Hahaha, it’s so busy in the garden, I can’t get anything done!!!…It was almost two years ago…Can’t stop thinking about it…

Broken Horn is persistent about pellets, scaring off any intruders with his horns.

I am sitting at the big table on the veranda and can’t stop laughing. There are so many animals stopping by I can hardly type a word for today’s post. Between Little, Broken Horn, ThickNeck/BadLeg, Spikey, and his mom, 25 helmeted guinea fowls, Frank, Go-Away birds, and other warthogs and bushbucks, I can’t sit still long enough to type a word.  I keep getting up for more pellets and seeds.

The sights and sounds of the bush grab my attention, especially knowing that in 59 days, we will be leaving South Africa, unsure as to when we’ll return. It could be one year. It could be two. It’s all subject to what transpires with Covid-19. We do know that beyond the end of February, after friends Karen and Rich’s wedding in Florida, whether or not our cruises to Japan sail or not, we will be leaving the US to continue on our journey.

A few Go-Away birds have been hanging around for days. We love their funny sounds.

Of course, if Covid continues to rage throughout the world, and if there is nowhere safe or without restrictions for us to visit, we may have to rethink the possibility of plans outside the US. The alternative has been our long-range plan to travel to the US, and in the worst case, the time to do that may be coming sooner rather than later. At this point, we don’t have a clue.

As for most of us, Covid-19 determines our future fate, especially regarding travel. We’ve often thought about renting an RV to eventually travel the US when we were getting too old for long-distance travel, hauling heavy bags, and flying on countless red-eye flights. Is the handwriting on the wall and that time maybe sooner than we’d hoped?

This tiny bushbuck couldn’t have been more than a month old but already knew about pellets. Her mom is in the background.

Now, as the days tick away for us to leave Africa, where we’ll be soon, looms heavily on my mind. It will be less than two years ago that we stayed in Apache Junction with Tom’s sisters. We particularly loved the days and evenings we spent with them, socializing and having fun.

But, the days in-between those delightfully fun social interactions were hard for me. It reminded me too much of what our lives would be like if we gave up our journey and settled somewhere in the US. After all we’ve seen and done, such a thought is far removed from our reality. The trips to the supermarket, Walgreens, Target, the bank, and more remind me of a life I struggle to embrace at this point.

Bossy and Broken Horn, together in the garden.

We never imagined our life of world travel would end due to a pandemic. Who imagined they’d lose their jobs, work from home, home school their kids, and wear face masks every time they stepped out the door? Who imagined their social lives would be small and fraught with worry and concern over “catching” the virus?

Even those of us who are vaccinated are still proceeding with caution in everything we do, everywhere we go, when the media and even science continue to throw us curve balls on what we can and can’t do, what is safe for ourselves, and our family. Will a booster jab be necessary? No one seems to know for sure. When will the numbers come down? Are the numbers real or exaggerated? None of us knows for sure. We live in a constant state of limbo.

Lots of pigs in the garden!

Many of our friends who usually spend time in Marloth Park never came here, frightened of their fate, their safety. Are we no different in deciding to leave when we don’t even know if it’s safer in the US or not? Based on the stats from Worldometer, the US is still in the #1 spot on the list of countries. Why would we assume it’s safer there?

Arizona, where we’re going in 59 days, is listed in the 12th position out of 56 states and US territories. There’s a large senior population in Arizona.  From the web:

“The number of elderly (persons over the age of sixty years) in Arizona will grow from a current level of around 900,000 in 2000, representing some 18 percent of the population to 1.8 million and 24 percent in 2020 and almost three million and 26 percent of the population in 2050.”

If 24% of the current population in Arizona is senior citizens, what percentage of those are recent cases of Covid-19?

From this article:

Arizona’s older population could mean more COVID-19 deaths.

That’s a higher share of the elderly than some states that have so far seen larger outbreaks than Arizona. About 18.6% of people in California are over age 60, 19.1% in Colorado, 20.6% in Washington, and 21.2% in New York.

“Those that are over the age of 60 or those that have other significant medical issues are the ones most likely to suffer that mortality rate from COVID-19,” Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer for Banner Health, said. “The age of a country or a state or even a town will determine the death rate.”

One Wart, a regular visitor to the garden.

No, we don’t dwell on this every day. Of course, we will continue to avoid a sense of doomsday and be optimistic for the future. But now, as the time to return to the US nears, it’s unavoidable to free ourselves of such thoughts when we are out in public and at gatherings, just as we’ve done here in Marloth Park.

And, as I sit here today, surrounded by our wildlife friends, I already feel the sense of loss I’ll feel leaving here. If it weren’t for the necessity of leaving every 90 days for a visa stamp, undoubtedly, we’d have stayed longer.  But, without a doubt, we’ll have a good time in Apache Junction, Arizona, with Tom’s siblings and then on to Florida for the wedding.

Life goes on. Thank God for that!!!

Photo from one year ago today, August 23, 2020:

One year ago, this photo was posted in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #153. This is St. Mary’s church in Bampton, known as Church of St. Michael of All Angels, as shown in the series Downton Abbey, where Mary married Matthew, Edith was jilted at the altar, and eventually, Matthew was buried. For more photos, please click here.

