Four days and counting…The solution to our phone situation…Fabulous food!…

Rich was outside in the rain in the sideyard, preparing the chicken and ribs on the charcoal grill. He needed the umbrella.

The time has flown by. In only four days, we’re leaving for Fort Lauderdale early Friday morning and will arrive by noon, at which time we’ll check our bags, drop off the rental car at the airport, take a shuttle back to the cruise terminal and be on our way.

It’s been 29 months since we were last on a cruise when we sailed from Southampton, England, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the same ship, the reverse transatlantic crossing we’re beginning on Friday. We had a great time then and hoped to do the same this time. We never mind a repeat of ocean crossings. They have many sea days with few ports of call, but we always have fun on sea days and when getting off the ship.

Tom hadn’t eaten baked beans in years. Along with the chicken and ribs, green beans, and salad, it was a perfect meal.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of shopping on Amazon for odds and ends since once we return to Marloth Park, we’ll be staying there for a year, leaving from time to time for visa stamps but won’t have access to Amazon.com. For the first time in a few years, I can restock some of my favorite products which aren’t available in South Africa at the shops or on their version of Amazon, Takealot.

After considerable research and consideration, we decided to replace my almost three-year-old Google Pixel 4XL with the newer Google Pixel 6 Pro. The old phone couldn’t hold a charge for very long, and like many other smartphones, the batteries cannot easily be replaced. This, of course, motivates users to purchase a newer model. They get you coming and going, don’t they?

The new phone arrived yesterday, and in less than an hour, I had everything transferred over to the new phone, including the Google Fi phone service with my existing phone number. This was important to us since many of our financial accounts and others are set up with my phone number.

Rich didn’t put sauce on the ribs or chicken, which allowed me to enjoy them as well.

As for the temporary suspension through Google about us using too much roaming data, we solved that issue as well. We will insert a South Africa SIM card, which we already purchased for the old phone that we’ll use for data when we are out and about. When at a holiday house, hotel, restaurant, and many other locations, we can use the free WiFi on the new phone.

Having three phones between us is cumbersome, but this was our best and most cost-effective solution. We’ll seldom carry the third phone with us. For example, if we go into Kruger, we need WiFi in the event of an emergency or when using MAPS when on the road, and satellite is not effective enough for updates on road conditions, stoppages, and potential dangers.

Most South Africans use SIM cards for calling, texting, and data on their phones. Also, the third phone will be highly effective during travel days. On a day-to-day basis, we won’t need to bring it with us when out and about in Marloth Park when most local establishments have free WiFi we’ll be able to use. It was an easy solution to avoid signing up for a spendy contact from the US.

These chicken legs were the best we’d ever had, meaty and cooked to perfection. Tom, who usually only eats chicken breasts, enjoyed the legs as well. I guess I’ll be making these for once we get settled again. I won’t be cooking again until the end of May when we return to South Africa.

We will always be able to use the new phone for texts and phone calls. Texts are free inside and outside the US. Calling outside the US is typically 20 cents a minute but free inside the US for country-wide calls.

I was able to transfer all of my apps over to the new phone. The old phone will still be able to use WiFi at any accessible location but won’t receive texts and phone calls unless someone knows the phone number associated with the SIM card we’ll install. It all may sound confusing, but it’s clear to us. Few of our readers will ever need to implement such a plan, but if you do, feel free to ask for assistance if required.

Today’s photos are those we took when Rich was making his fantastic barbecue chicken and ribs. What a fine dinner we had on Saturday, followed by a delicious pot roast Karen made on Sunday. No shortage of good food around here!

Have a super day enjoying good health and peace of mind!

Photo from one year ago today, April 4, 2021:

Our boy Tiny, lounging in the garden after eating lots of pellets. As big as he is, he can consume lots of pellets. Note the cute pose. That’s our boy! We never saw him again after returning from the US at the end of July. For more photos, please click here.

Final post from Marloth Park…Surprising news on our itinerary…Some of our favorite photos…

We always had a reason to celebrate. Here is Don (Kathy and Don) and Rita (Rita and Gerhard) at Jabula celebrating our friendships.

Note: Due to the high volume of tourists in Marloth Park right now, during school holidays, the WiFi is sketchy and inconsistent. Subsequently, I am unable to make formatting corrections including spacing and adding some links. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. After all, TIA (This is Africa)!

It’s Wednesday morning, and we’re almost totally packed and ready to go. All that’s left is to pack the everyday toiletries when Tom showers soon, and we’ll close our bags. We aren’t worried about overweight baggage this time since we’re allowed two 23 kg (50 pounds) bags each, and we only have three.

We packed one of the duffle bags into another suitcase since we’ll need extra room when we go on the cruises for the dressy clothes we’ll be packing for the Queen Mary 2. Once we get to Minnesota on May 1, we can send the formal attire to our mailing service to hold for us until we need them again.

A female kudu, in a daze from oxpeckers cleaning bugs off her ears and head. For this post, please click here.

