A day centered around Ancestry.com…A trip to the mailing service….Whoa!

Drive down a quiet street in Henderson.

Yesterday when Tom planned to visit my sister Susan with me, he knew it was essential to bring along his laptop. Over these past years of world travel, he’s pieced together many exciting facts about my family’s ancestry and, of course, including ongoing information on his own family.

As a long-time member of Ancestry.com, paying the annual fees of approximately $300 per year since March 2006, he’s considered a heavy user. However, during idle times, while living in various countries throughout the world, he’s continued to research records of his ancestors, my ancestors, and the ancestors of other family members, including in-laws and others who may not be directly related via bloodline.

Many records seem to have begun once the ancestor(s) immigrated to the US in the 19th and 20th centuries. Unfortunately, many countries, due to wars and strife, don’t have public records available online that an enthusiastic amateur genealogist would be able to add to their repertoire of facts. 

It’s hard to believe that pine trees can grow in the desert.

A few years ago, Tom and I both had our DNA profiles done via Ancestry.com, resulting in a few surprises for each of us. This added further to Tom’s interest in continuing his research for both of us. In addition, seeing one’s actual history via a DNA report further verifies that which one may have assumed about their heritage, including many new morsels of information that may be surprising.

In many cases, traveling to the country of origin may be the only recourse to extending the quality of the information going back many generations. Tom and I continue to discuss the prospect of spending time in Ireland furthering the search for his ancestors. But, unfortunately, my family history is more scattered and would present more incredible difficulty in finding information.

For myself, I have less interest in the topic. After all, it’s Tom’s hobby, not mine. Besides, once I’ve completed the post each day, I prefer not to spend much time on my computer to research future travel-related topics and others.

Scene along the highway on our way to the Centennial area of North Las Vegas.

As we’ve discovered in many conversations with people, we’ve met over the years, some have little interest in pursuing information about their ancestors, while others are fascinated and curious.

My sister Susan has been intrigued by the prospect of learning more about hers and my ancestry. As a result, Tom joined me yesterday in visiting her, bringing along his laptop and HDMI cord so she could watch the data on her TV monitor rather than on the small laptop monitor.

Susan couldn’t have been more thrilled to see what Tom had discovered over these past years about our family history. It was delightful to see her enthusiasm and interest in the data he’d collected, including copies of documents, photos, and permanent public records. 

Dust storm gathering in the desert.

When we headed out later in the day, in hopes of beating rush hour traffic, we drove directly to our mailing service located halfway between Susan’s home and Henderson. 

With two tasks to be accomplished at the mailing service; one, pick up all of our mail, including supplies we’d recently ordered and: two, mail the bins of Christmas memorabilia to son Greg, Camille, and three grandchildren in Minnesota, we were able to get out the door and back on the highway within 30 minutes.

The cost to ship the five large totes of decorations to Minnesota totaled $178, less than I’d expected. We collected about 20 packages, along with some long-standing paper mail of no significant signs that we’d left in our mail slot until our arrival this month.

New styles of homes, condos, and apartments have cropped up in the Las Vegas area.

After we left the mailing service, we ran into inclement weather while on Highway 215 heading toward Henderson. Winds above 60 MPH, with wafting sand and debris, covered the freeway. For a short period, it rained in buckets, resulting in flash flooding in certain areas, which we later watched on the evening news. 

Today, we’re working on unpacking our mail, taking care of more business-related and financial tasks, and continue to gear up, once again, for leaving the USA for an extended period.

Last night, we cooked dinner on the grill for the second evening in a row, finished watching the Netflix series El Chapo, and enjoyed a quiet evening. Tonight, we’re dining out with Richard, and no doubt, will once again have a pleasant evening.

May you have a pleasant day and evening today and always.

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2016:
There was no post one year ago today due to a poor signal aboard the Mekong River ship.

Hot…hot..hot…and humid…Visit to the village to meet with customs officer…Busy productive day!

The main street in Savusavu is always a flurry of activity with more locals shopping than tourists. 

When packing the box in Australia to be shipped to Fiji, we couldn’t help but be concerned that we’d have trouble getting it through customs when there are many restrictions on food items that may be brought into this country.

With no known venomous insects, snakes, and flies in Fiji, certain types of food may potentially be carriers of eggs and larvae. Of course, we carefully perused the list of prohibited items not noticing any specific comments regarding any restrictions on anything that could be construed as nut flours, coconut, extracts, and ground flax meal.

We included several non-food items in the box: the camera tripod, a measuring cup and spoons, a spatula, and one bottle each of shampoo and conditioner, none of which were restricted.

This is the market where the local people shop. It doesn’t work for us when it mostly includes packaged food whereby we purchase most fresh items. However, I’ve checked it a few times for specific ingredients with little luck.

With a maximum value of FJD $1000, US $463 allowable to avoid customs fees for a single box entering the country, we didn’t expect there to be much in the way of fees. But, having experienced custom inspections and resulting fees on previously shipped supplies to other countries, it was the roll of the dice.

Our new neighbors, the lovely couple we met a few days ago from the US, Judy and Chris, asked if they could share the ride with us to the village since they, too, had to go to the post office. Ratnesh was waiting for all of us shortly before 11 am.

We didn’t mind sharing the taxi, especially when we all agreed during the ride that once we parted at the post office, we were on our own having Ratnesh return us home separately at our leisure. Well, not entirely leisurely.  It was one hot and busy day. With the humidity at 100% and temps at a peak for Fiji, the air was thick with our clothes sticking to us.

It’s hard to believe that Western Union store still exists.

On the way to the post office, Tom jumped out at ATM to ensure we’d have plenty of cash for the post office, should we be charged a customs fee. A few blocks further down the main road in the village, we arrived at the post office. 

Expecting a tiny post office and photo op, we were surprised to find a good-sized facility, not necessarily photo-worthy. There were lines for purchasing stamps, mailing packages, and reloading phone SIM cards with a separate area for receiving international packages.

The customs guy is only available on weekdays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. We arrived at 11:30 to a fairly long slow line. With the packaging weighing 22 kilos, 49 pounds, and with food shopping on the agenda, we asked Ratnesh to wait for us so we could put the box in the trunk of his vehicle leaving it there while we took care of other shopping.

Next door to the bottle shop is another clothing store and a restaurant.

Unsure as to how long it would take to pick up the package, we planned to get it first to avoid having the groceries waiting in the car in the heat.  A to-do list for the day included another trip to the Vodafone store when I’d accidentally used all the credit by leaving the phone on after hanging up from Ratnesh on a prior call. Lesson learned.

As we waited in line for 25 minutes, Ratnesh explained we could buy data at the other window, avoiding another long line and wait at the outdoor Vodafone kiosk near the Farmer’s Market. With me having to do the “sell job” to the customs guy that we weren’t resellers and had shipped the products for our own personal use, Tom waited in the SIM card line to reload the phone card.  One more item ticked off the “to do” list.

