Celebrations aren’t the same right now…We aren’t missing a thing when we have so much to celebrate!…

Check out these mature horns on this Big Daddy kudu!

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Mongoose, who are carnivores, don’t bother with the marulas currently dropping from the trees.

Today, March 7th, is our 24th wedding anniversary. This will be the first year we won’t be making a fuss or dining out to commemorate this special day.  

My goodness, I’m alive! This is cause for celebration! I was in the ICU in hospital on Valentine’s Day, still in ICU on my birthday on the 20th and now recuperating at our holiday home in Marloth Park on our anniversary. Instead, today, we’ll stay in as I continue in my recovery, celebrating Life itself.

Kudus by the veranda steps.

None of this bothers me or makes me feel sad. None of those special dates would have any meaning if my dreadful heart condition hadn’t be discovered by the best doctor on the planet, Dr. Theo Stronkhorst, in Komtipoort, who essentially saved my life.

In hospital, the cardiac, thoracic surgeon, and the cardiologist explained that when I would have had a heart attack which was inevitable at any time, there would be no resuscitating me. With only one working artery, death would have been imminent.  

Kudus were enjoying pellets.

Instead, I’ve been given another shot at life, and today, on our 24th wedding anniversary, I celebrate this second chance with the man of my dreams, my partner, my lover, my best friend, and now my diligent, hard-working, and devoted caregiver. I don’t need a fancy meal or the ambiance of an upscale restaurant to make me feel loved.  

All I need is to be with Tom today, reveling in the gift we’ve been given…more time to be together…more time to travel the world…more time to embrace the wonders of the world around us. For this, we celebrate with indescribable joy.

A Big Daddy was checking out the snacks being offered.

Last night, at happy hour, Kathy, Don Linda, and Ken stopped by for sundowners and celebrated Life with us before they headed out to dinner. It was beautiful to see them all, although I excluded myself from a glass of wine. 

At this point, the thought of a glass of wine or other cocktails makes me feel queasy. I’m sure; once I’m off some of these medications, I’ll be able to enjoy one or two glasses of red wine, now and then. For now, hot or cold tea and diet orange soda are all I can manage to get down.

Three Big Daddies stopped by together.

The conversation was lively and animated as we sat at the big table on the veranda after dark. It seemed like so long ago that we all were together when in fact, it was only on Saturday night, February 9th, that we had dinner together at Jabula to celebrate a good outcome for my upcoming triple bypass surgery. At that point, only three days away.

I easily recall how frightened I was at that time, but I was also comforted by their encouragement, friendship, and love. It was a fun night. We’re planning to replicate that good time, after the fact, next Friday on March 15th, when I plan to attend another dinner at Jabula. This will be my first time out to dinner since the surgery.  I’m so grateful. (Bear with me, I can’t stop saying this).

This morning’s mongoose frenzy.

The four of them took off early this morning for an educational safari adventure studying birds of prey in Kruger National Park. It will feel as if we’re right there with them! I’m hoping to share some of their photos and a little information about these fantastic birds once they start posting photos.

I won’t extol the virtues of my fine husband Tom and bore our readers “ad nauseam” with why I feel so lucky to have been married to him for the past 24 years and together for almost 28 years. Those who’ve been reading our posts over the past seven years (our first post was March 15, 2012) already get it from snippets I’ve included here and there.

Once they devoured the eggs, Tom mixed up. They wait in hopes of more.

Instead, I’ll say, “Happy anniversary, my love. Now we have many more years to enjoy life together.” What more could I ask for? Healing? It’s coming. I feel a tiny bit better each day. Last night my feet didn’t burn during the night. And although I awoke a few times feeling pain and stiffness, I could tell I was on the mend.

Coronary bypass surgery is a big operation.  I have four significant incisions in my body, a broken sternum, and various sites healing after the insertion of tubes.  The three over-foot-long incisions in my legs are painful, making moving and walking as required difficult. The incision in my chest from my collarbone down to my stomach burns, itches, and aches. The inside of my chest, which was wired back together, is painful as it stretches and strives to heal. The pulled muscle in my right chest will take months to heal. 

But…I am alive to celebrate this outstanding marriage and continue our fantastic world journey for as long as possible. 

May good health come your way!

Photo from one year ago today, March 7, 2018:

One year ago: This morning’s first-time visitor to the yard, a wildebeest.  Never once did he look at us or pick up his head for a face photo. But, we were happy to see him anyway! Later, we named him Wildebeest Willie, and he’s been a regular since a year ago. Now he looks into our eyes before eating any pellets. For more, please click here.

Good news…Uplifting with peace of mind…Safari luck prevails…Gratefulness…

Little came looking for me, wondering why I haven’t been sitting outdoors as usual. Oh, Little, you put such a smile on my face.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

These species get along well, especially when there are plenty of pellets to share.

It wasn’t as simple as returning to our bush house and working on my recovery.  There are so many things to handle besides the credits and refunds we’ve been hoping to receive, in part, if at all.

A few items easily fell into place (some of which we mentioned in an earlier post), which includes:

  • The extension of the car rental for another three months until we leave on May 11th: The rental company, a subsidiary of Hertz, agreed to continue the rental until we leave for the same excellent price
  • The coincidental cancellation of a flight by Ethiopian Air for the flight from Nairobi to Santiago Chile resulted in a refund for ZAR 31587, US $2,150. This was a stroke of safari luck for sure. (We’ve yet to receive the refund but are working with Expedia to get this done).
  • A partial refund from Greg Harvey Tours for the photography tour to Kenya for $5000. (We lost over ZAR 142265, US $10,000 on this one)
  • Partial refunds from two cruises we had to cancel.
  • Cancellation without penalty of two hotel stays we’d booked, one for one night, another for seven nights.
No sooner than Tom opened the big doors this morning, these two zebras were waiting to see if there were pellets on the menu.