I suppose you are curious about our itinerary news, and I should get on with it. After days of research and discussion, we’ve decided to return to Marloth Park on May 24, only 62 days from today. A few factors contributed to this decision, including the difficulty we encountered in traveling to many countries at this time. We considered increased costs, fuel shortages, and overall excessive cost of living due to the ravages of each economy as a result of the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine.

I.B. (Itchy Butt) laying in the wet, muddy cement pond, attempting to ease the itching. For this post, please click here.

There is so much unrest in many countries with poor economic conditions, political unrest, poor medical care, prohibitive medical costs, and the list goes on and on. We’ve decided, for now, making Marloth Park a base from which we’ll continue to travel and embark on cruises makes all the financial sense in the world.

We never figured out what this peculiar apparition that appeared on the night cam could possibly be. For that post, please click here.

Yes, we’ll have visa issues, but we know how to deal with these issues. We can travel to other countries in Africa for short stay safaris and expeditions and then return with a new 90-day visa stamp. Once back here in May, we won’t have to leave until August for a visa stamp. We can either fly to a non-bordering country or start a new visa extension. The new stamp will be good until November when we’re planning to leave anyway.

Our friend Frank, of Frank and The Misses francolins, had a self-tour of our house, including the kitchen. For that post, please click here.

In November, we’ll make our way to  Athens, Greece, for three back-to-back Azamara cruises for a total of 42 days, which brings us to Cape Town, South Africa, when we’ll make our way back to Marloth Park and begin the cruising booking process all over again, as new cruises are posted. These new cruises will take us to many new countries we’ve never visited in the past.

This was the third photo I got of the leopard, hoping for a  better shot, the best of which is the main photo. For that post, please click here.

We realize that spending one or two days on a ship excursion is not the same as living in a country for a few months as we’ve done in the past. But, our travels are an ever-changing adventure, and we have to do what feels right to us. In between adventures, we’ll enjoy our lives to the utmost in our favorite secluded place in the world. Undoubtedly, South Africa has its issues but is tucked away in the bush; we feel far removed from many issues. For now, this plan is precisely befitting our needs.

When thick-tailed bushbabies are around, the usual small bushbabies run for cover. The larger species will kill the little ones. For this post, please click here.

We have lots of wonderful friends here. We have a constant stream of entertainment as wildlife visits our garden. It’s only a 20-minute drive to enter Kruger National Park. We have access to excellent medical and dental care at affordable prices and insurance covering emergencies. Although smaller than Amazon, we can shop at markets that have all the food products we like to purchase and the excellent online shopping service, Takealot, although smaller than Amazon, carries most items we need to buy from time to time.

This adorable zebra was lounging in our garden. He must have spotted something interesting on the ground. For this post, please click here.

On top of it all, we will be moving into a different house when we return, as shown in photos in this post and in this post. We are excited about moving into this property when we return in May. It has everything we could want or need.

Mom, with the perfect curled tusks, whom we now call Tail-Less Mom, who lost her tail, also lost one of these babies, since then only returning with the fast-growing two piglets. For this post, please click here.

We realize and accept the reality that we may lose some of our readers from making this temporary decision. But, we hope those of you who decide to opt-out make a note of days we’ll be visiting other countries and will stop back to see our stories and photos.

The beautiful Christmas dinner table at Sindee and Bruce’s lovely home in the bush. Dawn was taking a photo of Sindee and the serving table, a short time later filled with great food. For this post, please click here.

For now, the next two months will be exciting for us:

  • 15 nights in Apollo Beach, Florida
  • 13 nights on a transatlantic cruise on Celebrity Silhouette to Southampton, UK
  • 3 nights in Southampton, sightseeing
  • 7 nights on transatlantic return cruise on Queen Mary 2 to New York
  • 14 nights in Minnesota visiting family and friends
  • 7 nights in Henderson, Nevada, visiting family and friends
  • Return to Marloth Park
It was Rita’s birthday and she and Gerhard took all of us on a bush dinner and night game drive. For this post including great wildlife photos, please click here.
Louise and Danie hosted the best possible birthday gift for me, a visit to an in-the-wild elephant interaction. For this post, please click here.

The above number of nights doesn’t account for the 62 days we’ll be gone, but the long travel days to and from Africa make up the difference. There are many time zone changes in this period that, hopefully, we’ll adapt to with ease.

Today may be the last time we see Little since we’re moving to another house a few km from here. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll find us once again. Little was thrilled we’d returned from Zambia in October 2021 when he stopped by at his usual 4:00 pm. Immediately, he positioned himself on the right side of the veranda, near where I sit, waiting for his treats and words of affection (from me only). For this post, please click here.

So there it is folks, Next time we write to you, most likely it will be from Apollo Beach, Florida, unless we have time on one of our layovers for a quick update.

Be well. Be happy. Live life to the fullest.

