Today, I won’t be talking to Tom…

One year ago, Hal was looking around the side of the house to make sure we were on the veranda. When he saw we were there, he approached, looking for pellets.

Oddly, I feel fine but cough quite a bit at night, often awake for a few hours. The only help I’m getting is from Hall’s sugar-free cough drops, which surprisingly seem to help quite a bit. When I tried to talk to Tom this morning, I noticed I had lost my voice. I sound like Minnie Mouse, very squeaky. I suppose it’s best not to talk and strain my voice further.

Many times in the past, I’ve lost my voice. It usually happens when the illness is nearing the end rather than at the beginning. I’m hopeful that this cold/flu/virus is nearing its end for both of us. Tom is a little better today but still coughing and napping throughout the day.

Today, he’ll take the third dose of the Z-pack antibiotics. Most often, it seems to take three doses to see improvement. We’re up and about; neither of us is bedridden, and we can eat and hover around the living room as we did when we felt well.

On Tuesday night, we couldn’t get the TV to turn on in the living room, which we use for streaming shows to keep us entertained, especially now that we are laying low. I am more adept and patient in figuring out digital problems and have spent hours trying to get it to come on. Finally, yesterday morning, I called Dish Network and spent no less than two hours on the phone with them and Samsung, the TV brand.

Neither company could determine what was wrong, and Dish Network implied the account wasn’t active. That was ridiculous. The TV in the bedroom was working and wired from the same satellite box. After two hours on the phone, most people would have given up trying. Not me. I was persistent, but neither company could offer any assistance.

I started playing around with the remote settings and got the TV monitor to come on. From there, I called Dish back, and they said it appeared some update came through and caused the dysfunction. They walked me through the fix from there, and finally, we were back on.

Last night, we streamed a good movie on Amazon Prime, the “Sound of Freedom,” Right now, our only streaming services are Netflix, Hulu, and Prime. Amazon Prime sent a message a few days ago stating that members must pay an additional $2.99 monthly if they’d like commercial-free content. We aren’t interested in paying more and will live with commercials. At least they didn’t make it a mandatory increase.

We often use the perks of Prime, including free shipping (in the US only), often same-day or one-day, excellent new content streaming, and free monthly books (we don’t read many books these days), and when we’re in the bush and don’t stream much, we enjoy Amazon Music while sitting on the veranda in the evenings.

I canceled Paramount Plus this morning since we’ve already streamed everything we wanted on that service. From time to time, we’ll add a streaming service to watch a specific series.

It may seem as if we spend most of our time streaming shows. We do not. In the evenings, when we aren’t out or with people, we stream a few hours of movies and TV series. During daytime hours, we are busy with work on our laptops, planning for the future, and reading news and information relative to our lives. Also, we listen to several podcasts during the day while we are researching.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 4, 2014:

Like the main photo in this post of December 14th, we again looked toward the driveway to discover giraffes coming our way. What a glorious sight! For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…You can run, but you can’t hide…We couldn’t escape it!…

The chef was generous with my lobster portions, considering that’s all I ate, no starters, no salad, no starchy sides, and no dessert. It was delicious.

No, we didn’t wear a mask while aboard the ship. But, we never went into an elevator with more than a few people. We never attended the nightly entertainment shows or daily seminars. We sat at the dining tables for two. However, we did converse with other passengers nearby.

We made many friends and sat next to them at night in the bars, often deep in conversation. We danced, laughed, and engaged in fascinating and often lengthy discussions. We had a fantastic time. We were about to classify this cruise on Celebrity Silhouette from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton as one of our most socially fun and memorable cruises in the past 9½ years since we began our world travels.

It was cruise #25, indeed a worthy milestone, but now, with great disappointment, we’ll remember it as our first cruise as the pandemic was losing ground. Would you believe that we tested positive for Covid on the final day at sea yesterday?

We had a few warning signs but dismissed them, thinking, “Oh no, we don’t have Covid.” First, Tom was eating a lot of bread and often gets acid reflux when eating any foods with gluten. At night, his coughing would stop when he took an antacid, so we never associated it with Covid. He quit eating bread and seemed to improve significantly. We never gave it another thought.

We both often get allergy symptoms with repeated sneezing and occasional runny noses. Again, we thought nothing of it. We felt fine otherwise, especially when it would stop after a few minutes, as it often did.