Finally, it was my turn. The receipt Mario had dropped off in the morning stated they needed our tax ID number, there again assuming the multiple bags of food products were for resale. 

Tom has yet to purchase a bottle of alcohol in these past months since arriving in the South Pacific. He says he doesn’t have a taste for it now. In January, back onboard a ship, he’ll fire it up again, when the drink package is included in the price of the fare. Tom’s always been a lightweight drinker.

Having brought along passports and the doctor’s list of the foods I can consume which included many of the products in the box, I easily explained to the two customs officers that we weren’t a business selling food and that the products would go directly into our kitchen as prescribed in the attached “doctor’s list.” 

They opened the huge box, rifling through its contents looking for contraband or other non-allowable items.  This wasn’t easy to do as tightly as we’d packed it. After several minutes and a few questions, they taped up the box, stamped a form, and charged us the standard post office package pickup fee of FJD $4.50, USD $2.09. 

Within minutes, we were back on the road again to be dropped off at the Farmer’s Market to purchase produce, walk to the New World grocer, where Ratnesh would pick us up when we were done.

There’s a variety of clothing stores in the village, mostly to appeal to tourists.

Wandering around the huge Farmer’s Market we had a little trouble finding everything on our list but managed to find everything except celery which we later found at the grocery store; limp and a few days old. After a good wash and a soak in ice water, it revived nicely. We were never able to find celery in Belize or Kenya. 

We were surprised by the price of red bell peppers at FDJ $25, USD $11.59 per kilo at the Farmer’s Market, appearing to be the most expensive item in the market. Since a kilo is 2.2 pounds, it doesn’t seem to be quite as expensive by the pound. We paid FDJ $10, USD $4.63 for one large pepper, referred to as capsicum in Fiji, as well as in Australia where they were considerably less expensive.

Each week, I’ve been cooking a pan of diced roasted vegetables including red bell pepper, eggplant (aubergine), carrot, and onion, all well seasoned with whatever we have on hand, cooked in healthy ghee. Reheating a portion each night, goes well with any meal. Tom won’t eat this dish.

Another clothing store appealing more upscale based on its nice signage. However, once inside there more typical tourist type wear, tee shirts, shorts, dresses, and swimwear.

It’s not easy finding items at the three-row grocery store but, it was air-conditioned, making the task easier. With no fresh meat department, a tiny produce department and a single refrigerated dairy section the pickings are slim.

The only hard cheeses available are chunks of a local “Tasty” brand and “pizza cheese,” no specific mozzarella, cheddar, or Parmesan. There’s no grated cheese although they carry Crème Fraiche and Marscapone which is squeezed from small tinfoil packs. We purchased both of these as alternatives to cream cheese which we use in preparing some dishes.

For several recipes, we use homemade ketchup which I’m making today. The low carb recipe calls for onion and garlic powder. After searching four markets, these items were nowhere to be found. I wish I’d thought of this before we shipped the box. I’ll improvise using fresh garlic and onion, straining the ketchup when it’s done cooking using a small strainer I found in the cupboard.

It was impossible to avoid stepping inside the Hot Bread Kitchen when the smells wafting through the air as we walked by brought back memories of bread baking days.

What else do I have to do when there’s no housework required, other than clean up after cooking, hand washing kitchen towels, and my limited supply of underwear? I don’t mind these types of tasks which keep me busy for most afternoons on rainy days, such as today.

When the shopping at New World was completed, we called Ratnesh.  He’d taken another customer to the airport and would arrive in about 12 minutes. With no “trolleys” allowed outside the market, we stood outside in the heat with all of our produce and grocery items.

As we stood waiting, we couldn’t help but observe the hustle and bustle on a Monday in the little village of Savusavu. The storefronts, worn with unrestricted signage cluttering the exteriors, reminded us of many villages we’ve visited in our travels. 

It’s fun to look, not touch.

And yet, Savusavu is unique in its own special way. The colorful clothes of the locals, the friendly smiles and greetings of “bula!” by passersby and the general feeling of safety in this tiny community reminds us of how lucky we are to be traveling the world, experiencing even the simplest aspects of life in other lands.

As we become familiar faces to the locals in the markets, we begin to feel as if we’re fitting in and somehow belong here, at least for now. When I dashed across the street to another market in search of a few items, while Tom waited outside, I ran into Salote in the other market, used mostly by the locals. Giving her a warm hug when she spotted me, further added to a sense of belonging.

On the way home, we stopped at Fiji Meats purchasing enough meats to last for a week. Helen, the store owner, recognized and welcomed us while we asked her about her recent vacation/holiday when Louisa had handled our purchases while she was away for a week.

We walked up a steep flight of stairs to check out a few shops above lower-level shops. 

When we arrived home by 2 pm, Ratnesh carried the heavy box down the long walkway from the road to the house. We paid him well for the extra waiting time, FDJ $40, USD $18.54.  He said it was “too much.” We insisted. 

Back at home in the heat, we cranked up the fan in the living area, poured ourselves fresh glasses of iced tea and I busied myself for the remainder of the afternoon; putting away the groceries, washing and cutting veggies, making a big salad for dinner, and unpacking the big box. 

Only one package of coconut flour was damaged when the shampoo leaked and the coconut flour spilled mixed with shampoo over the exterior of most of the packages. It took an hour to wipe off each of the individual bags ensuring none of the shampoo had leaked inside. We only lost one bag of coconut flour.

Its not that hard to find a parking spot on the street even on busy days. Many locals travel on foot and by bus with the bus station in the center of town.

When done unpacking everything, I baked 20 low carbs (2 grams each) coconut macaroons to be savored at two cookies each in the evening after dinner as a treat. Placing four cookies in small bags to be frozen I take out one bag each afternoon to defrost. In five nights we’ll have consumed all 20 cookies. 

It’s no wonder we included 18 bags of unsweetened shredded organic coconut in the parcel.  One batch of 20 cookies uses one entire bag of unsweetened shredded coconut. As a result, the 18 bags we shipped will last the entire time we’re here. We’d done all of these silly calculations when we purchased the products in Australia.

With heavy rains again today, we’re staying put, the content we have almost everything we need for now including the necessity of a few “workarounds.” This, dear readers, in essence, is a part of what makes our lives of travel interesting to us and hopefully to some of YOU! 

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

View over the bay in Vancouver from the high rise condo.  In a matter of days, we’d board the ship to Hawaii.  For details, please click here.

First package arrived yesterday…Second today with Tom’s laptop…Tonight’s superb dining experience!

This was the only grass fed ground beef I could find at the grocery store.  I purchased two one pound packages which I’ll use tonight to make taco salads.  See ingredient list below.

Its concerning that wherever we may live we may not receive a package of supplies we’ve ordered. Its happened a few times, once in Italy, another in South Africa. When packages have to go through customs shipping may be precarious.  This time in Hawaii, I’m less concerned.

