, but please know that you are in our hearts and minds.

We’re looking forward to the date of the party, February 25, which is actually five days after my birthday. Still, we wanted it to be on a Saturday evening to accommodate those who may not be able to come during the week. On the 20th, the actual date of my birthday, most likely, we’ll have a quiet evening at home or out with a few friends. That we’ll play by ear, as we often do. There are no expectations for that day.

On another note, this morning, we headed to Louise’s office and wrapped up the documents required for next Tuesday’s 10:45 am appointment at the South African Immigration office in Nelspruit. We have all the documents neatly arranged, in the required order, and ready to submit.

Two male bushbucks, Gordy and Stringy, another female bushbuck, and our two usual duikers, Delilah and Derek, are enjoying pellets this morning.

We should have an answer on the extension in four to six weeks. Once they decide, we’ll return to Nelspruit to open the “secret” envelope with our extension approval. We may have only seven days to leave the country if they don’t approve it. We feel pretty confident it will be approved.

We’ve yet to hear anything about our insurance claim for the missing luggage. That, too, we’ll be waiting for a response.

Have a pleasant day!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 26, 2022:

Gordy is such a handsome specimen of the species (bushbuck). He visits us here almost daily. His full name is Gordon Ramsey, after the famous chef. For more photos, please click here.

It seems we always arrive in the US at a holiday time…Differences…

Mongooses with some babies stopped by this morning for paloney.

We’re trying to book a hotel for our time in Boston to see my cousin Phyllis at the end of August. From there, we’re flying to Nevada to see Richard and then flying to Minnesota to see the other three kids and grandchildren. But, the dates we’re getting off the ship, which embarked from Reykjavik, Iceland, arriving in Boston on August 30.

The Labor Day weekend begins a few days later when prices for flights and hotels go through the roof. A hotel we booked in September 2014 is now over double the price we paid at almost US $500 per night, ZAR 8620, more than we’re willing to pay. The other options are hotels with ratings that prevent us from booking them. We’ll have to figure this out in the next few days.

At other times, like when we visited the US most recently, it was the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, where again, prices were higher than usual. It’s not as if we plan to arrive at holiday times. It just coincidentally works out that way.

One of the forms Tom has to sign threw me for a loop. It states that he is also a signer on our bank accounts, and there are enough funds in the account to sustain me while we stay an extra 90 days in the country. There was no such form required for me to sign. No less than 20 years ago, women in South Africa were not allowed to open a bank account without a male signature.

Hmmm…life is different all over the world. I observed this distinctly yesterday when I was getting my prescriptions refilled after my visit to Doc Theo. The pharmacists are helpful and provide suggestions on over-the-counter products customers can use. When we were in the US and went to a pharmacy such as Walgreens or CVS, the pharmacists refused to assist with any suggestions for over-the-counter allergy medications.

This male and female dung beetle were rolling about on a tiny ball of dung. There was barely room for both of them!

Tom and I agreed that pharmacists in the US are especially careful when speaking to customers due to liability and lawsuits, which are much more common in the US than in South Africa or other countries. The pharmacists are kept behind what appears to be locked doors and windows with little access to them unless when submitting or picking up a prescription. They provide minimal information and answers to questions.

We also observed at pharmacies in the US that many of the shelves usually carrying over-the-counter items were practically empty in many cases. In the local pharmacy in Komatipoort, not a single shelf was empty with substantial supplies of most things. Apparently, the supply chain for many pharmaceutical products was severely impacted in the US due to the pandemic.

Also, when we stopped at various grocery stores for a few items as recently as November, there were also numerous empty shelves. Also, “help wanted” signs were at every store and restaurant, both eat-in and carry-out. We’ve yet to see a “help wanted” sign at any of these locations in South Africa.

This isn’t to say that the US or South Africa have figured out anything that makes them better or worse in these challenging economic times. But, what’s the deal with this? We try to stay on top of economic news throughout the world to provide us with a better understanding of countries we’d like to visit in the future.

Yesterday in my prescription refill order, Doc Theo had prescribed two Epipens, one for me and one for Tom, since both of us are allergic to certain bees, hornets, and wasps. They only had one in stock, but they will order the other for the next time we stop by. Below is the bill with the cost of the one EpiPen which we paid yesterday:

The cost of the EpiPen was ZAR 997.52, US $57.91. See below for the cost of EpiPens in the US.

Here’s a chart from the US on the cost of Epipens for 2023:

Cost of Epinephrine auto-injectors by Pharmacy from this site:

Pharmacy Cost of Brand Name EpiPen Cost of Generic Version
CVS $650 $340
Walgreens $735 $341
Stop n Shop $688 $662
Rite Aid $733 $530
Walmart $684 $320
Duane Reade $688 $341
Wegmans $688 $418
Kroger $730 $389
Price Chopper $688 $750

It’s hard to believe what we paid yesterday, ZAR 997.52, US $57.91 for the exact brand name product. Also, the pharmacist explained he’d be able to provide enough meds, based on the fact none of them are ‘scheduled” narcotics, for the year we’ll be out of South Africa, with a one-year prescription from Doc Theo. Then, I won’t have to worry about finding a doctor to prescribe my few medications while we are away.