Covid-19 tests today…Two days and counting…

A gorgeous rhododendron on the tour of the Princeville, Hawaii Botanical Garden in 2015.

Sorry, but we don’t have any new photos today. We didn’t have an opportunity to take photos, and I’d decided to wait until we get back to Marloth Park to set up my new camera, which we picked up at the mailing service on Tuesday. Tomorrow, we’ll return to the mailing service for the last time to pick up a few remaining items we’ve ordered from Amazon this week.

Last night, we joined Richard and his GF for dinner at their home and had a lovely evening sipping Michelob Ultra Light beer (low carb) while he made chicken kabobs on the outdoor grill. It was fun sitting at the outdoor table by the pool on a perfect evening that wasn’t too hot. When the salad, broccoli, and kabobs were done, we went indoors to eat at the dining room table for a lovely dinner and lively conversation and laughter.

Back at our hotel by 10:30 pm and with a plan to see them again tomorrow night at a Mexican Restaurant we loved last time we were here, today we’re on our own for a busy day. At 11:20, we’ll leave the hotel to head to the CVS Pharmacy, where at their Minute Clinic, we’ll stay in the car for our drive-up Covid tests. We should have the results by Saturday morning, the day we leave.

After picking up a few items for a few South African friends, we’ll head to Old Navy for me to purchase a pair of jeans which I’ll have to try on. Sizing has changed in the past nine years since we’ve been gone, and I can’t be sure my usual size will be right. I really don’t enjoy trying on clothes, but it’s a must. I tossed my last worn-out pair of jeans in the hotel room in Milwaukee.

Tom will have to entertain himself while I shop. But somehow, he manages to stay busy while I shop for anything. He prefers not even to enter a store if he can help it. Then again, if he went into a Fleet Farm store to buy his jelly candies, I’d wait in the car for him.

On this trip, I’m replacing my worn-out shoes. Tom has done the same and actually threw out the awful big black tennis shoes he’s been wearing the past few years for the updated, stylish Cole Haan shoes he’d purchased in Minnesota. I no longer wear tennis shoes since I find them not as comfortable as my leather Keds. They are lighter weight and more comfortable. Plus, I prefer white, and tennis shoes are hard to keep clean in the bush. The white leather Keds can go into the washing machine for a sparkling result and to later dry outdoors in less than a day.

Ease and convenience are important for us in everything we wear and use. Whatever we purchase in the US is done so with this in mind. We’ve found that we don’t have much luck purchasing clothing or shoes that meet our expectations in most countries other than the US. Durability, ease of cleaning and washing, and comfort are always of the utmost importance.

After today, the shopping will be done, and packing will be on our minds. My bag is packed except for the new items I’ll purchase today and miscellaneous items we’re picking up at the mailing service tomorrow. On Saturday, we’ll load up the few toiletries, and we’ll both be good to go.

With a 20% off coupon for any restaurant in the resort, most likely, we’ll dine here tonight for the first and last time. Breakfasts have been excellent. We anticipate dinner will be equally good.

Now, as our US visit winds down, it’s impossible not to start thinking about the animals we left behind. Will Little, Tiny, Broken Horn, Bossy, Bog Daddy, Stingy, Torn Ear, Thick Neck, Benny, Henny, Lenny and Penny, Sigfried and Roy, and of course, Frank and The Misses (and many others) still be there waiting for us to return. Only time will tell. I assure you, the first thing I’ll do is open the door to the veranda and call their names, practically holding my breath in anticipation.

We’ve had a fantastic visit, but Africa is calling me, as it always does, no matter how far away we may be.

Be well. Be happy. Be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, July 22, 2020:

From the post, one year ago, while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, day #121, of the blossoms on a banana tree. “The inflorescence is a complex structure that includes the flowers that will develop into fruits.” The hanging pink and yellowish protrusions are the flowers. Mother Nature is amazing! For more, please click here.

Enjoying relaxing and quiet times, too…Three days and counting…

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa is a fabulous property. When we return to Las Vegas in years to come, we’d love to stay here again.

Since we arrived in the US on July 1st, the time has flown by so quickly that we can hardly believe it. Hey, “Father Time,” slow down! We still have lots of life to live, and it’s moving way too quickly for our liking. We arrived here three weeks ago and now are left with only three more days until departure.

But, as we prepare to depart, we feel comfortable with the quality of the time spent in the US with our family members and a few friends. Now, as the days dwindle toward departure, we are reminiscing about the good times we’ve had, with more to come over the next few evenings.

Tonight, we’re heading to Richard‘s home for dinner at 7:00 pm. While there, we’ll use his washer and dryer to do one load of laundry since there are no laundry facilities in this hotel other than pricey laundry service, which we seldom use other than as necessary on cruises.

Last night we were on our own. After eating out so many nights, we decided on takeaway with the many options available in the hotel’s food court. We found an Asian restaurant with several stir-fried, non-battered options that work for me. It will be a long time before we have access to Asian food again. We’ve never seen an Asian restaurant anywhere in South Africa, other than in the big cities.

We set up a small table and two chairs in our room to use as a dining area while we streamed an episode of Shark Tank as we ate our delicious food. We chatted while eating since we’d already seen the older episode and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and each other’s company.