Here’s a photo our friend Linda in South Africa posted in Facebook last week of the post office in Johannesburg, South Africa. with packages backed up to be delivered.  Is it any wonder one of our packages never arrived?

The first of two packages we were awaiting arrived yesterday with my two new pairs of shorts which I needed desperately in this warm weather and six tee shirts, a brand I love.

The unsweetened chocolate in this photo was for making low carb, sugar, grain and starch free chocolate fudge which I made on Monday.  Tom has a sweet tooth although I’ll also have a few pieces as an evening snack.   If you’re interested in the recipe please let me know and I’ll post it tomorrow. The blue and white packages of cream cheese are used in making the fudge. 

Yesterday, I threw away the six old worn tee shirts and one old pair of capri pants to offset the weight in my one large suitcase of clothing.  Now, I’m about a half pair of shorts overweight (the capris were longer than the shorts and weighed more).  I’ll find something else to toss to make up the difference before we pack again in a little over three weeks.

Zucchini is one of the most GMO, pesticide grown vegetables on the market.  As a result, I only purchase locally grown organic zucchini when available as shown here.  All prices for items are listed on receipt posted below.

Also, the box contained a few “girlie” items, cosmetics I just can’t find in any stores anywhere, a favorite “stay-put” lipstick that was discontinued long ago but I can still purchase from a remaining stock at Amazon.com and a few other items that would bore our male readers.

These two fillet mignon were priced at $23.36 at $18.99 a pound.  In Minnesota, over two years ago, these steaks were priced at $22 per pound.  We grilled last night and Tom had one of these steaks, freezing the other for a future meal. I had the mahi mahi listed below cooked perfectly on the grill on a piece of foil.

Another item we ordered was a ear bud splitter into which we can each plug  our own pair of ear buds since there’s only one port in my laptop in order to better hear downloaded shows which always seem to have low volume. We always watch shows together and often and the volume s just too low. 

Ear bud splitter we purchased online which arrived in the box of supplies.

With Tom’s 42-years-on-the-railroad hearing loss, we can both hear through our own set of ear buds.  Good idea, huh?  (Yes, we’ve done everything to increase the volume on the laptop to avoid this necessity).

Today’s arriving parcel will be Tom’s new laptop.  My job is to transfer all his data to the new laptop from the old, a job I don’t look forward to.  Never have.  Last time, we had it done professionally for around $50.  Here in Hawaii, it would be three times as much. 

This piece of mahi mahi was expensive at $15.49 per pound but would be no more expensive on the mainland.  My serving was a total of $10.07 and was delicious.  I could eat this every night for dinner! 

As I write here now at 8:00 am, Tom’s still sleeping, an oddity, and I have the AC off and both doors open to ensure we hear the UPS guy.  Yesterday, the first box was left outside the door when we were here and we didn’t hear a thing.  Surely, a laptop would require a signature.

Today, I mentioned posting these grocery items photos, prices and receipts for those who may be interested or curious as to the prices in Hawaii should they ever consider living here.  Honestly, food prices aren’t higher here than they were in Minnesota over two years ago.

The two 18 packs of eggs are free range, cage free, organic at $12.49 for both packs.  Not too bad, considering.  We use zero carb mayonnaise to make our salad dressing.  Although it has a few questionable ingredients, it doesn’t have an effect on how I feel.  Also shown are organic uncured hot dogs at $7.49 made without icky body parts and fillers.   Below are Kielbasa for Tom.  He won’t eat the “healthy” dogs.  The Italian sausages were on sale, one for $5.49, the other for $8.49.

As we’ve perused prices of commodities in Hawaii, we believe the cost of living is high due to high rental fees, utilities, fuel and transportation, not so much on groceries.  Plus, the way we eat, although we buy no processed or junk food, makes the cost of buying groceries higher in general.

Buying grass fed meat when possible and organic produce in the US is pricey. For many items I cannot choose grass fed and organic when neither are available or far surpass a price I’m willing to pay, such as $7.95 for one organic sweet red pepper.  Not worth the price.  Wash, wash and rewash, the non-organic peppers in the bag as shown, still knowing that evil may lurk therein.

These two packages of pork chops, unavailable in grass fed, were $6.53 and $6.79 enough for two meals for Tom.  On those nights I’ll have something else, most likely a huge dinner salad with chicken and avocado.

Tonight, with little prep time available for computer transfer-day, I’m making taco salads, minus the awful shell with a huge bed of lettuce for the base using the following ingredients:

1.  Grass fed ground meat, drained and cooked with sugar, wheat and starch free taco sauce I found at the store
2.  Organic romaine lettuce, shredded into bite sized pieces
3.  Organic tomatoes, diced
4.  Celery, diced
5.  Organic avocado, small chunks (me, only)
6.  Shredded cheese
7.  Sliced green olives

Notice the total for this week’s groceries at $271.08. Next week, I’ll get $22 back when I return to shop bringing this receipt using my Safeway shopper’s savings card which I’d forgotten to bring.  Next time I shop, I’ll be on my own and will bring my wallet. This receipt is wrapped around my Safeway card in my wallet ensuring I won’t forget to get the credit, especially when the cashier always asks for the savings card.  Essentially, the credit makes this total $249.08.

Does this ever make a great low carb, grain, starch and sugar free meal!  A dollop of sour cream on top for me and I’m in heaven.  Tom, plain food Tom, won’t do the sour cream. 

In all, we have enough meat from yesterday’s shopping for approximately 10 nights of dinners and we also had some steaks and lamb on hand from the last trip.  Eating fabulous homemade meals in Hawaii for under $25 per day is all we can expect.

I’d better hurry and wrap this up.  Before too long, according to the UPS tracking number, that laptop will be here soon and I need to go chop and dice for tonight’s dinner.

Tomorrow, we have a great wildlife video to share.  Please check back.

Photo from one year ago, November 5, 2013:

Jessica L. Grain Brain Success Story
A year ago today we posted this photo that appeared on Dr. David Perlmutter’s website, regarding his new book, Grain Brain.  To see the full story he had on his website, please click here.

Trip to the city of Funchal to customs…A drive home in dense fog…One year ago…Livorno, Italy….

Was this the statue we were looking for to indicate we were close to the post office?  We didn’t think so.

Where do we begin?  At 8:30 yesterday morning, we headed out the door, taking several items with us in order to pick up our awaiting package at customs in Funchal; my phone with the turn by turn directions on the screen, my laptop with Google Maps turn by turn directions and, a file on my desktop containing nine receipts for the customs office.

In order for customs to release the package to us, we had to travel to the main post office in Funchal, we had to produce receipts for each item and pay the subsequent VAT (value-added tax) and customs fees. 

While we were in Funchal the dense fog rolled in.

Ideally, all of the receipts would have been in the package with the items. As those of us who shop online are aware we don’t always get anything but a packing slip in the box which may not indicate the actual prices we paid for the items. The cost of the items would be contained in the original online order receipt.

