The value of creature comforts…

A resort in the area is in the process of renovation. This cute pool feature would certainly be fun for kids.

We often don’t realize how much some of the most basic amenities in a property can make life easier.  Let’s face it, we came from a life entrenched in creature comforts that when the least uncomfortable or annoying scenarios presented themselves there was usually a remedy that could it turn around.

Too hot? Turn on the AC. Bed uncomfortable? Buy a new bed or a foam mattress topper. Have a painful elbow?  Head to the doctor for an MRI, a diagnosis including a physical therapy plan along with a prescription for the pain. Bugs running across the floor? Call Terminex or Orkin for a full house treatment.

I could go on and on with the availability of solutions in our old lives, most of which we no longer have in the midst of this life. Bed uncomfortable? Suck it up. Bugs biting? Wear DEET. Bath towel scratchy after hanging outside? Use the towel to exfoliate the skin when drying off. No mushrooms at the market? Cook something else.

The specials menu at a local restaurant, the Water’s Edge. We’ll certainly visit this spot with many options that may work for me.

There’s always a workaround. Here in this well-equipped house, at 3:30 am I got up to go the bathroom to find an enormous cockroach running across the floor. Kill it? Nah, no shoes handy. Do my thing and head back to bed.

This morning while getting into the shower, an enormous gecko or lizard type creature ran up the wall.  Scream? No. Get into the shower and start my day.

Yesterday, midday, we had no water, not at any faucets throughout the house. Using the provided house phone I called Richard at the rental office. Moments later he called back to let us know the water was out all over the area and would eventually come back on. Did I  press him for “when?” No. We wait patiently. If we needed to flush the toilet we’d use a bucket of water from the pool. 

Most likely, with Tom’s recent buzz cut in Savusavu, he won’t need to visit this barbershop in Arts Village before we leave for the cruise.

An hour later the water was flowing once again, apparently a common occurrence in these parts, something to do with water pressure to the area. So far, there’s been no power outages but we expect it to occur during our remaining 25 days in Pacific Harbour.

No grocery store within an hour’s drive that has the basic ingredients we need? Pay the taxi fare of FJD $120, USD $56 to get to Suva to a market or make do with what we have on hand, which we’ll have done during the first third of our time in Pacific Harbour.

When the driver for the airport pickup took us to a market other than we’d  requested, we asked if this market had a lot of products. He insisted we’d find everything. Unable to find half the basic items on our list, we have to return to Suva once again. 

The interior of a shop with many locally made shirts, dresses and jewelry.

Did we complain? Nah, what’s the point? We were exhausted and didn’t make a enough of a fuss about going to the market Susan had recommended hoping this other market would have what we needed. It didn’t.  Next week, we’ll be more insistent on going to the correct market. Sometimes, we falter in our persistence and diligence.

In our old lives, if we stopped at a market that didn’t have what we needed, we hopped back in the car to drive to another market only a few minutes away.

This custom made deep bench is offered for sale for FJD $3,000, USD $1,396.

These past mornings, Tom’s been using an old French press for making our coffee. There are two in the house.  Neither works well when both are old and worn, yet he’s figured out how to make it work to the best of his ability. Our coffee is outstanding with few grounds remaining at the bottom of the cup.

Yesterday, we purchased this coffee filter online that will make perfect drip type coffee without an electric coffee machine. At US $16, FJD $34, it will serve us well. Thanks to sister Julie for her suggestions on using such a filter for making coffee that is easily portable.

Yesterday, we spent time by the pool. The plastic molded chaise lounges (in excellent condition) are meant to be topped with a cushy pad. Not the case here. We tossed a beach towel atop it, making ourselves as comfortable as possible. 

In our old lives, we’d have driven to the patio store to purchase thick pads for the two chairs, never feeling uncomfortable again by the pool. In most vacation homes, typically these pads aren’t included when many renters would fail to bring them indoors after use.

The Arts Village has a beautiful pond weaving in and out of the area.

With no baking pans, roasting pans or cookie sheets, we purchased flimsy throw away tinfoil pans that cause everything to stick. No parchment paper here. The flimsy tinfoil sticks. Heavily greasing the pans with ghee and coconut oil is the only solution. 