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa is huge, with 496 rooms and massive grounds.

The remainder of the evening flew by as we easily entertained ourselves, talking and streaming a few more shows. Later, sleep was elusive. Several times during the night, we were both awake, looking at our phones. At one point, from sheer desperation, I got up and took an aspirin. I didn’t have a headache or any pain, but on a rare occasion, I take one aspirin since it makes me sleepy. It worked, and by 1:00 am, I drifted off. Tom said he did the same without the aspirin.

Today, we’re staying in, continuing to research the future, which, at this point, is still vague and uncertain regarding Covid-19. It’s unbelievable how many states in the US and other countries are experiencing spikes in cases over the past week.

Today, I have been chatting back and forth via text with several of our friends in South Africa. Somehow, they manage well with the Level 4 lockdown, including an alcohol ban and mask-wearing anywhere out in public. Once we return, we’ll follow suit with mask-wearing while proceeding with caution in public places.

Other than small get-togethers with close friends, several of whom are now vaccinated, we’ll follow the Covid-19 requirements and be extra careful when heading to Komatipoort to shop for groceries. The small town is a hotbed of Covid-19 and has been so all along.

This resort is beautifully decorated and appealing to the eye.

Tomorrow morning, we go for our Covid-19 PCR tests at a drive-up Minute Clinic at a nearby CVS pharmacy, required for us to enter South Africa, even though we’ve been vaccinated. We’d have preferred to get the test on Friday, but there was nowhere in this entire city that offered 24-hour results.

All of the regular PCR testing sites only offered 48-hour turnarounds. This is cutting it close for us since South Africa requires the PCR test to be completed no more than 72 hours before entering the country. There’s a rapid test available, but we were concerned that South Africa wouldn’t accept the rapid test when all the information online specifically stated it must be a PCR test, not a rapid test. We didn’t want to take any chances.

Calling the airlines to check on this is pointless since it requires two to three hours on hold on the phone to get through to a representative. No thanks.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Photo from one year ago today, July 21, 2020:

This photo is from our post on Day #120 while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, one year ago. Most beaches are rocky in Madeira, Portugal. Wooden planks are provided for sunbathers to avoid sitting on the rocks. On many beaches, these thatched umbrellas are also provided. For more, please click here.

Dinner with Richard…How to play a slot machine has changed due to Covid-19…

A small glimpse of the Las Vegas Strip through the car’s windshield.

We had such a fine evening last night with Richard and his lovely GF. They prefer not to have their photos online, which we fully respect and understand. We had a fantastic evening with the two of them, first having drinks at the Claim Jumper and later heading a short distance to one of my favorite places for salads, The Cheesecake Factory.

It was an evening with lots of enthusiastic conversation and laughter. What a joy it is to see them after 20 months away! We’ll see them a few more times this week as their schedules allow.

Alternate view of the strip from the highway.

When I saw they had a low-carb, sugar-free cheesecake on their menu, I had to control myself to keep from ordering it. Once we return to South Africa, I will make two such pies, one for me and another for Louise and Danie, who also eat the way I do, occasionally having such a low-carb treat.  At least if I make it, I am confident of the ingredients. Tom doesn’t care for it. But I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

Also, I will make dear friend Don a cherry pie. Kathy brought the cherry pie filling with her to South Africa from the US, along with two cans of pumpkin pie filling. We’ll all be enjoying some sweet treats shortly after we arrive. It will be fun to make these pies for everyone and enjoy a bit of my own favorite low-carb cheese pie.

Another view of the Las Vegas Strip from the highway.

Once we are situated in our bush house, and after I make the cheese pie and make apple crisp for Tom and we’ve finished them off, we’ll both begin our strict way of eating to lose the few pounds we gained in the US, three for me and five for Tom. In a month from now, we’ll both be back to where we were.

Right now, we are walking about 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, going back and forth to the parking garage, to breakfast, and to other areas of the resort to take photos. It feels great to walk long distances on even surfaces. This is precisely what we needed after being relatively stationary in Minnesota and Milwaukee.

The food court in the hotel is for those preferring a quick meal and lower cost.

When we return to Marloth Park in less than a week, we have decided to start walking more. Based on the problems with my legs after two surgeries on each leg and the resulting nerve damage, walking isn’t as easy for me now as it used to be. We may have to drive somewhere in the park to find level surfaces for walking. The uneven, unpaved, gravel roads in Marloth Park cause walking hazards, which could easily result in a fall. As always, we’ll figure it out.

After last night’s enjoyable dinner, we returned to our hotel. But, while on the way back to our room, we had to walk through the casino. As we did so, we stopped at a slot machine with a beautiful display of African animals. I said to Tom, “Let’s try this. Maybe we’ll have “safari luck.”

Pizza is a popular item in Las Vegas.

Before Covid, it was easy to use a slot machine with bills and coins. It took a mere $3 to realize doing so was a waste of time and money. Not the case now. Sure, you can enter paper bills but no coins whatsoever. If you win a certain amount, you have to take the paper receipt to a cashier to get the actual monetary amount. That was the first thing we noticed.

If players don’t want to find a cashier station, it is easy for them to put the receipt back into the slot in the machine, which encourages them to play more and subsequently lose more. It’s a hook! No wonder gambling is addictive.