Hmm…there are numerous financial benefits to spending time in South Africa and other African countries with similar pricing and policies. Some countries don’t require a prescription for any medications which we have discovered along the way.

There’s our news for today, folks. My laptop battery is about to die, so I need to head to the bedroom to recharge it and turn on the fan to cool off a bit in this scorching humid weather.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 25, 2022:

Stringy and Chevy, an impala, are getting along quite well. Usually, the impalas that visit for pellets don’t get close to the veranda. But, Chevy is becoming more comfortable with us sitting at the table. For more photos, please click here.

Redoing inadequate documents…

This male warthog has some seriously huge tusks. It looks like he recently enjoyed cooling off in a water hole.

After feeling satisfied that the majority of the documents required by the law firm were done, yesterday, I received an email from them stating we had to redo several of the documents. For example, the bank statements we’d sent in were screenshots of the main pages. Nope, this wouldn’t do. They wanted the complete bank statements, not just the main information pages, and screenshots wouldn’t do.

I contacted our bank, and they explained how to email the statements when I could not find a single click that would create a complete statement in PDF format. Then, I had to redo the passport bio and visa stamp pages, which weren’t clear enough. It’s not easy to scan passport pages when the passport book doesn’t lay flat, regardless of how hard one may try.

Zebra mom and baby drinking from the pool. Zebras never jump the little fence to drink from the birdbath.

As it turned out, I had to bend the specific pages far back to make them lay as flat as possible. Once I did this, I could get clear flat images of both pages on each of our passports which we’ll need anyway when we apply for new passports once we’re done with the visa extensions and the insurance claim for Tom’s missing bag. It’s too much paperwork at once.

Then, I had to ask Louise to reprint several of the letters required for the country since we’d written the dates wrong. In the US, dates are written, such as today, as 1/24/23. In South Africa and many other parts of the world, they are written as 24/1/23. Old habits die hard. We goofed up on these.

Soon, when Vusi or Zef arrives, they’ll be bringing fresh copies of the original documents to redo and scan, which I sent to Louise to print. Once done with all of these, I’ll send a new email to the law firm with the redone documents, hopefully fulfilling the requirements.

Female kudus stopped by for pellets and drinks from the birdbath.

So far, since the last document email was sent to the insurance company for Tom’s claim, we haven’t heard a word. Hopefully, they don’t require redoing those complicated forms and documents.

After these documents are submitted today, we’ll be heading to Komatipoort to Doc Theo’s office for some refill prescriptions and then off to the pharmacy and Spar for grocery shopping. I expect we’ll be back at the house by 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs or so, ample time for me to prep the food for tonight’s dinner.

Thus, this morning, I am typing fast and furiously to get today’s post completed and uploaded before we leave here at 11:30 am for my noon doctor appointment. It’s great that I don’t have any mysterious medical complaints this time. I am so grateful for this fact.

This was Tiny. We miss him. Each time a giant pig enters the garden, we check out this photo to see if it’s him. No luck so far.

Animal visits have been sparse in the past 24 hours, so we don’t have much in the way of new photos other than the few included here today. Sorry about that. But we’ve been so busy with tasks that it’s been challenging to focus on taking photos in the past few days.

We are anxious to be done with all of this paperwork so we can head to Kruger. Each morning, we think that we may be able to go, but something comes up that prevents us from taking an entire day in the park, usually something that pops up in my email, requiring more work to do.

Sorry, we are rushed today. By tomorrow, we should have some new photos and news to share.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 24, 2022:

It was good to see Broken Horn this morning after he’d had a busy weekend. For more photos, please click here.

Feeling great for the first time in a while…

We assume it is legal to puff on these huge bongs in public places which we saw at Bos when we had dinner last Friday night and again when two guys each had one while we were at the hotel bar in Zambia. We also assume there are no illegal drugs contained therein.

Sure, it’s allergy season in the bush right now, mid-summer, with pollen, dust, and animal dander filling the air. Gosh, I don’t mean to jinx myself by saying so, but right now is the best I’ve felt in a long time. No headache, minimal facial pain, hornet bite resolved, and absolutely nothing hurts.

We both sneeze and get runny noses quite a bit. I tend to get a lot of reactions from insect bites and rashes, but that’s handled reasonably well with frequent use of insect repellent, ridding our area of nests, and paying attention to standing water after significant rains. During dinner each night, Tom sprays the bedroom with Doom. We don’t enter until several hours later. But last night, a juicy bug ran over me, which I squashed into quite a mess with my fingers. Yuck. Tom said, “They always find you!.”

Short Tail has a wound on her right back leg which was dripping blood a week ago but is looking a little better now.

