Worrisome news about Madagascar and the possibility in South Africa…”Fake news” or reality?…

More than 1,300 cases have now been reported in Madagascar, health chiefs have revealed, as nearby nations have been placed on high alert
This map of Africa illustrates where the high-risk areas for bubonic plague are located. We intend to be in South Africa beginning in February and in Mozambique and other countries to renew our visa status.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Tom’s early morning view of the moon setting on the horizon, taken from the veranda.

When I stumbled across the headline below, we immediately began to research the accuracy and validity of such claims that the eastern coast of Africa would likely fall prey to the ravages of the bubonic plague over the following months. 

With our plan to arrive in South Africa on or about February 10, 2018, that’s only 98 days from today. With the outbreak affecting over 1800 lives on the island of Madagascar, as shown on the above map, of course, this is a concern to us.

Our concerns aren’t necessarily revolving around the time we’ll spend in Kruger National Park or in living in Marloth Park, which is remote and relatively isolated but more so in traveling through busy airports such as in Johannesburg, which is a required stopping point to fly to Mpumalanga/Nelspruit our destination.

Here is the article we first spotted setting the research in motion from this site:

A deadly plague epidemic in Madagascar is now at a ‘crisis point and could reach mainland Africa where it will be ‘difficult to control,’ warns expert as World Bank releases $5M of aid.

  • Cases of the plague have spiraled by 37 percent in less than a week, data shows.
  • The World Health Organization now states that there are 1,801 suspected cases. 
  • At least 127 deaths have been recorded, but experts warn this could also rocket. 
  • The ‘unprecedented’ outbreak has prompted warnings in nine nearby countries
  • World Bank released an extra $5 million (£3.8m) to control the deadly outbreak

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5046017/World-Bank-responds-calls-help-battle-plague.html#ixzz4xTb2JSg9
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

While we’re spending about a year in Africa, we plan to visit various countries to fulfill our goals of many yet-to-be-seen aspects of this vast and fascinating continent. Most likely, this will be the last time we’ll see the continent in our world travels. We still have more “fish to fry.”

A boy covers his mouth as a council worker sprays disinfectant during the clean-up of the market in the Anosibe district, one of the most unsalubrious districts of Antananarivo.
Street scene in Madagascar during the plague.  (Not our photo).

Visiting Africa is not for the faint of heart and maybe more challenging as we age. We’re saving all the less demanding locations in other parts of the world for the distant future, including several cruises we’ll easily enjoy well into our 80’s health providing. 

The research took us in many directions. Finally, we landed at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in the US, which we’ve used on many occasions regarding health conditions in countries throughout the world.

Although we don’t necessarily believe what every governmental agency espouses, we’ve found the CDC less prone to exaggeration, fluff, and fake news. We found this recent article as to what’s transpiring in Madagascar and how it may affect travelers to Africa.

Based on this article by the CDC, at this point, we don’t see a reason to change our plans, although we have decided to purchase face masks to wear while at airports or public areas as we travel through the continent should the plague spread to countries we’re visiting. We’ll buy them today to arrive at our mailing service to be shipped to the hotel in Florida, where we’ll come on November 22nd.

People queue at a pharmacy in downtown Antananarivo, Madagascar to buy protection masks against infections and medicines against plague on Monday, October 2.
Locals outside a pharmacy in Madagascar. (Not our photo).

As we’ve often mentioned in past posts, no country, city, village our countryside in the world is exempt from the risk of one type or another. Whether it’s an infectious disease, crime-related threats, or heinous acts of terrorism, we always proceed with the utmost sensibility and caution, which in itself is no guaranty of safety.

May your day find you safe from harm.

Photo from one year ago today, November 4, 2016:

One year ago today, we stood on our cabin’s veranda awaiting the arrival of this medevac helicopter to transport a heart attack patient from the ship to an appropriate hospital. For more photos, please click here.

Our cell phone’s SIM cards ran out…No more phone calls, maps or data on our phones…Three days and counting…

See below for details on this cactus. I shot all of today’s photos at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, including the blooms on this cactus.

As it turned out, the T-Mobile SIM cards for our phones with calling and data ended a few days ago. At that point, with only four days remaining until we leave the US, we saw no reason to add more calling or data at the cost of $80 for one more month.

As a result, we used our Skype account to make the multiple calls we needed to handle yesterday. With no charge using our Nevada phone number on Skype ($5 a month), we could make all the calls on my computer at no additional cost because all the calls were to toll-free numbers.

Opuntia pinkavae, common name Bulrush Canyon Prickly-pear is a species of cactus that originated in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

When making calls to non-toll-free numbers, we pay a minimal charge of $.023 per minute and can call any phone number, cell phone, or business anywhere in the world. 

If we talk for 60 minutes, the entire cost is $1.38, and fees are subtracted from funds we prepay into the account as needed.  If we run out of funds, Skype reminds us to add more money to the account. Thus, we don’t get a “bill” in the usual sense.
Of course, if we call another Skype account, there’s no per-minute charge. All Skype to Skype calls are free from anywhere in the world. Only the calls directly to cell phone numbers or landlines result in the $.023 per minute rate. (As an aside…if Skype is installed as an app on a smartphone, free calls may be sent and received using the app if both parties are using Skype).

What a lovely spot to stop and enjoy the views.

Without a working SIM card in our phones, we no longer have “maps” or any driving navigation when we’re away from Richard’s home. While inside the house, we can use the house’s Wi-Fi on our phones for a connection. It’s only when we leave that we no longer have a connection.

This may seem complicated for some world travelers who insist on having a cell phone contract. Our rationale? Why pay $100 to $200 per month or more for US phone contracts for both our phones and data when we can purchase SIM cards in any country, never paying more than about $20 a month?