After dancing at the silent disco on Monday night, we headed to our cabin around 1:00 am. I felt shaky, as if I had high blood pressure. Most people don’t get symptoms when their blood pressure is high, but I do. Plus, recently, Dr. Theo in Komatipoort, South Africa, put me on a newer medication that didn’t keep it as low as my prior medication, which I’d taken for 20 years.

I shouldn’t have switched to the new drug until after we returned. I started it about a month before we left, and all seemed fine, but I was experiencing occasional spikes and planned to discuss this with him upon our return. When I checked my blood pressure on Monday night, it was through the roof, and my pulse was very high.

I tried to relax to get the numbers down, but they were too high for comfort, even after a few hours. Luckily, I’d packed my old medication and took my old dose. Everything was normal again a few hours later, but I didn’t feel like myself. I barely slept a wink that night.

Of course, I was anxious about this weird event and attributed it to an excess of dancing and the two glasses of red wine I’d had that night. In South Africa, I only drink very-low alcohol wine produced in South Africa, none of which they had on the ship. But I’d spaced myself and hoped it would be ok. Apparently not, I surmised. Later, I read that Covid can cause a spike in blood pressure and pulse rate in those with cardiovascular diseases, such as me.

Tom’s Baked Alaska made my mouth water, but I didn’t taste it. He enjoyed every morsel. I am always content to “look at it,” so Tom calls me a “food voyeur.”

I awoke early after the awful night, feeling exhausted from not sleeping, attributing my lackluster demeanor to sleep deprivation. On Tuesday evening, I only drank Sprite Zero, and we headed straight to our cabin after enjoying dinner with a lovely couple at the following table, three feet (one meter) from us.

My Fitbit indicated I slept for eight hours on Tuesday night which generally would be sufficient to make me feel great. Wednesday morning, I awoke with a horrific sore throat. It was then that I told Tom I needed to get tested for Covid since the sore throat was a red flag. I headed to the doctor’s clinic on deck 2 wearing my mask.  When the nurse spotted me and asked what my issue was, I explained I needed a Covid test. She sent me back to our cabin and told me to wait until the doctor contacted me by phone.

A short time later, Tom arrived, and I explained we both needed to be tested. Shortly after, the doctor called, asking how we were feeling and our vaccination and booster status. Since July, we’d had both when we returned to the US for a month to see family and be vaccinated.

A few months ago, we were able to get boosted in Komatipoort at the booster station outside the Spar Market. We both felt at ease that we were well protected. But were we?

The doctor arrived at our cabin, fully decked out in PPE, and took the painful swabs of our nasal passages. Tom had the antigen test, and I had the PCR test. At this point, Tom had no symptoms, but I was feeling quite unwell. The doctor called to tell us we were both positive and stay in the cabin an hour later. Guest relations would contact us next with instructions.

They called, telling us to pack everything in our cabin within the hour. We were moved to quarantine level six with all the other Covid patients. I was feeling awful. Packing wasn’t easy, but I muddled my way through it, and an hour later, three fully protected attendants arrived and moved us to another balcony cabin. We walked through the “bowels” of the ship to avoid being near any passengers. It felt weird.

Once situated in the new cabin, which was sparse with the usual toiletries and items we enjoyed using in our prior cabin, the challenge of food and beverages began. It was a total fiasco. They said they didn’t have any Sprite Zero left on the ship. We even had trouble getting sufficient water bottles and ice to get us through the night.

This morning, the coffee and food orders were wrong. Room service couldn’t get our food orders right, and we were sorely disappointed. I wasn’t hungry but knew I needed to eat. Tom was feeling fine. His food order was also a mess. We were ready to get off the ship and to our hotel in Southampton.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll share what we plan to do if we still test positive on Saturday, the day we’re required to take a Covid test before boarding the Queen Mary 2. If that’s the case, it will be quite the challenge to see if and how we can change everything. Oh, dear. This situation is indeed a challenge.

We plan to spend the next few days in our hotel room in Southampton (hmmm…sound familiar?) while working on our recovery, eating good food, drinking lots of water, resting, and staying in touch with all of you. We are sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for a possible four hours to get checked into our room. Almost two hours have passed so far. But, as always, we are hopeful.

I am looking forward to lying down. But I put the time to good use, writing today’s post.

We avoided Covid for over two years. Considering the amount of travel we’ve done, we’re lucky it didn’t get us when it was the Delta variant. Now, with Omicron, whichever variant we may have, we hope to recover soon.