Currently, I am using an over-the-counter nasal spray called Nasonex, which takes several days to kick in, but it works amazingly well once it does. Plus, I still use the twice-a-day nasal rinse at different times than the Nasonex. The combination seems to work well.

By the end of this month, we will have a new system installed in the house that will provide us with electricity during load-shedding. It’s not solar but similar, using a more powerful inverter system with massive batteries that will recharge when we have electricity. This inverter will run the fridges, freezer, lights, fans, and some air-conditioning (enough for a few hours) during load-shedding periods.

Right now, at night during load-shedding, we do fine only using the big fan in our bedroom. Most likely, we won’t tax the system utilizing the air-con when the new inverter is running. The exception to this may be during periods when the heat and humidity are much higher than we’ve experienced lately. The fan has been sufficient so far

Kudus often stop eating to watch workers walking on the road.

Once the temperature reaches 104F, 40C, we may have to use the air-con during outages for a few hours at night, relying upon regular electricity once load-shedding has ended. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to our well-being, especially during periods without water and power.

Last night, Tom sent me a news article stating that load-shedding will be permanent in South Africa, possibly for years. More and more property owners are opting for solar power, which is very expensive to install in an average-sized home, from ZAR 200,000, US $11672 to ZAR 300,000, US $17,495. Not everyone can afford this considerable expense.

Lots of kudus in the garden last night.

Installing the system that we’re getting is still around ZAR 100,000, US $5,829, but the wiring is set up for adding solar in the future, which cuts the cost at a later date. Louise and Danie are hoping to eventually install systems in their rental properties, an eventual must-do with holiday rentals.

Can you imagine how frustrating it is for international tourists excited to take their holiday anywhere in South Africa, let alone the bush, to discover they don’t have power for up to 12 hours a day? In most cases, there would also be no WiFi without an inverter like we’ve had. We’ve been fortunate to have a lesser-powered inverter provide sufficient power to run the router. But many others do not.

Zebras stopped by, including Short Tail.

Holidaymakers from South Africa who come to Marloth Park and other holiday locations are used to load-shedding; for them, it’s not as difficult. But property owners and managers are constantly fielding complaints from renters while the power is out.

Today, we’re staying put, but tomorrow we are off to Komati to see Doc Theo for my refills and grocery shop. Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is getting bare since we haven’t shopped in a few weeks.

May your day be filled with pleasant surprises and harmony.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 23, 2022:

This is Bossy, pregnant and contemplating a drink from the swimming pool. There are only small amounts of chlorine in collections to prevent the wildlife from illness. For more photos, please click here.

What to do next?…Planning for the future…

Norman fluffs up his tail to make himself look larger when there is a Big Daddy kudu nearby. He doesn’t do this when he spots any other animals.

After traveling for over ten years, wherever we choose to visit at this point is of the utmost consideration. There are a few places left on this planet that appeal to us, but our top choices have been accomplished. After seeing enough museums, historic buildings, and churches to satisfy our curiosity all over Europe and other parts of the world, our thirst for nature and wildlife remains at the top of our list.

No, we don’t have a “bucket list,” so to speak. If we did, it might be close to empty by now. We’ve been on hundreds of safaris, including guided and self-driving game drives, and we’ve toured some of the world’s most wildlife-rich national parks. We’ve been to Antarctica, seeing millions of penguins, and other wildlife, toured three national parks in India, blissfully spotting the elusive Bengal tigers, and been blessed to spot the Big Five over and over again in Africa, including at one point, “The Ridiculous Nine.”

As for Africa, we’ve been to no less than ten countries and countless national parks, including the finest, the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti. No, we haven’t been to Uganda or Rwanda to see the gorillas in the wild, and we plan to do that sometime in the future. Without a doubt, there’s much more we can see on the continent, and good health permitting, we will do so in the future.

Bossy, pregnant with yet another calf, laid down in the garden to rest in the shade on a hot day.

We’re interested in returning to South America to the Galapagos Islands, something we’ve somehow missed along the way. We spent over two years in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and many islands in the South Pacific.

We aren’t implying, by any means, that we’ve scoured the world. We haven’t. It would take many more years, if not decades, to say, “we’ve seen everything” we wanted to see. But, at this point and with our current ages and degree of stamina, we must carefully consider what’s next in the itinerary.

We’ve loved, as you know, spending this precious time in South Africa. But, as load-shedding escalates, we wonder how much time we’ll be able to spend here in years to come. If the power grid fails, we’ll be lucky to find a way out of here, as described in yesterday’s post here.

Do we want to return to places we’ve loved, such as Tom’s favorite place, Penguin, Tasmania? Or Costa Rica at that fabulous property in the hills? Or to Kauai, Hawaii, to see the life cycle of the albatross? These are all possibilities for the future.

Impalas stopped by this morning looking for pellets.

But, we figure that now, while our health is good, we should venture out to some new regions, experiencing more cultures, scenery, and wildlife. However, we must never forget that we need to be somewhat near decent medical care if something goes wrong. We know this can happen on a dime!