Mountains are surrounding the entire Las Vegas valley.

In reality, who do we need to call? When we don’t have a rental car, we need SIM cards to contact our driver to pick us up and deliver us back to our vacation home or other locations. It’s not as if we’re calling Dominoes for “pizza to go” or calling family and friends talking for extended periods. We save those conversations for free Skype-to-Skype calls or when using our $5 a month Skype phone number to call phones at $1.38 an hour.

If Tom and I separate for a few hours while we are shopping or run an errand, we can call one another on our respective phones using the appropriate SIM cards installed. 

There’s nothing quite as stunning as water and mountains to create an astounding scene.

Also, we’ve found that using SIM cards prevents us from potentially spending huge sums when calling friends and family members from our phones while utilizing a cell phone contract or using data on our phones. It causes us to be mindful of how we use our SIM cards and how easily we can chat with anyone from our computers.

In most cases, we have a decent Wi-Fi signal that allows for an apparent conversation. In most cases, we find the person to whom we’re speaking having signal issues when they’re out of range, not us. 

Who knew the desert so close to Las Vegas could be so beautiful?

For example, I tried to speak to my friend Chere last night using our Skype number to her cell number. She and her husband were driving to Wisconsin, and the signal was so poor on her end we had to cut the call short until such a time as she’d be able to get a good signal. Even in the US, cell service is yet to be perfect.

Yesterday, having postponed my visit to sister Susan until today, once I upload this post, I took off on a few errands, one to pick up VSL3 Probiotics (in pill form) when a kindly pharmacist at a Smith’s Market agreed to special order them for me. 

I prefer the powdered product, which has a much larger number of bacteria at 450 billion, but he could not get this high dose in the US (on this over-the-counter product) compared to the pills at a paltry 120 billion. Based on this dose, I’ll take a minimum of two capsules per day. 

These two Mallards found rocks on which to stand close to each other.

I have enough pills in my possession to last for the next four months with my current supply. Once we’re settled in Costa Rica, I’ll check and see if I can find more for when we head to Africa in less than seven months. Certain products aren’t available in some countries.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow with more.  Today, I’ll say goodbye to my dear sister Susan which no doubt will be emotional. Tonight, we’re heading out to a movie and dinner on the Las Vegas Strip with Richard and friends, our final night out on “the town.” 

Enjoy your evening wherever you may be! We’ll be thinking of you!

Photo from one year ago today, July 28, 2016:

Check out the size of the fish and steak portions from the groceries we purchased in Phuket, Thailand, at a warehouse-type market. The brats in the bottom right of the photo are gluten, grain, and sugar-free.  Using this app to convert the Thai baht (THB) to 3,803.25, we discovered we’d only spent US $109.38 for all this!  In the US, this much food would have been at least twice as much. For more details, please click here.

Health concerns for travelers of any age…Questions and answers applicable to all…

Sunday’s sunset from Jeri and Hans’ third-floor veranda, the last rain-free day.

The following comments are not intended in any manner to substitute for professional medical advice. This post is entirely based on our personal travel experiences regarding preparedness in the event of medical issues or emergencies.  Please seek the care of your medical professionals in regard to your personal healthcare.

Coupling our interest in health and well being with our worldwide travels has been important to us. Many seniors and younger travelers alike choose to address health concerns before traveling. Many others “wing it” hoping for the best, in many cases a poor decision or, simply a lack of a decision at all.

Checking online over the past almost two years, we have discovered a wealth of resources available that may be of assistance, too many to list here.

We’ve found that researching credible medical sites are crucial, not simply the opinions of a few travelers with a good or bad experience, often seeking a place to vent frustrations and unfortunate experiences.

Some of the questions we had and the answers we’ve discovered that have worked for us, that we’d asked ourselves when planning our world travels include and on an ongoing basis:

  • Will we get intestinal distress from eating uncooked fruits and vegetables? If so, how does one reduce that risk? Yes, illness is often a result of produce eaten raw. This risk does exist when non-purified water is used to rinse produce, which is then eaten raw, such as lettuce, celery, and fruit. Usually, cooking vegetables destroy most of the bacteria. We rinse all of our produce in a bowl of purified water, replacing the water as needed. Always remain mindful of cross-contamination of washed and unwashed produce. We washed all of our produce immediately before placing it in the refrigerator.  This may reduce shelf life, but our “shelf life” is more important.
  • Is it safe to drink the water? Before we arrive at each location we research to determine if the water is safe to drink.If not, we arrange for the property owner to have a several-day supply of purified water awaiting us to ensure we have ample time to get to a grocery store.
  • What about brushing our teeth? This is often a cause of illness. We keep small bottles of purified water in the bathroom for wetting the brush, rinsing our mouths after brushing and rinsing our toothbrushes. Daily, we brush with baking soda and then do a full 20-minute coconut oil gargle which kills bacteria in the mouth, spitting it out when done. Once a week we disinfect our toothbrushes (and my contact lens case) in hot boiled purified water.
  • What happens if get water into our mouths while taking a shower? Immediately, spit it out and promptly rinse the mouth with mouthwash, and brush our teeth following the above process using purified bottled water.
  • Can water be boiled to become safe to use? We don’t recommend this process. Considerable bacteria may remain if the water is not boiled long enough, 15 to 20 minutes, or more. This would only be done in the case of a dire emergency.
  • What about washing dishes?  Ideally, we could use purified water to wash dishes.  Unfortunately, the cost of bottled water is prohibitive and if done properly this isn’t necessary. Wash and rinse dishes, pans, and flatware in the hottest cleanest soapy water your hands can take. Drain on a clean cloth. Wipe dishes dry with another clean towel and leave out, not stacked, to further dry on the clean counter to ensure that no water molecules remain.  Wash your hand before handling dishes which we each do so often it’s ridiculous.
  • Do we need to take malaria pills or other prophylactic medications while traveling? Taking pills for the prevention of malaria depends on the location of your travels. Check with your local travel clinic for detailed maps and information for every country in the world. Other prophylactic medication? For us, we take a Bifidus Probiotic  (30 billion CFU minimum) supplement daily to keep the balance of good bacteria in the gut.  These may be purchased online or at any quality health store.  Research for a quality brand, most of which require refrigeration for freshness.  We have been taking multiple individual supplements for years.
  • What do we do if our luggage is lost or stolen containing all of our daily medications? Do we need to bring along copies of our current prescriptions, written letter explaining the use of medical syringes, if applicable, etc.? Yes! Yes! Yes! We have copies of all of our prescriptions and a doctor’s letter listing all of the supplements we use. Even so, we had trouble boarding a Carnival Ship in Belize (see the posts of April 9th and 10th, 2013 for details of our ordeal).  Also, we carry several Epipen syringes, in the event, we have an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to stings from insects or other substances, including a doctor’s letter of authorization.
  • Will our insurance pay if we become ill?  Do we need to purchase emergency evacuation insurance?  Is it costly? Every policy is different.  Check with your policy benefit well in advance of travel to determine what will or won’t be paid. Generally, Medicare usually doesn’t pay outside the US, but check on your supplemental policy’s terms and conditions.  Emergency Evacuation insurance is a must if you’re traveling outside your home country unless your regular policy provides this coverage. Check for specific details well in advance of travel.  On its own, emergency evacuation insurance usually is US $200 to US $300 per person for a two-week vacation. Keep in mind, that “travel insurance” and “emergency evacuation insurance may be entirely different from one another; one if in case of cancellation on non-refundable fares, etc. and, the other is for medical purposes. A few policies have both features combined. Check carefully for details.
  • Do we need vaccinations to travel abroad?  Again, check with your local travel clinic, a highly valuable resource when planning a trip abroad.  Countries in Africa may require proof of vaccination for Yellow Fever and other communicable diseases.  We keep a copy of our entire vaccination record (we had around 18 separate vaccinations) on the inside flap of our passport holders. We haven’t been asked to produce these records yet , but entry into a country can be refused if not provided.
  • How much in advance must we plan for the vaccinations? We both began the vaccination process 6 months in advance of our departure from Minnesota.  Many vaccines require waiting periods between boosters.  Many vaccines may be given at one appointment, which is not detrimental to their efficacy.  The question becomes…how will you tolerate multiple vaccines in one appointment? If dubious, space them out as I did with no side effects.  Many vaccines such as Yellow Fever don’t require a booster for 10 years.
  • Did our insurance cover the cost of the vaccinations?  At the time we had the vaccines, both of us were covered under Tom’s policy from work which much to our surprise, paid 100% of the cost.  With the number of vaccines we chose to receive, the total cost would have been over $1500 each.  If you have Medicare or under the new guidelines, this may not be covered. Please check with your company to determine what, if any is now covered.
  • Will the tours and excursions in which we plan to partake fit within the confines of our current physical conditions and limitations?  Most tour operators specific the “difficulty level” of each of their tours and excursions.  However, these are often minimized, leaving participants gasping for air and exhausted or perhaps at severe risk.  Read reviews and comments online at travel websites such as Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor.  These comments are often a better resource of “factual” information as opposed to the sales orientated tour companies and cruise lines.
  • Did we bring along extra prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and supplies, (and hearing aid batteries, if applicable).  What if we lose any of these?  How do we plan to replace them?  We both have our optical prescriptions with us, even if they expire.  In the event of a loss, most prescription eyewear and contacts can be replaced locally or through the mail.  Tom has three pairs of backup prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. I brought along 24 boxes (6 packs) of contact lenses enough to last three years. I do purchase lens solution at a local pharmacy due to the added weight of the bottles which may be difficult to find in some locations (Belize and Italy).
  • If we use any particular medical supplies, what happens if they’re lost or quit working? Although Tom nor I use any particular devices, we suggest bringing a backup in the event of loss or failure.  We do have a thermometer, small blood pressure cuff, emergency suture kit, and emergency dental supplies (dental glue) in the event a crown or filling falls out or dislodges.
  • What over the counter medications did we include? We packed Aleve, Tylenol, Tylenol PM, aspirin, Milk of Magnesia and Benadryl, cortisone cream, antihistamine cream, antibacterial cream, and hydrogen peroxide.
  • What first aid supplies did we bring? Besides the above comments above, we have Bandaids, bandages, sterile gauze pads, sterile gauze wrap, ace bandage, liquid bandage, and Lidocaine patches.
  • Immediately upon arrival,l in a new location, what precautions do we take in the event we become ill or injured? Upon arrival at our new home, we ask the owner/landlord or property manager the location/phone of the best local hospital, medical clinic, physicians, and dentists in the event of any emergency. For example, here in Kenya, we have the phone number of a physician who will make a house call in the event of a non-life-threatening emergency.  Otherwise, there is a hospital within 10 minutes on the main road.

Yes, I know, this stuff is difficult to address. And for many of you who seldom travel it may be boring. But, for those who travel even short distances on a day-long road trip, being away from one’s home base can present challenging health concerns.

