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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a lovely spot to stop and enjoy the views.

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

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

There are mountains surrounding the entire Las Vegas valley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I prefer the powdered product which has a much larger number of bacteria at 450 billion but he was unable to get this high dose in the US (on this over-the-counter product) compared to the pills at a paltry 120 billion.  Based on this dose, I’ll take a minimum of two pills per day. 

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

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

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

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

______________________________________


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

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

Memorial Day…Love and respect for those who gave their lives for our freedom…More family visits…

Nothing signifies Minnesota more than the commonly found Canadian Goose.

We extend our hearts and prayers to those who lost loved ones to war and strife throughout the world.  Many celebrate with prayer and reverence as a special part of today’s observations.  May this day and others bring peace and healing for those who remember lost loved ones.

Yesterday, Sunday of this Memorial Day weekend, we drove to Sandstone, Minnesota to see daughter Tammy and family at their campground in Askov, aka Asking.

They’re pretty to look at but poop two pounds per day in the grass, a real nuisance for homeowners, particularly those living on a lake, as we did in our old lives.

The drive in the new Ford Explorer was pleasant while I worked on the settings on our phones for which we’d purchased SIM cards at a local T. Mobile store.  It was pricey for the two months of unlimited calls, text and 4 gigs of data at $180 for both phones, more than we’ve paid in any country.

We knew we couldn’t spend the nine weeks in the US without phones, especially with one car and the need to pick one another up during planned activities that may include only one of us.

This sky view took our breath away.

During the long drive, we sent our numbers by text to family members and now we’re easily able to stay in touch for planning and confirming our get-togethers over the remaining 39 days until we leave for Nevada for part two of the family visits.

What a pretty sky.  Rainstorms like this are typical for Minnesota and the Midwest.


Tammy, Tracy and our grandson Vincent have an RV parked in a permanent spot in a lovely fully equipped campground near Hinckley, Minnesota, home of several casinos and popular vacation spots.  Many locals travel from all over the state to gamble and enjoy the countryside.


A deep bank of clouds and rain greeted us on the return drive before dark.

Warmly welcomed by the family and their two huge Newfoundland dogs, we settled in for an enjoyable day of lively chatter and catching up.  Unfortunately, it was a rainy and cool day and we spent most of the day inside the camper. 


It was raining in mysterious sheets during the drive back to our hotel around 8:00 pm.

Later in the day, when the sun peeked out we gathered around a roaring campfire for more conversation and laughter.  It was an easy day spent sharing a piece of their lives as they too, like all of our children and grandchildren, have found a “happy place” where they unwind and relax while still working and raising their families.


At certain points, there was a massive downpour.

We’re deeply touched by the love and emotions shared by our family and look forward to every single moment we can spend together.  Once again, we’re humbled and in awe of the world around us, cherishing every interaction, each beautiful scene and the prospect of what is yet to come.

May your day be memorable in many ways…

______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, May 29, 2016:

This cat, who didn’t seem to mind, was getting a lot of personalized attention from these three monkeys at the Monkey Temple in Bali, if you see what I mean.  For more photos, please click here.

Cyclone Debbie now upgraded to Category 4…Safari luck prevails…Sightseeing photos…

 
Bob, our kindly landlord and new friend has insisted on driving us to see some of the sights in the area including the beautiful historic St. Patrick’s Estate as shown in today’s photos.

For our readers who may be unsure as to our current location, we are very far from the effects of Cyclone (hurricane) Debbie which is expected to make landfall later today in Queensland (in the north of Australia).
Here’s a link to a local newscast regarding Cyclone Debbie.

Had we been in Queensland, as we were in June 2015 when we first arrived in Australia, we’d have been close to the area and most likely feel the full effects of this dangerous storm.

It appear the location wasn’t open to the public due to an upcoming wedding but Bob managed to get us onto the grounds for photos.

Instead, we’re a several hour flight south of Queensland, living in New South Wales, a 30 minute ferry ride from Sydney.  We send prayers for the safety and well being of the citizens of Queensland as they work their way through this difficult next number of days. 

Yesterday’s visa entension brought us a significant round of “safari luck” over which we continue to reel with enthusiasm, allowing us to stay in Australia for our final 25 days with a renewed sense of lightness and peace of mind.  Whew!

Then, last night, shortly after I headed to bed to read news on Tom’s phone (while he used my laptop) now that we’re down to one phone and one laptop, he called out to me.  I jumped out of bed wondering what required my immediate attention.

“St Patrick’s Estate is a site of exceptional historical and cultural significance – a Manly landmark located south-east of Manly, a beachside suburb of northern Sydney. Established as the first National Catholic Seminary in Australia in 1889, St Patrick’s College and Archbishop’s Residence (located on the Southern part of the precinct) are legacies of a unique time in the growth and development of the Catholic Church in Australia.” (From the website).

Alas, he had great news.  He’d checked the tile I’d made on my desktop for  United States Postal Service package tracking and something had changed for the first time since February 11th when it stopped showing any progress.  See here for details:

Date & Time Status of Item Location
March 26, 2017, 1:50 pm             Arrived              LOS ANGELES, 
               
Your item arrived at an origin transfer airport in INTERNATIONAL, LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES on March 26, 2017 at 1:50 pm. The item is currently in transit to the destination. 
   
March 25, 2017, 11:21 pm Processed Through Facility ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS),
March 25, 2017, 11:21 pm Arrived at Facility ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS),
February 11, 2017, 9:30 pm Customs Clearance ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS),

Our rep, Eric at our mail service in Las Vegas, Nevada, Maillinkplus, stated that perhaps his 12 day tracking process located the package which apparently had been sitting in a warehouse in Los Angeles, California and was finally on the move again.  Eric also wrote that its rare for an express priority package to become lost. 

What a magnificent building!