All of the slot machines had a similar payout system as described here today.

When I entered $1 into the slot, there was only an option to bet $.75. Left with a paltry $.25 made me put more money in the machine to use up the $.25. This went on and on, never giving me an option to bet the total value of the cash-out slip. Of course, I quit playing immediately, already feeling the throes of being unable to stop. No, thank you. We’d rather spend money on future travels, not on the remote possibilities of prospective winnings.

Back to our room, we both had a good night’s sleep. This morning after another fine breakfast, costing $35 with tax and tip, we headed to the distant parking ramp to drive 25 minutes to our mailing service to collect the items we’d received thus far. On Friday, we’ll return one more time since we’re awaiting a few more items, including one more replacement credit card with more travel perks suitable for our needs.

Tonight, with no big plans on the horizon, we’ll wait and see what rolls out.

Have a fabulous day and be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 20, 2021:

Te handed off the camera in Boveglio, Italy, to a kind gentleman who took this blurry photo in the square when we were invited to a party. This photo was posted one year ago will on day #119 in lockdown in Mumbai, India. For more photos, please click here.

Las Vegas is unlike anywhere else in the world…What a city!…What a nightlife!…

The pool view from our room at Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa in Henderson, Nevada, is only minutes from Las Vegas.

It’s such fun to be staying at the beautiful Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa in Henderson, Nevada, located across a highway from son Richard’s gated community. The lights, the luxury, the glamour, and the food are always over-the-top in this sparkling city of lights and addictive pleasures. Thank goodness, we don’t gamble. We both gave up giving money to casinos many moons ago.

We are thrilled with our lovely, well-appointed hotel room.

But, getting here yesterday was quite a challenge. We didn’t get to our hotel room until 1:00 am this morning, which was 3:00 am to us based on Minnesota time. We were both anxious to get a good night’s sleep but awoke at our usual early time, close to 6:00 am. After less than  5 hours of sleep, we are surprised how energized we feel today.

There was ample space to open our bags and avoid unpacking which we prefer. We’ve become quite good at living out of a suitcase.

Not only will it be wonderful to see son Richard and his GF, but we’ll be able to pick up our mail with many items we’d purchased from Amazon, to refill our supplies, including two pairs of shoes and a few clothing items for me. Tomorrow, after uploading the day’s post, we’ll head to North Las Vegas to our mailing service to collect the many valuable items, including our new camera.

Unusual-looking cakes on display in the casino.

Of course, we’ll have to repack our bags to make everything fit, but Tom included one of our newer empty duffel bags in his suitcase that we’d purchased to go on the later canceled trip to Kenya months ago (due to Covid-19 lockdown) that required cloth duffel bags for the small airplane.

Taste-tempting treats for sale at the Lucky Penny Restaurant.

Yesterday’s trip from Milwaukee back to Minneapolis was a traffic nightmare. Our flight, scheduled for 9:20 pm (Minnesota time), seemed like a shoo-in when we left Sister Beth in the morning after our second visit, headed back to our hotel to pack, and we were on the road by 1:00 pm after requesting a late check-out.

Tom’s colossal ham steak, eggs, and hash browns breakfast. I gave him my fruit.

Traffic from Wisconsin to Minnesota on I-94 was at a standstill on several occasions.  We barely made it to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport within the required two hours. Once at the airport, check-in queues and baggage processing were long and slow, when curbside SkyCap check-in was no longer available due to Covid.

My breakfast of flourless egg-white wraps containing chicken, avocado, and cheese, topped with pickled onions. Delicious!

Going through security took another 25 minutes. Since I hadn’t eaten a thing all day, we’d hoped to eat at the airport. Many of the usual restaurants were closed due to Covid with lack of support staff. The only restaurant suitable for my eating was Buffalo Wild Wings, which also had a long queue and closed 40 minutes later.

As we entered the casino…

It was rush, rush, rush. We made it to our gate on time to find the Delta flight overbooked with offers of $500 gift cards for passengers willing to forfeit their seats. That wasn’t for us. We weren’t in the mood to wait for almost four hours for the next flight.

Due to touchless gambling, machines such as this don’t accept cash instead of using only pre-purchased cards.

But, the real chaos began in Las Vegas when we waited in a line of hundreds of people to take the shuttle to the car rental facility a few miles from the airport. It took another hour to be processed at Budget Car Rental, pushing our bags around when there were no luggage trolleys nearby. We never liked Las Vegas McCarran Airport for these and more reasons. From the time we landed until we reached our nearby hotel (10 minutes from the airport),  2½ has passed. Ridiculous.

Casinos are a playground for adults with every imaginable game of chance.

This morning, we bolted out of bed with a new attitude, showered and dressed in our lovely upscale hotel room, and headed to breakfast at the hotel’s casual restaurant, the Lucky Penny. Photos shown here today are delicious breakfast meals that convinced us that we don’t need to go any further for breakfast over the next few mornings until we leave for South Africa on Saturday.

Waterfalls are built into the walls of a restaurant.