Yesterday, I baked our favorite low carb coconut cookies in two batches using one of the smallish tinfoil pans. We noticed the cookies were a greasy when we each ate two last night after dinner. We didn’t complain. We’ll figure it out.

With only a few adapters and two power strips in our possession, plugging in all of our digital equipment is tricky. Each time I use the flat iron, we have to unplug everything in one adapter so I can use it in the bathroom. We’ve had to do this everywhere we’ve traveled except in the US with 110V, as opposed to 220V in most other countries.

The natural habitat provides an environment for many species of birds. 

The kitchen has a double sink, a luxury, particularly for Tom who does the dishes after dinner. There’s even a dish rack for drying. We’re thrilled with these amenities.

With excellent wifi, a 32″ flat screen TV with Nat Geo Wild  or BBC news running in the background, our entertainment needs are met while we continue to watch our favorite shows on my laptop most nights after dinner. Next week, we’ll be sightseeing. Saturday night, we’re heading out for dinner.

Seeing these pink flower lily pads was a first. 

Lounging poolside on a sunny day reminded us of how fortunate we are. Swimming in the cool water in the pool, recently cleaned with only one hornet struggling to survive (we didn’t help since we’re both allergic), we both languished in the water. We hadn’t been in a pool since Kauai many moons ago after joining the local golf course for the fitness center and the pool. 

Are we content? Uncomfortable? Not at all. The bed is fabulous, the house is roomy and in meticulous condition.  The ants, gecko and cockroaches are all a part of life in the tropics. 

Sayings on the wall outside a restaurant in Arts Village.

Through the past 38 months since leaving our old lives behind workarounds have been a vital aspect of our lives. In many cases, we’ve simply forfeited the need or desire for certain comforts and amenities, never taking anything for granted or never making an assumption that the next house will be as good as or better than the last. 

In part, the anticipation of each new home adds to our adventures. As long as we continue to savor the positive, we can easily leave the less desirable in our wake. I won’t say its always easy but so far, we haven’t once said or even thought to ourselves, “Let’s pack it in.”

Instead, we say, “Let’s pack it up…to head to the next location.”

Photo from one year ago today, December 10, 2014:

Family day at Akaka Falls on the Big Island with Jayden, Sarah Nik and TJ.  For more details, please click here.

At long last, we have sunshine…Transportation…Safety…All new photos…

This morning’s sunny day.

Yesterday, we called Ratnesh to pick us up tomorrow at 11 am for a dual purpose; sightseeing earlier in the day, shopping after sightseeing. We’re excited to be getting out.

We’d hoped to get out on Tuesday, but on Monday, he called and canceled when he had a long-distance fare to Labasa, where another airport is located, a two hour drive each way from Savusavu.

When we first arrived, we offered to request his services for specific dates, and at times when it was most convenient for him with our schedule wide open. If he has a fare where he’ll make more than with us to various sites and the villages, we’ve encouraged him to take it.

View from our veranda to the three-unit vacation home as a part of this four-unit resort. The lawn guy is here today, mowing and trimming.

We hadn’t negotiated special rates with him when we arrived when the amounts he charges for trips to the village or for an hourly rate for sightseeing is so reasonable. As we’ve mentioned in the past, here are the costs of his services:

  • FJD $20, USD $9.39: Round trip to the village for shopping, dropping us off and picking us up when we call.  We add an additional FJD $10, USD $4.70 when he helps us carry our purchases to the house.
  • FJD $30, USD $14.09: Cost per hour for sightseeing. 

We’ve noticed when we do both, sightseeing and shopping on the same day, we’re charging for the trip to the village, plus the hourly travel rate. Ah, who’s to complain at these reasonable prices? If we’re gone for four hours at FJD $120, USD $56.35, it’s a very fair fare (no pun intended)!

When we recall paying for taxi fare in London in August 2014, when we visited the highly rated pub (Andover Arms) on two occasions, the round trip taxi fare was USD $50, GBP $32, FJD $106. In Fiji, that amount would give us almost four hours on the road!  