Thus, I gathered all of the receipts from my email folder, placing them in a folder on my desktop, ready to review. Our portable printer died and there was no printing facility within miles. As a backup, I put the receipts on a zip drive.

It looks like smoke, but its actually fog.  I took most of these photos from the freeway through the car’s windshield.

As we walked out the door, we both felt a sense of trepidation. We hadn’t had much luck finding our way around Madeira when streets are poorly marked if at all, GPS doesn’t work and maps are impossible to read. We’d tried every online map app we could find. Apparently, Google Street View Car (or whatever they call it) hasn’t been to Madeira.

Tom knew how to get us to the “via rapida,” the freeway, in order to head to Funchal, the capital and largest city on the island of Madeira. Our first exit was 18 minutes down the “rapida,” Exit 9.  It should be easy, but we weren’t optimistic based on recent experiences.

Having lived far from the ocean in Minnesota we rarely saw anything like this.

Carefully, we watched the exit numbers while I had my laptop open on my lap with the directions. My phone may pick up a GPS signal from time to time, but turn by turn directions are not dependable in Madeira. It was easier to follow the directions I’d saved on my computer.

As we passed Exit 8 Tom hugged the right lane hoping to turn off onto Exit 9. There was no Exit 9. We didn’t bother to go back and try again. We were positive we hadn’t missed it

A terraced farm on the hill.

I won’t spend the next 1000 words trying to explain how we eventually ended up at the post office. It was a combination of assistance from a kindly local, pointing us in the right direction, and pure and unequivocal “safari luck.” It took no less than 90 minutes to find it. Suddenly, out of the blue, we were at the post office that we more stumbled upon than found.

Inquiring about customs at the information desk in the lobby, we were pointed in the direction of the main post office, modern and not unlike those we frequented in the US. We took a number, found a seat, and waited 20 minutes, only to be told the customs office was across the lobby.

At points along the drive, the fog was only visible at a distance.  The 80 on the speed sign is in kilometers per hour which is equivalent to 50 miles per hour.

Squeezing into a tiny waiting area, we began another wait, this time much longer, as a young couple loudly argued in Portuguese with the customs officer.

We were standing in this tiny hallway within four feet of the arguing couple with nowhere else to stand. It was evident that the customs officer was at the end of his rope. This would hardly help our case when the time came for our turn.

The fog rolled in quickly.  By the time we exited this tunnel, we were shrouded in fog.

Finally, the couple left. He spoke English well enough to handle our business. We always prefer to approach these situations as calmly and diplomatically as possible. Within minutes, Tom had the customs officer laughing which helped temper my tinge of anxiety over the fact that our receipts weren’t on paper. 

Aren’t we living in a digital world? Is there really a need to be use paper anymore? Much to our surprise, he decided to accept my handwritten list of the cost of the items in the box that I’d brought along as an additional backup. Gosh, I’m glad that I’d brought the list on a sheet of lined yellow legal paper even if it was written in my usual illegible chicken scratch.

There were puffs of fog on the road as shown in the left lane.

All in all, we spent over an hour with the customs guy, chatting, laughing, and having a good time. He charged us only EU $42.60, US $58.13. The cost of all of them in the box was US $586,  EU $429.43. The taxes were less than 10%. It could have been so much more from what we read online, as much as 40% of the value of the contents.

Once again, we were reminded of the importance of diplomacy and kindness. It doesn’t always work but, it certainly reduces the amount of stress when trying to “negotiate” with a service provider.

Finally done, we vigorously shook hands with the agent and were escorted to the loading dock where we paid the EU $42.60, picked up the box, and were on our way back to the parking ramp across the street. Tom managed the bulky box while I carried my laptop wrapped in my waterproof jacket. It was raining.

On the way home, we stopped at the local grocer for a few items. While I shopped Tom purchased a few muffins at the bakery next door.

A few months ago, a screw fell out of Tom’s laptop causing his screen to crack from opening and closing. We’d hoped that we’d find a computer store in Funchal. Luckily, there was a mall we had to enter in order to go to the parking ramp with a huge computer and digital equipment store.

Tom took the box to the car while he grabbed his computer while I waited for him in the mall. We headed to the tech support department of the huge store. Again, we took a number waiting no less than 30 minutes, only to discover that although they serviced Acer computers, they didn’t have the screw. Off we went.

By the time we were home four hours later this was the view from the veranda. Not quite as beautiful as the usual ocean view, but interesting none the less.

Considering the rain and dense fog, we decided it was best to find our way back to Campanario, stop for a few items at the little grocer, and settle in for the day. As shown in our photos, there was a full fog cover preventing us from seeing the ocean from our veranda. Our drive back up the mountain was uneventful as I busily took photos of the fog.

We’ve since put away the items in the box which included: clothing, iced tea packets, a few cosmetic items, a few bottles of vitamins that we must take (B6 for Tom, probiotics for both of us, etc.), a pair of Keds walking shoes for me and some odds and ends, all of which we needed for continuing on.

Whew! We couldn’t be more thrilled to have that package situation out of the way and go back to relishing in the beauty of this wonderful island and its kindly citizens. 

Photo from one year ago today, June 7, 2013:

We stayed on the ship when we arrived in Livorno, Italy. With little interest in riding on a bus with 40 people to see more old buildings, we decided to stay behind enjoying quiet time at the pool. With this as our final of eight cruises for the year, on our way to Venice, we had to pick and choose which excursions were worth it to us. Ultimately, we were pleased with the choices we’d made as shown in the prior photos. For details of the date, please click here.

What’s happened to our package?…Its stuck in customs!…

Last night, this view at sunset took our breath away. 

The package. Oh, goodness. What a pain! We received packages in Kenya and South Africa without too much trouble. I guess that in Portugal, it’s a bigger deal. Yesterday, we went to the post office in Ribeira Brava with the tracking number for the package. 

After a 30 minute wait, while the rep went back and forth on the phone with the main post office in Funchal, we were told we have to find all the receipts for all of the items in the box and take them to the main post office in Funchal, the capital city of Madeira.

Last night as the sun began to set around 9:00 pm, it casts these beautiful lights and sky over the valley as shown from our veranda.

Luckily, reasonably good record keepers that we are, we had all the receipts in a folder in my email. Recently, our portable printer quit working. Printing the receipts is impossible.

Another view at sunset as the light quickly changed over the valley.

Instead, we’ll bring my laptop to the post office to show them all of the receipts which I placed, page by page, on a single long Word document to avoid searching through my email at the post office.

Today, Tom went alone to the ATM by the supermarket to get cash to pay the fees. (It’s the first time we’ve been apart in over three months when I went to a girl’s only lunch with Kathy and Linda in South Africa). 

The total value of the items in the package is US $593.64, EU $436.12. We’d better bring at least US $300, EU $220.39 to pay for the fees. With the 21% VAT (value-added tax) plus other taxes and fees, this could total the entire US $300.

Although we can’t see the sun as it sets we can enjoy the colorful sky at sunset each night.

