Attempting to avoid “whinging”…A tiny annoyance…

Ants carrying off a dead gecko.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Last night’s sunset.

Chere Bork, a dear friend of mine from Minnesota with whom I’ve stayed in touch by email on almost a daily basis over these past 44 months of travel, reads our daily posts reveling in our travels along with us. 

As a busy and much sought-after full-time registered dietician, national speaker, life coach, consultant, and blogger, Chere has all-encompassing experience and knowledge in the field of health and well-being. 

Our online conversations are lively and animated not only centered around our mutual beliefs in living a healthy life to the fullest, each with quality of life and husbands/family we love and adore. And, also we share in the challenges we all face regardless of any degree of joy we experience in everyday living.

Dragonfly on our chaise lounge.  These eat mosquitoes. 

Regardless of the gorgeous beaches, exquisite scenery, the interesting worldwide environment we explore and embrace, some days are better than others, some experiences not worth repeating, and others that grip our hearts and minds longing for more.

From time to time, my friend Chere suggests a subject for a story that we take seriously following suit within a few days on her suggestion. Other readers have suggested content through an email or a comment at the end of a post. 

We welcome such suggestions and if befitting our site we look forward to the next opportunity to incorporate their ideas into a post. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and suggestions with us at any time.

Snake run over by a car or motorbike.

A few days ago, after a comment I made to Chere in an email, she suggested I be more explicit on this topic in a story for our readers. “Hogwash,” I said. Our readers don’t want to hear us whine (“whinge” in Aussie or British speak) anymore on this topic.

Chere went on to explain, that our readers may prefer to “Hear it like it is, the good, the bad and the ugly.” And, folks, at times, I’ll admit to avoiding mentioning a lot of the ugly because, a) I’m “overly bubbly” attempting to look on the bright side and, b) We’d prefer our site not to become a deterrent for future renters for our thoughtful landlords and property managers who make every effort to create as perfect an environment as possible during our often lengthy stays.

Chere‘s preferred topic for today? Ants. Yep, ants. Those measly annoying, crawling relentless worldwide buggers…ants. They’re everywhere, especially here in Bali. (We’ve included no photos of ants today. Everyone knows what they look like).

Some type of cocoon we spotted in the ceiling of the cabana. 

Perhaps you aren’t interested in hearing about ants. We had enough ants in Fiji to last a lifetime when on the first night of our arrival, zillions were living in the mattress and bedding.  Yikes! What a night that was!  Read here for details. There have been no ants in the bed in Bali, just everywhere else.

Its not as if we didn’t write about ants earlier.  However, we’ve been avoiding too much discussion on ants since our arrival in Bali, feeling as if our loyal readers may have had their “fill” during our four months in Fiji.

OK, Chere. Here’s our Bali ant story and then we’re done with ants until the next ant-infested society in which we’ll live. For easy reading of Bali ant experiences, I’m listing a few here in bullet points for your perusal, or not, whichever you prefer.  Here goes:

  • Although we don’t cook, nightly I toss our coleslaw salad with dressing I’ve made. When tossing the salad using the cut-up veggies the two Ketuts have prepared, I have to hurry to avoid ants crawling into the bowl. They don’t like cabbage and carrots but they love dressing. While I’m tossing the salad hundreds of ants are running all over the granite countertops. They crawl up my arms.   don’t scream.
  • When showering in the very clean en suite master bath, there are hundreds of ants running up and down the shower walls. Tom can’t see them when he’s showering while not wearing his glasses. I can and I do.   don’t scream.
  • Last night, when I opened my contact lens case there was a red ant inside. I didn’t scream although a little moan escaped my lips. I must have left the lid slightly ajar during the day. That won’t happen again.
  • On numerous occasions, while lounging in the chaises by the pool, it’s not uncommon for either of us to jump up and start brushing hundreds of ants off our legs. They crawl up the legs of the chaises and for some reason love nibbling on dead skin on our legs. Yuck. We don’t scream.
  • Ants on our keyboards and monitors which we clean daily.  They still come to call.
  • Ants crawling up the side of our plates while we’re eating (lots of flies too). Ants on our food. Flies on our food. If there’s more than one ant in on my food, I don’t eat that bite. We no longer comment during these incidences.
  • Red ants crawling around the cabana and the cushions.  Each day, we ask Ribud to spray the area but, by the time we use it in the afternoon after time in the pool, they’re back. 
  • Ribud cleans the pool six days a week. It’s impeccable. By the time we go swimming each day, there are lots of ants gathered along the edges and in the corners. We rescue the drowning grasshoppers but not the ants.