We’ve worried that our package may have been the exception and that the most important package we were ever about to receive had been lost in transit. Here’s a list of some of the items in this package that caused us to worry to this extent:

1.  All of our tax documents (with social security numbers on them) for 2016 resulting in the fact that we’ll have to file an extension with our accountant in Nevada.
2.  Our two new drivers licenses for Nevada for which we’d applied online. Without these we wouldn’t be able to rent a car when we arrive in Minnesota in 60 days.  If we reapplied, the process would never be completed and shipped in time, if, in fact Nevada DMV would allow us to request replacements from outside the US. (They only allows one online renewal every four years).
3.  My new unlocked smart phone. 
4.  A one year supply of my contact lenses.  

The lawn was prepared for an upcoming wedding at St. Patrick’s Estate.

With items #1 and #2, our identity could easily been stolen for a plethora of illegal purposes putting us in a dire state.   We’d decided if the package wasn’t found soon, we’d have no choice but to sign up for one of those ID credit protection companies.

Plus, we hadn’t insured the package (due to the high added expense) since the cost to Tasmania, where we had it shipped planning it would reach us in three weeks before we left the Huon Valley. 

View from the site of the upcoming wedding, hampered somewhat by a hazy cloudy day.

It wasn’t that the value/cost of the contents of the package was that high.  It was the significance of the first two items listed above.  Everything else could easily be replaced. 

The shipping rate automatically includes AU $131, US $100 insurance and money wise, we’d only have been out a few hundred dollars more, not worth paying the high rates for added insurance.

Alternate view of the bay.

In any case, there’s nothing we can do but wait to see if the package arrives in Tasmania in time to be shipped to us here in the Sydney area. Anne, our former landlord has agreed to forward it to us when and if it arrives. If it makes it to Tasmania in time, we’ll pay extra to have it shipped to us overnight.

If it doesn’t arrive on time before we sail away on April 22nd, we’ll have Anne send it to Minnesota and it will be waiting for us when we arrive.  We won’t be able to rent a car until we have that package in hand with our drivers licenses.

The church located at St. Patrick’s Estate.

We’re hopeful, based on yesterday’s tracking update.  Maybe safari luck will kick in one more time for the arrival of the package.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed and post the result of this situation here.

One of several entrances to the main building.

Thanks to our thoughtful readers for the many email and Facebook messages we received wishing us well on the immigration issue.  Your kindness means the world to us.

Today, another cloudy and rainy day we’ll grocery shop since we are totally out of food.  Anticipating we may be asked to leave the country, we used every last bit of food over this past week.  Thanks to our thoughtful and kindly landlord Bob for driving us to shop and sightsee. 

Have a lovely day!

_______________________________________


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

Our favorite cow, a neighbor, whom we visit regularly on our “neighborhood” walks while living on the alpaca farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand.  It was Easter on this date last year and we posted this as our Easter photo.  For more photos, please click here.

Phone number while traveling…What’s with PayPal requiring a number?…



Walk along the esplanade near the Sydney Opera House.

It’s imperative we are clear and concise when we provide travel suggestions.  When our reader Susan wrote the following in an email today we felt it was necessary to clarify our phone situation which may be unclear, especially to newer readers.

Susan wrote:

“A few days ago you mentioned in a post that you were having trouble with
PayPal due to lack of a US phone number.  Many posts ago I read you had
dual SIM card phones and kept a US telephone number, has that changed
along the way?  I liked your idea of the dual SIM card phones because I
would like to have a “stable” phone number plus be able to use SIM cards
in various countries as we travel.”


The answer to this query is multi layered so please bear with us as we respond to this important question.

Oh…the name of a clothing store in Sydney.

Short term travelers such as those traveling for a week or two, nothing is necessary regarding your use of a cell phone providing you contact your carrier as to the cost of roaming fees.  If you limit your calls to short talk time, you may not incur huge roaming fees.

However, if you plan to talk to family and friends back home, your best solution is to use Skype or another free face time service.  If you use your cell phone’s data, which is necessary to make the Skype call, you may incur your home provider’s outrageous roaming data charges.  Its best to check before you travel.

If you’d like to purchase a SIM card to install into an unlocked phone, you may do so once you arrive in the new country which can be purchased at most conveniences stores, grocery stores and at cell phone stores. 

Tom in front of Sydney Opera House.

Recently, we purchased a SIM card at the local Cole’s grocery store.  It didn’t work in our Windows smart phone.  I was shocked that Cole’s gave us a full refund (via store credit) for the purchase even after we’d opened the package and activated the card. That’s unusual.  I wouldn’t plan on this occurring in most cases.

If this exceeds your level of knowledge of using SIM cars for your phone, simply go to a phone store in a local mall and they’ll set it up for you providing you have an “unlocked” phone which is a one that allows a SIM card (or two) to be installed to work for calls and/or data.

If you don’t have an unlocked phone, your home provider usually will provide some options for roaming rates you can live with.  Caution:  don’t take a risk and underestimate how quickly you can incur roaming charges.  We’ve heard nightmarish stories of thousands of dollars in charges incurring over short periods.

Optical illusion…ship is actually across the channel.

As a result, when we began traveling the world in 2012, we chose not to have a US provider.  The roaming fees would simply be too costly if we could freely call family and friends at our leisure and…use data on the phones as we traveled; maps, games, searches for local venues, etc.

Instead, we purchase SIM cards in locations where we may need to make local calls such as for taxis.  Otherwise, we can use our Skype phone number which we purchased for US $5 a month providing us with a US number in our home state. 

Using our Skype phone number to call any phone number worldwide may run under US $2 per hour of talk time.  However, having this number (from our home state of Nevada, USA) has limitations:

1.  We can’t send or receive texts.
2.  We need a data connection to make the calls. 

Conveniently, the train station, ferry station, buses and taxis serve the same area in Cicrular Quay, Sydney.

In 2015, when we entered Australia, we purchased a data hot spot (Wi-Fi device) which enables us to use data on our smart phone when we’re out (my phone died and the new phone is in the missing package we’re tracking at this time) thus we can use any type of communication apps with others who use such apps as “Whatsapp” and others.

As to the answer to Susan’s above inquiry;  PayPal insisted they confirm my identity with a text received on my smart phone number.  This didn’t work for us.  We can’t receive texts with our current setup.