Who knew? The most we had to pay for a package of which we’ve received a about four since we’ve left the US, was approximately US $25, EU $18.37 in South Africa when a prescription arrived through customs. I suppose we should have thought of this before ordering the products we needed. Most likely, we may have placed the order anyway. These types of expenses “go with the territory.”

The challenge when we go on Friday morning will be finding the post office in Funchal. With little to no help from any online map apps or working GPS finding anything in Madeira is tricky and time-consuming. It’s that part alone that will make the trip more annoying than the time we’ll end up spending at the post office. 

With strong winds off of the Atlantic Ocean, the sky changes before our eyes as the sun sets each night.

We’ll report back as to the outcome and subsequent costs of the duty fees we’ll be required to pay. 

Also, we haven’t been able to find the two restaurants located in our area. No one seems to be able to do more than point “up” in the general direction. With the winding, hilly, roads with multiple one-way streets and hairpin turns, there’s no easy way to explain where anything is located. Certainly, it’s no fault of the locals when even they can’t explain how to get to a specific location. 

A view at the top of a hill while we were in Ribeira Brava for the trip to the post office and dinner at Muralha.

The drive to Funchal is mostly highway making the trip easy until we get close to the busy city and confusing central road system. We shall see how it goes.

Last night, after the trip to the post office we returned to Muralha  Restaurant for the second time which is located across the street, for yet another fine dinner with extraordinary service, heading home well before dark.

Tom was ready for his large mug of beer on the far left bottom.

We’ll be relieved once this package thing is resolved and our stuff is in our hands. By the next time we need supplies, we’ll be living in Hawaii, USA, making the receipt of items easy and uncomplicated although with costly shipping. 

Our waiter brought this fresh fish platter to the table so I could choose my meal. I choose the seafood skewer with squid and prawns. It was amazing with the chunks of squid cooked to perfection and not as chewy as usual in most restaurants.

Ah, the trials of travel are frustrating at times, some of which could be avoided if our requirements were less.  But, in order to fulfill some of our creature comforts, medical, clothing, and supply needs from time to time, we ultimately make our own lives a little more complicated. 

There’s my gluten-free, starch-free, grain-free, sugar-free dinner. I had a side of steamed vegetables and a part of Tom’s salad (mainly the veggies he won’t eat). Once again it was a fabulous meal!

We always try to remember that in our old lives, for example, we drove to Costco on a snowy day, purchased a huge cart of stuff, loaded it into the car while our hands were freezing, drove it home, unloaded the car with freezing hands, hauled it into the house and then put it all away. This included a huge expenditure and a tremendous amount of time and effort.

Tom gave me the chicken legs off of his plate. He doesn’t eat the dark meat which makes whole chickens ideal for us. Check out those chips! I don’t make these at home. Ever!

I suppose in a way, our lives are easier now, even with the annoyance and cost of dealing with the receipt of a package three or four times a year, after placing the orders online. Life is always a series of trade-offs, wherever one may live or travel. 

At this point, there’s nothing I would trade for the life we currently live.

Photo from one year ago today, June 4, 2013:

We were on our way to Barcelona, Spain from Dubai, UAE to sail on a cruise from Barcelona to Venice, Italy through the Mediterranean Sea. Our flight to Barcelona was on Emirates Airline, a first for us. We were fascinated with the handheld remote we had at our seats for viewing movies and for the first-class amenities at a coach seat. For details of that travel day when we ended up staying at the same hotel we’d stayed in Barcelona before the cruise to Dubai on May 5, 2013, please click here.

On to an improved and more cost effective WiFi option…We received a package in Kenya…At a whopping US $458 in shipping fees…

The moon over the Indian Ocean last night as we dined Nomad Restaurant at The Sand’s Resort. Photos will follow tomorrow of our two extraordinary dining experiences, the people we met, and the tour we were graciously provided of the“over the top” accommodations,  pricing included.

Once we’d discovered a newly opened DHL store in a local pharmacy in Diani Beach, we had two thoughts in mind, one; order supplies and two; return the XCom Global MiFi to begin using the two Mobile Hotspots we’d ordered to arrive with the supplies.

We figured that once the two Mobile Hotspots arrived, we’d quickly install them, ensuring they were both working and suited our needs, we made another trip back to the DHL/Pharmacy to return XCom Global’s US $395 a month device.

Let me explain what a Mobile Hotspot is for those of you that may not be aware of these devices or, if you prefer, you can click on the above link.  Simply stated, it’s not unlike the router you use in your home for wireless connectivity, either connected to your cable or satellite service. 

The difference it that when traveling, or living in a country such as Kenya, there is no cable TV or satellite service offering Internet services to homes, only to businesses.  Thus, local residents (and tourists), desiring a connection for their computers, devices, and cell phones must purchase SIM cards to install either into their cell phones, Hotspots or routers in order to receive a phone and data signal.

The end result for us is that we each needed one Mobile Hotspot and our own SIM card. Yes, we could have used one of each among us. The signal strength is diminished by each user simultaneously online. With the heavy data load, we use each day, it is practical for each of us to have our own device and SIM card.

The moon, 10 minutes before the above photo.  This shot was taken as we sat at our table overlooking the Indian Ocean.  More will follow tomorrow.

Who provides the data/phone signal to tap into?  In Kenya, it is Safaricom. By purchasing their specific SIM cards, registering it via cell phone, they provide us with a measured amount of data that we’ve purchased in advance. 

For example, we pay Kenya Shillings (KES) $1000, US $11.76, for 1.5 gigabytes of data, (purchasing larger amounts reduced the cost), enough to last us both for 3 days, provided we don’t download movies or TV shows. Our average total cost per month for 15 gigabytes of data is KES $10,000, US $117.58 (excluding big downloads) as opposed to the meager 4.39 gigabytes per month that we were allowed with XCom Global.

Don’t get me wrong, XCom Global is a great company and for the usual traveler its an excellent option. Most travelers read their email which uses a minimal amount of data and may check a few websites for restaurants and local points of interest.

But, XCom Globals’s allowed 150 megabytes of data per day (.146 gigabytes) wasn’t sufficient most days for me to download our daily posts and photos, not leaving any usage for Tom. It just wasn’t working well for us. We were cut off a few times for exceeding the allowed data usage, not by XCom Global but by their contracted providers in various places all over the world.

With our own Hotspots, when we run low on gigs, we purchase “scratch-offs” cards to load more data by entering the code on each card. We can check how much data we have left placing the SIM card in a cell phone and dialing code, seconds later receiving a response as to the remaining balance. 

Once we install the main SIM card into my phone, we can make local calls. Hans loaned us a cell phone with one of his SIM cards installed to use for local calls so we haven’t purchased a card for making calls on our own phones. The cost to call the US is outrageous comparable to them calling us using their cell phone. Not having the SIM card installed in our smartphones prevented us from incurring US $100’S per month in calls to our families, encouraging us and family members to use Skype which is free with a great signal.