Colorful ocean view from our area.

Although four hours on the roads in Vanua Levu may sound exciting, on this remote island, it would be four hours of bumpy roads, dense greenery, and occasional ocean views, all of which we love and easily experience on shorter trips to specific destinations. We prefer aimlessly driving when we have a rental car, stopping as often as we’d like for photos and restroom breaks.

With the sun shining, we’re excited to get out more often, subject to the availability of the only driver in this village willing to tackle the steep road in this resort area. It would be impossible for us to walk down the long mountainous road. For mountain climbers and seriously fit hikers, it may not be a problem.

How easily we could feel trapped. But, long ago we decided, after realizing we’d need drivers in various countries, we accepted that there would be days we’d want to get out and weren’t able to do so, based on our driver’s availability. Sticking to the same driver or their designated co-driver has been important to us, particularly when safety has been an issue in several countries.

The bright blue of the bay is breathtaking from this elevation.

Upcoming in 46 days, when we fly to the next Fijian Island of Viti Levi, the larger main island, where we’ll stay for one more month, we’ll be renting a car at the Nadi Airport and driving two hours to our new location, again a private house. 

With high crime rates in the downtown Nadi area, when we booked Fiji long ago, we’d decided to stay in another more, remote location where the likelihood of crime is greatly reduced.

Many tourists stay in the Nadi area in resorts and hotels, generally insulated from criminal activities when on site. The risks for tourists escalates when out on the streets in the busy city, as we’ve been warned by the locals here who often travel to Nadi to visit family. Muggings, pickpocketing, and carjacking are not unusual.

Another ocean view from our area.

With our preferred choice of vacation homes as opposed to staying in hotels, we usually don’t have the safety net of on-site security as is often available in most hotels. Generally, one can feel relatively safe from crime in a hotel, although there are isolated exceptions.

Currently, we’re living in a resort but, in the only stand, alone vacation rental house on the property. Further up the hill behind us is a separate building with three apartments, including one penthouse type upscale unit on the top floor. Mario and Tayana’s private residence is off to the side as shown.

When Ratnesh picks us up, he pulls into the driveway of the three-unit building in this resort. The driveway near the steps down to our house below is too steep for stopping the vehicle, making getting in and out nearly impossible.

Junior is around during the day and Mario is on-site in his separate house to our left as we face the ocean. We feel totally safe and protected in this ideal location.

Criminal activity on this island of Vanua Levu is almost non-existent. When we’ve driven by the courthouse on several occasions, located on the edge of town, there are no cars in the parking lot. Most likely, they only open when they have a case. From what we hear, it’s a rare occasion.

Oceanfront view of Mario and Tatyana’s house, much larger than it appears in the photos.  We took this photo from the steep road.

The fact that we prefer living in smaller towns and villages in our travels has more to do with our lack of interest in crowds and the fact that we don’t shop other than for food and supplies as needed. We love the quaint charm and nature of small villages and the friendly, less harried lifestyle of their people. 

For the average tourist, staying in a more populous area in most countries provides endless opportunities to find that special item to bring back home, for oneself, and for gifts for family and friends. Also, easy access to restaurants is an important factor for tourists whereas, for us, it’s irrelevant.

Side view of Mario and Tatyana’s recently built house.

We don’t send our grandchildren trinkets from all over the world. Instead, we send gift cards or gifts that they’d like, not what we think they’d like from a foreign country. If we did, at this point, their bedrooms would be filled with useless touristy type items, eventually to be tossed away. 

Maybe we’re too practical in the minds of others. Then again, how practical is having no home, no stuff other than what fits into three suitcases, a duffel bag and a laptop bag and, changing countries and homes every few months or less?

Have a beautiful and meaningful day!

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

We were entranced by this colorful Gold Dust Day Gecko, commonly seen in the Hawaiian Islands, particularly in Maui where we were living one year ago.  This gecko was located on the wall by the pool but, from time to time, we spotted them inside the condo, certainly no big deal. Generally, geckos are harmless if not annoying, leaving droplets of white poop and making peculiar noises. In Fiji, we see new gecko poop in the house every few days. For more details, please click here.