Years ago, I was meeting up with a bunch of girlfriends in Mexico for pre-arranged dinner plans. When they hadn’t arrived after a two-hour wait, I tried calling to no response. A day later, I received a call from one of the other friends in the group informing me that the friend had fallen into a hole under a “grate” on the sidewalk resulting in a serious compound fracture of the leg.

The only way to receive quality medical care was to return her to the US immediately.  With her not having emergency evacuation insurance and the requirement of payment in full in advance of the flight with the air ambulance service, the friend had no alternative but to ask family members for their credit card numbers to cover the then cost of US $25,000 when her own card had a US $5000 limit. Can you imagine the stress of returning home facing your own credit card bill, but also that of the cards of family members? That airfare was 30 years ago. Can you imagine how much it would be in this day and age?

This scenario remained stuck in my mind for 2 reasons; one, don’t walk on grates, wooden boards, or any potentially unstable surfaces on roads and sidewalks (in any location). Of course, Tom has adopted this practice also, as we’ve always alerted one another to possible hazards.  And, the second reason, always have an emergency evacuation policy in effect when traveling outside your home country.

Last night, we ventured out to dinner during a massive rainstorm that had started on Monday continuing all the way through today, Wednesday.  As is typical in Diani Beach restaurants, the walk from the taxi drop off area to the restaurant is long and treacherous with uneven steps, many often twice as steep as we’d expect, multiple tripping hazards, slippery surfaces, and the risk of falling tree limbs and coconuts.

Always carrying our LED mini flashlights has proven to be vital to our safety.  Last night, leaving the restaurant in torrential rains and gusty winds, luckily under an umbrella provided by the restaurant, I hung onto Tom for dear life.  If one of us went down, we both were going down. The long, steep outdoor steps were particularly hard to maneuver when their design was inconsistent and there was not a light or handrail at any point.

We both sighed with relief when we found Alfred, our trusty regular taxi driver, waiting for us and quickly jumping out to open the car doors as we handed off the umbrella to the restaurant server who escorted us. We were soaked all the way through to our underwear, but grateful to have made it to the taxi without incident.

No traveler can sit back and make the assumption that they are invincible and exempt from possible injury or illness when traveling.  With all the effort we’ve made, on a few occasions, we’ve fallen prey to unforeseen illness and injury. We can only hope and pray that we’ve exercised more than adequate foresight to guide us through those tough situations.

As they say on a mindless drivel TV show, Big Brother…” expect the unexpected.”  Doing so need not reduce the quality of our experiences or result in needless worrying.  But, preparedness, certainly minimizes the risks enhancing the quality of our experiences.

Dental care traveling the world…What are our options?…

These Brushpicks have been instrumental in reducing tooth decay.

Although this looks too large to fit between teeth, it actually is the size of a toothpick, easily maneuvered in between each tooth providing a clean feeling after each use.

The last time we had our teeth cleaned was in Henderson, Nevada in December, eight months ago. Having always had our teeth cleaned frequently due to a propensity to excessive tartar build-up, I can’t seem to brush my teeth enough to rid myself of the reminder that the time has come.

Up until arriving in Italy, we had a bottle of unrefined organic coconut oil in our possession, used daily, as a 20-minute mouth wash that helped reduce tarter. Having to toss it when packing for our first flight from Dubai to Barcelona in June, I anticipated we’d have no trouble finding coconut oil in Italy.

Not the case. There is no coconut oil in any of the grocery stores we’ve visited thus far and I doubt we’ll be able to find it in Kenya. I need a dentist. 

Looking online I found a dentist in Pescia on Facebook to whom I wrote a message inquiring as to availability and pricing. A half-hour drive from Boveglio, with an appointment prior to grocery shopping, we’d be killing two birds with one stone.

Hopefully, they see my message. If no response within a few days, I’ll call on Skype with Google Translate up and running. Most likely, they don’t speak English.

Fortunately, we both had all of our major dental concerns addressed before we left the US with the final laser cleaning fine-tuning those results. What I’d give right now for that amazing dentist in Henderson, Nevada, a referral from son Richard. We’d immediately made an appointment at Dr.Patrick Simone’s office once we’d arranged to spend Christmas in Henderson, having the best cleaning in our lives.

Oddly, as mentioned in the post of December 20, 2012, his receptionist handed us a giant apple pie as we walked out the door. Tom ate the entire “Costco sized” pie in a few days. Piglet.

Over the past few years, both Tom and I have used these little plastic tooth cleaners we found at CVS Pharmacy and online.  After their regular daily use, our dentist commented on a major improvement in both of our periodontal issues.

Years ago, both of us had to have those awful appointments with the periodontal dentist for extreme cleaning.  Now, using these little sticks, we’ve been able to avoid any further procedures. Making a point of using them after each meal has became an easy habit. With aging, there appear to be more spaces between teeth inviting decay and tarter. 

Also, using baking soda in addition to toothpaste twice a day seems to keep my teeth white, but doesn’t appear to have the ability to reduce the tarter. 

We shall see if we can get a dental appointment before we leave Italy in a month.  If not, there are a few options in Diani Beach, Kenya that we’ll contact once we arrive.

The day to day concerns we took for granted in the US become challenging as we travel the world. Whether a doctor, a dentist, a haircut, or a grocery store, it becomes far removed from the reality we’ve experienced in the past. 

For us, it becomes a part of the adventure, more living outside the box, stretching ourselves to try “the new” and “the unfamiliar” that which we so much resisted in the past that we now welcome into our future.

Invasion of biting insects…Ouch!

Yesterday afternoon, while chopping and dicing for dinner, I felt two sharp stings only seconds apart on each of my calves.  Startled by the sharp pain, my eyes darted around the kitchen for the nasty culprit(s), dishtowel in hand, ready to snap the life out of the perpetrator. 