Photo from one year ago today, March 23, 2021:

A male bushbuck with a plant growing from his muddy hoof after a big storm. It made us laugh out loud. For more, please click here.

Four days and counting…Busy packing the house…

Look how swollen Big Daddy’s neck signifies he’s ready to mate. Amazing!!!

The only time since we began traveling in 2012 that we stayed in one property for over a year was here in Marloth Park when I had heart surgery, and we didn’t leave for 15 months, the final three of which I spent recovering to become well enough to travel.

Now, during times of the pandemic, we will have lived here for 14 months due to many travel restrictions in force all over the world. We would have left sooner had it been a little easier to travel. In the past 14 months, we left, once to Zambia for a week and another time to the US for a  month.

On another occasion, we’d booked an exciting trip to Kenya, which was canceled due to Covid-19. Is it any wonder we were hesitant to book anything when we’d already lost so much money due to the pandemic in the past two years? In many cases, we got most of the money back, but it required hours and hours of phone calls, documentation,  and applying pressure to the providers to give us a refund.

We became weary of all of these issues. We’re facing another possible cancellation on the cruise scheduled to travel to Ukraine. We’ve decided we won’t accept the Black Sea price to swap out for the Greek Islands. We’ve done that route in the past, and we’re not willing to pay twice as much as other such cruises are charging right now.

What a handsome animal!!!

We’ve been watching opinions from other passengers on that cruise via cruisecritic.com. They feel like us. They want their money back. If we apply for the refund now, we will get 100% of what we paid, applied to a future cruise which must be used by the end of 2022 or one year from the original cruise date, whichever is later. That may not work for us. We’d be happy to have them apply the funds to the other cruises we have booked with Azamara.

However, if enough passengers cancel, the cruise line will cancel the cruise. According to Azamara’s cancellation policy, if they cancel a cruise, we’d get 125% of the cost of the cruise as a future credit since it’s only a 600 passenger cruise with most likely only 500 passengers that would account for approximately 250 cabins.

Thus, instead of canceling now, we will wait a few weeks and see if the cruise line cancels. We’ll receive a 100% credit for everything we’ve already paid in advance to Costco Travel in the worst case. Whew!

As for the packing, after living in this house for so long, the packing is more complicated than usual. Since we are returning before too long, we are leaving the non-perishable kitchen items in a big tote. Also, we’re leaving some clothing that we won’t need on the cruises or in the US to lighten the load.

I fed him an entire bag of whole large carrots. He inhaled them in seconds. He was quite thrilled with the treat.

We are allowed two 23 kg (50 pounds) bags each. We will each bring our largest bag, the yellow supply bag, one duffle bag along with two carry-on bags for me, and the computer bag for Tom. We’ll have to pay baggage fees on the US flights (one to Minneapolis and the other to Las Vegas). There’s nothing we can do about that.

After all, we’ll be sailing on two very distinct cruises in the next six weeks, and we’ll need different clothes for each, although some everyday items will work for both voyages.

That’s it for today, folks. Enjoy your weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, March 19, 2021:

This is a monitor lizard that Tom spotted while driving. It happened so quickly I had to take the photo through the windshield. For more photos, please click here.

An apology for our readers…Newly posted photos from elephant encounter…

At Kwa Madwala, guests can opt for safaris on horseback.

It was almost two years ago that our hotel lockdown began in India. It’s been over 13 months since we arrived in Marloth Park. Overall, we’ve only been to these two places, other than a week-long visa-stamp trip to Zambia in April and then a one-month visit to the US in July. We’ve been contrary to our self-imposed nomenclature as “world travelers” since we began this years-long journey in 2012.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve enjoyed every moment in Marloth Park with our human and animal friends, of which there have been countless opportunities. But we are ready to move on. Our wanderlust has taken over! We’re chomping at the bit to get back “into the world.”

The pool from the veranda at Kwa Madwala is soon to be renovated and re-opening within a year.

We don’t mind staying put for extended periods, which accounts for the many times we’ve stayed two, three, and even four months in one location. Doing so has allowed us to learn about each country, its people, culture, nature, and fascinating points of interest.

Sure, we could have done more while we were here. We could have gone on road trips and stayed at various safari camps. But, it’s been hard to motivate ourselves to travel to see precisely what we can see here in our backyard and on a short drive to enter Kruger National Park.

The beautiful male elephant tossed his trunk back for the guide to place pellets inside.

Plus, with so many cruises booked, we needed to watch our spending. It’s only due to the low cost of living for us in the bush that we’ve been able to select a few more expensive cruises than we would have by living here than in other countries. where the cost of living is so much higher. In reality, our lowest cost of living has been in South Africa in partial years: 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2021, and now in 2022.

In total, we’ve spent 32 months living in Marloth Park in the past nine years and hope to be back, if all goes well, returning next December, just before Tom’s birthday, the 23rd, and Christmas. We won’t be staying so long when we return, leaving no longer than six months after we arrive, requiring another visa extension, or a short trip away for a visa stamp.