In speaking with PayPal, they figured out a workaround and finally used a series of security questions as mentioned in a prior post thus enabling us to use the service as we had in the past. 

Apparently, PayPal had beefed up their security since the last time we’d used it several months ago.  It should work well for us going forward.  Since we never do bank transfers to pay strangers for holiday/vacation homes, we use PayPal, Stayz, AirBnB, etc. through their direct credit card payment processing.  This provides us with a layer of security and resolution should we experience a “scam” rental which can easily occur.

As the Manly Ferry pulls out of Wharf #3 at night.

Continuing with the answer to Susan’s question; yes, you can keep a stable number in one of your SIM card slots on an unlocked phone but keep in mind, you’ll be paying roaming rates when you’re out of the country where you purchased the card.  This can add up quickly. 

The bottom line?  Traveling the world means sacrifices and changes if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars a year in communication fees.  We spend US $5 a month for our phone number, varying amounts for SIM cards in various countries and data charges as we go when applicable.

For example, here in Fairlight/Manly, the house has good Wi-Fi.  As a result, for any calls we’ve made, we’ve been able to use our US $5 a month phone number at very low hourly rates while we’re online only. 

When out and about, we don’t make calls and have decided not to purchase a SIM card here.  The lowest price we’ve found is around US $30 which, since we don’t make calls while out, there’s no need to add a SIM card after all.  Most cells phone will allow an “emergency” call without a SIM card.  Verify this on your phone if you decide to go without a SIM card entirely.  Always have a means of calling “911, 999” etc. for emergency situations.

Tom’s second meal at Searock, medium rare sirloin steak with mushroom sauce and chips.

In Susan’s case she could buy a local SIM card for the country she’s visiting and have a “stable” SIM card in her home country to use at her discretion.  No doubt, this is complicated.  Perhaps, someday data and calling will become worldwide eliminating all this confusion and effort.

For the regular short term traveler, this isn’t complicated.  Just don’t spend hours talking on your phone or using social media or playing games, all of which use data and roaming fees.  Use Skype to Skype for free calls to loved ones, using the “free” data you may have available at your hotel or holiday home for other purposes.

With our Skype number we can call our family members cell phones while they’re away from their computers.  We use data and “minutes” calling them. They only use their usual “minutes” n speaking with us.  Its very easy when we’re using “free” data.

All other “face time” apps require use of data.  Please consider this when calculating “away from home” conversations, texts and chats.

My second salad on next day at Searock in Sydney had more chicken which was less overcooked.

Feel free to contact us with any questions but we suggest that you first call your provider for your roaming options which may provide exactly what you’ll need.
For world travelers, it important to consider the long term costs.  For us, with a strict budget and lengthy period of travel, we don’t use Twitter, SnapChat, Instragram etc. all of which would incur a cost we may choose not to incur while out and about.

Hopefully, our daily posts are ample communication for our readers and the use of our Skype phone number fulfills the needs of our family members and friends.

I hope this answers Susan’s questions.  May all of our readers have a lovely day!

_______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2016:

Ingredients we posted one year ago that we use for making homemade toothpaste.  Click here for recipe and details. 

Where’s our shipment? Sent International Express on October 4th…How we receive supplies via international shipping…

Fluffy flowers with soft petals.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Crab prints on the sand.

When we requested a shipment of supplies be sent from our mailing service  MaillinkPlus in Nevada to Bali on October 4th we expected it to arrive within 7 days.  The cost to ship the 25 lb, 11.3 kg box of much needed products was priced at US $185, IDR 2,416,377.

We’d asked Eric, our rep at the mailing service, to add insurance for no less then US $1,000, IDR 13,061,497. When totaling the cost of all the items we’d purchased to be shipped to the mailing service, this amount of insuance should have been adequate.

A larger villa four or five doors from us. (The taller villa in the background is described in detailed in Part 1 here and Part 2 here).

Eric suggested we don’t insure it based on its route of heading to Jakarta, Indonesia, then Denpasar and then on to Negara/Sumerbsari.  The likelihood of theft was substantially increased when a label on the exterior of the package would indicate it had been insured. 

We decided to take the risk knowing that whatever choice we made presented a certain degree of risk.  It could end up lost, stolen or with parts of the contents removed.  

Neighboring houses from the beach views.

Tom’s new phone was in the box as well as certain mail that could result in identity theft.  Also, a replacement credit card for an expiring card was in the package in its original envelope.  This could be rather worrisome if stolen.

The tracking information on the package has been vague and misleading as shown below:

Product & Tracking Information



Postal Product:

  • Priority Mail Express International          

Date & Time
Status of Item
Location
October 11, 2016 , 9:05 am

Attempted Delivery Abroad

INDONESIA
We attempted to deliver your item in INDONESIA at 9:05 am on October 11, 2016.
 
October 11, 2016 , 8:35 am
Arrival at Post Office
INDONESIA
October 11, 2016 , 5:35 am
Customs clearance processing complete
INDONESIA
October 9, 2016 , 10:02 am
Customs Clearance
INDONESIA
October 9, 2016 , 9:32 am
Processed Through Facility
INDONESIA
October 9, 2016 , 9:32 am
Customs Clearance
INDONESIA
October 8, 2016 , 4:00 pm
Departed
JAKARTA, INDONESIA
October 8, 2016 , 10:35 am
Departed
TOKYO, JAPAN
October 8, 2016 , 7:27 am
Departed
TOKYO, JAPAN
October 7, 2016 , 12:54 am
Departed
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES
October 6, 2016 , 6:38 pm
Arrived
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES
October 5, 2016 , 6:43 pm
Processed Through Facility
ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS) 
October 5, 2016 , 6:43 pm
Arrived at Facility
ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS) 
October 5, 2016 , 5:25 pm
Departed USPS Facility
LOS ANGELES, CA 90009 
October 5, 2016 , 3:53 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility
LOS ANGELES, CA 90009 
October 5, 2016 , 4:53 am
Departed USPS Facility
LAS VEGAS, NV 89199 
October 4, 2016 , 10:02 pm
Arrived at USPS Origin Facility
LAS VEGAS, NV 89199 
October 4, 2016 , 9:24 pm
Arrived at USPS Origin Facility
LAS VEGAS, NV 89120 
October 4, 2016 , 2:37 pm
Picked Up
LAS VEGAS, NV 89107 



This leads us to believe that “attempted delivery abroad” meant they’d tried to deliver it to us.  But,  this certainly didn’t occur here in Sumbersari.  As a result of this particular notation, we decided to try to figure out where the package is in fact being held for shipment.