Actually, I’ve become quite good at this task since I’ve spent more time in the kitchen with a towel in hand than looking for a fly swatter which is rarely handy at the opportune moment.

With the temperature in the low 90’s with humidity to match, it was impossible to keep the kitchen window shut, hoping for the little breezes that swoop off of the mountains periodically.

Most often having the kitchen window open attracts bees and typical houseflies.  Conscientious about keeping the kitchen clean and free of food debris, we’ve managed to keep the indoor flying insect population at bay.

Not yesterday.  It must have been the barometric pressure.  The horseflies were on a mission to visit me and dine. For some odd reason they seem to be attracted to me, not Tom, who seldom is bitten by anything, other than the relentless no-see-ums in Belize and the mosquitoes in Minnesota, jokingly referred to as the State Bird, when in fact the loon is the State Bird.

Dining in the kitchen last night was not fun, although we had a delicious meal of homemade mozzarella cheese stuffed Italian meatballs, topped with savory marinara sauce with sautéed mushrooms, locally made Parmesano/Reggiano cheeses, a side of grilled eggplant, seasoned with herbs from our own garden and of course, our favorite giant bowl of coleslaw. The locally grown horseflies were in Heaven with the smells wafting through the air.

Not one to wear perfume and scented products (one learns this living in Minnesota) it must be my personal scent that flying and biting insects find appealing. I found this recent article that unfortunately, didn’t provide me with a clue as to why biting insects bite me.  It’s always the same old, same old, as I sit here on the veranda with flies buzzing my head as I write this, Tom within four feet of me, safe from the wrath.

Still waiting to hear back from Budget Car Rental about swapping out our “sold” rental car, having canceled our road trip plans, we decided we’d shop for groceries today. With careful meal planning every two weeks, we found ourselves running low on a number of staples. 

Our plan was to enjoy our morning coffee with a light breakfast with a plan to head down the mountains to our favorite market in Pescia, Esselunga, almost 30 minutes away. 

Routinely checking our email during coffee time, I sat at the kitchen table, showered and dressed for the day, thoroughly savoring every swallow of fine Italian coffee, topped off with equally fine real cream.

Aware of the possibility that last night’s horseflies may still be in the vicinity along with a few bees that had joined in the festivities, my trusty white dishtowel was on my lap ready to go into action.  Distracted by a noteworthy article that popped up in my Facebook account, I didn’t notice when a flying thing landed on my towel close to my right hand. (I later noticed a smidgen of red sauce on the towel from last night that most likely attracted the creature.

Ouch!  Something bit me so hard on the pad of my palm that I literally jumped out of the kitchen chair, swatting wildly with the towel. Immediately, my hand began to swell. Our concern; not the pain, the swelling, or the redness, but was it a wasp or hornet sting that, with the intensity of the pain, set us on a path of response?

Both Tom and I are dangerously allergic to bees (used as a catchall phrase for certain flying stinging things). Last time either of us had been stung, we ended us in an emergency room, receiving Epinephrine and Cortisone injections, antihistamines, and ice packs for days.

Based on the intensity of the sting, I had no alternative but to assume it was a bee sting and react accordingly.  Of course, as we’ve mentioned before, we have several EpiPen in our medical kit in the event of such an occurrence.

Overreacting is pointless but a solid plan in place that we had previously rehearsed immediately went into action. Here were the steps we took:

1.  Immediately, I put a Benedryl tablet under my tongue for rapid absorption.
2.  Grabbed the EpiPen, reread the instructions, and placed it in my jeans pocket in the provided case. Is breathing compromised?  If so, use the EpiPen before completing the following.
3.  Used a credit card to wipe off any excess venom and stinger.
4.  Washed my hand in warm soapy water,
5.  Checked the bathroom mirror for any redness around my throat, chest, and groin area, all of which, for both Tom and I, were the bodily areas to react within minutes, besides the site of the sting.
5.  Made an icepack, promptly placing it on the affected area of my hand.
6.  Put on shoes, grab wallet and ID, more Benedryl, EpiPen, ice pack, and towel and head out the door.

Please keep in mind, the above is what we will do. Please consult your physician for instructions appropriate for you and your family members. 

Our plan was simple.  We’d drive toward Pescia where the grocery store is located along with the closest hospital to Boveglio. Normally, if there is a reaction to a bee sting it is within minutes, not hours.  It would take us a half hour to arrive at the hospital. 

With the actual use of the EpiPen, it is highly recommended that the patient immediately receive medical care.  This is a life-threatening occurrence for many people such as us, with proper medical care subsequent to the injection vital to ensure against further possible consequences. 

If there was no swelling of my throat, no systemic rash, and no massive swelling at the site of the sting, most likely it wasn’t a bee sting but a horsefly.  As we traveled down the mountain with no further reaction, Tom driving quickly but safely on the multitude of hairpin turns, I became convinced that it wasn’t a bee sting.

By the time we drove into the Esselunga grocery store parking lot, one euro was in my hand to pay for our grocery cart, my smartphone was in the other hand with our grocery store app loaded with two week’s of grocery items, and I was feeling fine.  We’d made it in 27 minutes, a good trial run.

Although a little sleepy from the Benedryl, I was ready to shop, leaving Tom in the car to read a book on his smartphone while he’d wait for an hour and fifteen minutes to come to find me. With not a word in English in the entire store, my former one hour shopping time had turned into almost two when we came to Tuscany.

In the past, getting a horsefly bite would result in a badly swollen and inflamed appendage or body part. Not the case today.  Although the now three bites (the two calf bites and the hand bite) are itching like crazy, I’m happy as a clam to having been spared.