As time marches on, we see other ways we can save a few dollars here and there.  But, the biggest relief of all came today when the top billing administrator from Mediclinic Nelspruit informed us that our insurance company would pay the claim for approximately ZAR 700000, US $49,204 minus a ZAR 28453, US $2,000, deductible for the cardiac bypass surgery.

Once that’s paid in the next week, then we’ll file the claim for reimbursement to our insurance company for the ZAR 80000, US $5628 for the angiogram and other tests before the surgery, an entirely separate bill, again requiring a ZAR 28453, US $2,000 deductible which we’re happy to pay.  

Suddenly, there were more when the word got out.
The alternative would have been for us to pay, out of pocket, ZAR 842267, US $59,2014, a substantial chunk out of our budget that would have severely impacted plans for the future while we recovered from the unexpected loss of such a huge sum.  
Since we needed to prepare for the eventuality of the insurance company refusing to pay, we had to liquidate some assets (sadly) at their lowest value to put the funds into our checking account to be prepared for the hospital requiring immediate payment.  
A moment later, we had kudus in the garden as well.
We’ll have to bear US tax consequences for taking out this sum and working with our accountant in Nevada to see how this will roll out for the 2019 tax year.  There’s no free ride.
However, we feel the peace of mind and relief that the insurance company will pay the very reasonable hospital bill of ZAR 700000, US $49,204. In the US, the cost of this surgery could have been eight or nine times more than the cost here in South Africa.
Then, of course, Little appeared.
The insurance we have doesn’t provide coverage while we’re in the US.  Had this situation transpired and with the limited coverage offered by Part A Medicare, we could easily have had to pay well over ZAR 1422653, US $100,000.  
The cost per day for the ICU unit in the US typically runs from ZAR 99586, US $7,000, to ZAR 142265, US $10,000 per day.  I spent eight days in ICU in Nelspruit.
The identical five zebras visited off and on all morning.

Need I say, we are relieved beyond words. Not only was my life spared by this horrible situation being discovered during our last few weeks while in South Africa, but we’ve been spared some tough-to-swallow expenses had we been anywhere else in the world.  

This, above all other safari luck experiences, has genuinely been the best of them all.  Sure, I’m still in lots of pain and expect to be so for at least several more weeks, but my spirit is uplifted and hopeful for the future.  

The zebras often get into little scuffles amongst themselves over the pellets.

I do not doubt that I’ll be sufficiently recovered for our May 11th flight to Dublin and the long drive to Connemara, Ireland, where we’ll settle for almost three whole months, picking up where we left off in our worldwide journey, as we continue to share this blissful experience with YOU…all of our worldwide readers.

A few readers have written and asked this question in one form or another: “Did you, at any point during this medical crisis, fear your travel days were over?”

Little likes to eat Frank and the Mrs. birdseed, which we often toss into this area.

The answer from me is straightforward…once I realized I’d survived the surgery, my hopes have escalated each day. On the other hand, Tom, the worrier, has continued to be concerned even as recently as this morning.  

But, with the insurance company paying the bill and these other refunds coming through, soon his mind will be at ease, especially as he sees me improving a little each day.

Kudu and zebras.

Thank God. Thank the Universe. Thank the South African doctors for their expertise. Thank Dr. Theo in the little town of Komatipoort for discovering my condition by going on gut instinct and his deep compassion for his patients.  

In essence, this experience, however painful and frightening, may prove to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Safari luck and gratefulness, a winning combination.

Photo from one year ago today, March 6, 2018:

This was a “tower” or “journey” of the eight giraffes who made their way to the only paved road in Marloth. Note the eighth giraffe is to the far right in this photo. For more photos, please click here.

Checking and rechecking…Errors are to be expected from governmental agencies…Waiving Part B Medicare…

New sprouts on a coffee bean plant.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Although this Flame Tree appears to sprout bananas, these yellow pods are the flower before blooming. It’s a favorite spot for birds that stop for a visit, including another variety of the popular Flycatcher.

Three weeks ago, Tom contacted the Railroad Retirement Board (opposed to Social Security or Medicare) as required for retired railway workers. The intent was to inform them of his intention to waive Part B Medicare which would automatically kick in on his upcoming 65th birthday on December 23rd.

If he didn’t do this, there would be a deduction from his pension on the first of every month in the amount of US $109 (CRC 62,113), which may vary based on certain circumstances. But, unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t provide us with any benefits outside of the US (with a few rare exceptions).

Nor do we purchase the additional “supplemental” insurance to cover that which Medicare doesn’t cover. Please keep in mind. This is a generalization. Individual cases may vary. Please contact Medicare via this link if you have questions.

I was driving along a mountain road.

Many tourists can purchase “trip insurance” when they travel. However, this type of insurance is not available to us on an annualized basis since we don’t go on “trips” per se but are continually moving from one location to another outside of the US.

We’ve spoken to other long-term travelers who’ve stated they have purchased trip-by-trip “trip insurance” to receive the benefits of the more comprehensive coverage than we have on our “major medical” annual policy. For us, this would be an outright fabrication. But, this requires informing the insurance company that we are taking individual trips instead of living outside the US.

The problem with doing this is, if they discover a traveler has been traveling non-stop, they could refuse to pay a considerable claim, leaving the traveler with a monstrous bill to pay out of pocket. So we chose not to “lie” to the insurance company or run this type of risk.

In Costa Rica, many homes are located beyond entrance gates.

Instead, we have less coverage that doesn’t pay for doctor visits, prescriptions, or vision care. In most countries, we’ve found doctor visits usually run under US $100 (CRC 56,985), if not less. This works for us. 

If we needed to visit an emergency room or stay in a hospital, have surgery or treatment, our policy covers 100% of the cost. To date, thank God, we’ve never filed a claim, although we’re well aware it’s entirely possible at some point in the future. 

Our policy provides no coverage while we’re in the US, which leaves us with only Medicare Part A, which covers only a portion of a hospital or emergency visit. However, we choose to take that risk when visiting family rather than pay thousands of dollars per year for coverage in the US we cannot use in other countries. I hope this all makes sense to our readers. 