You get the drift, right?  Chere, here’s your ant story. Oh, there’s probably more we can tell but I need to get the disgusting scowl off my face and get back to staring at today’s high surf, blue sky, warm weather, pristine infinity pool, and the cool guy at my side, who for the moment is enjoying an ant-free zone.

We save several grasshoppers from drowning in the pool each day.

May your day not include ants and other such annoyances!

Photo from one year ago today, June 13, 2015:

As we settled into our new home in Trinity Beach, Australia, we were thrilled to see the pool.  For more photos of our first home in Australia, please click here.

Torrential rains and gecko poop…Living on a tropical island minus the grass hut…The simple life…

These colorful flowers are growing close to the house.

It rained so hard, we had to yell to speak. While watching an episode of a favorite show, we had to turn the volume up to the maximum. The roof of this free-standing house is made of tile and the pounding rain made an earsplitting sound. We laughed as we walked about in wonder as to how it could rain so hard and make such noise.

We hadn’t seen rain like this since we began our travels. The closest was a few storms in Kenya two years ago. Luckily, the house is high on a hill with no water making its way inside during these downpours. We were able to keep the jalousie windows open during the storm to continue to feel the cooling breezes.

View from the veranda.

The weather in the Fijian Islands is fairly consistent making it an ideal holiday/vacation destination. Right now, we’re at the tail end of the low precipitation season. As long as we and others don’t lose power and resources, we don’t mind the rain.

Last night, the geckos must have sought shelter indoors from the pelting rain when this morning there was no less than 20 white dots of gecko poop scattered on the glass coffee table and floor. Walking around with a damp rag we cleaned up the powdery white residue.

A strip of beach on the way to the village.

Tom worked his way along the house using the ant repellent stick resembling a piece of chalk, scraping it along the baseboards and the kitchen countertops where the wood meets the wall. 

Each time I prepare food, I scrub the counters with hot soapy water before starting and after completing to keep the ants under control. It’s all a part of life in the tropics and we’ve easily gotten into the routine of taking measures to keep our house feeling clean and as free of insects as possible.

Ah, once again, we are able to observe the morphology of a bunch of bananas on this blooming pod, as we’d observed while in Madeira 16 months ago.

It’s a part of living in the tropics. Adapting to the environment in each country we visit is vastly different than our old lives.  Where we are now in Vanua Levu, Fiji, we are in one of the most remote areas we’ve visited to date. And yet, we feel at ease. Experience is a powerful teacher.

With the limited sites to see other than the beautiful natural terrain and vegetation, the fact that we don’t scuba dive or snorkel, our activities will be somewhat limited while living on the island. 

A common monarch butterfly.

With only 14 items listed in TripAdvisor for “things to do” in Savusavu, we anticipate that four will be on our agenda. All other activities appear to revolve around scuba diving. 

But, without scuba diving on our “to do” list, we are happy to be here, living this stress-free life with no traffic, no lines, extraordinary safety (according to the locals) and a level of simplicity we find particularly appealing. 

This is truly the place one would envision “living on a tropical island,” minus the grass hut, instead, living in a modest house overlooking the sea with electricity, running water, wifi (albeit rather slow), and a modicum of creature comforts. The enjoyment level is entirely up to us and so far, with a few glitches behind us, we’re comfortable and feeling stress-free.

A bloom, seen from the veranda.

Of course, I’m concerned we’ll have enough material to share during the simplicity of this life. However, with our weekly trips with Rashnesh to explore the island, taking no less than 100 photos on each occasion, we should be able to hold the interest of many of our loyal readers. Please stay with us sharing your stories, thoughts, and comments along the way.  If you’ve been to Savusavu, please comment and share your experiences.

Twice weekly, we’ll visit the village taking photos along the way. As yet, we hadn’t taken many photos in town, preoccupied with finding the items we needed to round out our stay: food, data, and a few household items. 

Now with a transportation and shopping routine in place, we’ll be able to focus on taking more interesting photos in the village while researching local stories to share.

Lush vegetation and flowers surround the property.