As I write this now, I’ve moved inside to our bedroom, the totally bug-free zone where we never open the windows, use a floor stand fan and keep the bedroom door shut around the clock.  Usually, we feel fairly “safe” on the veranda with no flowers or plants nearby but today, after they were “buzzing” around my head, I’d had enough and came indoors.

Soon, back to the kitchen to make dinner, clean dishtowel in hand, I’m ready to snap those flies into oblivion to be able to enjoy another blissful evening of fine food, playing a little Gin, watching a favorite show, and idle chatter with my hubby.

In any case, it was good practice. I doubt Africa will be a bug-free zone! After digging through my suitcase, I found my Permethrin anti-insect long khaki pants, deciding to wear them during dinner. Let’s see how that works!

Windows 8 pluses and minuses…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your day be filled with amazing food, animated conversation and an abundance of love. 

After 18 days as owners of two new lightweight Acer Windows 8, 15.6, 64 bit laptops we’ve had adequate time to determine its flaws and merits as typical, not expert, PC users. (Well, not quite the typical user, as far as time online is concerned in preparation for our upcoming travels).

Back in 1991, Tom and I each had our own over sized desktop computers when we both became obsessed with an online beta game called Netplay, one of the first of its kind at that time.  It took 8 hours to download the game via a phone modem.  Wow, times have changed!

Over the years, we’ve updated our computers every few years, intrigued by the latest software and technology, finding ourselves enjoying their use as a tool to enhance our lives, to learn, to entertain us, to shop, to read aloud to one another, maybe spending more time online than other users.

As we planned our travels, we knew that our two old workhorse Dell Inspiron 17.3″, 7.8 pound laptops, had their day.  Once Microsoft started promoting Windows 8, we decided we had to make the laptops last until the new laptops were available. 

It was a long wait.  My case broke and was held together by a huge plastic clamp.  Tom’s monitor’s light dimmed beyond repair (believe me, I tried) leaving us both chugging away waiting out Windows 8 release date.  Alas, it arrived on the market a week before we left Minnesota. 

We decided to wait to purchase the two new laptops until we arrived in Scottsdale avoiding any concern of a possible hotel room thief along the way.  One day after we arrived, we headed to the local Costco store, credit card in hand, chomping at the bit to get back to our temporary home to begin the process of transferring the data.  Ugh!

Mistake #1:  In order to get a “good deal” of $1658 (including 9.5% Arizona sales tax) buying at Costco, we short-changed ourselves in some ways.  Don’t get me wrong, we love Costco, always have.  

However, buying a computer from Costco resulted in zero in-person technical service, all precipitated by the desire to save a few hundred dollars.  Add a new operating system of which we had zero experience with limited information online, we were in a quandary.

Desperate, a few days later, we attended a free one hour course at the local Microsoft store.  Had we not had a few days to “play around with it” the course would have been way over our heads.  Fortunately, by that point we knew exactly which questions to ask, coming out of the class feeling more at ease.

Mistake #2:  Not purchasing a new data transfer software program or paying $69-$99 to have a professional do the transfers.  The software we brought with us for this task was obsolete for Windows 8.  Yes, we had transferred most of our data to the free 2 G DropBox before we left Minnesota, which we are now transferring to Microsoft’s own new cloud, SkyDrive with 25 G of free storage.

Fortunately, we had brought along the CDs for Microsoft Office and Outlook 2007, which miraculously, we were able to install. We didn’t want to buy Office 2010 when Office 2013 is coming out in February.

Fortunately, we brought along a zip drive, enabling us to transfer all of Outlook files which included all of our communication, rental agreements, receipts and instructions with the owners and managers of the many vacation homes we are renting all over the world.  (I had placed the actual leases in Dropbox).

If I were to say, we each spent about five days setting up our computers, it’s no exaggeration.  Finding support online was difficult with little consistent Windows 8 information available.  This will change quickly.  We were a few weeks ahead of the availability of reliable online guidance. 

Somehow, we figured it all out while swiping our fingers across our “touch screens” trying to maneuver those pesky little tiles.  Somehow, all of our data, contacts, pictures and settings are in place.  Somehow, we’ve learned the zillions of nuances one will only find in Windows 8.

The biggest issue we discovered, using Adobe Flash player, supposedly pre-installed into Internet Explorer 10.  Not the case, with error messages on many websites that require Flash. 

After hours of looking for solutions; patches from Microsoft or new versions of Windows 8, I stumbled across what proved to be a workable download, when several downloads didn’t solve the problem.  (Of course, I uninstalled the non-working version we had but even the uninstall feature had issues). Quickly, I repeated the exact same process that made it work on my laptop, onto Tom’s laptop and it didn’t work!  We had the exact same computers!

Days later, after downloading and re-installing several versions, I finally got Flash to work, enabling Tom to get into his historical documents in Ancestry.com, his favorite site.  At one point, I was so obsessed with finding a solution, I sat here in this not-so-comfy chair, palms sweating, until almost midnight, bound and determined to fix it. 

Lo and behold, a few days later, it stopped working!

The next day, I spent over an hour on the phone with Costco’s technical support in a conference call with a rep from Acer, neither of whom could resolve the issue.

Our laptops are quietly humming along loaded with our stuff, access to our travel files, filled with new apps, mine with little blocks of tiles, categorized by topic, each a single click to what I want to do.  I’m learning to love it, now that the worst is almost over with (the Flash issue remains).

Would we recommend Windows 8?  Yes, tentatively, provided one has professional assistance in transferring data from the old computer, getting Adobe Flash Player working correctly which we have yet to do, attending online or in-person training, and a willingness to spend considerable time learning its unfamiliar commands and hand gestures so unlike former Windows operating systems.