Arriving at the end of a paved road, we turned around and retraced our tracks.

In any case, we called and asked Railroad Retirement to send us the appropriate form to waive Part B. This is a government agency. They were unable to email us the single-page form. Instead, they stated the only way to receive the blank form was to receive it via snail mail. Go figure.

So, three weeks ago, when our mailing service in Nevada received the snail mail from Railroad Retirement, they scanned it and sent it to us via our file in their system. We printed it on the villa’s printer, and Tom promptly signed it. At that point, we used our portable scanner and sent it back to the mailing service via email. Within 24 hours, the mail service had snail-mailed the signed form to Railroad Retirement. Thus, the envelope would take one or two days to arrive from Nevada to California.

Yesterday, three weeks after the snail mail was sent, we called to see if the waiver was processed with our usual mistrust of any governmental agency and certain other types of businesses. Alas, not surprisingly, they had no record of it. 

With no shoulders on most roads, we’ve had to search for a spot like this when attempting to turn around.

A similar scenario occurred when Tom applied online to renew his Nevada driver’s license. All the documents we’d sent never showed in their email. We’d forwarded them a copy of the email we’d sent with all the records, and still, they explained it was never seen and subsequently never processed. Go figure. Eventually, the second batch of documents resulted in Tom receiving the renewal.

Yesterday, we contacted our mailing service asking them to fax the document to Railroad Retirement, at an expense to us, since Railroad Retirement would allow a fax in this particular case instead of waiting for “another” snail mail. Later in the day, the mailing service notified us to say the fax was sent, and they received a confirmation stating it was received.

On Monday, we’ll call Railroad Retirement again to confirm it’s done. But, of course, one can’t ever be sure without confirmation. Over the past five years of world travel, I can’t possibly describe all of the scenarios when errors have been made in handling our “business-related” transactions. 

This fast-growing tree on the coffee plantation shot up this tall in only a few years.  Variety unknown.

Antiquated systems and incompetency are often the cause of such extra work we experience in handling everything from afar. When one dreams of traveling the world for years to come, it’s always essential to consider handling transactions of any type.

Whether we find PayPal is blocked in a particular country, have forms to be signed for financial matters, or are required to change passwords periodically. In addition, on certain accounts, they require we have a text number to send us a code. 

We don’t have a cell phone contract with access to a US phone number that allows texts other than through Skype or Facebook Messenger for these purposes. Businesses don’t use these mediums for communication. We often have to figure out a frustrating, time-consuming workaround.

Mountains are prevalent in most areas of Costa Rica.

In years to come, this may be easier, but for now, as we continue on our otherwise blissful journey, we remind ourselves we chose this lifestyle, and with it comes several challenges. 

Once such a cumbersome task is re-done or completed, we sit back and smile for a second time, grateful we figured out a solution and get back to swimming in the pool or searching for photo ops.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 20, 2016:

In Bali, the view changed dramatically as the tide rolled in.  For more photos, please click here.

What are the benefits of our international health insurance?…

On a cloudy day, beachgoers still took advantage of local beaches.

We’ve written about international health insurance in past posts. As we acquire more worldwide readers including an increased number of ex-pats and baby boomers retiring and deciding to travel long term, we felt it was time to review this once again, especially in light of yesterday’s annual premium payment.

We paid NZ $5855, US $3745 for the upcoming 12 month period. This insurance doesn’t cover us while in the US. I’m not quite certain, why not, but with little time spent in the US during these past 40 months, with only a few months to be spent in the US upcoming in the summer of 2017, we aren’t worried about it at this juncture.

We drove to Wairau stream to check out the scenery.

Tom will continue to be covered by the health insurance from his prior work until he turns 65 in December 2017. In the interim, we’ve both been covered by this annual ex-pat policy with Healthcare International.

What happened to Medicare for me when I turned 65 almost three years ago? Every US citizen is entitled to Plan A which covers hospitalization in part. See here for details.

Why didn’t we just go with Part A for me?  Simple answer: It doesn’t provide coverage outside the US in most instances. Plus, monthly payment for Plan B is required at NZ $158, US $105.  See here for details. 

Most beaches in this area are rocky, but this popular location is preferred by many surfers and sunbathers.

As a result of this monthly expense, useless in our case, while traveling the world long term, we opted out of Part B by signing a waiver document explaining why we weren’t willing to pay. There are penalties for opting out which will result in a higher premium should we decide to activate it at some point. There again, we aren’t concerned about penalties at this point.

Plus, most Medicare recipients add a “supplemental policy” to cover some deductibles and ancillary costs, here again, an unnecessary expense for us considering none of these would apply to our out-of-the US needs. Had we included these, we’d have been paying as much “out of pocket” annually as we’re currently paying for our annual policy with Healthcare International.

Surfing and kayaking are popular in both New Zealand and Australia.

These drastic measures would not make any sense for those living in the US or US territories where Medicare would pay. Such action is only beneficial for those with very good health who don’t visit doctors frequently, take a lot of medication, and often have medical tests and treatments, since none of these are covered by our current policy.

If we visit a doctor, regardless of the reason, we pay out of pocket as we do for my few prescriptions. Such payments have proven to be approximately 25% of the cost for the same services in the US in most countries as we experienced in our 2015 medical exams and tests in Australia.

This is a first for us, spotting a tractor hauling a boat along the beach.

Our situation is unique and does not apply to most travelers nor to most Medicare recipients in the US. Even those US citizens embarking on a one-year trip outside the US are best to keep their existing insurance (including Medicare Part B and supplement) in place, adding emergency travel insurance as an adjunct.

Our policy with Healthcare International includes coverage for both of us for hospitalization with NZ $3014, US $2000 deductible per hospital stay, emergency evacuation, and bereavement expenses for travel in the event of death of an immediate family member only (sibling, child, parent) covering up to NZ $7536, US $5000 in travel expenses. 

We were intrigued by the stone roof on this oceanfront home.