Why do we ship items to ourselves while living in foreign lands?  Can’t we wait until we’re somewhere we can purchase the same or similar items?  In a perfect world that would be a great idea. 

Cool boxes/coolers for fishing are stored under this hut.

In the reality of this life, we can’t find most of these items in any local shops or online stores.  If we could, we definitely would.   The items on our lists aren’t to be found in most countries, not at the shops, not at online resources.

Many assume that online shopping is similar in other countries as it is in the US.  Its not.  We haven’t been able to find our favorite iced tea in any country other than the US.  Also, there’s unpredictability in purchasing clothing and/or shoes when sizing is different in other parts of the world. 

Cow checking us out as we walk by.

It has always made sense to us make most purchases at Amazon in the US and other items from well known reputable online companies we’ve worked with in the past.  For us, returns aren’t possible. 

Whether we’re buying clothing which we’re unable to try on, large amounts of Crystal Light iced tea, electronics and a plethora of miscellaneous items, its always been easier, safer and with peace of mind that we’ve shopped for the familiar items in the US.

This same road was flooded last week.

As Amazon Prime members most items we purchase offer free shipping to our mailing service which then ships everything to us in one box.  Avoiding any shipping costs on the purchase end reduces the overall cost.  Thus, it made sense for us to pay the annual fee of US $99, IDR 1,293,435 to be members of Amazon Prime for which we get some free video streams and Kindle books.

We kept an online list of all of the items we’d purchased checking them off as they arrived at the mailing service.  Once we were confident all items had been received, we contacted Eric at MaillinkPlus with the appropriate address, asking him to remove and toss all packaging in which the individual items arrived.  We utilize this same system a few times each year for all shipments.


Logs cut from local trees.


Eric tosses any accompanying sales slips, advertising and other useless packing materials.  As mentioned above, we can’t return anything and won’t need the packing slips.  Also, we have online receipts for all items.  Why pay shipping for the weight for a pile of superfluous envelopes, catalogs and slips of paper?

After the box is neatly packed and taped, he researches the best means of shipping, based on our current location.  We may have to guide him on the availability of receiving packages locally.  For example, UPS, DHL and other popular shipping companies, don’t service Melaya Beach, Sumbersari.

The only possibility for this remote location was to have it shipped through the United States Postal Service (USPS) which is less expensive than many other services.  In this case, per Gede’s research, having visited the local post office, the seeming best option was to send it directly to the local post/Western Union office located in Melaya, a 10 minute drive.

A beach shack.

In the process, the contents are checked by customs to ensure nothing illegal is being shipped and to access customs fees based on the contents.  Its during this process that a less-than-scrupulous party may slip something out of the box into their own hands. 

A few days ago, we became concerned the package may be lost based on notations on the tracking information. We gave Gede which he took to the post/Western Union office while they tracked it on their computer.

A small fishing boat with outriggers.

Based on the information Gede gleaned from the post office, the package is expected to arrive in Negara tomorrow.  Gede has offered to drive the 35 minute distance to Negara to collect it, pay the custom fees (we’ll reimburse him), rather than wait a few more days until someone from the postal service decides to drive it to remote Melaya Beach. 

Are we optimistic we’ll actually receive the package?  Yes.  Are we optimistic the box will still contain everything we ordered to be shipped?  Not so much.  Then again, we could be out the entire US $1,000, IDR 13,061,497 if the package never arrived.

Sadly, there are trash piles where locals dispose of garbage.

Most likely, if anything is missing it will be Tom’s replacement unlocked smart phone.  As for the credit card and snail mail…we’ll see how that goes.  If and when the shipment arrives, we’ll take a photo of the contents, share the cost of the custom fees and describe in detail any missing items (if any).

In the realm of things, after we started researching the state of the package, we had to accept and face the reality that we may never receive the package.  We’d be out the cost of the items and the shipping.  It would be frustrating but as we always say, “It’s the nature of the beast.”  Life continues on.

Be well!

_________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2015:

How frustrating it must have been for sailors and tourists unable to partake in boating activities during a rainy period in Fiji.  For more details, please click here.

Working through the ups and downs of living in remote areas…

This is actually a dine in restaurant in the strip mall with two tiny tables for diners and minimal cooking space for the cook.

There’s an app I downloaded, Live Writer from Microsoft that enables me to write the post offline and upload it later to Blogger to post online.  I’ve used this app many times over these past three years when there was no wifi signal and/or no electricity that obliterated the signal. I can prepare the post offline and upload it later once we’re back online.

Last night, after dinner, we had no signal.  Luckily, after dinner we watch a few shows to keep us entertained throughout the evening. Neither of us have ever enjoyed reading in the evening before going to bed.  Once we retire for the the night, reading a book on the Kindle app on our phones helps lull us to sleep. 
 
Often, if we awake during the night, unable to fall back to sleep we may read a little more, once again able to fall back to asleep.  Some mornings I awaken with the phone still in my hand or under my pillow.  Oh, I know about radiation from the phone.  Perhaps without service, our phones emit less of signal…who knows? 


Savusavu’s version of a strip mall.

One can only be cautious about so many things in life, leaving the rest to chance and good fortune.  We only use the phone for short local calls, reducing time the phone is spent next to our heads.

With no lamps or lighting other than the bright overhead light in the bedroom, reading a hardcover book is out of the question.  Also, we’ve never had interest in hauling physical books with us.  Often we speak to other travelers our age who still prefer a paper book in hand.  We get this.  But, this lifestyle dictates that we read on our phones which I was doing long before leaving for our travels, many moons ago.