We both have found that the learning and the resulting mental stimulation from acquiring and getting up to speed on the latest technology may ultimately prove to be instrumental in keeping our brains working and perhaps, in keeping us young.  That would be nice. 

We have lots to do today, including going out to Thanksgiving dinner at The Wandering Horse Buffet at The Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale. 

After dinner, perhaps another hour long walk to walk off the meal, as we did yesterday perusing past the 100’s of art galleries in the art district in our neighborhood. I told you, “He’d walk!” 

Have a happy day!

P.S.  Since writing this post this morning, I have found a solution for Flash Player.  Actually Internet Explorer is supposed to be pre-installed with Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player.  In both of our computers, it was non-functioning.
1.  Download the patch at this Microsoft site:  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2770041
2.  Open Internet Explorer on the DESKTOP, not the TILES START SCREEN. In the upper right hand corner is a little gear (settings), click on this and then click on Manage add-ons. 
3.  In the middle of the box that appears, click on Show and select ALL add-ons.  Scroll down the right inside of the box and find Shockwave Flash
4.  Double click on Shockwave until a box appears.  Check ALLOW ALL WEBSITES.  This should do it.

That fix worked on our Windows 8 computers.  We now both have working Adobe Flash Players  Hopefully, it will work for you.  If you have trouble, feel free to comment here or email me and I will gladly respond promptly.

I don’t profess to be a Windows 8 expert, but with the lack of “free” tech support that knew how to solve this problem, we had no choice than to figure it out on our own. 

Now have a happy Thanksgiving day!  With both of our computers in full function mode, we sure will!

First aid in the world…

Soon it will be too late to order any further supplies for our journey.  Many items (always new, unopened and unused) come from all over the world often requiring four to six weeks delivery time.  

As of this coming upcoming Wednesday, we’ll leave Minnesota on Halloween, in exactly six weeks. We won’t be able to conveniently receive packages after we leave. (More on receiving mail next month).

As a result of these time constraints, my thoughts went into full gear, reviewing every item we are packing in addition to our completed wardrobes, to analyze if there are any items we may need.

A month ago while cleaning cupboards and drawers, I started gathering first aid items, creating a homemade “kit” placing everything in a sturdy plastic bag: Band-aids, sterile pads and gauze, antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide, liquid bandage, ace bandage, knee supporter, shoulder sling, temporary ice packs and a heating pad.  

Let’s face it, those of us folks over 60 may have aches and pains from time to time. Adding some Aleve, Tylenol, and Motrin to our kit made it feel complete.  

The first aid kit securely packed in an orange Antler bag, (we paid $111 each a few months ago. Note price increase), I felt confident that any additional items we may need most likely could be purchased at any nearby grocery store or pharmacy.  

Why bring all of these items when we could purchase them in any country? Simply for economic reasons. While living in the 17th century renovated farmhouse in Tuscany all next summer we’ll be renting a car from time to time.  
Daily, we’ll walk to the open market for items for dinner, a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine. Perhaps once a week, we’ll rent a car for a day or two to drive the five miles to a grocery store, take a drive to explore the area and dine at a recommended restaurant.  

Upon returning the rental car, we’ll travel on foot until the next week, perhaps going on a local daily four mile walking tour of historical homes and buildings.

Cooking dinner with the farm fresh ingredients, let’s say I cut my finger, not requiring stitches, a common occurrence in our kitchen. The first aid kit prevents the cost of a cab, the inflated price at the pharmacy for supplies and, peace of mind.  

The achy knee, the pinched shoulder, so familiar in our day-to-day lives, are easily treated at home with our own supplies and over-the-counter products.  

With one third of our time on cruises during the first five months, these items may come in handy.  Have you ever seen a final bill on a cruise after a trip to the medical clinic for a minor injury?  A cut finger, antibiotic cream and a bandage  from a visit with the nurse or doctor, may result in a $300 bill. That’s one expensive Band-aid!

Over the past month additional thoughts for preparedness of the kit kept popping into my mind eventually driving me back to Amazon.com.  

Here are the items we added to the kit. (Amazon prevents easy “copy and paste” features of their items.  Please excuse the formatting).

Recapit No Mix Cement, Maximum Strength, 1 g.
Imagine the benefit of having this product hand when hesitant to see a dentist in a remote area!

Dental Tarter Scraper and Remover Set, SS

by Osung

Price: $43.95
Sale: $31.95
You Save: $12.00 (27%)
Dental Tarter Scraper and Remover Set, SS
With the help of an online training program
we’ll learn how to perform basis teeth cleaning procedures until our next dental appointment.


Recapit No Mix Cement, Maximum Strength, 1 g.

Price: $4.65 ($2.91 / oz)
3M Steri Strip Skin Closures 1/4'' X 3'' - 10 Packages of 3
Imagine the benefit of having this product on hand
when cut is deep but not requiring stitches.

3M Steri Strip Skin Closures 1/4” X 3” – 10 Packages of 3 By STERI
4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (33 customer reviews) | Like

Price: $6.75


Certainly, most doctors or dentists would cringe at our planned self-treatment.  We understand the risks.  Our goal will always be to put safety first, never taking outrageous risks with our lives of limbs.

Part of the magic of our adventure is to go where we want to go, that is safe for travelers; when we want to go, within the confines of our rental agreements and transportation schedules; continue on as long as we mutually desire, and for as long as our health allows.

Freedom…with certain reasonable constraints.  Nonetheless…freedom. 

Sick abroad…What wll we do?

The dreaded Neti Pot!