This benefit is only available for those who are the physical relative of the deceased family member.  In other words, if one of Tom’s family members passes away, the benefit would cover his costs to return to the US, not mine, and so on.

Our decision to choose this type of policy was wrought with considerable research and consideration over an extended period. Each year we’ve researched other options but, to date, this plan makes the most sense for our needs and appears to be the most cost-effective.

  Many homes in New Zealand have metal roofs helping maintain warmth in the cooler winter season reducing heating costs. For the warmer sunny days, as we’ve experienced, it gets hot indoors requiring the opening of screen-less doors and windows.

Of course, when we soon file our taxes for 2015, we must provide “proof of insurance” to avoid paying penalties to the US government. I have a copy in our tax prep file which we’ll soon forward to our accountant along with other pertinent documents.

This can be confusing. Finally, we feel we have a handle on it although it took time to decipher the various options.  If any of our readers have questions, most of the links we’ve provided here will assist you. If you have questions we can answer please post a comment at the bottom of this post and we’ll be happy to answer to the best of our ability and/or provide you with resources to aid in your decision.

Energy efficiency is exercised by most residents in New Zealand from what we’ve seen thus far.

We realize this topic is dry and relatively boring especially for those who aren’t living outside the US for the long term.  For those in other countries, we can only suggest you contact your home insurance, your government-provided insurance, and Healthcare International or another such company. Most likely they’ll be able to assist you based on benefits you may currently have available.

We’re staying in today watching the political caucuses in New Hampshire, USA which is on TV during the day here based on the time difference, although it’s Wednesday here in lovely New Zealand.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 10, 2015:

One year ago, this albatross is sitting on an egg. Both the male and female sit on the nest, the other heading out to sea for food. For more details and map of our location while in Kauai, please click here.

Paying for health insurance from abroad…Signing documents online?…A credit card compromised again!

View from our area.

I love technology. Without it, our lives would be much more complicated. As an example, our health insurance policy’s annual single premium is due on March 1, 2016, and we’re able to sign online and provide credit card information as securely as possible. The ability to sign online has been available for approximately the past 10 years but many have never used it and are hesitant to do so. Today’s post may ease your mind.

Preferring to pay the insurance bill a bit early, this morning I worked on sending the payment. A few days ago we destroyed the credit card that Healthcare International had on file for us when we received a notice that charges were made on the card in Texas, USA.

Country view.

We’d hardly purchased fuel and spent NZ $281, US $186 at a Walmart store in Houston, Texas. Every few days, I check all of our credit cards online to ensure everything is accurate without any suspicious charges.

As it turned out, on a day I hadn’t checked, I received an email from the credit card company inquiring as to suspicious charges on the card. Their files indicate we’re in New Zealand at this time and it was unlikely we’d flown to Houston overnight to shop at Walmart.

We keep “travel notifications” updated for each of the credit cards we use, requiring updating every 60 days. To remind me to do so, I have it marked on my online calendar with a pop-up reminder. When we first began traveling, we were annoyed with having to log the travel notifications on the credit card company’s online site for every country we’ll be visiting over the next 60 days. 

View of downtown New Plymouth.

Now, with our third incident of fraud in the past 40 months, we understand the benefit and necessity of updating these notifications. Also, updating the travel notification prevents a “decline” at the register when the card’s system doesn’t recognize the current location for which the charges are attempted.

In each case, a new card has been sent to us wherever we may be at the time. The credit card company pays the fees to mail it. Since we don’t need the card quickly with other cards we can use in the interim, we don’t incur any overnight shipping fees. 

Credit card companies may charge when a new card is shipped overnight internationally.Thus, we didn’t request an overnight shipment when the fees can easily top NZ $151, US $100. The new card will arrive here at the farm in NZ within three weeks.

Trees along the rocky shore in the town.

When a credit card is compromised, in some cases the credit card company will pick up the fraud when most theft systems charge $1 as a test to see if the card will work. Once that works, the process of making additional illegal charges begins which may result in thousands of dollars in charges.

It’s imperative for the customer to check their charges on a regular basis and report any suspicious charges immediately and report them promptly. If the charges are made in your home country while you’re residing in your home country, these charges are all the more difficult for the credit card company to catch. You may be using the card while on a local weekend away.

For those outside their home country, this is all the more likely to occur when devices are set up at fuel stations, restaurants, shops, and other establishments where one uses a card. 

Lava rock along the shoreline.

Note:  You will not be charged for any of the unauthorized (illegal) charges providing that you notify the company in a timely manner. Waiting months to do so could result in the customer’s responsibility for the charges.

The new “computer chips” offer no protection in avoiding theft. In each case we’ve experienced theft, we always had the card in our possession. Often, it isn’t the physical card that is compromised, only the number

The rocky beach in New Plymouth.

Now, on to our annual health insurance bill…Each year, when the annual premium is due,  Healthcare International (in the UK) has used the credit card on file to pay our bill. 

I’d contacted them by email asking for the last four digits on the card they had on file to pay our premium.  When the email arrived this morning with the information, I realized it was the “stolen” card that had been canceled a few days ago.

Sugarloaf in downtown New Plymouth.

It’s important to avoid sending a credit card number, social security number, or any other pertinent ID information via email without special security measures in place. Email isn’t secure as much as one may assume. Scammers have equipment breezing through email worldwide attempting to “pick up” such information for illegal purposes. 

Luckily modern technology has provided for secure options but only when certain the message you’ve received is valid from the source you requested. This can be tricky. If uncertain, contact the company on an approved phone number and provide the information in that manner.

Mount Taranaki after more snow on a cool day.

Our bill for the upcoming year including air ambulance, major medical, and other benefits is NZ $5855, US $3745. Luckily, this year, Healthcare International provided an app via Adobe ID to securely assist in entering a new credit card number and to be able to accept an online signature. 

Familiar with this app which we’ve used in the past when an online signature is required, I was comfortable using it again to send via a secure link the app easily provided to be sent by email to Healthcare International.