I recall watching the entire first season of “Glee” on my phone while working out on the elliptical at the health club on my phone, listening with ear buds, loving every moment.  Surely, young people of today watch movies and TV shows on their phones without giving it a thought.  Certainly, us older types aren’t exempt from participating in this type of pastime, freely using available technology.


This restaurant seems huge in comparison to the two table spot in another photo.

When we awoke at 6:30 this morning, still with no wifi signal, I expected the only way I’d be able to post today would be by using Live Writer and hoping for a blip of a signal long enough to upload it at some point.

When we first arrived in Fiji and the signal was bad, I was able to use the SIM card signal on Tom’s phone as a hot spot connection in order to upload the post.  Hopefully, today I’ll be able to do the same if we can’t get back online.  As we’ve mentioned the signal on Tom’s phone is too weak to do much online.

There’s no question that not being able to be online is a huge factor in our level of satisfaction in where we’re living.  We were lucky to be able to lock up the two vacation homes in Tasmania last week during a period we could get enough of a signal to research possibilities.


The bus depot in the village.

With one more gap to fill and research for the future, we’re at a loss without service, not only in that it impedes posting, a daily objective but, it prevents us from continuing our research, an ongoing process, we both find great pleasure in accomplishing…the search…the negotiations…the final contracts…and hopefully, the end result.

We feel badly for Mario.  He’s quite the property owner/manager possessing a high degree of dedication and determination to provide the very best for his clients.  His hands are tied.  He’s worked steadily with the phone company to get the service working properly to this area.  Obviously, some of his efforts have been in vain.  We had better wifi service in Africa, living in the bush.


Burning garbage and refuse is allowed on the island.  Fortunately, there aren’t as many fires burning as there was in Kenya.

With the SIM card we purchased on Tom’s phone, he can stay busy listening to the radio stream and his favorite, Garage Logic, from Minnesota.  If I can get this post online today, I’ll be happy.  At 1 pm today, Ratnesh is picking us up for sightseeing and shopping.

Today’s sunny skies makes us excited that it may continue throughout the day.  We ‘ve been disappointed that we haven’t been able to upload more amazing Fiji photos since our arrival.  After all, we are in a beautiful place. 


We find these African tulips is most tropical countries.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not a skilled enough photographer to be able to take great photos on cloudy days and certainly not during rain storms. But Tom begs to differ with me when we go back to review the photos of the Gardens of Versailles in August, 2014 all taken during a rainstorm with the camera in a plastic bag in an attempt to keep it dry. 

Taking those photos in Versailles was quite a task which later we laughed over but now, with two more months on this island, I see no reason to go through that type of challenge when we can expect some sunny days.  Also, why risk ruining the camera?  There certainly aren’t any replacement options here on Vanua Levu.  Shipping rates are through the roof to this far away location making replacing any equipment too costly.


We’ve stopped taking the time to remove power lines from our photos.  They’re a fact of life in most areas.

We’re having snail mail sent to us from our mailing service in Nevada, three envelopes opened and stuffed into one letter sized envelope, a few containing replacement credit cards that include the “chip technology.”  The cost for priority mail for this single envelope was US $26, FJD $57.  For FED EX with a three to five day delivery, it was USD $114, FJD $248, an amount we just weren’t willing to pay for a single envelope.  Hopefully, it will arrive in the next month or so.

So this morning, we’d experienced a modicum of frustration over the wifi issues.  Otherwise, we’re quite fine.  Sure, there are a few annoying items with the rain, the ants, the lack of areas nearby suitable for walks, the uncomfortable bed, the limited products at the grocery store and the tiny coffee pot.  But, we don’t want to mislead our readers in claiming that everything is always rosy.  In our old lives, there were frustrations of daily life as well, as there always is.

But there are many wonderful aspects we treasure.  We think of Mario, the great owner looking out for us, the friendly support staff, the joy of visiting the various markets, the constants sounds of birds singing, the beautiful views, and the exquisite vegetation.  We’ve learned to “Love, the One You’re With!” 



Nawi Island in across from the village.

This morning I called Helen, the owner of the tiny meat market in the village, Fiji Meats, asking her to hold two cooked chickens for us, which we now order weekly.  She recognized my voice and with warmth and enthusiasm in hers, she took our order with a heartfelt “vinaka” (thank you).  Its that kindness and familiarity that makes everything OK.

As I finish this post, Junior stopped by.  He and Mario went up on the roof and reset the main switch to the Internet.  We’re back on!  Now, we can post, pay our bills online for the month of October (its the 1st here today), say hello to friends and family and continue the search, the ongoing search for the next leg of our journey.  As for today, we can now settle back and enjoy the moment, heading out on a sunny day!

Have a fabulous day!

________________________________________
 
Photo from one year ago today, October 1, 2014:
 
Although we had an upcoming almost two weeks to live in Honolulu/Waikiki, we got off the ship to wander about the downtown area of Honolulu.  For more details, please click here.
 

Xcom Global MiFi device is on its way to us…Best customer service in the world!…

(We are not affiliated with this company other than as a satisfied customer). aXcess MiFi Mobile Hotspot

The world’s first intelligent mobile hotspot you can take with you around the world. This international wireless device is compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet powerful enough to connect up to 5 WiFi-enabled devices simultaneously to the Internet.

Specifications

  • Compatible with 3G and GSM network
  • Tri-Band: 850 / 1900 / 2100 MHz (HSPA / UMTS)
  • Quad-Band: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz (EDGE / GPRS)
  • Speeds of up to 7.2Mbps download and 5.76Mbps upload*
  • Enables 5 Wi-Fi devices to simultaneously connect
  • One touch remote connectivity
  • (up to 30 foot range) – no need to connect with cable
  • Compact size of 62 mm x 98 mm x 15.3 mm and 81 g
  • Removable, rechargeable Li-Ion battery with charger
  • Computer WiFi connection supports 802.11 b/g
*Achieving maximum speed depends on geographical
location and coverage.