Nonetheless, I should get to the point of our heading; an apology to our readers…

The property manager was familiar with the elephants allowing him to do a pull-out. Wow!

We are sorry for the redundancy of our posts, especially over the past two years since the onset of the pandemic, and now the endless stream of animal photos of wildlife we’ve surely posted time and time again. You’ve seen me walking in the corridors in India during the ten tedious months of repeated photos from past experiences. Now it is one or multiple bushbucks, one or multiple pigs, one or numerous kudus, and one band of mongooses after another.

We posted numerous photos from our night trail cam, most often of genets and porcupines and many elephants from the river, Kruger National Park, and our recent elephant experience on my birthday. Frank and The Misses and other francolin pairs have graced these pages repeatedly. Recently wildebeests Hal and Broken Horn have been shown and mentioned over and over again.

The veranda where we had brunch last Sunday at Kwa Madwala.

Occasional bush babies, hornbills, go-away birds, and other small creatures have been highlighted on countless posts. On top of all of that, we’ve prepared innumerable posts about Covid-19, lions in Marloth Park, cruises, and now, challenges in traveling due to the horrific war in Ukraine.

Don’t think for one minute that we haven’t been aware of the repetition, the redundancy of various topics and photos, ad nauseam. I justify the repetition because the concept of writing a new story 365 days a year is a daunting task. If someone had presented such a task for me to accomplish daily, I would have run the other way.

The sign for the property as we left after the beautiful experience.

But doing so has been of my own volition, and we’ve continued to do so with love and caring for our surroundings and our fine audience, who miraculously have stayed with us while it continued to grow over the years. For this, we are very grateful. Thank you, dear readers, for your commitment to reading our posts year after year. You amaze me! My attention span is not quite as good as yours!

Hopefully, soon as we reach out to the world before us, our stories and photos will be more exciting and varied. That’s our intention.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 27, 2021:

This photo was taken from the car window when we drove along the Crocodile River. For more photos, please click here.

Horrific war in Kyiv, Ukraine…Our upcoming cruise in June to Ukraine…

Our upcoming June 29 Azamara cruise to Ukraine’s scheduled itinerary raises significant concerns.

Our first concern is for the people of Ukraine and their families and friends throughout the world, who are impacted by this cruel and senseless attack on the citizens of Kiev, also known as Kyiv. From now on, I will refer to the city under attack as Kyiv since many may not be aware of this alternate spelling.

My great grandfather was the mayor of Kyiv in the late 1800s. Many of my ancestors immigrated from Kyiv in the early 1900s, which I was well aware of in my childhood. Tom has conducted considerable research in Ancestry.com and has confirmed the lineage as far back as Ancestry.com records display.

Of course, our concern for the people of Kyiv and Ukraine, in general, supersedes our interest in sailing on this itinerary in June. In no way do I minimize the importance of the safety of human lives over the prospect of a cruise for our pleasure. There’s no comparison. From that viewpoint, I proceed with this post discussing the travel relevance to this awful situation.

This morning, as I began typing this post, we received an email message from Azamara that reads as follows:

Brand

February 24, 2021

Dear Azamara Guest,

We have been monitoring the situation between Ukraine and Russia for the past several weeks. Based on the latest overnight developments, we have found it necessary to change our current voyages to visit either of these countries. As a result, your Black Sea Voyage, which is scheduled to depart on June 29, 2022, on Azamara Onward®, is one of the voyages we will be adjusting to remove Ukraine and/or Russia as a port of call.

We need a little time to ensure the changes we make still result in a memorable, deeply immersive cruise vacation, so we just wanted to inform you that these changes will be shared with you soon.

We greatly appreciate your understanding and thank you for your cooperation throughout our journey as we have worked to manage this fluid situation. We assure you that your upcoming Azamara vacation will deliver the highest standards of service and quality for which we are known.

Should you have any questions, please contact your Travel Advisor for more details or visit https://www.azamara.com/contact-us for your local Azamara call center number.

We look forward to welcoming you on board.

Sincerely,

AZAMARA®

For years, Tom always talked about sailing the Black Sea. I often hesitated to consider this possibility based on the outrageous cost of cruises to this magical area. When we first started traveling, we decided we both must be enthused about any future travel plans to make the bookings.

Recently, when we started booking cruises again, I knew we’d better fulfill Tom’s dream of the Black Sea after seeing how the pandemic impacted the world of travel to such a degree. As we age, we need to consider fulfilling the dreams of where we’d like to visit. No doubt, at some point, we’ll have to stop traveling.

Finally, a few months ago, we booked the Black Sea cruise on Azamara. As of yesterday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated the war against Ukraine, we wondered if yet another venue we’ve booked would be canceled. After all, countless plans we’ve made in the past few years have been canceled by the provider, or we had canceled due to concerns over Covid-19 when we weren’t vaccinated.