Be safe. Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2021:

Many zebra butts were facing us this morning as they clamored over the pellets Tom tossed into the garden. For more photos, please click here.

Omicron…We can’t ignore what’s happening in South Africa and the world…More Kruger photos…

Open mouth crocodile on the bank of the Sabie River. Crocs don’t have sweat glands. Instead, they open their mouths to cool off.

It would be easy for us to ignore what is happening with Omicron throughout the world and for us here in South Africa. Sure, we could write about “travel” and travel-related topics or continue with the mindless drivel of our day-to-day activities while living in the bush.

But, we can’t possibly ignore what’s going on in South Africa and throughout the world in many countries as Omicron spreads like wildfire, doubling every two days. We have no doubt you’ve seen endless news reports on this topic and most likely would prefer not to read it here.

But, over these past nine years of writing these posts, we always promised to “tell it like it is,” and we have diligently done so since the first post we uploaded in March 2012, only three months short of ten years ago. Please, dear readers, understand that sharing what we know, if doing so saves one life or one serious case of the virus, it will have been worth it. It is from that perspective that we write this today.

Another photo of a hippo mom and baby.

No politicization is included or intended here. This is entirely from our perspective, based on the research we’re conducting now and how and when it may impact our lives in the future. After all, in only 113 days, we hope to board a ship from Fort4 Lauderdale, Florida, to sail across the Atlantic Ocean for a two-month stay in and around the UK until the next cruise on June 29, 2022, sailing out of Istanbul.

At this point, Omicron is infecting the world so rapidly that everything could change in the next 30 days. But, in 38 days, we have to figure out what we’ll be doing about extending our visas. Do we dare fly to another country in Africa for a visa stamp and risk becoming infected if President Cyril Pamaphosa doesn’t extend visas for foreign nationals?

Baby elephant resting in the grass.

Based on the fact the borders are still open, in light of the rapid increase of Omicron, we seriously doubt he’ll be extending visas for foreign nationals. He’s getting a lot of pressure about new lockdowns after the already developing country has suffered so much loss over the past two years of the pandemic.

We have some tough decisions ahead of us. Returning now to the US is not on the table when we see the number of cases escalating there daily. This chart from the stats presented on the website, Worldometer, certainly impacts our plans. See the stats on the screenshot I made with yesterday’s numbers:

Please zoom in to see these numbers in detail. I removed some of the columns to fit on the page for this chart.

Some scientists and immunologists are predicting there will be 1,000,000 cases per day in the UK by January. The US will follow shortly behind. And, as far as South Africa is concerned, 35% of all Covid-19 tests are positive for Omicron, and 90% of all cases of Covid-19 are Omicron cases, even in the fully vaccinated. There are claims that contracting Omicron results in a less severe illness with fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

But, uncertainty about that immunity provided by Omicron, when science isn’t definitive, about whether or not the variant is less severe or that those getting it may already have some protection from prior exposure and vaccines.

Elephants were grazing in the park.

There are many theories that Omicron could be the end of the pandemic when most of the world’s population becomes infected, which may provide herd immunity? Is this variant the magic bullet that may give the herd immunity, the world so desperately needs to end the pandemic?. Not enough is known at this time to answer all of these questions.

But, as world travelers anxious to get back “out there,” we wait in anticipation of more definitive science and what travel restrictions may impact us.

Rapids on the Sabie River in Kruger National Park.

This has been a tough couple of years for all of us. We are saddened by the loss of life and lingering illness many have experienced. My sister has been suffering from long-haul Covid for the past 16 months, along with one in four patients undergoing the same worldwide. We are saddened by the financial strife experienced by business owners and workers during extensive lockdown and restrictions, including our friends here in South Africa, the US, and the world.

For now, what can we do? Avoid crowds? Wear masks? Maintain social distancing, which is now more confusing than ever, when the fully vaccinated spread Omicron? There’s no easy answer, but we’ve decided to remain vigilant in doing everything possible. But, we have no desire to stay in lockdown, totally isolated from other people.

Yellow-billed stork.

We have two outdoor parties we’re planning to attend; Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Are we prepared to discontinue our Friday night dinners at Jabula? No! It’s always a highlight of our week.

Take care of yourselves the best way you can as we watch how this variant rolls out.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #268. A cave we spotted at Cape Horn on our way to Ushuaia, Argentina. For more photos, please click here.