Yesterday, we posted a photo with eight baby alpacas. This morning, we took this photo with nine babies, although there appears to be eight. Can you find the ninth?

It seems as if I’m contradicting myself by sending this information by email. However, Adobe ID is as secure as any other “secure” site but, let’s face it, any website can be compromised and data were stolen. I completed the necessary information and forwarded it to Healthcare International via a “secure” email through their account with Adobe.

The reason I bring up credit card fraud and this insurance bill together is simple. Paying this amount of money using a credit card is safe for the consumer if any fraud is reported promptly. We were not responsible for any portion of the illegal charges on our credit card, nor would we be for future such charges. This gives us peace of mind.

A moment later a head plopped down on a playmate.

Having one’s identity stolen is another entirely different matter which we won’t get into here today.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the benefits of the policy along with any of the negative aspects of buying health insurance while traveling for extended periods when one doesn’t have other health insurance or has limited coverage outside their home country, as is in our case.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2015:

The residents of Hawaiian are very proud of their love and preservation of wildlife and their land.  For more photos, please click here.

How much did we spend out of pocket for all the medical?…Haircut problems for Tom…Figuring it all out, one way or another…

Its amazing how quickly it grows.

Yesterday morning, we both had final appointments with Dr. Konny at Apple Tree Medical in the town of Smithfield near the shopping center. Tom had his physical and according to what Dr. Konny could determine, he’s in excellent health.

He had his blood tests which will arrive by email in a few days. Once those have arrived, we’re done with the doctor. After Tom’s appointment, he headed to the lab located in the medical clinic while she and I reviewed my newly arrive test results.

Much to our delight, all is well. I have a clean bill of health. I must admit now that it’s over that the pain I had in Kauai was not a bladder infection after all. After we arrived here in Australia it started up again. It just wasn’t symptomatic as a bladder infection. 

The justcuts store is located only a few doors from the pharmacy, making it easy to find.

Over a week ago I had a CAT scan in Cairns as the pain had continued for days. We never mentioned the CAT scan here when we felt we should wait until we had results. I was upset about having to have the scan not wanting to pay thousands of dollars for the expensive diagnostic test.

We almost fell over when we paid the bill after the test was completed. It was AUD $365, US $269. As a matter of fact, Dr. Natasha had called four different diagnostic centers while I was with her to find us the best price. I don’t ever recall our doctor making phone calls for “deals” for us! The difference in pricing at various clinics was as much as AUD $1000, USD $738. We couldn’t express enough gratitude!

Keeping in mind we have no insurance to cover this when our insurance only covers hospitalization (hospital stays, surgery, and inpatient services) this was the full price, not a co-pay. I can only imagine the out of pocket cost we’d have incurred for such a service in many other countries.

Tom was reading a book on his phone while awaiting his turn.

Waiting for the results was angst-ridden. I was more worried about how we’d manage if I needed surgery or had a dreaded disease while on the move. One can do a number on oneself imagining the difficulty in these circumstances. But, we both held firm to a relatively positive attitude, and the days passed quickly until we knew the results.

As a result of a surgery over 20 years ago, I had adhesions in the left groin area (guys, figure that out on your own. Girls get it!) and a possible bit of diverticulitis. The pain from this can come and go and for now, it’s at bay once again. Reducing fiber intake seems to reduce all the pain. So for now, I’m on a low fiber, low carb, grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free, chemical-free diet. Good grief. 

Knowing it’s nothing more serious and not impeding upon any internal organs, it’s not worrisome. Occasional discomfort, I can manage. Worrying is eliminated. What a relief! As for the additional food restrictions, it’s no problem for me. Currently, I’m having low fiber veggies such as mushrooms, onions, leaf lettuce (no more cabbage), and a few others.

Tom’s former haircut gone wild.

As for all the other tests including tests for colon cancer, everything is negative. Now we wait for Tom’s results and we’re home free (literally and figuratively). Later in the week, when we grocery shop we’ll make our dentist appointments with a dentist located by the mall with a beautiful office and modern technology for teeth cleaning.

In the interim, Dr. Konny wrote my prescriptions for six months (all the law in Australia allows) for the few prescriptions I’ve taken for years, having recently eliminated one more due to good health. After the doctor appointments, we dropped off the prescriptions which will be ready by Thursday. With these, I’ll have enough on hand to last for the next 16 months. 

After three doctor appointments for me, one for Tom, multiple blood tests, and the CAT scan we spent a total of USD $$1075, AUD $1458. All that remains is is the cost for the three, six-month prescriptions which surely won’t be over US $200, AUD $271.26. Unreal. In the US, we’d have spent thousands for all of these out of pocket services. Once Tom’s results come in, we’ll report here, anticipating all will be good.

In no time at all, he was done. I particularly watched how Byron cut along the ears and back with which I’d had trouble. I can’t wait to try it again.

We were very happy with the level of medical care and service at Apple Tree Medical. If traveling to this area, one can rest assured they’d be in good hands with this clinic and with these fine doctors, including Drs. Natasha and Dr. Konny.

After the doctor’s office, the stop at the pharmacy, and Tom purchasing a battery for his watch which was a bit pricey at AUD $19.95, USD $14.71, we headed to JustCuts for Tom’s much-needed haircut. Why wasn’t I cutting his hair with our recently purchased hair clippers with the zillion attachments?

Simple answer. When we plugged it into our electrical adapter the noise was earsplitting and it quickly became overheated, approaching burnout. Apparently, these clippers won’t work in some countries but certainly not in Australia. My US purchased flat iron which uses more powers works without a problem. I offered to give him a scissors cut but he refused.

The bottom edge at the back had been tricky for me.  Now, I know how to do it.

The male pharmacist suggested we try his favorite haircutters, JustCuts, located a few doors from the pharmacy in the mall. Walking into the clean, modern, well-equipped hair cutting establishment made us feel we were in good hands. The stylist, Byron, a local guy did a fabulous job giving me tips for when I am able to cut Tom’s hair again. 