This morning, “I got a text!” (as they say on Love Island, a goofy matchmaking series we’ve watched on a few occasions) from Richard to meet them for dinner at the Claim Jumper restaurant only two miles from here. We’re both looking forward to seeing them, after 20 months since the last time we were here, arriving on Thanksgiving afternoon when we later had Thanksgiving dinner with Richard at the same restaurant where we dined this morning, formerly called the Grand Cafe. Quite nice.

Enjoy our fun Las Vegas-type photos, and we’ll be back with more as the week progresses.

Have a fantastic Monday, everyone!

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2020:

One year ago today, I’d posted this photo on this date, which was day #117 in lockdown in Mumbai, India. Here’s what I’d purchased from a local vegetable truck in Boveglio, Italy, in  2013, for a total of Euro $4.09, US $5.33. Prices were better at the grocery store, but the freshness and convenience made it worth paying more. For more, please click here.

Precious time spent with Sister Beth…Las Vegas, here we come!!!…

A pretty female bushbuck in the garden of our holiday home in the bush.

Today’s post will be a “rush job.” In an hour, we have to leave the Milwaukee hotel to head back to the nursing facility where Sister Beth is under meticulous care as, sadly, life is drifting away from this amazing woman who gave her life and devotion to the Catholic Church as a fine teacher.

Through her 69 years of service, at 16 years of age, beginning in 1952, she joined the order, School Sisters of St. Frances, before Tom was born. With all of her commitments,  she also maintained a closeness to her own family as well as her parish family.

Over the years Sister Beth, stayed in close touch with her many siblings, visiting as often as she could, and providing faith, love, and kindness to the many generations of the huge Lyman family.

I always had my own unique relationship with Sister Beth, in awe of her sacrifice and enamored by her easy conversation and knowledge of the world. Often, people assume nuns are so sheltered from the “real world.” But, for many, their understanding of the challenges of life is profound and authentic, allowing them to offer support and counsel to those in need.

Yesterday, when we visited her at the beautiful and well-maintained care facility for retired School Sisters of St. Frances, we were saddened to see her in a weakened state, lying in a recliner chair in the pristine private room, barely whispering when she spoke, but happy to see us.

We chatted with her filling her in on family news and with tidbits on our recent experiences. She seemed fascinated by our extended stay in lockdown in the Mumbai hotel and how we managed to get through those ten months. At times, the three of us chuckled. At other times, we all had tears in our eyes.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of my dear sister Susan, who passed away in a hospice facility last August while we were in India in the lockdown. There was nothing we could do but phone her often, extending our love and concern. My sister Julie and Susan’s daughter Kely were with her at the end. She took her last breath while Julie was reading one of our posts. I cried all the harder hearing this but was grateful she enjoyed our journey all those years. It was a sad time we’ll never forget.

In all those years we were traveling, I spoke to Susan almost weekly as she loved hearing about our adventures. When she was well, years earlier, she too was a world traveler.

This morning at 10:00, we’re returning to the care home to say goodbye to Sister Beth. This may be the last time Tom sees his beloved sister, and it won’t be easy for him, nor will it be for me. It’s human nature to feel sorrow for the loved one we’re potentially losing now while bringing up the sorrow of those we lost in the past.

On a lighter note, tonight at 9:00 pm, we’re flying to Las Vegas on Delta (ugh!) on a packed plane. We weren’t able to select our seats (very odd) and will be squeezed in tight amongst others, Tom by a window and me in the middle across the aisle from him at the back of the plane. Fortunately, the flight is only 3 hours, 20 minutes, and hopefully, they have inflight movies to kill time.

Arriving at 10:50 pm, due to a 2-hour time difference, we’ll immediately get our bags and rental car and head to our hotel in Henderson, a 20-minute drive from the airport. Of course, at the late hour, we won’t see Richard until the next day, most likely meeting for dinner after his workday. I am so looking forward to it.

Next time you hear from us, we’ll be in Henderson, Nevada, at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa, where we’ll stay for the next six nights, including our late arrival tonight.

Please stay tuned. We’ll be back!!!

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2020:

Dinner on day #117 while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, one year ago. Tom described my chicken curry (on a bed of steamed cabbage) as looking like cat puke. I dismiss his observation and thoroughly have enjoyed this spicy, delicious meal but later changed to alternating chicken and salmon each night when this meal raised my blood sugar to a high level. For more photos, please click here.

Are we concerned about returning to South Africa during political unrest?…Photos from Tom’s cemetery visits…

Tom was not named after this grand uncle. This headstone is located at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

One year ago today, it was day #116 while we were in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India, for almost ten months. The last post that we wrote from that hotel room was day #291. It’s hard to believe when we think back over 2020 while living in such unusual circumstances.

And yet, now, in the US, we feel far removed from that reality.  Oddly, we feel far removed from South Africa right now with its riots, killings, carjackings, and political unrest that we see all over the news. Many are shocked that we plan to return, leaving in a mere seven days to our temporary house in the bush in Marloth Park.

Tom’s ancestor, Thomas F. Lyman, was a grand uncle, brother to Tom’s grandfather, who passed away in 1931.

On yesterday’s five-plus-hour road trip from Minneapolis to Milwaukee, I spoke to my dear friend Karen who, along with her fiance Rich have been considering visiting us at some point in the next year. But, their logical concern over what’s transpiring in South Africa right now is undoubtedly justified.