Based on the above letter, it will be interesting to see what alternatives Azamara makes for the above itinerary. Since we’ve sailed on 27 cruises since the onset of our travels over the past nine years ago, and we have several other cruises booked into 2023, there may be some redundancy.

Surely, if that’s the case, Azamara will give us an option for a full refund or a future cruise. Then, we could transfer the funds we already paid for the cruise mentioned above of US $9862, ZAR 150773, over to one of the other upcoming Azamara cruises we have booked into the future.

Once we sail on the Celebrity Cruise on April 8, the remaining six cruises are on Azamara, on which we’ve never sailed. Why did we book so many cruises on an unfamiliar cruise line? Their itineraries matched where we wanted to travel, their ships are much smaller at around 600 passengers instead of 3000, and the reviews were fantastic.

Sure, Azamara may not have many amenities that many cruisers insist upon, but we are less picky. We are content if we have a clean, well-appointed cabin, working WiFi, and a chef who will cook meat and veg for me. Tom is easy to please with food selections. Plus, we hear Azamara is superior in all these areas and more.

We continue with prayers for the people of Ukraine and their loved ones and hope this massacre will end quickly. But nothing Putin can do going forward will ease the sorrow and fear being felt by the Ukrainian people, now or in the future.

Be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, February 25, 2021:

No doubt, giraffes like to get a load off their feet from time to time. Giraffes are the tallest land animals. “Female giraffes are up to 4.2 meters, 14 feet tall, and weigh up to 680 kg, 1,500 pounds. Meanwhile, males are up to 5.5 meters, 18 feet tall, and can weigh 1361 kg, 3,000 pounds.” For more photos, please click here.

Finally booked our flights and rental car for the USA in 32 days…Sailing across the sea in 48 days…

Big Daddy comes right up to the veranda to let us know he has arrived!

After spending the past 13 months in Marloth Park and the prior ten months in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, we are ready to be on the move once again. Don’t get me wrong. We have enjoyed Marloth Park as much as ever, if not more than all of our prior visits to the bush. But, after feeling a little confined, we are ready to return to our lives of world travel.

I must admit we have procrastinated booking our flight and rental car, waiting to see if the upcoming transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette would be canceled. Flights are booking up quickly, and we don’t want to lose the opportunity for the flights with the shortest duration. We can no longer wait.

Lots of girls and young ones in the garden.

It wasn’t easy finding a fair price. Car rentals are extremely high in the US, as much as seven times more than what we’ve been paying in South Africa. This time we got the best price we’ve seen in years in the US using the link on the right side of our home page with Auto Europe. We ended with a four-door Buick at US $688, ZAR 10400, a price we were thrilled to get for the 15-day rental, averaging at US $46, ZAR 695.

If you use this link on our site on the right side of the page, we receive a small commission. But you may get the benefit of a great price you may discover after shopping around online. Our goal is always to have our advertisers offer prices as good as you can get on your own and, on occasion, even better. Using our links makes us a little revenue that helps offset some of the cost of maintaining our site. Thank you to all of our readers who’ve been using our links.

Seigfried and Roy sharing pellets.

We booked the flight using our link for Expedia after shopping around for the best possible flight and pricing. Many flight apps don’t allow including the flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to be included in the package of flights. If it’s not included, we’d have to collect our bags in Johannesburg and check in a second time.

As it turned out, our flight on March 23 is a total of 27 hours, arriving in Tampa on March 24 at 1:55 pm, 1355 hrs. We’ll collect our bags and head to the Avis counter to get the car and then be on our way to newlywed friends Karen and Rich’s fabulous home in Apollo Beach, where we’ll stay until we leave for Fort Lauderdale on April 8 to board our cruise.

It will be wonderful to spend the two weeks with our friends. The four of us have great memories and so much in common. We are looking forward to being with them both.

A monitor lizard was scurrying off into the tall grass.

This morning I’ve been busy walking while stopping intermittently while we booked the flights and car. Louise loaned us some large totes to store items we would leave behind. Now we can relax for a while, having this out of the way. Soon, I’ll begin sorting and packing for the upcoming journey. After all, we will be back in Marloth Park in December, after arriving in Cape Town by cruise.

As mentioned earlier, we haven’t booked any holiday homes or hotels for the almost two months we’ll spend in the UK awaiting our next flight to Istanbul at the end of June. We won’t feel safe committing to holiday homes when the cruise could still be canceled last-minute, and we’ll have to make alternate plans as to how and where we’ll spend the time from April through June. We aren’t concerned about that now. It will all work out.

Today is a quiet day, spending lots of time with our furry friends who have been coming in droves all since early this morning. Now that I’m just about done with today’s post, almost completed today’s walking goal, and have most of tonight’s dinner for the braai ready to go, the remainder of the day will be easy and pleasant.

We hope your day is as easy and pleasant as ours.

Photo from one year ago today, February 19, 2021:

Tiny’s best begging pose for more pellets. We haven’t seen him since we returned from the US at the end of July. We continue to call for him. For more photos, please click here.