Last Tuesday during the night, I wandered in and out of fitful sleep with my head pounding.  I never get a headache!

Dragging myself out of bed, choosing to ignore the heavy feeling in my head, I went about my day knowing something just wasn’t right.  This feeling continued all week long alleviated to a degree with various attempts: Tylenol, Motrin, and Aleve.  

Saturday morning, awakening with the worse headache yet, now with a stuffy sensation in my nose and head, I realized I had a sinus infection.  In the past, a sinus infection resulted in an immediate visit to the doctor or urgent care for an antibiotic prescription.  

Every few years in the fall, I’ve developed a sinus infection.  Whether it was due to an allergy from ragweed, prevalent at this time of year, precipitating an infection or merely a coincidence, this is a familiar plight.  Antibiotics always work within 24-48 hours, resulting in an enormous sense of relief.

Everything is different now. After the past two years of retirement and obsessively learning more about health online, we now both feel adamant that antibiotics should only be taken in a life threatening scenario.  

Generally speaking, for me, a sinus infection is not life threatening unless it develops into a more serious respiratory or otherwise infection. It is painful and annoying with pulsating headaches, congestion, sinus pain, trouble bending over and rampant lethargy.  It varies for the individual.  (No intention to offer medical advice here. Please see your medical provider for care.)

Why not give in and take antibiotics, I thought several times while bent over the kitchen sink, Neti Pot in hand, pouring warm salted water into one nostril and then the  other?  Yuck!  This is not fun!  

For us, it’s more than the desire to avoid antibiotics at all costs.  We must learn to cope with the inconvenience of minor ailments that we can easily attend to ourselves.

Many times over the years, I wearily visited the doctor, five days into the achy flu, the dry cough, the flaming sore throat, the sore elbow or the swollen knee, convinced that the ailment was only getting worse.  Leaving his office, prescriptions in hand, I already felt better and wondered why I hadn’t just “waited it out.”  Placebo effect, perhaps?  

Yes, it could be.  If so, why can’t “waiting it out” while taking advantage of home remedies, proven holistic and alternative remedies, plenty of rest, lots of fluids and a light diet provide the same end result?  In some cases it may.

So, here is my first illness since last fall, and I am trying it out.  Motivation?  To prove to myself, that while along the way in our travels when we are living on the island of Madeira, (for example) for three months, 1200 miles from the coast of Lisbon, Portugal that we can be proactive as opposed to reactive when it comes to our health.  

It’s about tolerance, creativity, patience and good sense.  Of course, we will seek medical care wherever we may be, if a situation is serious or life threatening.  I will post here with the results of this “experiment.”

The Neti Pot is calling me. I put it off this morning when I stumbled out of bed, head spinning, promising myself I’d do it at noon.  Well, noon has passed.  Here goes!

Medical woes abroad?…

The uncertainty of the quality of medical care in the many countries we will visit, undoubtedly presents us with cause for concern.  Overall, we are both in relatively good health after working so hard to improve it these past few years.

With our healthful, low carb diet of organic, grass fed meats and produce, exercise (mostly me), reduction in exposure to toxic chemicals in our home, low stress and a happy relationship, we feel we can manage our few complaints easily from afar.

Our doctor will be available via the Internet should we have questions and we’ll be well armed with a wide array of preventive and emergency medications should an illness arise.  In the past almost year, neither of us has had a cold, a virus or illness requiring a trip to the doctor.  

Our recent medical appointments have been for the sole purpose of reviewing our travel medications, receiving our vaccinations and having blood tests with an annual exam thrown in for good measure, all of which showed tremendous improvement from a few years ago.  We are hopeful.

Assuming we don’t get bitten by a snake or warthog, break a leg or have a sudden gall bladder or appendicitis attack, we should be fine. But, of course, we must plan for the possibility of illness in the following manner:

  • Emergency evacuation insurance
  • Supplemental insurance for Jess (Medicare won’t pay for any care out of the US). Only 60 at retirement, Tom will be covered by his regular insurance.  Proof of insurance documents.
  • Prescription processing from afar (as mentioned in prior posts, we’re awaiting a response from our prescription plan as to whether they will provide us with 12 months of prescriptions at a time).
  • Emergency medication for infections, bee stings and/or allergic reactions (EpiPen) and gastrointestinal distress.
  • Copies of all of our immunizations (proof of yellow fever vaccine required with passport upon entry into Kenya).
  • Copies of all of our prescriptions (in the event we are asked during customs inspections or going through security).
  • First aid supplies: Bandages, antibacterial and cortisone creams, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide (small bottles).
  • Over the counter medications.
  • Vitamins/Supplements we currently use.
  • Medical records for both of us (scanning these).
  • Optical needs: extra sets of glasses/prescription sunglasses for Tom,  three years of contact lenses for me. Both of us are yet to have our final optical appointments.
  • Final dental appointments and supplies: Our teeth will be cleaned two weeks prior to leaving the US, while visiting Las Vegas over Christmas. The past few years, we both had all the crowns done that we’d needed.  
  • Copies of our living wills and legal designation for medical advocacy in the event of an emergency.
A neat stack of medical forms and documents sits on our kitchen table with Post-it notes reminding me to complete the above tasks on the appropriate dates.  
This Saturday is the free shredding event.  After going through every file  folder, cabinet, drawer and piece of paper in our entire home, we are ready for the event.  No words can describe the freedom we feel from unburdening our lives with paper.  
Other than the required medical documents, passports and  travel documents we’ll need to have on hand, we’ll leave a “paperful” life behind us, instead relying on the latest technology to provide us access as needed.  Yeah for technology!  Without it, planning for this adventure would be more of a headache than it already is!