To alleviate some of our family and friend’s concerns about our returning to South Africa, we explain that the political unrest transpires the equivalent of a “state away,” comparable to Wisconsin and Minnesota. This five-plus-hour drive is the distance from Johannesburg to Marloth Park. The horrifying riots and looting occur in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Nata provinces, not in Mpumalanga, where Marloth Park is located.

The top portion of the headstone for Thomas F. Lyman.

Our dear friend Kathy just arrived in Johannesburg a few days ago and her husband Don picked her up at the airport. From there, they made the five-hour drive to Marloth Park without incident. She mentioned that security was over-the-top on the N4 highway.  We’ll travel from the closer Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport on July 26th, and then commence the 90-minute drive to the park.

Of course, we feel a little apprehension about returning during this difficult time. Who wouldn’t be? But, then again, as we’ve mentioned in the past, there was rioting and looting in Minneapolis only 20 to 25 minutes from our family members and friends living in the area, only months ago.

St. Mary’s Cemetery is located in Hales Corner, Wisconsin, where many of his ancestors were buried.

There is nowhere on the planet that is entirely safe. We always proceed with as much caution as possible. We’ve encountered some of those risks along the way, some heart-pounding, some less problematic, but have come out on the other side. We knew these risks were real when we originally planned to travel the world.

As for our drive from Minneapolis to Milwaukee, the time flew by, mainly when I talked on the phone to Karen for 90 minutes. We had so much catching up to do. Then, I read a few interesting articles on my phone to Tom, contributing to the time flying quickly.

Before we knew it, we arrived at the first cemetery in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where Tom wanted to find cemetery plots for his ancestors and take photos to add to his substantial file in Ancestry.com. We both wandered through the wet grass at the cemetery and finally found a few plots. However, Tom was disappointed to discover that many of his ancestor’s plots were unmarked.

We arrived at the hotel in Milwaukee by 4:00 pm, did a little unpacking, and headed out the door for dinner by 5:30. With mostly fast-food restaurants nearby, we settled for a Chili’s restaurant for a quick bite to eat. The restaurant was dated and run down, but the food and service were fine. Our goal for Milwaukee was to see Sister Beth, not experience fine dining. Once we arrive in La Vegas, we’ll undoubtedly have an opportunity to enjoy better meals.

Back at the hotel by 7:00 pm, we streamed a few shows while we were shocked by the loud music in the room next to us. By 10:00 pm, we’d called the front desk twice to ask them to address the loud noise. It was frustrating. At this point, all we wanted was a good night’s sleep. By 11:00, it settled down, and we were able to accomplish our goal.

This morning, Tom took off to the second cemetery he wanted to visit in a nearby suburb, 17 miles from our hotel. I stayed behind to shower, dress and begin working on today’s post. Above are a few photos of the headstones Tom found at the cemeteries.

In a few hours, we’ll head out to visit Sister Beth and hopefully, if she’s up to it, spend the afternoon with her at the nursing home. Tomorrow, after one more visit with his sister, we’ll head back to Minneapolis to the airport, where, in the evening, we’ll fly to Las Vegas for five nights to visit son, Richard.

May your day be pleasant and fulfilling.

Photo from one year ago today, July 17, 2020:

There were 17 kudus in the garden that morning. See the video at this post for details.

Part 2…We’re back to booking future travels!!!…Building a new itinerary…

Azamara Onward, with a capacity of 692 passengers.In yesterday’s post, we wrote about building a new itinerary, as shown at this link. We are excited for the future after a long travel hiatus due to Covid-19, as more and more cruises and countries open up. Also, we have now been vaccinated with the two-week window of increasing protection from the virus; our spirits and enthusiasm are growing exponentially.

It’s been a long time since we were busy logging information into our  Excel spreadsheet with all the information relevant to each particular cruise. Yesterday, it was fun for us to work together compiling pertinent data on these two cruises to plug into the fields on the “cruise sheet” in our travel data workbook.

We have three cruises in and around Japan, beginning on February 27, 2022, the first leg departing from Singapore, before these newly booked Azamara cruises. The Japan cruises are all on Celebrity Solstice, one of our favorite cruise ships on which we’ve sailed many times. It would be fun to experience that ship once again. However, we’re anticipating those cruises will be canceled.

Why are we surmising the Japan cruises will be canceled? With the Olympics starting on July 23, ending on August 8, 2021, it will be interesting to see if there’s been a spike in Covid-19, although spectators aren’t allowed. If there is a massive increase in cases in Japan, we expect these cruises will be canceled. Once again, we’ll be watching the stats on cases from Worldometer at this link.

Japan is currently in the #34 position worldwide, with the USA in the #1 for most cases and deaths. South Africa has moved up the list from the #20 position a few months ago to the #17 position. To see the stats for the numbers of vaccinations given worldwide, check this link.

Staying informed about the Covid-19 stats is very important to us now. It allows us to see where, most likely, we’ll be able to travel in the future. Then again, we’re heading back to South Africa with abysmal stats, with only 2.5% of the population vaccinated thus far.