Results regarding our cell service…Google Fi…

Two male elephants, one missing a tusk, walked along the river back, followed by several cattle egrets.

This morning I awoke to two annoying email messages. One was from Google Fi as follows:

“Hi, Jessica,

Thanks for contacting Google Fi support!

I see that you’ve contacted us to request an exception for international roaming. Let me look into this.

After reviewing your account, it shows that you are not verified via Sheer ID. Eligible users include Military statuses other than active duty or reservists, like retired.

Military or State Department employees who are in the US and don’t serve abroad
People that work on a military base but aren’t in the military, like contractors
Dependents who aren’t in the same group as the eligible military or State Department employee
If you fall under one of the above categories, please submit documentation through goo.gle/fi-sheerid. If your military status or branch isn’t listed as an option on the verification form, you’re not eligible for an exception. I hope this helps!

If you have any further concerns and questions, please reply to this email or contact us over Chat or phone (available with a limited team). We’re here to support you 24/7.

Thanks,

Sai

Google Fi Support”

When they were facing one another, it appeared they were communicating.

Subsequently, we will have to research a suitable alternative and set it up when we’re in the US at the beginning of April. This is frustrating. We purchased expensive Google phones for this purpose. Our phones will work with other providers, but the costs for data and calls will be outrageous on a roaming basis. We’ll update what we find here in the next week or so.

Secondly, we received an email from one of our credit cards:

“Thomas,

We’re writing to inform you of an upcoming account review scheduled for April 2022. Over the last several months, the highest balance on this account has been significantly lower than your credit limit. Because of this, your credit limit could be decreased following this review.

If your credit limit is decreased as a result of this review, we’ll notify you and make sure to keep your credit limit significantly above your highest balance from the previous two years.”

We have excellent credit. But now, when we haven’t used this particular card over the past year, why do they want to lower the credit line? That’s ridiculous! We called the company, opted out of the “review,” and tried to use this card regularly to avoid losing the good credit limit.

With these two things on our minds, we felt frustrated this morning. As soon as I’ve uploaded today’s post, I’ll get to work on researching a new cell provider, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time on this when we get to Florida. In any case, whichever company we choose will cost us a lot more than we’ve been paying. Our monthly bill with calls and data hasn’t ever been over US $80, ZAR 1206.

They walked in single file close to one another.

Many such issues exist for world travelers, including health insurance challenges. We will be in the US for about eight days. During that time, the only coverage we’ll have in the basic included Medicare plan, certainly not enough to cover in the event of a medical emergency. Our current health insurance with United Healthcare Global, SafeTrip, doesn’t provide any coverage in the US.

You may ask, “With these inconveniences, is it all worth it?”

We aren’t letting various agencies and organizations prevent us from our freedom of traveling as we choose. We often think of people in countries where they aren’t allowed to travel at their leisure. As US citizens, we are grateful that we can but never allow any company or provider to dictate what we can and can’t do.

If all else fails with cell service, we can always return to buying SIM cards in every country we visit. We did this for the first seven years of our world travel journey, and if we have to do it again, we will. It just seems illogical to go backward in technology based on some arbitrary regulations to make companies more money.

The larger male only had one tusk. There could be many reasons for this, including fighting with other elephants or animals or natural causes.

Anyway, on a lighter note, yesterday afternoon, we met Rita and Gerhard at Two Trees overlooking the Crocodile River. We didn’t see much. Many animals have access to water holes throughout Kruger National Park with the recent rains and may not venture down the steep ravine to the river to drink and cool off.

Fortunately, we took photos of these two elephants from afar. The photos aren’t as clear as we’d like, but they were across the river from us up a steep hill. They never came down to the river, although they stayed nearby. They appeared to be two males, one much larger than the other. They may have been “kicked out” of the main herd based on their ages.

Once an elephant reaches puberty and can impregnate females, they are banned from participating with the larger herd, usually by the matriarch. She intends to preserve the “family line” integrity by preventing young males from mating with their sisters and other family members. This makes so much sense. These wild beasts are so intelligent!

That’s it for today, folks. Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully, we’ll have found a resolution for our cell phone needs by then.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 16, 2021:

There was no post one year ago on this date due to a power and WiFi outage resulting from storms.

Weird…Google Fi stopping our data/cell service!..What???…Why???…

This bushbuck, most likely Gordy, stood directly in front of the trail cam. It picked up this grasshopper close to his eye.

Last night, e received this email message from Google Fi, our data and phone service provider:

Google Fi

“As a reminder, Fi’s Terms of Service require you to use our service primarily in the United States (territories not included), and it looks like you’ve been predominantly using Fi abroad. In 30 days, we’ll need to suspend your international roaming data capabilities unless you start using Fi in the United States again (territories not included). Your calls and texts will not be impacted.

We may grant exceptions for military members and state department workers who are serving abroad. Please complete the following steps to request an exception.