No, we can’t stay here in Marloth Park for extended periods as we have in the past. Realistically, we’d prefer to move on as we’re doing in June, not only due to the end of our visas for now but for many of these reasons we’ve shared here over the past many months. There’s no doubt we’ll be back in July 2023 when some of our family members are coming to visit, which is so exciting to us. But, next time we return, we won’t stay longer than three to six months.

We don’t feel stressed about making these decisions. We are confident we will choose locations that fulfill our desires and passions. It’s just that, this time, we aren’t planning as far out as we have in the past when so much is changing worldwide, and we must consider how those events impact our future travels.

Moments later, there were several more impalas.

Today, Tom is wrapped up in watching the final football games to determine which teams will go to the Super Bowl in the US. Once the football games are over, we will work on booking for the future and report back here as to our decisions.

Today, I’m cooking a keto beef and broccoli stir fry. Fortunately, there’s no load shedding during the day, but if that changes, cooking on top of the stove won’t be a problem when we can light the gas burners with the lighter.

Have a fantastic day!

Photo from one year ago today, January 22, 2022:

It was 4:00 am when our regular genet appeared in the garden sitting atop a rock observing these two female bushbucks. For more photos, please click here.

Discussions about total failure of power grid in South Africa…Very concerning…Baboons in the garden…

Baboons always have scowls on their faces. Not pretty animals.

Yesterday, the following article popped up on my phone. After reading this, we both wondered, as we have in the past, if there was a total blackout in South Africa and how it would impact us. Our biggest concern would be figuring out a way to leave the country when most likely, the airports would be closed, especially if we couldn’t be online to conduct research for possible flights.

Of course, we could make ourselves stressed by worrying about this possibility, but we have decided to go about our lives, knowing that we’ll be leaving in five months. No doubt, we’d be concerned for the friends we’ll have left behind and how they will function in such a dire situation. It’s beyond our comprehension.

There’s always hope on the horizon, as described in the article below from this site (text copied verbatim):

US Government warning about Eskom — time to think about total grid collapse

The United States Government has advised its stakeholders in South Africa to start thinking about disaster management plans for a total collapse of Eskom’s power grid.

Although a blackout remains unlikely, the risk has increased due to how unreliable Eskom’s coal fleet has become. This is evident by the higher levels of load-shedding South Africa is experiencing. The consequences of a total blackout would also be devastating, making it worth preparing for even if the likelihood is low. The US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) convened a meeting with stakeholders last week to discuss business security concerns surrounding Eskom and load-shedding.

Representatives from several large US-based corporations with operations in South Africa and large local companies participated in the meeting. MyBroadband has viewed a recording of the meeting. After speaking to one of the participants, we learned they were all asked to agree to the Chatham House Rule.

It should be noted MyBroadband was not a party to the agreement. However, we chose not to identify any participants by name to avoid them being punished for speaking their minds. A US Government minerals and energy expert focusing on South Africa said that they are still not very worried about a total blackout.

He was looking for a place to get into some mischief!

“I have a lot of faith in Eskom System Operators. I think they really know what they’re doing,” they said.

“But when you start to get this level of load-shedding, and the amount of power plants that are tripping, I think it’s something we need to start thinking about.”

They said that although a total blackout presents several dangers, the primary threat is the time it takes to bring a system back up from that total collapse.

“Eskom estimates, in the best case scenario, it would take 6–14 days to restart the power grid,” the official said.

South Africa’s grid topology makes a “black start” like this challenging because it’s so spread out and because Eskom is in a power island.

“There are a few feeder lines from other countries, but not enough to help with a black start situation,” the US Government official said.

“To start one unit at Medupi would require a 60-megawatt generator. It’s massive power to get a Medupi unit started.”

Citing an Eskom presentation, they said the power utility believes there would be looting and civil unrest if the grid collapses. They quoted an unnamed individual as saying, “What’s left after a blackout would be what was left after a civil war.”

The official emphasised that Eskom was talking about the ruinous consequences of a blackout to illustrate why load-shedding is critical. Eskom has repeatedly explained that load-shedding is necessary precisely to prevent a total collapse of the grid. Gauteng residents may have an advantage over the rest of the country due to the density of the electricity network in the province. However, the US Government official said Eskom would not confirm how long it would take to bring Pretoria back online after a blackout.

Eskom has publicly stated that it would have to restart the system in islands, beginning with the interior network.

“I think our power in Gauteng would come back faster, but that’s just supposition,” the official said.

Constantly on the lookout for food and being very strong, they’ll overturn and destroy anything they think may provide an opportunity

Network outages, water shortages

Major considerations for organisations developing blackout plans is the eventual failure of South Africa’s telecommunications networks, and water and fuel shortages. The official said Eskom told them in 2021 that mobile sites would be available for 2–4 hours, and to expect telecommunications backbone failure within 8 hours. They acknowledged that this information was old and the backup power situation had likely improved since then.