Kenya was the only other country without a TV. With no world news in the background, the sound of TV has been replaced by other sounds causing us to stop to listen several times each hour; the cows mooing, the lamb and goats baahing, the roosters crowing, the birds singing, the geckos chirping and the pleasant sounds of the gentle breeze through the trees. 

During the night, we hear rustling in the trees outside the bedroom window. Mario explained that flying foxes carry on a night. Gosh, how will we get a photo of that?

Perhaps being isolated from world news will prove to be good for us when we both are affected by the horror occurring in many areas of the world. Daily, we both check online, WiFi permitting, to get the highlights researching further if we have a strong enough signal. 

We spotted these same types of enormous palm fronds when we lived in Belize many moons ago.

Our awareness of what’s transpiring throughout the world is important to us as we continue to book vacation homes in various countries. There’s no country that’s free of strife, even in the US with natural disasters and frequent acts of violence. At this point, minimizing our risks by staying away from war-torn countries makes the most sense.

Today, we’re sharing a few outdoor photos we took on sunny days during the week.  We’ll be heading out tomorrow, weather permitting, hoping to be able to take many more photos to share in the upcoming days.

Have a wonderful Saturday or Sunday, wherever you may be!

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

Photo of the indoor pool on the ship we sailed across the ocean, Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas as we worked our way toward Boston. For details, please click here.
Day #171 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Is a donut a fair trade-off?

Adapting to life in a new land with hiccups along the way…

The ferry docked at the edge of the village makes a daily trip to Viti Levu, the largest island in the Fiji chain. It’s an overnight journey, arriving at 4:00 or 5:00 am. Since we’ll spend our last month on that island, we see no reason to take the ferry and will again fly on the commuter plane when it’s time to leave.

We feel compelled to share a story we’d considered not writing to avoid embarrassment for the owners of the property.  However, after careful consideration and the unbelievably fast response from the owner, Mario to resolve the problem, our comments will only enhance the perception of how lucky we are to have Mario as our landlord and how quickly he responded to our needs.

Long ago, for many years, I owned rental properties throughout the Twin Cities. Even Tom had been a landlord for almost six years when he rented his old house after he moved in with me and, prior to daughter Tammy buying the house.

The dock is available for use of boats in this small harbor.

We both realized as landlords that maintenance issues and general problems may not be known to a landlord if they aren’t reported by disgruntled renters living in the property over a period of time. 

Such was the case here in this charming ocean view house we’ve rented for three months in Savusavu, Fiji, an issue unknown to the owner based on no complaints from prior renters. Also, many vacation homes have renters for only a few days at a time.

On the night we arrived, this past Tuesday, we were exhausted from a long 24 hour period of flurried activity with only five hours sleep in between. On three separate flights, overnight in Sydney, hauling our heavy bags and little food, by the time night fell on Tuesday, we were ready for a good night’s sleep. 

As we wandered through the busy local farmer’s market, open daily, it was hard to decide which vendor to choose for our purchases. We purchased the following for FJD $22, USD $10.12: 2 red bell peppers (also called, capsaicin, here); 6 medium-sized aubergine (eggplant); 3 heads cabbage; and 8 large carrots.

Tom usually stays up an hour longer than I do, so I was the first to fall into bed to read the book on my phone to hopefully lull me off to sleep.  As soon as my head hit the pillow in the darkened room, I knew something was wrong. There was an awful, undefinable smell emanating from the pillows and blankets.

It reminded me of a small one would find in blankets that had been stored in a cupboard for many years, never to be used.  I jumped out of bed, turned on the overhead light, and pulled back the covers. In the dim lighting, I couldn’t see a thing. 

Again, I lay back down but found myself having difficulty breathing. Was I feeling anxious due to lack of sleep?  Not one prone to anxiety, I’d felt a bit panicked and confused. I simply could not allow myself to lay on the pillows. 

These are breadfruit often used in curry dishes, popular in Fiji.

No matter what, in the morning we were asking Mario for four new pillows. If we had to, we’d go out and purchase them ourselves. Again, I got out of bed, grabbed a large bath towel from the bathroom, and wrapped it entirely around one pillow, tossing the second pillow on the floor.

Shortly Tom came to bed. I didn’t want to alarm him to have an effect on his quality of sleep but I did ask him if the pillows smelled funny. He said “no” and lay down, quickly falling asleep. From sheer exhaustion and the help of one Tylenol PM, I finally drifted off, sleeping fitfully for a mere four hours, dreaming I was being bitten by bugs. I was.