In an effort to avoid UPS from charging us $10 per day per item for holding packages for us while we’re in Miami Beach for part of one day, we’ve decided to have the Xcom Global MiFi device that we’ll use worldwide, sent to our mailing service in Nevada.

It will arrive at our Nevada mailbox by April 1st to be placed into one of the large boxes along with the other supplies we’ve ordered for our continuing world travels.  The mailing service will wrap and ship all the items to the UPS store in Miami Beach for our pickup (by cab) when our ship arrives in port for the day on April 13th.

Once we receive the MiFi, a device that grabs the signal from Internet providers in most countries, enabling us to be online with up to five devices, we’ll activate it and be online.  The device only works when we can see land, less than a mile away.

Aboard ship we’ll use the MiFi when we’re in port for the day, avoiding the outrageous WiFi charges on the ship.  When we’re out to sea, we’ll use the Internet package we’ve purchased on the ship. For example, on our last two-week cruise through the Panama Canal on the Celebrity Century, we paid $399 for the ship’s service which served us well, although it’s relatively slow.

Adding the cost for Xcom Global service to the cost of the ship’s Internet service, we expect our total cost to be around $1000 per month while cruising and only the monthly rate of $395 to Xcom Global when we’re situated in one of our vacation homes.

One thinks, why in the world are we willing to pay upwards of $1000 a month for Internet access while cruising and $395 a month when staying put?  For us, the answer is clear.  In order to achieve the level of planning and organization we’ve chosen for our years-long worldwide travels, there are costs we must bear.

On average, we’ll only be on cruises for two months per year ($2000) and most likely we’ll only need the device for another 5 months each year (at $395 per month) which totals $3975 per year, totaling $331.25 a month. 

In our old lives, our combined cell phone bill for calling and data was $185 a month.  Our cable and Internet bill was $235 a month. The total for these two expenses was $420 a month which is $88.75 more than that which we’re paying to be online at all times as we travel the world. It all boils down to numbers. 

Another factor we consider is our lack of spending on “extras” on cruises. We don’t pay for excursions (although we will in order to see the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and Giza in May.  No point in one going off on our own in these areas). 

We don’t dine in the “extra” cost restaurants.  I don’t drink alcohol or soda and Tom drinks very little alcohol, thus our alcohol bill is low.  We don’t buy highly marketed souvenirs, photos, spa services, personal trainers, go to art auctions, buy clothing, watches, or jewelry. 

At the end of our cruise, our bill will consist of charges for Internet service, Tom’s cocktails and as on the last cruise, two bottles of duty-free liquor we thankfully brought to Belize.  Tom’s favorite, Courvoisier is US $65 in Belize, as opposed to the US $37 duty-free, we paid on the ship.  Of course, one is not allowed to drink their liquor purchase aboard the ship.

Fortunately, most locations we’ve booked for the future have wireless broadband service in the property at no charge.  For example, we are certain the connection will be adequate for our 13 days in Dubai in May, although we’ll still have the device with us and will be paying for it. 

However, the advantage we’ll have when out of our condo in Dubai, visiting the various sites of the city, we’ll be able to use the device as a “portable WiFi” which allows us to use “Maps” on our smartphones with full access to the Internet although neither of us has a cell phone contract! We love technology! 

We aren’t so certain about the Internet service at the 17th-century villa in Tuscany Italy, where we’ll be spending most of the summer, as having anything other than a dial-up connection. The lovely owners, Lisa and Luca, don’t speak English and we’ve had a difficult time using the correct words to communicate a full description of the quality of the connection at the property. 

Once we arrive in Tuscany on the June 16th, we’ll immediately test their service and if not adequate, we’ll email Xcom Global explaining that we’ll need to continue to use their service and won’t be returning the device at that time.  We’ve alerted their customer service department to this possible scenario and they are more than willing to work with us.

While on our first cruise, as we were learning to use the device (very easy), we had a few questions that we sent by email.  They couldn’t have responded more quickly with an immediate resolution.  This company has the best customer service in the world!

Some have asked us, why “rent” this pricey device when you can purchase one for under $300?  Well, let’s say this would be comparable to buying a modem from a cable company but having no service with the company. 

Worldwide WiFi is not FREE. A few countries offer it for their citizens, for which they are ultimately taxed. Xcom Global has contracted with providers all over the world to allow its customers to “tap in” to the various networks. 

These providers are well aware when we’re utilizing their network to the extent that they have some restrictions on usage, such as not being able to download huge files or use Skype. using the device. It uses too much bandwidth. Our understanding is that this is to prevent piracy of videos, movies, and large international files and, from using too much of their data that is distributed to their own customers. 

Worldwide Internet access is a complicated issue.  We have spent considerable time researching our options and are satisfied with the choices we’ve made.  In time, as technology improves, hopefully, less expensive options will be available to us.  For now, we feel we have the best service available for our needs.

After all, if we couldn’t be online, we’d hardly be able to share all of our travel experiences with all of you on an an-almost-daily basis. 

 

What do I do about my phone?…

 

Ugh!!  My cracked Droid Razr Maxx HD smartphone cracked in the upper left corner.

The day after our anniversary and subsequent injuries from the fall on the collapsed steps, I dropped my Droid Razor HD Maxx on the cement walkway.  More concerned about my injuries at the time, I dismissed it with a plan to deal with it later.

Later has arrived.  I’m almost fully recovered, working out again today for the first time since the fall, and ready to resolve the phone issue.

If we were in the US, I’d drive to the Verizon store or a cell phone repair shop, drop it off for the day to pick it up later in the day.  Most likely the cost for the digitized touch screen replacement would have been in the $200-$289 range.

Not the case now.  On a whim, when we stopped at the local office supply store in Placencia Village on Wednesday for a squishy envelope, there was a cell repair station in the back of the store.  My hopes soared.  The enthusiastic repair guy looked at the cracked screen shaking his head, “no.” 

The office supply store in Placencia, Belize has a cell repair shop.