Based on feedback MyBroadband has received from South Africa’s network operators, fibre networks will be able to operate for some time, provided that data centres and Internet exchange points can remain powered. However, batteries at cellular sites will start running empty after 4–6 hours, severely impacting mobile communications in South Africa.

This baboon didn’t find any opportunities for destruction in our garden.

“Water reserves would be severely impacted. There would be no sewage pumps,” the US Government official warned.

“Data centres and power stations could run out of water.”

While there are 48-hour water guidelines for municipalities, they don’t all have them.

“Liquid fuel would be a challenge for everybody. Eskom would [also] have a hard time getting liquid fuel to their [open-cycle gas turbines],” they said.

All they had done was leave several pits from marula trees and other fruits on the veranda.

The US Government warned attendees that they would be unable to rely on South Africa’s national security structures as they would be stretched too thin. One attendee from a major South African financial institution added to this, saying that any disaster management plan could not rely on the government at all.

“If any mitigation plan has any reliance on the state, you’ve got a very poor mitigation strategy in place,” they said.

All of us here in South Africa continue with a high level of frustration over the ongoing power outages. Right now, as I write this, the power is out, and it’s not during a period of scheduled load-shedding. An outage isn’t scheduled until 1:00 pm, 1300 hrs. After researching online, it appears there is a problem at the “Main sub in Komati. Eskom locals on site, waiting for Eskom people from Nelspruit to assist.”

It could be hours before we have any power today.  Since we got the new clothes dryer over a week ago, we’ve yet to have a single load that can dry fully. We’re back to hanging clothes on the rack. TIA. Life in the bush.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 21, 2022:

Last night, Tom spotted the porcupine at the edge of the veranda. We were shocked when it didn’t run away when we opened the door and the screen, allowing me to take these three photos. What a thrill! For more photos, please click here.

We figured out what bit me…Yikes!!!…Work has begun on visa extentions…

Frightening-looking nest in the laundry area. It’s now gone, gone, gone, thanks to Vusi! What a relief!

This morning when I asked Tom to carry the heavy laundry basket outdoors to the laundry area so I could do a few loads, he returned to the house to tell me to get the camera and be prepared to run. I had no idea what he meant. In those few seconds it took me to get there, I thought it might be a snake or some other exotic creature.

As it turned out, it was a hornet’s nest of some sort, which I’d seen on several occasions but thought it was dead. As I snapped the photo, they started to swarm, and we hightailed out of there as fast as we could. Tom managed to squirt a few shots of Doom but not enough to kill them all.

Vusi just arrived, and he’ll figure it out as he often does. With both of us allergic to bees, we couldn’t take any chances trying to do it ourselves. I know what stung me since I felt the bite in that outdoor laundry area. It had to be a bite from one of those ugly things. Yuck!

Torn Ear stopped by last evening. We hadn’t seen him in a few months. Note his bad right ear.

I am hesitant to go to the laundry area since a few strays may be flying around. I’ve decided to wait a day to go back there, hoping that Vusi’s removal of the nest and spraying of the general area may have driven any strays away. I did get the photo, but it’s blurry, as shown, since my hands weren’t steady when I took the shot. Ugly things, aren’t they?

We realized we needed to be more diligent in checking our surroundings for nests. We’re pretty good about looking for snakes and scorpions but haven’t been as conscientious in looking for nests in ceilings and near baseboards. However, we have inadvertently spotted a few that Vusi or Zef removed.

Tom spotted two nests inside the house on a baseboard a few days ago. This was on the weekend, and we didn’t want to wait for Vusi or Zef to come on Monday. He sprayed the nests thoroughly, waited a while, and then scrapped the nests off of the baseboard. We keep checking the area to see if they returned. So far, so good.

Octomom and her eight piglets. Amazingly, they all stay together day after day. She’s such a good mom.

This morning I received the comprehensive list of documents we need to submit to the law firm to commence the visa extension process. Since I had started compiling a few of the docs already, we had a good start on it. By Monday, after we sign a few documents, Louise will print; we can sign them and then scan them using the handy new scanning app we added to my phone called Mobile Scanner. It’s the best scanner app we’ve ever used in the past.

Tom wrapped up the flight details this morning from MPQ (Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger) to EDI (Edinburgh, Scotland). We got a PDF document from Expedia to submit with our other documents. Also, we must have a booked flight out of South Africa by the time our new visa extensions end, which, if granted, will end on June 8, 2023.

We prefer not to include bank statements, but South Africa’s Immigration requires all requests for extensions to include a recent bank statement illustrating that the applicants have sufficient funds to sustain them during the additional time they spend in the country. Also, the bank statement must show both names of the applicants, or a marriage certificate would be required. Fortunately, our bank accounts show both of our names.

A female zebra stopped by this morning without any companions. Tom thought she looked pregnant.