With Hans and Jeri both gone for the Kenyan holiday this weekend, we are babysitting their two little dogs. This is Jessie, whom they inherited when a nearby homeowner didn’t want her. She is a completely outdoor dog, never sleeping indoors, spending all of her days and nights outside. It was hard to close the doors on her last night when we went to bed, leaving her looking at us. I wanted to pick her up and put her in the bed with us, bt we knew not to upset her routine. She’s a sturdy little dog and an excellent watchdog. For those, who knew us in our old lives, does this remind you of anyone?

I realize that this information may be boring to our non-geeky readers and mundane to our knowledgeable geeks who already have this concept in the bag. But, just in case there are a few potential travelers out there thinking of how to save on data while traveling, a Mobile Hotspot (around US $100) with SIM cards is the way to go, if and I say, if there is no free wireless data available at your hotel, resort or vacation home. 

Please keep in mind there are areas we’ve traveled, such as the Masai Mara, where the Hotspot wouldn’t pick up any signal and we were reliant upon the weak signal that they had in the lodge. Also, the signal we do receive in Kenya is often weak, making it impossible for me to edit the blog posts, particularly the photos and their captions.  I apologize for the difficulty in reading these at times.  It goes “with the territory.”

The moon over the Indian Ocean last night at 6:15 pm.

Honestly, until we arrived in Kenya, we had free wireless connectivity at every house we’ve rented thus far. This situation here in Kenya was new for us and although I love technical stuff (kind of a geek myself), Tom took a huge interest in handling the SIM card installation while I handled the installs of both Hotspots (a one-time thing).

A good feature of the Safaricom SIM card “scratch-offs” is the ability to have some free data to be used between 10:00 pm and 10:00 am during the first two weeks after downloading the new cards.  It is during this time, in the middle of the night, that we download TV shows and movies from Graboid (US $20 a month), a service that offers downloads of current TV shows and movies.

This is Gucci, whom we’re also taking care of this weekend one of the best watchdogs in Kenya.  He alerts the security guards to any activities beyond the gate. Known to viciously bite on occasion, he is gentle and loving with us, hanging out with us most days. When we return from going out, he is very cautious in determining it is really us, barking wildly, sniffing, only relaxing when he is confident that we are who he thinks we are. Gucci and Jessie are best friends, playful and protective of one another.  They love to chase the goats and the monkeys in the backyard.

If you have questions, suggestions or general comments, please feel free to comment at the end of this post or send me an email to which I will reply within 12 hours. 

As for the package we received last week. It contained the following supplies, all ordered through the US:
1.  Two Huawei Hotspots in their original boxes plus two extra batteries
2.  A few toiletry items of inconsequential weight
3.  Crystal Light Ice Tea – 18 packages that each containing a supply to make 32 quarts. This was for Tom only. I’m now content drinking real iced tea made with two teabags and one quart of purified water, having kicked my Crystal Light habit months ago.
4.  Mezzaluna Knife – We used one of these in Italy and it made life so much easier than using dull knives
5.  Coconut Oil, organic, extra virgin – one 16 ounce plastic bottle. We use this daily swishing it around in our mouths for 20 minutes which aids in the reduction of bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract. After swishing, we spit it out followed by a thorough brushing with toothpaste which results in a cleaner and healthier feeling mouth while reducing the incidence of bacterial infections. If interested in this concept, read Dr. Bruce Fife’s book, “Oil Pulling” available at all online booksellers.

That’s all folks! That was all that was in the box, weighing 13 pounds. We had all the above shipped to our mailing service in Nevada. We watched online daily as the items arrived in our mailbox.  Once all of them had arrived, we instructed the mailing service to place everything in one box, removing all the individual shipping boxes to reduce the weight. 

The 5.9 kg, 13-pound box and its contents that we had shipped from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA to Diani Beach Kenya, using DHL Express at a cost of KES $38,953, US $458 which arrived in four business days to the local DHL/Pharmacy.

The package had to be shipped through DHL for which our mailing service arranged a pickup. They are the only parcel service within hours of us and we were able to instruct them to phone us on Han’s phone when it arrived in Diani Beach.  The regular postal service in Kenya is unreliable and often packages disappear or if they do arrive, it may take months. We didn’t want to take the risk of not receiving it before we leave on December 1, 2013.

The end result of DHL’s only method of sending and receiving packages in this area is its three-day express. That’s it. No other options. The cost for the 13-pound box (5.9 kg) was Kenya Shillings $38,953, US $458!

Yes, we could have justified this in many ways.  But we chose the simple reality. Setting up the two Hotspots and sending back the XCom Global Mifi would save us a substantial monthly sum.    

These projected amounts will vary as we discover the cost of SIM cards in other countries. Plus, this is a compilation of our estimated costs for data for Kenya, not necessarily the same in other countries, although the Hotspots will work worldwide with the installation of any country’s SIM cards:

Cost reloading SIM cards using  scratch-off at US $117.58 per month =        US $ 1410.96
Cost of Hotspot devices: (one-time expense)   US $   200.00
Cost of Shipping (entire box):                        US $   458.00 
TOTAL COST                                                 US $ 2068.96
AVERAGE COST PER MONTH:                         US $   172.41

RENTAL OF XCOM GLOBAL DEVICE                 US $   395.00

MONTHLY SAVINGS                                       US $   222.59
ANNUAL SAVINGS                                         US $  2671.04

I supposed this is what they call a “no brainer.”  No guilt over the US $458 shipping fee with DHL. 

Tom enjoyed tracking the package’s route on the DHL website daily.  When it arrived in Nairobi, Kenya it passed through customs seamlessly continuing on its way.  It took 4 business days from Las Vegas, Nevada to Diani Beach Kenya, arriving at the DHL/Pharmacy who promptly called us to come to pick it up which we did that day on our way to Nakumatt Grocery for no additional cab fare.

As for returning the MIFi to XCom Global, we did the reverse, shipping the package out on this past Tuesday, Tom tracking it online daily, with it arriving in San Diego, California on Friday.  The cost for that small package under one pound was only US $33.00, much to our surprise.

There it is folks.  Our technology needs are forcing us to learn new ways to acquire the best possible service at the best possible price.  In reality, that will never change, as technology continues to change faster than we can keep up with no access to news reports (no TV) keeping us informed as in the past.

Each time we’ve face a challenge, we remind ourselves of the brave souls that traveled across the US (and other countries) in search of a new life, in a covered wagon with no roads, no water, no electricity, dangerous elements, no medical care, limited food and of course, no technology. 

But, everything is relative and this is “our time.” We strive to continue to embrace it, no matter our age or our interests, offering up a wealth of new knowledge that only can add to the quality of our lives as we all move into the future.

It’s all in the details…Four days and counting…

Natural vegetation around our resort.

Oh, good grief!  Could there be more details to handle before we leave? It’s not as simple as packing our bags and hitting the road.  We knew this going in. 