After a perfect cut along with an affordable price of US $14.71, AUD $23 we were thrilled. Hopefully, in Fiji, the hair clippers will work. If not, we’ll have to find a new haircutter before we head back to Sydney in January to board the cruise to New Zealand.

After all of our stops after the doctor’s visit including a trip into the grocery store for a few items, we were on our way, out to breakfast. Unfortunately, breakfast was over at the few restaurants we visited and it was too early for lunch.  With rain pelting down and preferring to avoid walking on the beach in the rain, we decided to head back home and go out to eat another day.

When we returned home, I collected all of our medical information and scanned every medical report saving it on our hard drive and the cloud we use, OneDrive, for which we pay a small monthly fee. We have almost one terabyte of data to save in a cloud and thus it requires a small fee for this amount of storage. We use the portable hard drive and the cloud for safekeeping in case our hard drive is ever stolen although I keep it in my possession at all times when we travel. 

Byron was a friendly and competent stylist suggesting a number of areas we plan to visit in the near future.

Tom’s test results will arrive by email by Friday. If all is well, he’ll have no further need to return to the doctor.  Once we receive them, they too will be stored on the hard drive and cloud. 

We’d received a DVD of my CAT scan which we plan to store at our box at the mailing service, along with accumulated receipts and our expired second passports which we no longer need but that I’d like to save as keepsakes. We’ll put together a small package of these items and send them to Nevada before we leave in September. More later on why we no longer need second passports but did when we originally began to travel in 2012.

That’s all the news for today, folks. Thanks for traveling along with us. We hope you enjoy reading the costs we bear along the way. We post them with the intent of informing travelers as to possible costs they may incur in their travels. If any of our readers have specific questions about any travel-related expenses we may not have included, please comment or send an email and we’ll happily respond.

Have a wonderful day!

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

A natural rock formation we discovered on a drive in Madeira. For more photos of that day’s road trip, please click here.

Healthcare while traveling the world…What type of insurance pays abroad?…Check out the precious photo from one year ago!…

A Cattle Egret we spotted while driving.

It’s been a long time since we’ve written about our health insurance, a relatively boring topic as far as I’m concerned. Nonetheless, it’s a topic we must address at least once a year.

A drove along a beach road at low tide.

People we meet often ask about the type of health insurance we have and how it works when we’re traveling the world. Three years ago when we began to plan our travels, we asked these very same questions:

1.  Will Medicare pay for my medical expenses while aboard? NO
2.  Will Tom’s health insurance, still in effect until he’s 65 (he’s 62 now), cover him outside the US? YES
3.  Are any prescriptions covered? NO
4.  Are doctors visits covered? NO FOR EITHER OF US.

Many sunbathers are out on cloudy days.

I’m reminded of these questions this morning when I called the UK from which our travel insurance generates (calling at only $.023 a minute on Skype) to give them a new credit card number (an old card number was stolen and since replaced while we were on the Big Island) instructing them to go ahead and charge the annual US $3462 due at the end of this month for the policy that covers both of us.

Why have coverage for both of us when Tom already has insurance?  His insurance doesn’t include emergency evacuation.  Our combined policy with Healthcare International covers emergency evacuation for both of us and the cost for either of us to travel back to the US in the event of the death of an immediate family member (up to $5000).

Snorkeling on a sunny day.

When I turned 65 in February 2013, I qualified for Medicare and now have a Medicare card for Part A which only covers a portion of major medical. Since Medicare doesn’t pay while outside the US, I waived Part B (via a document to the US govt.) and also the purchase of a supplement. Why pay $250 a month (for Part B and a supplement) for insurance we can’t use while we’re traveling? 

With a plan to be outside the US for years to come, health providing, and with little need for doctor visits at this time (neither of us has visited a doctor in 26 months) it made no sense to pay for anything other than major medical and travel insurance for me.

Each night we wander across the street to check out the whales and the waning sun.

In actuality, Tom is double insured for major medical when he joined me in the policy for the emergency evacuation and family member death features which includes major medical (hospital stays). 

If and when we need to visit a doctor in her/his office, we’ll happily pay out of our pocket when costs in most countries are considerably less than in the US. Many would say this plan is foolhardy. For us and our unique circumstances, it makes the most sense financially and otherwise.

The trek down to the beach across the street from us is treacherous.

Of course, the policy with Healthcare International covers 100% of any hospital stays including surgeries and other procedures if necessary. In other words, as referred to in the US, we have “major medical” coverage, all we feel we need at this time. 

In 10 years, we may feel differently but for now, this plan works for us. It may not work for others, if they frequently visit their doctor for prescriptions and medical checks.

Healthcare International has a wide array of other policies including more comprehensive coverage that includes doctor visits but for us, at this time, it is unnecessary. 

A solitary orange leaf amongst green other leaves.

Tom no longer takes any prescriptions and I take only a few which I purchase online from BBB approved ProgressiveRX buying one year’s worth at a time, paying out of our pocket without the use of any insurance. The total annual cost for these three meds is under US $500, less than we previously paid for co-pays for these same drugs. Go figure.

If any of our readers have further questions regarding our insurance please feel free to click the included links, post a comment at the end of today’s post or ask us a question via our email posted on our site at the top of the page, on the right side. We’ll answer your questions within 24 hours at most.

It’s always easy to find a beach at the end of any road heading in any direction.

This can be a complicated topic. For us, we like to keep it simple, like everything else in our lives when possible.  In all probability, we may be traveling for the remainder of our lives. Should we settle somewhere if health requires, we’ll address the issue at the time. In the interim, while continually on the move, we’re comfortable and at ease with our current solutions.

Today, we’re off for our lunch date at the Westin Hotel in Princeville with Elaine and Richard where we’ll take more photos of the exquisite luxury resort and perhaps of few of ourselves while we languish in delightful conversation with our new friends.

Have a fabulous Friday!