Jumping out of bed at 5:00 am, I awoke Tom asking if he was OK. He, too, had a bad night, feeling as if something was crawling on him and awoke several times scratching. 

These are the sizes of the aubergine we purchased. These adjoining bowls contain a variety of hot peppers which I’d love to try but Tom doesn’t care for spicy food. 

We turned on the overhead light when daylight had yet to arrive to find zillions of tiny ants crawling all over the sheets, the blanket, and in and about the four pillows. At that point, we expected they were bedbugs. But, they were visible to the naked eye and looked exactly like miniature ants.

Bolting out of the bedroom, I stripped off my nightshirt and dashed under the shower into the hottest water I could stand. How were we going to wash off the hundreds of nibbles these creatures took on our bodies all night long? Tom showered right after me. 

We worried about everything we’d unpacked, our clothes in the closet, our luggage in the corner of the room, everything we owned possibly subject to an infestation of these tiny ants.

These are some type of sweet potato.

Trying not to overreact, as soon as it was a reasonable hour, I sent Mario an email explaining what had transpired. Our thoughts were running wild. Would we have to move out, find a hotel, lose the entire rent we’d paid for three months if we couldn’t live with the situation? 

Our thoughts ran back to the dreadful first seven days of living outside the US in Belize when the little house had no screens and thousands of no-see-ums (sandflies) were in the house biting me and there was running water only a few hours a day. It took us a week to find another property while we lost the entire first month’s rent when the owner refused to return even a portion to us.

Well, within minutes of my email to Mario, he was at the door, worried and concerned for our well being. Within a few hours, the mattress (it’s common in most countries outside the US that beds don’t have box springs) and all the bedding including the pillows were long gone. The bedroom was treated for ants and completely wiped down with vinegar and water. By noon, a new mattress and all-new, never-used bedding were on the bed, beautifully made, awaiting that night’s much-needed rest.

We haven’t seen an ant since and we both slept like babies for no less than eight hours over the past two nights, awakening both mornings back to our old cheerful selves, full of energy and enthusiasm. 

Coconuts peeled of outer shell were readily available in the market.  If we had a machete, we’d buy a coconut for the delicious meat inside.

Yesterday, we’d called our new driver, Ratness, to take us to town for more shopping when we’d done poorly on the day we arrived in our tired condition, unable to think well enough to find items we needed in the sparsely equipped little market.

Prior to visiting the grocery store, the vegetable market, and the meat market, we stopped at the roughly built Vodafone outdoor hut to buy SIM cards, one for the phone so we can call Ratness to arrange outings and another to enhance the slow wifi in the house, typical for this small island. 

When we couldn’t get the data SIM card, for which we purchased 32 gigs for Fiji $110, USD $50 to work in either of our old hot spots, I spent time online figuring out how to use Tom’s phone as a hot spot (router) when mine was already set up as a phone. Finally, I got it to work but the signal is awful. 

Tom will use the equally slow connection in the house while I’ll use the SIM in his phone, preventing us from having to share the poor signals. Next week Mario will be working on improving the quality of the connection to the house. In the interim, we’re only able to post a few photos each day when today it took over an hour to upload what we’ve shown here.

We weren’t certain of the significance of this tower a vendor was creating.

Yesterday, we shopped at a different grocery store, New World IGA, with much better selections to accommodate the remaining items on the list. We headed back to the meat market for more grass-fed meats and spent considerable time in the fabulous all organic farmer’s market which is open all week where we’ll shop for produce in the future as well.

Back at home by 1 pm, I happily put away the groceries, washed veggies, and prepared most of our dinner. It’s a little odd without the news on in the background keeping us abreast of the latest affairs of the world, but we’ve settled into a nice routine, thoroughly enjoying this wonderful little house, its terrific views, and the sounds of nature. 

With daily maid service and laundry, other than cooking and dishes, we have nothing to do but revel in our new lives as we look forward to exploring this gorgeous location.

So far, we’ve been unable to find cream cheese on this island which I often use in making a sauce for some dishes we make. But, I found funny little tinfoil bags of Marscapone I’ll use instead. Improvise. That’s us.

Tomorrow we’ll be back with photos of our new home and surroundings.

Photo from one year ago today, September 11, 2014:

It was raining most of the day on our 4X4 outing in Iceland. At the end of the countryside tour, we drove through Reykjavik to see downtown. For more details, please click here.