Once we submit all of these documents and more, we’ll still have more to do, including paying additional fees of about ZAR 1000, each, US $58 which the law firm will process for us. Plus, they will prepare the online application, which we will review later. The total cost for the extension including legal and governmental fees will be about ZAR 24152, US $1400, which is a lot less than flying to Zambia or another non-bordering country to attempt to get another visa stamp.

After an almost two-week hiatus, we’ll return to Jabula for dinner. We’re looking forward to seeing Dawn and Leon and hearing about their holiday in Mozambique and Swaziland over the past eight days. It will be fun to return to our usual weekend dining spot.

We hope all is well with you and your loved ones.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 20, 2022:

The sounds from the Go-Away birds sound like “go away.” For more photos, please click here.

Photos from 10 years ago…Comments from readers regarding yesterday’s whiney post…

Our ship, the Celebrity Century as it went under the Bridge of the Americas, soon to be demolished in 2014 when the new locks open in 2014. A newer bridge, the Centennial Bridge, will be considerably higher to accommodate huge ships.

Note: Today, we’re including photos from ten years ago in January 2013, of our transit through the Panama Canal, for the first time. See the post here.

When our readers read our posts, they often don’t see comments made by other readers on previous posts. Today, we’re sharing two comments posted after yesterday’s post here. When comments are posted at the end of any post, I can review them before posting them, adding our response.

Long ago, we wrote that we don’t care to post negative vitriol, bullying, and “hater-type” comments. Fortunately, over the past ten-plus years, we haven’t received more than a handful of such comments, a few of which we’ve mentioned here anonymously. We may reveal the first name of a commenter but never list last names, email addresses, or personal information.

A container freighter ahead of us in line to enter the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks.

After writing for so many years, we aren’t as sensitive about receiving negative comments. Still, we feel it is important to post comments that may not agree with our lifestyle or how we handle situations. Let’s face it, there’s no rule book on how to live as nomads, although thousands have written books and articles on their personal experiences.

When we read some of these articles and a few books, we found the author’s experiences are very similar to ours. Even recently when we met readers/friends Lisa and Sam (and their friends Karen and Stan, also world travelers), it was ironic how alike our experiences have been, including locations, joyful and meaningful events, and of course, an endless stream of trials and tribulations. Living this life is fantastic, but it, like everyday life, has its ups and downs.

Yes, yesterday’s post was whiney by any standards. I hesitated to take it to the degree I had, but once my fingers started flying over the keyboard, I couldn’t seem to change my attitude sufficiently to take a different turn.

The opening of one of the double set of gates at the locks.

Funny, today it’s even hotter with a high of 104F, 40C with constant high humidity. Yes, we still have all that “paperwork” hanging over our heads that we’re chipping away at bit by bit. But it is a new day, and with that often comes a new attitude and a new sense of getting through it all with grace and ease.

Below are two of the comments we received after uploading yesterday’s post:

  1. Our reader/friend Bob wrote:

“Whining is a much-needed release nothing wrong with it, especially the trial and tribulations you sometimes endure be safe, be happy, be healthy.”

Our response:

Bob, thanks for your support. Wherever one may live in the world, there are challenges. We empathize with all of you in Minnesota and many other states where residents are dealing with excessive amounts of snow, and frigid temperatures, creating hardships and risks for all. Our issues are not unlike yours, just a little different.

Thanks for writing once again.

2. Our reader/friend Karen wrote:

“Come back to the US. Buy an RV and wander Mexico and South America. Might be fun with less hassle.”

Our response:

“Karen, thanks for your input, and we appreciate your comment. Traveling through Mexico is not the safest place at this time, as is the case in many parts of South America as is the case in many countries, including our own US. Also, owning and maintaining an RV does not appeal to us. It’s a different lifestyle than ours. Like everyone else, there are challenges wherever they may live in the world. In our attempt to always “tell it like it is.” Yesterday’s post expressed the frustration that we freely shared with our readers. To pretend that all is ideal during challenging times would be unfair to our readers in painting an unrealistic picture of this nomadic and home-free lifestyle.”

Here I am perched atop our viewing area at the bow of the ship, in air-conditioned comfort. We reserved these excellent seats at 5:15 am!

Avoidance of discomfort and ease of living is impossible regardless of how hard we may try. For example, I apply insect repellent three to four times each day and again before going to bed, and yet, I awoke this morning with no less than 20 new bites, many of which will itch for two or three weeks. The same thing would happen when we lived in Minnesota and spent an evening outdoors in the summer wearing repellent.

Retirees living year-round in Arizona, unable to afford a separate home in a cooler climate in the summer, often experience temperatures much higher than we’re experiencing now. Summer in Nevada, our state of residence, is ultra hot in the summer months, comparable to the temps we have today. No, their humidity doesn’t compare to ours in the bush, but it still feels like stepping into an oven when heading outdoors.

We were exhausted after an early start on the long day of Panama Canal viewing, but joyful and grateful for the experience. All we needed was a good night’s sleep.