Fortunately, Marloth Park is less populated and currently has a program in place to vaccinate residents. The question here is: How many residents will agree to get vaccinated when many have negative opinions of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine? That remains to be seen in months to come.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, here is the pricing information for the two new cruise bookings for next June and July.  Also, see that post here for the many perks we got from booking with Costco:

CRUISE PRICING

Istanbul to Istanbul on June 29, 2022

Price Summary for 2 Travelers

Cruise Package $6,749.00 $2,699.00: Total $9,448.00

Taxes and Fees $345.06 $345.06 Total $690.12

Total Package Price $7,094.06 $3,044.06 Total $10,138.12

Payment Details

Total Package Price $10,138.12

Payment(s) Applied ($1,100.00)

Balance $9,038.12

Final Payment Due Date 02/15/2022

The second leg of our back-to-back cruise from July 10 to July 20, 2022 itinerary is as follows:  (See yesterday’s post for the itinerary for the June 29, 2022 cruise from Istanbul to Istanbul):

Date Port of Call Arrival Departure
07/10/2022 Istanbul 06:00 PM
07/11/2022 Cruising
07/12/2022 Kavala 06:30 AM 08:00 PM
07/13/2022 Thessaloniki 08:00 AM 08:00 PM
07/14/2022 Volos 07:30 AM 06:00 PM
07/15/2022 Mykonos 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
07/16/2022 Rhodes 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
07/17/2022 Thira/Santorini 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
07/18/2022 Heraklion 08:00 AM 08:00 PM
07/19/2022 Nafplion 09:00 AM 06:00 PM
07/20/2022 Athens/Piraeus 05:00 AM

Istanbul to Athens on July 10, 2022

Price Summary for 2 Travelers

Cruise Package  $5,199.00  $2,079.00  $7,278.00

Taxes and Fees  $201.57  $201.57 $403.14

Total Package Price  $5,400.57  $2,280.57  $2,280.57

Payment(s) Applied ($1,100.00)

Balance $6,581.14

Final Payment Due 02/26/2022

Yesterday morning we visited dear friend Sue and had a fantastic time!.  Later Tom went to his sister Mary’s home for their usual Thursday evening barbecue while I went with Greg and the three grandchildren to dinner at Champs, followed by a movie, “Black Widow.” We all had a lot of fun. When Greg dropped me back at the hotel, Tom had returned to the hotel and came outside to say goodbye.

The time in Minnesota has come to an end. Without a doubt, this was one of the best visits we’ve had to the US over the past almost nine years. Everything fell into place, and we had continuing opportunities to spend with family members. Now, as I wrap up this post to upload in a few minutes, we’re heading out the door to drive to Milwaukee to see Sister Beth.

On Sunday night, we’ll return to Minneapolis to take our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada. We decided to return here to save on the cost of the car rental fee by returning it to the same location and better flights and times for Las Vegas.

The next time we write will be tomorrow morning from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be content.

Photo from one year ago today, July 16, 2020:

Please note: all of our year-ago photos are reposts we utilized while in lockdown in India for ten months. At this point of this post, we’d been in lockdown for 115 days—a view of the cemetery in Boveglio, Italy, in 2013, from the iron railing. For more photos, please click here.

Food and shopping in the USA…

Photo from the Big Island in Hawaii in December 2014 as the sun came up.

We don’t have food photos to share. When we’ve been dining out, the last thought on our minds is to take photos since most of which we’ve ordered is not considered “fine dining” as we’ve opted for standard American fare, not necessarily photo-inspiring meals.

I must admit that being here in the US sets my mind away from the search for good photos and no doubt has had an impact on my creativity when posting each day. Right now, I don’t feel like a world traveler. I feel like a mom, a grandmother, a mother-in-law, a sister-in-law, a stepmom, and a friend.

With no interest in cooking, although we have a fully equipped kitchen in our resident-type hotel room, we’ve eaten most meals sitting in a restaurant, eating takeaway in our room, or on a few occasions, in the homes of family members. I am confident this will continue for the remainder of our time in Minnesota, now only over the next five days when we head to Wisconsin.

From there, we’ll be dining out for all meals or perhaps ordering a few carry-out meals. In Milwaukee and Nevada, we won’t have a kitchen as we do here, which ultimately proved to be less important to us other than for chilling our iced tea, making ice, and keeping cheese for snacks.

Later that morning from the lanai.

While in the US, I’ve lightened up a little on my eating less protein and consuming lots of salads. It doesn’t seem to have impacted me one way or another. But, once we return to South Africa, we’ll both resume our usual way of eating.

Tom has been enjoying many of his old favorites, and I’ve kept my mouth shut. He eats doughnuts, candy, fried foods, and bread. He’s gone through bags of jelly candies (not gummy) and many plastic containers of old-fashioned cake donuts, his favorites which are never available in Africa or in many locations we’ve traveled.

Yes, he’ll gain a few pounds (kg) but will undoubtedly lose it once we return to Marloth Park. I have gained a few pounds just from eating out every day, not certain about the ingredients in the meals I’m consuming. I’m none the worse for the wear and will also lose it once we get back to our lives in the bush.

We’re certainly not as active as we’d been in the bush, jumping up and down every few minutes to feed the wildlife and doing a variety of tasks around the house each day. Here, we sit on the bed or small sofa in our hotel room, our only task being laundry every few days and walking here and there.