                                            Photo from one year ago today, February 6, 2014:

Its hard to believe it was a year ago that we took this photo of a Vervet Monkey and her baby as they looked down at us while we sat on the veranda at Khaya Umdani. What an amazing start to a day. We love the baby’s super thin pinkish ear which eventually will be close to the head. For more photos from that date, please click here.

Languishing in Paradise…Making a new to-do list…

There’s no free lunch.  No matter where we go, how untangled we strive to be, Life is filled with responsibility. 

Many years ago, my eldest son Richard and I discussed the merits of “living under a palm tree in a tropical climate, weaving baskets.”  At the time, it sounded like an uncomplicated analogy of how simple life could be if one so chose, escaping from the constraints of our everyday living.

Tom and I have had no delusions that traveling the world would be a far cry from escaping responsibility.  With banking, bills to pay, investments to oversee, health and personal property insurance, ongoing tax liabilities, and the time-consuming process of managing one’s household on the road, there was little opportunity to allow one mind’s freedom of letting it all go. 

On top of it all is the time-consuming process of continually planning the next step: airline reservations, hotel bookings, cruise bookings, finding health clubs, arranging transportation, locating Fed Ex offices, and on and on.

Beginning our travels on October 31, 2012, after 10 months of planning, we knew the flow of responsibility would follow us no matter how much we thought we’d prepared in advance. The 10 months were only the tip of the iceberg.

Today, comfortably ensconced at our new location at Laru Beya Resort for the next two-plus months anticipating the move on Sunday into our own condo/villa, reality slaps us in the face that our days of bemoaning our waterless situation are behind us and, it’s time to get back to that which we want and must do.

Here’s what’s on the agenda for the remainder of the month:
1.  Complete our excel spreadsheet with deductions and tax information for our accountant.  We’re almost done when yesterday our tax documents finally arrived via our mail service in Nevada, MailLinkPlus who will snail mail the actual documents to him.

2.  Complete the review and application for my new health insurance policy and both of our Emergency Evacuation policies.  Pay the annual premiums for all of the policies. (Tom still has insurance until age 65).

3.  Apply for visa extension for Belize. We have to take a boat to get to the immigration office on the mainland after finding our way to the boat launch area in Placencia Village.  (I mistakenly thought it was on an island as mentioned in a prior post. Excuse my error).

4.  Arrange for storage of our excess luggage in Miami for one year, while we’re in Europe and Africa.  On April 9th we’ll embark on a cruise from Belize City (midway through the cruise) sailing to Miami, arriving on April 13th at 8:00 am.

We’ll be staying on the same ship, the Carnival Liberty, in order to embark on yet another cruise later in the day.  We’ll disembark the ship in the morning with only our passports and our excess luggage grabbing a cab to go to a Self Storage 3.5 miles from the pier. They will store our bags for $15 a month plus a one time $22 service fee, in a climate-controlled space.

Once we drop off the excess luggage, we’ll have the cab driver take us to a Fed Ex office .6 miles from the storage facility to pick up our XCom Global device. While on this cab ride, we’ll stop at a drugstore to restock a few toiletries and a grocery store to restock our favorite Crystal Lite Iced Tea and our favorite sugar-free chocolate (unheard of here in Belize).

Normally, in the US a six package container of Crystal Lite iced Tea sells for around $3.49. Yesterday, we purchased nine containers priced at $7.75 US each. The owner gave us a discount of 3% for wiping out her entire inventory. Our final cost in Belize was $67.66 US as opposed to $31.41 in the US. 

5.  Order XCom Global MiFi device to take with us over the number of upcoming cruises, having them ship it to the Fed Ex Office near the pier in Miami so we can pick it up the same day we drop off the excess luggage at storage on April 13th, as indicated above.

6.  Apply for visas for Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan from a different online company from the company we had previously used for our second passports (they don’t do visas for the Middle East), using the services of a company suggested by our cruise agent.  Yet to research.

7. Search for cruises to get us from South Africa back to Europe in March 2014, from Europe to Hawaii to meet up with our kids and grandkids in December 2014. The best route we’ve found thus far is from Barcelona to Miami when we’ll pick up our excess bags from storage and then possibly head out on another cruise from Miami to Los Angeles.  

Here’s the deal on the cruise from Barcelona to Miami.  What a great price!  We’ll book this cruise within 24 hours in order to receive the $100 onboard credit offered below.

14 nights departing October 26, 2014 on
Norwegian’s Norwegian Epic
Brochure Inside $899
Our Inside $599
You Save 33%
Brochure Oceanview $1,299
Our Oceanview $829
You Save 36%
Brochure Balcony $1,299
Our Balcony $829
You Save 36%
Brochure Suite $1,699
Our Suite $1,099
You Save 35%
$$$ Two-Day Sale! Book by February 8, 2013 and receive a FREE US$100 per cabin onboard credit on select categories.
Promotions may not be combinable with all fares.
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
Sun Oct 26 Barcelona, Spain 5:00pm
Mon Oct 27 At Sea
Tue Oct 28 At Sea
Wed Oct 29 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 9:00am 6:00pm
Thu Oct 30 At Sea
Fri Oct 31 At Sea
Sat Nov 1 At Sea
Sun Nov 2 At Sea
Mon Nov 3 At Sea
Tue Nov 4 At Sea
Wed Nov 5 St. Maarten 8:00am 6:00pm
Thu Nov 6 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 8:00am 4:00pm
Fri Nov 7 At Sea
Sat Nov 8 At Sea
Sun Nov 9 Miami, FL 8:00am

Once we arrive in Miami, we’ll stay on the Norwegian Epic as it commences another cruise on November 9th, in order to “kill” another week.  Invariably, cruising with the meals included is a lower cost than staying in a hotel and dining out every night plus, its our means of transportation ultimately getting us to the next destination, enjoying each day in the process.

On November 17, 2014, upon completion of the second round on the Epic, we’ll find our way from Miami to Hawaii either by another cruise or by air.  It’s a toss-up:  airfare and where to stay for an extra month in Hawaii which is pricey or cruise and pay more overall saving on the daily rate.  Time will tell.