Then, we consider that 13% of the world’s population doesn’t have access to electricity. In South Africa, 11% of households don’t have electricity. Load-shedding is not an issue for any of these people. But, then again, it’s all relative. As much as we feel sad for those denied essential utilities, it doesn’t prevent those of us in South Africa, without power as many at 11½ hours a day, from complaining.

Yesterday, the water ran out when Tom was taking a shower. He was unable to wash the soap off his body. The reservoir runs dry when there is lots of load-shedding, as there’s been over the past many months.

Sure, we could spend a small fortune on a motorhome to tour the US. But in that case, we could also run out of water, fuel, WiFi, electricity, and modern conveniences. Plus, the maintenance, repairs, emptying the head, adding water, and frequent driving don’t appeal to us by any means, let alone the added cost of parking at campsites and paying for supplies, fuel, and groceries along the way. Our cost of living in South Africa, compared to an RV lifestyle, is about 60% less.

If our visa extensions are approved, we’ll leave the bush in a mere five months, not to return for about a year.

To sum it up, yes, we may whinge some more over these hot summer months in Africa, getting more bites, dealing with more annoying paperwork, more power and water outages, and whatever else might come our way. But, if we lived in a nice, cool senior high rise in any city in the US, surely we’d find something to whinge about there. Human nature.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 19, 2022:

Vultures, on the lookout, for possible prey for possible carrion. For more photos, please click here.

Whining today…Please bear with me…

This is duiker Derek who visits several times a day.

Note: We couldn’t post more photos today due to a WiFi outage and using my phone’s WiFi as a hotspot.

This morning I spent no less than an hour on the phone with the credit card insurance claim company for our missing bag from November 24. They had sent me several emails requesting more information, such as my relationship with Tom, asking we send in our marriage certificate. Ridiculous!

Why would we carry our marriage certificate with us when we’ve been married for 28 years? Our passports should be all that’s needed to prove we are a married couple. And isn’t that discriminatory to some degree? Would we be unable to file a claim if we weren’t married? Does marital status determine eligibility for anything these days?

With some coercing, I managed to get them to waive that requirement. Next, they insisted on a copy of our homeowner’s insurance policy that may cover the lost bag. How would we have a homeowners insurance policy if we don’t own a house? I’d explained this fact in detail when I filed the claim, but it, too, fell on deaf ears.

Then they wanted proof that Ethiopian Airlines hadn’t already reimbursed us. How do you get evidence that you didn’t get something when they too aren’t responding to our tiny claim, submitted almost two months ago, only allowing for a maximum of US $800 for lost luggage?

Then, they didn’t like the format for which I sent in the 22 receipts via PDF documents. PDF is the universal standard for sending documents by email. How ridiculous is this? I asked what preferred document type she did not know. Oh, good grief.

They are doing everything they can to cause us to give up and not file the claim. We wondered how complicated this process would be for travelers without computer/online experience and no one to help them. Surely, they’d give up in no time at all, saving
the insurance company thousands of dollars in claims each year.

Even as adept as I am in handling this stuff, I was at my wits end this morning, sitting at the dining room table with a fan blowing hot, humid air over me, offering little relief at 92F, 36C with the dew point at 67%, wasps flying in the house with the doors wide open, my eyes itching and nose running from hayfever which I can’t seem to get under control and all the yucky stuff
over the phone, especially when the phone signal keeps going out.

Now, for the past two hours, we’ve had no WiFi signal, and I am typing this post using Notepad, wondering when and if I’ll be able to upload it sometime today. I sent a Whatsapp message to the internet provider, using the pricey WiFi on my phone, but I had to leave it on to get a response from them, costing more money. Hmmm, it’s not my favorite day.

Soon, we’ll receive an email from the law firm with instructions for the online work we need to do to apply for the extension. This requires hours online with one document after another, including bank statements, copies of investments, reason letters explaining why we want to stay, passport-type photos, and on and on. Hopefully, the WiFi will be back soon enough to get
all of these tasks were completed on time.

Last night’s load-shedding lasted from 11:00 pm, 2300 hrs, to 5:30 am, then went off again at 7:00 am until 9:30 am. It got scorching in the bedroom during that long stretch, and I was awake most of that time. I couldn’t do anything on my phone to help the time pass when the WiFi was out most of the night. The internet provider blames the outage on load-shedding when the batteries that supply the lines die.

We could leave if we wanted to, but after the losses we’ve incurred since Covid, we really feel we need to stay here until we plan to go in June. Each month we stay here, we save thousands of dollars since living here is relatively inexpensive. We looked into staying in and around Europe while we waited for our August cruises, but the cost to do so was two to
three times more than what we pay here.

Besides, on regular days, we’re pretty content. If we weren’t, I assure you, we’d leave, regardless of the cost. We can take the heat, humidity, and insects, but when we have that and no power and no WiFi, plus endless hours required to be online for forms and documents, it’s definitely causing me to do some whining today.