“It will take at least a month for the repair parts to get here,” he explains, handing the phone back to me. “But I can’t even guarantee that it’d get here in a month.  You, know, the mail…” he trailed, looking sadly disappointed.

“Yes, we understand,” I said equally disappointed. 

Decided not to give it another thought at the time, we continued on with our shopping.  Later, at my computer, I started researching my options which include:

Plan A

  1. Wrap the phone in the padded envelope with a prepaid UPS label (using our UPS account, our trusty portable printer, and our roll of clear shipping tape) and giving it to our kind Minnesota friends who are returning to the US on March 22nd. 
  2. UPS will pick it up at their office on March 25th. Within four days (roughly arriving on March 29th), it arrives at the Motorola Repair facility, where it takes five days to repair (roughly arriving on April 3rd).  Motorola ships it to our mailing service in Nevada (roughly arriving on April 7 and is placed in the box with our other items being shipped to us on April 8th to a UPS store in Miami Beach. We’ll be there for only eight hours on April 13th.  That’s a tight time frame.
  3. This plan leaves me without my Android phone for 22 days, which I use as my reading device. I pick it up to read at night when we go to bed, during the night if I can’t sleep, during the day on the veranda and out by the pool.  To be without it for 22 days is challenging. My laptop is too bulky for such reading.  Yes, I know a tablet would have been handy, but we were trying to keep the digital equipment at a minimum (kind of).

Plan B

  1. Find a location in Miami Beach to repair the phone while we wait during our eight-hour layover between cruises.
  2. Upon researching cell phone locations somewhat near the pier in Miami, most indicated either an exorbitant cost of upwards of $300 or they wouldn’t fix it in a few hours.  I contacted several repair shops by email and chat to become further frustrated with their responses.  All asked to be paid upfront so they could order the parts. 

Plan C

  1. Keep the phone in my possession since I still can read on it. We’ll arrive in Dubai on May 21st after our cruise through the Suez Canal and to visit to the Pyramids.  With a 13 day stay, we’ll have time to take it to a nearby repair shop for a replacement screen.  If it takes a few days, no problem. With our 95-story high rise close to the downtown area, there appear to be multiple options within walking distance.
  2. Keep the phone in my possession since I still can read on it.  We’ll arrive in Italy, staying in Tuscany for 2 1/2 months with a rental car.  We’ll have plenty of time to get it repaired.

In reviewing these options, we have to recall our motto, “Wafting Through Our World Wide Travels with Ease, Joy and Simplicity.”  In other words, which of these options produces the least amount of stress?  It’s clear to us, Plan C.

A possible obstacle to Plan C?  The phone continues to crack (highly likely) and becomes unreadable. Solution: Bite the bullet and purchase a new unlocked smartphone at one of the many ports of call along the way. Also, we’ll be back in Miami for one day again on April 20th, the day we leave to travel across the ocean to Barcelona.  At that time, decide on the repair or the new phone.

For now, we’ll put aside the cracked screen issue and go about enjoying our remaining 24 days in Placencia Belize.  Our big concern for today is, when will the sun come out? Nice.

 

Reading books on Kindle app…Mindless drivel..

 

Today, we met Cody, a Maltese, while lounging at the pool as he was having his swimming lesson. 

Constantly busy in my “old life” I seldom took the time to get outside my head long enough to read a novel. I always felt compelled that reading time “must” be reserved for educational nonfiction books.

I learned a lot but never allowed myself the luxury of curling up in a comfy chair, legs wrapped in a soft fluffy afghan along with a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea at my side. Would those days ever come?

As you can easily gather from reading this blog, which many of you relate to, that the pace of my life was comparable to being in a race, a continuous mission of beating my last record. Ultimately in time, frustration surpassed endurance, and frustration won. The record could not be broken.

We saw this iguana today.  It was about 3′ long.

That life was full but surprisingly rich with love, times of great pleasure and a general sense of contentment. I assumed “this is who I am” and “this is who I will always be.” 

Not the case.  Everything has changed.  I read novels.  Which novels?  Irrelevant. I simply read novels on the Kindle app on my Android phone, by the pool, in bed at night, when awakening too early in the morning to get up and often while sitting on the veranda in the shade, the sound of the sea, nary a distraction.  Tom reads novels on his phone as well.  How did this happen?

Away from the self imposed flurry of excessive activity, I am finally free to indulge myself in this seeming luxury. I will admit, I’ve recently enjoyed reading mindless drivel, not necessarily novels of great esteem but novels that merely hold my interest, able to release me from the endless stream of thinking and planning, analyzing and studying and sorting and categorizing. 

As a fast reader, I could easily consume an entire novel in three or four days but I choose to savor it, spreading it out over six or seven days, to avoid the average $10 per downloaded book resulting in over $100 a month, not a practical expenditure in our current lifestyle of ongoing world travel.

No books to haul around the world, no bookstore to drive to, no tax to be paid, no bookcase to fill with completed or partially completed books to eventually be sold at a garage sale. The drawback? Not easily returned. 

The solution to avoid partially read books? Taking advantage of the “free sample” of the books offered at online bookstores (I use Amazon.com), reading the story line to ensure its to one’s liking and most of all, reading some of the 100’s of reviews online. Yes, I know, every one’s taste is different. But, if a book is rated at “one star” by 600 readers, the handwriting is on the wall. Don’t bother.

The past several days while recovering from our near disastrous fall on the collapsed steps, my most recent novel, has made the required icing and resting easy at best. Still able to read on my newly cracked phone, has not held me back. 

Mindless drivel? Yes! The resulting relaxation, stress reduction and escape from my overactive thought process has brought considerable pleasure as well as this new way of living, in the world, on the move with my equally well read travel companion, husband and friend. 

We read different books but we’re on the same page.

The magic of Skype…

 

Willie waiting to Skype with his “aunt” when we were in Nevada for business.

As a kid, I remember fantasizing about being able to “see” using the phone. In the 1950s there was talk about such technology eventually existing, being referred to as Phone-A-Vision (or something like that).  Here we are many years later and this technology not only exists but works rather well.