  1. Go to offers.sheerid.com/google-fi/government
  2. Fill out the verification form (make sure to use your corresponding Fi email address)
  3. Submit the required documents

Once SheerID verifies your status, Fi will process your exception and you’ll be notified via email. This process usually takes 20 minutes, but up to a day in some cases. Visit our Help Center for more details.

Your phone number is safe on Fi until you cancel service or move it to another provider. If you believe you received this message in error, please contact Fi support.”

This is Thick Neck. He hasn’t been coming around as much as he did before Gordy claimed his territory. We can distinguish Gordy and Thick Neck from TN’s thicker neck and Adam’s Apple on his throat. Zoom in to see this anomaly.
As a result of receiving this letter, this morning I spent 45 minutes talking to their customer service department for a solution to this ridiculous policy. After all, we purchased a Google Pixel 4XL for its ability to provide international calling, texts, and data.
Also above, it says, “Your calls and texts will not be impacted.” But, after talking to the customer service department, we found this statement not to be true. Within hours or a few days of cutting us off, our ability to make a call or text will also be suspended.
Apparently, during the past year, Google Fi, a global cell service company, owned and operated by Google, made a decision to control how many phone calls, texts, and data a customer uses while outside the US. This is ridiculous. But, in speaking to an upper supervisor, after going through a few other people, they are going to “try” to come up with a resolution for us.  We should be receiving an update by email later today.
If they don’t, we’ll have a problem when we get to the US at the end of March. We won’t be able to use MAPS to get to Karen and Rich’s house in Apollo Beach or make a call to let them know we are on our way. Then, we’ll have to spend our one week in the US working on getting a new provider that is suitable for international travel.
Several kudus were in the garden including Bossy at the forefront.
We’ve already checked out some options online and there are some but all of them will cost us much more than we’ve been paying the past few years.
After spending so much time on the phone about this issue this morning, I’m behind on getting my steps done before we leave at 3:15 pm, 1515 hrs, to meet Rita and Gerhard at Two Trees overlooking the Crocodile River. It’s been so hot lately, we haven’t felt like going. But today it is only 81F, 28C, with the dew point at 70, so it should be comfortable by that time. It’s amazing how high humidity can make lower temperatures feel so uncomfortable.
Otherwise, not much else is going on here. The animals have returned to our garden after the busy holidaymaker’s weekend has ended. I have everything prepped for tonight’s dinner for when we return from the river. All that is left is making Tom’s white rice, cooking the green beans, tossing the salad, and cutting up our leftover meat; chicken for me, roast beef for Tom.
We heard from friend Karen that their wedding was a huge hit. The only glitch was that her brother got Covid in Florida and wasn’t able to walk her down to the aisle. Instead, her adult son Jack did the honors. We wish we could have been there. If we had, it may have seemed that we brought the Covid with us since many people in the US are terrified to be around anyone from South Africa. And yet, the number of cases is so much less per capita here in South Africa than in the US. Sensationalized news rules the world.
But, soon we will see Karen and Rich and most certainly we’ll all have a great time together. We are all looking forward to that time in about six weeks.
We will report back on what Google Fi came up with in regard to a solution for our ongoing world travel cell service.
We hope you have a pleasant day.

Photo from one year ago today, February 15, 2021:

What’s with the uneven ossicones? Too cute for words. For more photos, please click here.

Tom made an exciting discovery!!!…Can we start feeling enthused about traveling again?…

Has Hal taken over for Broken Horn whom we haven’t seen in a few weeks?

It’s been easy to get out of the state of mind about traveling during the pandemic. Almost every day, news hits the wires that make us wonder when and if we’ll be able to return to our years-long journey to see more and more of this magnificent world we live in.

The clock is ticking faster now, more than ever, as we age, regardless of how hard we try to reduce the impact of aging. Neither of us feels any less agile or capable of continuing to travel than we did when we began in 2012. Yes, we’ve experienced some bumps in the road, literally and figuratively, mainly for me with some health issues.

But, our desire and determination to continue had only waned during the past two years of the pandemic when none of us knew what the future holds. Even now, there’s a degree of uncertainty hanging over all of our heads regarding travel. Many have changed their lives, excluding vacations/holidays to relax and unwind, instead looking at other avenues to accomplish these objectives.

Hal likes to rub his muddy face on the trees to get cleaned off.

Each day, we hear about cruise disasters, at times making us tentative, but we aren’t hearing about the successful cruises sailing all over the world. Many are incident-free, with many safety protocols in place to protect the passengers and crew. No, cruising won’t be as fun as it was for us in the past, when we socialized day and night, mask-free, enjoying lively conversation and dinners with six or eight other guests at big round tables. Those days may be gone, for now, and into the future. Only time will tell.

Knowing our first cruise, a transatlantic cruise with Celebrity Cruise line is sailing in only 66 days from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has left us wondering if it will cancel. At this point, we’re beginning to believe it will sail after all as planned. It’s a repositioning cruise at an excellent price to get the ship back to the UK and Europe, so it will sail as planned, most likely from what we can determine thus far.