It’s easy for me to remember how much work it was to handle a single two-week vacation. In 2011, Tom and I went to Hollywood, Florida for a convention. With social events many nights, the packing was challenging. It wasn’t a matter of a few pairs of jeans, shorts, tee shirts, a dress, underwear, and toiletries.

This wooden alligator hand-carved by a local craftsman.  Up close, the detail is riveting with individually hand-carved teeth

Yes, I’ll admit that I like a different outfit and its accompanying accessories every night.  That’s who I am.  People who know me well, get this, teasing me endlessly for my particular nature. However, I’ve tempered my need for a variety of adopting a “mix and match” philosophy, turning one outfit into many.  That seems to work well when traveling. 

Windy, cloudy day today.

So, as of today, my entire travel wardrobe, including shoes, bags, underwear, bathing suits, dress-up and casual wear is situated in two suitcases packed and ready to go.  I did it. I let “stuff” go. Tom has two large equally stuffed bags, packed and ready to go.

Our goal by the time we left Belize, was to have three large bags, packed with the items we’re letting go to send to my sister in Los Angeles to store until we need them. Right now, two of those three bags are packed. The third contains miscellaneous items we can’t let go: prescriptions, medical supplies, steamer, beach towels, etc. 

While sitting at the pool today, we met a lovely newlywed couple, but ran indoors when the skies opened to giant raindrops.

The reality, after days of sorting and resorting, is that we may end up with five large suitcases after we ship two, not three bags to Julie. The rest is carry-on. 

We will fly six times in the next 18 months:  Dubai to Barcelona, Rome to Kenya, Kenya to South Africa, South Africa to Morocco, Morocco to Madeira, Madeira to who knows where? We have 3 1/2 months to “kill” that we haven’t yet planned.) Most of these airlines have recently changed their checked bag policies. 

A few months ago, Emirates Airlines, which we’ll fly on May 21, 2013, from Dubai to Barcelona, allowed two checked bags of 30 kg (66 pounds each). Now it’s down to one bag. The cost for a 2nd bag is in the $100’s if not more depending on the weight. 

We discuss our options such as storage facilities in various locations along the way. We haven’t decided yet, but will soon.

Reading this, I am sure many may think, “GET RID OF MORE STUFF!”  Sounds practical. But, a reality few ever faced, this is everything we own. We have no home to go back to in order to repack. Many world travelers do.  Everything we own is with us in this villa right now.  EVERYTHING!  Oops! Our tax records and documents are stored with son in Nevada. 

The next detail that we finally solved was getting all of our six boarding passes printed. There was some glitch between my sending them via email to the front desk. After several attempts, I contacted our cruise guy, Joaquin, who happened to be on vacation. Alas, our guy came through sending us new PDF documents for all of our cruises.  Tim, at the desk, printed them all.  Now, we’re set all the way through to our cruise on June 4, 2013.

The cruise lines send documents to passengers, which include luggage tags one must print themselves, using sticky paper. Who has sticky paper? Not us. 

Calling the cruise lines using Skype, I verified in each case that we can get luggage tags from the porters when our bags at taken from us at the pier.  On our two earlier cruises this year, they were mailed to us. These cruise lines no longer mail the luggage tags: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, all of which we’ll be on in the next two months. 

Of course, we have our own permanent luggage tags on each of our bags but cruise lines handle so much luggage, they want the pre-printed cabin number and name on each piece of luggage to avoid delays.  Understandable. 

This morning, Tom stated, “Gee, I wonder what passengers older than us, who don’t have printers or even computers at home, manage to print their documents.”  Good point.  As I mentioned yesterday, electronic documents attached to a person’s passport or other ID would be an ideal solution. 

Yesterday, we confirmed our private shuttle for the four-hour drive to Belize City on Tuesday (on the scary road).  I kindly asked if they could have either the windows open (we couldn’t open them) this time or turn on the AC.   It was 90 humid degrees that day, resulting in four hours of hot sweaty bouncing on the rough, winding,  treacherous road. The owner of the shuttle company promised they’d have AC working.

We’re eating all of our remaining food in the freezer. Tonight, bacon cheeseburgers (no bun), pork chops, and coleslaw, an odd combination. Tomorrow, the same and Sunday, we’ve invited our local friends for homemade low carb GF pizza and salad, our favorite staple for which we have all the ingredients.

Winding down.  I keep telling Tom that within six hours of leaving here at 8:00 am Tuesday morning we’ll be on the ship, unpacking in our cabin on the Carnival Liberty (oh, please Carnival, no incidents!). I say this to comfort myself as well as Tom.

At that point, we can relax looking forward to staying put for 11 days until we switch ships at the pier in Miami for the journey across the ocean on the Norwegian Epic, a huge five-star ship.

There is nothing more we can do today. Soon, we’ll venture out to the pool for our hour of lounging in a lawn chair, dipping in the water every 15 minutes to cool off.  We’ll miss the pool, the staff, the people, our friends, the expanse of the ocean at our door, our time on the veranda, our walks along the beach, the sounds of the birds, and the breathtaking vegetation.

Soon, we’ll have a new place to embrace. It’s all good.

Planning our last two weeks in Belize…Today’s photos…

A walk along the beach this morning on a cloudy cool day.
Man-made breakwater we encountered, rocks wrapped in mesh casings about 75′ from shore, utilized to protect the shoreline from the crashing waves.

The next two weeks will fly by. I can feel it whirring by already as we’ve begun counting how many days of groceries, we’ll need to get us through. With the hope to use as much as possible of our food on hand. We speculate that we won’t be dining out again.

The bar at the end of the long dock at Robert’s Grove Resort.

Tomorrow, Wednesday will be our last trip to the village with Estevan, our cab driver. Going through the freezer and refrigerator, we’ve counted that we currently have almost enough meat to go the duration. With a few trips to the vegetable stand, we’ve got it covered.

With Easter on the horizon this Sunday, we’re planning a special dinner inviting our yet-to-remain-in-Belize, Minn Roger, our friends who returned to Minnesota last Friday, left us a good-sized package of grouper they’d caught while fishing here. 

Local carving popular in Belize.

Safely tucked away in the freezer, I’ve looked forward to serving the prized fillets one night soon, and
alas, the time has arrived, Easter dinner.  With Tom diligently back on our stringent way of eating until we’ board ship on April 9th, all of our remaining meals will be low carb, grain-free, starch-free, and sugar-free including the Easter dinner.

The traditional Easter dinner as we knew it, is a thing of the past both health-wise and, due to the lack of
availability of the many ingredients necessary to make the ham and many side dishes. Our lives are different now.

This style of carving is frequently seen in Belize.

Tom will be able to indulge a little on the ship, although we don’t eat more than twice a day. Many cruise passengers live for the lavish multiple meals and decadent desserts available at all hours. We’ve chosen a more modest approach with so many cruises ahead of us. 
It would make no sense for Tom to outgrow his new slimmer wardrobe.  We’ve already replaced all his clothes for many sizes smaller while in Scottsdale in December.