We are located in a bustling area with lots of traffic. Walking is not appealing to us in this location. With the post to do each day, planning and scheduling get-togethers with family and friends, neither of us feel motivated to do much else. I can’t believe how lazy I feel here.

The much-anticipated whale fluke, as seen from the lanai.

We’ve done quite a bit of shopping, more online than in stores. Although, it’s been fun to go to Target, Walgreens, and the Eden Prairie Mall across the street from our hotel. We even went to Best Buy to purchase a much-needed new cord for Tom’s laptop. It’s been just like old times, going out shopping and dining.

Today, at 5:15, I will meet up with Camille, Maisie, and Madighan at the pier on Lake Minnetonka. We are going out on Al & Alma’s dinner cruise, which I haven’t done since the 1970s. That will certainly bring back many memories of a life long ago when my two boys were young and I was in my 20s.

Tom is meeting up with daughter Tammy for dinner, which I would have attended. But, tickets were purchased and set for the dinner cruise on the lake at the same time. We had no choice but to split up and spend the evening with our respective family members. I hope to finally see Tammy at some point over the next week before we depart for Wisconsin on Friday.

Tonight, President Cyril Ramphosa will conduct another “family meeting” about Covid-19 and its impact on South Africa. We are concerned about our ability to re-enter South Africa on our flights as planned, departing two weeks from yesterday on July 24th.

May your Sunday be restful and fulfilling.

Photo from one year ago today, July 11, 2020:

The natural bond between mom koala bears and their offspring is always precious to observe, as we did in Australia in 2015. We were allowed inside the pen for an up-close and personal experience. For more photos posted one year ago, please click here.

Family days continue…There’s no easy answer…

The mongoose went on a frenzy, taking the whole eggs out of the pan, cracking them on rocks, and eating the contents. This is so fun to watch!

Today is another busy day. Soon, we’ll be off to see our granddaughters, Maisie and Madighan, at their home about 20 minutes from here. This afternoon, we’ll again meet up with Tom’s sisters and family at Billy’s Bar in Anoka, a 40-minute drive.

The time in Minnesota is moving quickly. We can hardly believe we’ll be leaving for Milwaukee a week from today to see Tom’s sister, Beth. Next Thursday, the 14-day waiting period will have passed, and we’ll be free to visit the nursing home. At least by then, we’ll meet the criteria of having had our vaccine two weeks earlier.

As mentioned earlier, Tom intends to visit a few cemeteries to do further research for his Ancestry.com files, for family members who passed in various cities near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I will take photos on my phone of the specific findings to enable him to upload them to his files on the app.

Yesterday afternoon, we headed back to Andover for a 4:00 pm barbecue at Tom’s sister Mary’s (and husband Eugene’s) home. We had an opportunity to see a few other family members we hadn’t seen since we arrived on July 1st. His niece Kari, a big fan of our site and wildlife, was there as well.

Kari often writes to us, and it was delightful to interact with her in person. She loves animals, and we giggled over many of our sightings and photos posted on our website, videos on YouTube, and Facebook. We could easily call Kari a “superfan,” which makes us blush in the sheer wonder of having a family member, or anyone for that matter, so enthralled with our site and photos.

Along with us, Kari is particularly concerned that our favorite warthogs, Little and Tiny, will still be there when we return, along with all of our other wildlife favorites. Almost a month is a long time to be away, and it may take a while for them to realize we have returned and to come to visit us again.

Returning, of course, hinges on our ability to return to South Africa in 16 days based on the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases escalating by the hour. It appears that the new lockdown measures are having little impact on the reduction of cases, including the pointless alcohol ban. People will still find ways to consume alcohol and gather in groups which is obviously still happening.

I can’t say how relieved we are to be vaccinated (Tom, less so than me). In Minnesota, with low numbers of cases right now, few, if any, are wearing face masks and social distancing. It’s easy for a population to become lax when their cases are low, but it only takes a handful of infected individuals to set the pace for more cases and subsequent deaths. It’s not time to lighten up in the US as yet.

As for Marloth Park, we keep reading of increasing cases in the park, and this is concerning for sure. Of course, we’ll exercise caution when we return, that is, if we can return. Only time will tell.

Everyone talks about their struggles during the lockdowns over the past 18 months. Each individual has their own special story to tell, often interspersed with interesting anecdotes and challenges. Many are left traumatized by the experience and, in some cases, losing loved ones and possibly having had the virus themselves. Some are even left with Covid “long-haul” symptoms making a full recovery far down the road.

There’s still a long way to go until life returns to that which we knew two years ago if it ever does. Will our new world include ongoing precautions, including less hugging, less touching, fewer gatherings, and fewer public interactions? Here again, it’s a “wait and see” scenario over which few of us have little control.

With all the negative scuttlebutt about getting the vaccine, it appears, at this time, to be our best option. Sure, many have had serious consequences from receiving the vaccines, and there’s no easy answer as to how to avoid those risks. But, we have little choice but to prevail.

May you and your loved one be safe and healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, July 9, 2020:

Horses and a peacock in the front garden of a home in Trinity Beach, Australia, in 2016. For more photos, please click here.