This afternoon at 4:00 pm,1600 hrs, the caterer is coming to help us decide on the menu for my upcoming birthday party on February 25. I changed the date from a week earlier since Lousie and Danie are going to Cape Town, returning on the 20th, the actual day of my birthday. But I wanted to accommodate those guests who work during the week and have the party on a Saturday, which works well for most.

Tomorrow is another day and hopefully a little more pleasing to my tastes. Sorry about the whining. Sometimes, life can be challenging for all of us, and a little whining doesn’t hurt anybody.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 18, 2022:

Elephant carrying her trunk on her tusk. Early elephants had tusks, and one idea is that as tusks became longer, it was harder and harder for elephants to get their mouths to the ground to reach the grass. The trunk on their tusk helps them to reach more food and to eat more in a shorter time. For more photos, please click here.

Octomom and her eight piglets…Lots of squeaking…Funny!…

The electrician set up his ladder with the veranda railing supporting it. Scary.

It’s wonderful to see the animals back in our garden. It had been several days since we’d seen Octomom and her eight piglets, and finally, this morning, they returned, much to our delight. They are growing fast, and we can’t imagine how we’ll keep up with pellets for them when they are even bigger. We’re offering treat-sized portions to make them accustomed to small portions. They could easily go through one of our three weekly bags of pellets at 40 kg, 88 pounds each. After all, they are PIGS.

Norman, Nina, and the baby have been stopping by five or six times a day, if not more. At times, they spend hours here. Also, kudus hang around for hours. After we offer some treats, they stay and enjoy the vegetation in the garden, often taking time to lay down and rest, if not actually napping. With the bush lush and green with edible vegetation, we are feeding less overall.

A few minutes later he added a rope tie to secure the ladder to the railing.

Most bush wildlife tends to sleep in short bursts, always instinctively on the lookout for predators. And indeed, there are predators here in Marloth Park, with the current estimate at nine lions, including cubs, and several leopards that have continuously resided in the park. Any of these beautiful animals may become a meal for one of these carnivore predators for themselves and also their young and their mates.

The electrician is here again today, working on installing the wiring for the new inverter system. Right now, the power is off. I had prepared a blueberry pound cake in a large loaf pan for Tom. As soon I put it in the oven the power went off. Immediately, I took it out of the oven before it started baking and placed it in the refrigerator, knowing that cake batter can keep in the fridge for up to 48 hours, if necessary. Surely, we’ll have power sometime today, but load-shedding starts up again in a few hours.

We’d never seen this huge male warthog until this morning. It looks like he’d cooled off in a cement pond or water hole.

I should have known better than to plan to bake anything today with the electrician here and in the heat and humidity. But my mind was elsewhere when I started putting the recipe together. Tom has been enjoying a homemade baked item with his coffee in the morning and, on occasion, at night after dinner.

Since he hasn’t gained weight from these treats and he’s in such good health, I don’t hesitate to bake something for him. He doesn’t snack throughout the day and only eats breakfast and dinner. It would be nice if I could enjoy some of these treats with him, but that’s not going to happen. I miss having sweet treats, and occasionally, I make something low-carb.

We’d thought about going to Kruger today, but with the electrician coming and the need for us to lock up and use the alarm if he left before we returned, it made more sense for us to hang around. Burglaries happen here in Marloth Park by people who wander into the park to wreak havoc. That’s why security companies and alarm systems connected to them are vital for peace of mind.

Octomom’s eight piglets. She was in the bush watching them eat pellets.

Typically, when we hear about a local crime, we discover it is due to the failure of the home’s resident to set the alarm. Some residents and tourists become complacent about securing their alarm systems, and some property owners don’t have any security company associated with their property in an attempt to avoid paying the fees. This is foolhardy when we often hear about crimes perpetrated during such situations.

One night last week, we called our security company in the evening when one of the door alarm devices fell off of the door frame. A security guy came out and fixed the device enabling us to secure the house before we went to bed. If we didn’t have the alarm set, even for one night, I doubt either of us would sleep well.

A Big Daddy stepped in and shared pellets with the piglets, who didn’t give any trouble.

Last night, when we usually stream shows on my laptop, the WiFi went out. Since neither of us reads paper books anymore, and we couldn’t go online, we were left with nothing to do for the remainder of the evening. Last year for my birthday, Rita and Gerhard gave me an external hard drive loaded with 1000 movies. This hard drive has been a huge help on such evenings. We ended up watching a good movie from 2001, Behind Enemy Lines. It was an entertaining movie.

While watching the movie, the WiFi came back on, but we continued watching the movie. Thanks to Rita and Gerhard for giving us this huge resource when WiFi is out, which seems to occur frequently at night, especially lately during the busy holiday season. Last night’s outage was due to excessive load-shedding, which impacted the batteries used to supply WiFi to the area. It’s the “nature of the beast.” TIA…This is Africa.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 17, 2022:

Could these Cape buffalos be a mom and a youngster? For more photos, please click here.