An abandoned building, part of a resort that most likely failed due to poor economic conditions.

I strictly adhere to our way of eating at all times while Tom occasionally tries some bread and desserts which don’t appear to present any ill effects for him when consumed in moderation.

Together, today, we’ll plan the meals for our next two weeks, grocery shop accordingly taking the one mile each way walk to Seine Bight to buy additional fresh vegetables again in another week.

This little abandoned shack may have been a food stand or dive shack years ago.

Once the food situation is resolved, we’ll begin the process of making to-do lists for our departure from Belize City on April 9th.  Booked on two back to back cruises with the partial day layover in Miami on April 13th, we’ll take care of the tasks we have planned as described here, in prior posts: go to the bank, ship three of our large suitcases to LA while picking up an awaiting box with supplies at UPS and stop at a drugstore for miscellaneous toiletries.

When we disembark the ship, we’ll have to go through customs with the three bags.  When we return to the ship a few hours later, we’ll have to check in on the second cruise as would any passenger with the box of supplies we picked up at UPS. 

Another abandoned resort.  Someday these properties will be sold and brought to life again, as the economy in Belize hopefully recovers along with the remainder of the world. It’s sad to see the loss of local employment and potential generated revenues in the many abandoned resorts throughout the country.  Luckily, many well managed and funded resorts continue to thrive today.

This morning, while writing this, I suggested to Tom that we bring one empty suitcase with us.  This way, we can open the box at UPS, place everything in the suitcase, ditch the box, and check-in for the second cruise.  Once aboard the ship, we’ll return to our awaiting cabin (same cabin as a prior cruise) where our remaining luggage is already unpacked and put away.
Gosh!  Writing this down adds clarify to these multiple steps, a necessary reality we’ll always face, getting to and from our various destinations. In actuality, it’s the only part we don’t like. In time, it may be our undoing. 

We met this fun-loving group of travelers (one wasn’t in the pool) that had just come off a one week charter on a giant catamaran with a private gourmet chef and full crew. They were all from Chicago with one, a former native of Minnesota. We enjoyed chatting with them. Unfortunately, they all left the next day. Yes, those are my feet in the photo! The sun was so bright, I could see to take the photo. Glad my toes were polished!

For now, the excitement of our next adventure drives us on with a fervor and passion neither of us has
ever known.  The inconveniences occur in only several hour segments, leaving us days, weeks, and months to revel in the rich experiences.  Life is good.

Getting familiar in a whole new world…

Thanks to our reader’s patience as we continue to work on our new look.  Its a work in progress and we’ll continue to refine it as we move along.

Whew!  These past five days in Scottsdale have been a whirlwind as we experience life outside of our familiar and well equipped past. We now realize how spoiled we’ve been as we try to adjust to our remaining 56 days in the US, living in our Scottsdale condo.

Here’s what conveniences we’re missing the most:
1.  No TV in the kitchen:  Intended to entertain me while I whittle away with the dullest knife on the planet, preparing our homemade gluten free, starch free, low carb, sugar free and grain free meals. 
2.  HBO and Showtime:  We miss watching Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and Homeland and, being able to record shows for later viewing.
3.  Finding my way around:  I have no sense of direction. Unable to get a signal on Maps on my smart phone, anywhere in Scottsdale, I ended up driving around for 40 minutes looking for LA Fitness, my new temporary health club.  Logical solution:  Have Tom go out with me (love this!) or, send directions from my new Windows 8 laptop to my email on my phone. Tom doesn’t seem to have trouble finding his way around. What’s the deal??
4.  Lack of gas stations:  Apparently, Scottsdale doesn’t like the look of gas stations in its pristine neighborhoods.  Tom misses his Super America “double coupon Tuesdays,” let alone being able to find a gas station.  Prices are an average of $3.59 a gallon here as opposed to $3.29 a gallon we paid on our road trip.
5.  Our comfy chairs:  Nary a comfy chair in this condo, we both are nearly doubled over with aching backs.  Add the “hard as nails bed” and we are definitely reminded that we’re senior citizens.  (Ha!  Living in Arizona to boot!)
6. Mail: When we rented this condo, it was explained that we would not be able to access the mailbox or receive packages.  Prepared for the eventuality of this outside the US, we are dependent upon making any purchases in retail stores and by receiving our snail mail at our mailing service, located in Las Vegas, MailLink.  In checking with the Scottsdale post office, they have a waiting list for PO boxes, another dilemma for retirees. It wasn’t worth the time or the money to set up a nearby mailing service for the short time we’re here.  Expecting some checks in the mail, we are sending deposit slips and envelopes for the our Nevada mailing service to mail checks directly to our bank (our national bank provided us with deposit slips and pre-printed envelopes).

Here’s what we do like at this point:
1.  Both retired at the same time:  If we thought we were “glued at the hip” before Tom’s retirement, oh my.  Look at us now.  Retirement, no matter how much it’s filled with pleasant activities, is an adjustment for any couple.  Luckily, our even tempers and relatively cheerful dispositions have made this transition fairly easy for us.  Surely, from time to time, we’ll need to take a break from one another and we’ll manage to take it.
2.  The weather:  The past three days have been over 90 degrees. Much to our amazement its not uncomfortable.  Dry heat.  Nice.  AC helps at night.
3.  Close to everything:  Five minutes to Costco. (It was a half hour drive in Minnesota). We’ve shopped there twice already, once to buy our two new Acer Windows 8 touch screen laptops and secondly, yesterday to purchase our two terabyte My Passport external hard drive (more on that later). 
4. Restaurants: There are several dozen restaurants within a mile.  In our old area, we’d have to drive for at least 25 minutes to get close to a dozen restaurants. 
5.  No mail:  How nice it is to avoid rifling through stacks of garbage mail each day, mostly unsolicited advertising. 
6.  Less cleaning and laundry: Our prior home required an enormous amount of cleaning each day. This small one bedroom condo takes just minutes to clean. Sweeping the floor yesterday, I chuckled.  It took a total of 60 seconds. Without Tom working on the railroad, our laundry is more than cut in half.  Although I love doing laundry, this different has been instrumental in giving my bad shoulder a break, especially with Tom helping. 

This morning, we walked to the Staples store (yes, Tom walked!) to return the external hard drive we purchased on Sunday after deciding it was too heavy for travel, replacing it with the lightweight, My Passport.  (The price at Amazon.com was $179.  At Costco we paid, $159.99 plus 9.5% Arizona Tax for a total of $175.19, still slightly less than any prices we saw online with tax, if applicable and shipping. 

Yesterday morning at 8:30 am, we attended a Microsoft class for Windows 8 at the Microsoft store.  Class, free.  Beverages, free. Cost of 450 page instruction manual, free. Distance, two miles. Nice perk. 

So, we’re settling in.  We’re enjoying our busy days, time spent together and the ongoing challenge of our technological needs going forward.  Next post, we’ll share what we accomplished thus far.

Thanks for “listening.”