We’ll post the 2nd cruise which we’re working on right now with our cruise guy, Joaquin at Vacations to Go, embarking on November 9, 2014, once we book it in the next 24 hours. 

Today, we’ll drive the golf cart to Placencia Village to return it, taking a cab back. The cost of the cab is estimated at $10 US.  With no wheels for the next two months, we’re considering what would be the most cost-effective options. We’ll keep you informed.

Also, we found some local adventures we’ll partake in once we get situated in our new home, the LaruBeya villa, and complete some of the above tasks on our new to-do list.  There’s definitely no “free lunch.”

Boots, illness updates and…figuring out our insurance needs…

Oh, the Clark’s boots!  I wanted to keep them so badly that I took them to a long established boot and shoe repair company in Wayzata, Minnesota, Bob’s Shoe Repair.  

Brian, a young, although highly skilled leather craftsmen at Bob’s was confident he could cut out three inches out of the calf of the boot, put them back together leaving me satisfied with the comfort, look and fit.  He succeeded.  Thanks Brian!

I picked them up yesterday and couldn’t be happier. The cost for the repairs: $100.  Total investment in the boots including repairs: $249.   With the promise of a great rating online, I offered the seller of the boots a five star rating, if he’d credit me the $14.95 I paid for shipping.  He immediately posted the credit to my PayPal account.

Why did I deserve a credit for the shipping? The online description of the boots indicated a 14″ calf circumference when in fact, it was 16″ resulting in the necessity of the repair. I would have been satisfied with 14″ circumference. (My outrageously skinny calves measures 12.5″).  Now, I’m beautifully repaired, I’m content.

The sinus infection I reported on two days ago is improving without seeing the doctor or taking antibiotics. The pulsating headache would have driven me to seek help had it not begun to dissipate later in the day yesterday. Today, I awakened with only a slight headache for the first time in eight days. It’s on its way out.  
Thanks, Neti Pot, Aleve, Tylenol PM at night (with acetaminophen and Benedryl), lots of water, less dairy and light activity, coupled with periods of rest, good food and the loving support and comfort from my hubby.  Now, I know I will most likely survive a sinus infection without antibiotics.

In the beginning stages of figuring out our insurance needs, I spent a few hours yesterday with our long time highly competent broker/owner of our local State Farm Insurance office, Chad Babcock.  Having worked with  State Farm for the past 40 years, we have never had a problem.  

Before we begin traveling we must address these three major insurance concerns:
1.  How will we insure our luggage, computers and equipment without the security of homeowners insurance or a permanent home?
2.  Will we be able to buy a policy to avoid the high cost of insurance when renting a car abroad, which may be as high as $30 a day in certain locations?
3.  Medicare doesn’t cover seniors traveling out of the US and its territories. What type of policy will cover me, turning 65 in six months, while out of the country?  

With Chad’s help and a few phone calls later at home, we came up with the following scenarios:
1.  Baggage Insurance:  Once we acquire our Nevada residency and address, we will be able to purchase “renter’s insurance” covering the value of our belongings traveling with us, attaching a “rider” for our computers and digital equipment.  
2. Car Rental Insurance:  Many have the perception that one’s own auto insurance will cover a vehicle and liability while traveling in a foreign country. Not the case!  Plus…we won’t be owning a car here in the US, if it did.  We’ll bite the bullet on this one  We’ll pay the insurance at the time of renting the vehicles throughout the world.
3.  Health Insurance:  Without Medicare, a senior cannot purchase a supplemental policy which usually covers most of the costs Medicare doesn’t pay. Thus, I will be required to apply for Medicare (Tom will have five years until he is 65), pay the monthly fees out of my monthly Social Security in order to receive the supplement.  
Plan A:  The cost of the supplement is $185 a  month at this time along with the required Medicare payment for a monthly total of approximately $285.  The hitch:  traveling out of the country allows a total lifetime benefit of $50,000, rather skimpy.  Our insurance guy gave us a quote for me for $432 a month for full coverage, with no limits but add the approximate $99 a month for Medicare, we’d be paying $531 a month, a huge chunk. Tom, obviously younger than me by five years, will be covered up to 94% with the policy offered to him by his employer plus the necessary supplement until he turns 65.  His total cost (for the next five years), $207 a month.   GRAND TOTAL FOR BOTH:  $738  (Yikes! I hadn’t budgeted for this amount)!

As of this writing, I had a light bulb moment!  Duh??? This is not rocket science!
Let’s look at the realities. Tom with better health than I (as hard as I have fought to win over my genes), rarely visits the doctor.  Would the 80/20 (OK out of the country) company provided policy be sufficient for him, saving us $207 a month on the supplement?  

Plan B:  The only difference is 14% (based on the 80/20 coverage without the supplement, as opposed to 94% coverage with the supplement). Then, we purchase the “big guns” policy for me with a $1000 max-a-year out-of-pocket policy with no limits?  GRAND TOTAL FOR BOTH: $531 a month!! 

The financial risk for me?? None! The financial risk for Tom? We’d have to pay a maximum of 20%. Sure, I did the math, the savings of $207 a month over let’s imagine five years, is $12,420.  If he had a $60,000 medical bill, we’d be even.

For now, until we get our feet wet on this adventure, its worth the risk.  In the meantime, this pays for the insurance on the rental cars.  (If a traveler has an accident in certain foreign countries and doesn’t have insurance, they can be detained until the bill is paid in full.

Tom just returned home.  We discussed the above options A and B and we choose B, freeing up the $207 a month to cover the insurance on the rental vehicles.  (We don’t plan to have a rental car more than half of each month to keep costs down, vital all month in some locations and seldom needed at all in others). 
Of course, all of this could be a moot point when Obamacare kicks in. Not intending to get into politics on this site, this uncertainty faces all of us income earning citizens.  Where will Medicare be in the next few years?  None of us know at this time and, probably won’t be able to figure it out in the future.


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!