With the advent of cell phone service providing free long distance in the US, we weren’t frequent users of SKYPE in our old lives.  

For a period of time, I had worked in Nevada, leaving my husband and family behind. (Knowing I’d be gone for several months I brought along our precious little dog WorldWideWillie). With the ease of calling family members on my smartphone, there was little need to use SKYPE. Shortly after I arrived in Nevada my little sister Julie suggested we talk via SKYPE rather than on the phone.

For those of you unfamiliar with SKYPE please click here for a detailed description.

Julie and I began to use Skype on a regular basis.  Willie, a huge fan of Julie, went nuts when he’d hear her voice coming from my laptop while seeing the live video of his “aunt” who had often visited our home.  After only a few occasions, he’d anxiously wait by the computer for me to Skype Julie. He’d bark at my laptop looking up at me with pleading eyes, to make the call.

With both voice and video turned on while talking to Julie, I was able to walk around the house with my laptop showing her where I lived, the inside of the refrigerator, a new gadget I’d purchased, or the bruise I got on my leg when making the bed;  lots of “sister” stuff.

Since leaving the US we’ve talked to family members and friends using Skype.  As soon as we moved into our villa in Laru Beya, I immediately called Julie to “show” her our new place while we giggled in awe of this amazing technology. 

It was necessary to work out a few glitches with Julie to ensure a clear connection.  Discovering that turning off the video aspect along with her calling me using the Skype app on her iPhone, I was able to answer for perfectly clear reception on either my Android phone or on my laptop using the Skype app installed on both devices.

You may wonder, if we no longer have cell service, how can we make a Skype to Skype call using our smartphones? LaruBeya has free WiFI throughout the resort. Our unlocked smartphones (meaning we aren’t locked into a cell contact, our phones are classified as unlocked GSM and thus enabled for SIM card use) don’t currently have SIM cards but are able to pick up a WiFi signal wherever it is available: at this resort, at a Hotspot or any other location that offers free or a pay-for-use wireless Internet connection.

Using Skype, we have no bill to pay and no account to maintain.  All we need is a Skype name for others to easily reach us.  As long as the computer or phone’s sound is turned on, an incoming Skype call rings to a familiar musical tone.

What if both the computer and the phone’s sound is on and a Skype call comes in?  Whichever device we use first, to “pick up the receiver” via clicking on the old fashioned phone handle icon, is the device on which we will take the call.

Since arriving in Belize, we’ve discovered a vital fact about Skype that has saved us a considerable sum. We can call any US toll-free numbers at no charge.  This enables us to handle business matters back in the US calling a landline.

However, if one is calling a non-toll-free number, for instance, a friend’s regular cell number, as opposed to their Skype name using Skype, it is necessary to place funds into a Skype account using a credit card and to pay per minute use. For example, while here in Belize, if we call the local cab company for a driver, we’d have to pay for the call on Skype.  Why?  They don’t have a toll-free number.

We deposited $10 into my Skype account for this purpose which remains intact in the account, less $2.10 for one local call we made at the end of January when inquiring about a golf cart rental. Were we to call family or friend’s landlines or cell phones without their using Skype on their end, the call on Skype would be approximately $2.89 per minute.  As you can see, this adds up.

Back in Minnesota with a shared cell service plan, our average minutes use was a combined 800 minutes per month, resulting in approximately 22 minutes per day for each of us. While outside the US, if we each used the 22 minutes per day, our monthly cost through SKYPE (or through our old Verizon account which we’d investigated) would be $2312!

You may ask, why don’t we have SIM cards installed in our phones for use in Belize?  Simple.  We can use Skype for free.  Why use up minutes on a SIM card when we can use Skype at no expense?  If we had SIM cards, we’d suddenly find we’re frequently loading minutes onto the card while spending huge amounts a month in cell calls.  Plus, we’d eventually end up with dozens of unused balances remaining on SIM cards from all over the world.

As for the magic…my eldest sister, Susan, living in Boulder City, Nevada has been unable to use a computer these past years due to a medical condition. We last spoke on January 3, 2013, the day we left the US. 

In her career she owned a successful travel agency, traveling the world experiencing many cruises, mostly on upscale cruise lines.  How fun it would be to share our experiences with her!  She educated us on cruising when we visited her in Nevada over Christmas, tips that we’ve treasured from the moment we boarded the ship.

Without a laptop and only recently receiving a Kindle Fire, a gift from her daughter, Susan had yet to load Skype. I wanted to speak to her!  While “Skyping” with sister Julie a few days ago, an idea hit me! 

What if I call Julie on Skype at a prearranged time.  She picks up the Skype call on her iPhone verifying that we have a clear connection, (without using video which requires more bandwidth). With her landline next to her, she dials Susan’s landline while pressing the SPEAKER button. 

She sets both phones down on the desk and says to Susan, “I have a surprise for you on the phone!”  Susan cringed.  She doesn’t like to talk to people she doesn’t know on the phone.  Who does?  She made the assumption that whoever was on the line was a stranger. 

Speaking in a normal voice, I said, “Susan, it’s me, Jessica!  I’m calling from Belize through Julie’s Skype!”  

The three of us squealed with delight. Once again, we were together! The sound was clear, free of background noise or static.  It was as if I had called her directly on Skype.  We chatted on endlessly in our usual way with an enthusiastic interest in one another’s lives and well being. 

Well, of course, I can’t expect Julie to be an intermediary on all future calls to Susan. But now, she is highly motivated to take the easy steps to install Skype on her Kindle Fire, making it possible for us to chat anytime we’d like at no cost, anywhere in the world. I’m looking forward to that!

Another “workaround” worked for us in our world travels!

Last week, while talking on Skype with son, Richard in Henderson, Nevada, he was using his smartphone and I was using my laptop, both voice and video were clear. His funny pug Monty, heard my familiar voice, snorted, and licked the phone. See, dogs like Skype, too!

Thanks, Julie!  Thanks, Skype!