Our goal is to stay in the UK with easy visa requirements until our next cruise sails in June from Istanbul, Turkey. It’s an easy flight in less than four hours. We plan to move around the UK during those two months, as we did in 2019, to experience more quaint and charming holiday rentals and hotels.

Bossy looks more and more pregnant each day.

Of course, we plan to see friends Linda and Ken who live in Buckinghamshire, another attractive English countryside location, which we love more than the big cities. At this point, we can’t book anything until we are on our way across the Atlantic Ocean to ensure nothing impacts the cruise.

We have no concern whatsoever making plans at this late date, only days before our arrival in Southampton, England, on April 21. We don’t want to risk losing deposits and full payments if something happens beyond our control. It’s one of those scenarios where we’re comfortable “playing it by ear.” If we can’t wrap up a holiday rental, we find a historic hotel, of which there are many.

All of this “cruise talk” brings us to the exciting news about Tom’s discovery in the past few days. In researching pricing for our currently booked cruises to 2023, he found three cruises with substantial price drops. To enjoy the benefits of a price drop, it’s up to the passengers to check pricing regularly, not the travel agency or cruise line. Such price drop benefits can only be gleaned before the final payment date, not after.

Hal does a nice job of trimming the grass in the garden.

Upon discovering recent price drops on three of our seven booked cruises for which we’d yet to pay the final balances, two of which are payable this month, Tom got to work. Last night, he managed to get in touch with Costco Travel after being on hold for over an hour and requested the following prices to be dropped on those three cruises as follows:

  • Sail Date: July 10, savings amount:           US $2600,  ZAR 39761*
  • Sail Date: November 8, savings amount:   US $1680,  ZAR 25697
  • Sail Date: November 19, savings amount: US 1280,    ZAR 19578

Total savings for 2022:  US $5560, ZAR 85036

No doubt, it was worth staying on hold for such a long time. We were in bed and put down the phone while Tom worked on his laptop, and I played with my phone until a rep came on the line.

Saving this amount of money furthered our enthusiasm going forward. If these three cruises have further price drops, we’ll be able to start the process all over again. Of course, Tom will continue to watch the prices, as he always does before final payments are due on the remainder of the cruise. or any of the remaining cruises and go even lower.

So, that’s our news of the day.

Have a rewarding day, too!

Photo from one year ago today, February 1, 2021:

This was an excellent profile of one of our favorite animals, a giraffe. For more photos, please click here.

Merry Christmas Eve to all of our readers/friends and family…Tom’s fun birthday evening…

It’s Christmas again, the 10th Christmas since we left for our world journey. It’s hard for us to believe it’s been so long. When we think about how much time we’ve spent held back due to the pandemic, which will be two years in March, it’s an entirely different picture.

While listening to a popular cruising podcast, Cruise News, this morning, we were disheartened by the number of cruises that are either canceling or returning to the embarkation port due to rising cases of the virus aboard the ship. Many countries are forbidding cruise ships from stopping at a planned port of call when officials don’t want to risk more cases being brought into their countries. I don’t blame them.

With ports of call rapidly canceling, cruising may easily take another nose-dive. Yesterday, we got a notice from Costco that the final payment for our April 8th transatlantic cruise will be debited to our credit card tomorrow, Christmas Day. Is it likely this cruise will sail in a little over three months? I’m not so sure.

However, today is Christmas Eve, and our thoughts need to go elsewhere, focusing on the many blessings we have before us and have had over the many years of our world journey. Sure, we have had some challenges, some of which we would have had regardless of where we lived or if we’d traveled or not. They include the loss of loved ones, illness, and ten months in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, along with myriad unexpected events that left us reeling for a few minutes as we decided what to do next.

In each case, we figured it all out and never gave up. When faced with life-changing challenges, this is just like you when faced with life-changing challenges…you figure it out. We are not unique in that way. As the holiday season is upon us, we’re reminded of how fortunate we’ve been in so many ways.  This season, this year, and always, we celebrate that good fortune and pray for a new world for all of us.

None of us are exempt from experiencing the effect of the past few years in one way or another. Many have suffered dearly from the loss of loved ones, severe illness, and loss of financial security. The pandemic has taken a toll on the lives of citizens worldwide, and it’s not over yet.

Last night, we had a fantastic evening at Jabula. Our dear friends and owners at our favorite restaurant had decorated the bar with balloons, a birthday sign for Tom, and put a reserved sign at our favorite seats at the bar. Tom couldn’t have appreciated it more. Of course, the conversations at the bar flowed with ease with plenty of laughter, teasing, and holiday spirit.

Tom wanted to eat at the bar rather than take a table on the veranda, and we never missed a beat as locals came and went, celebrating along with us. By 8:00 pm, 2000 hrs, we headed home. Tom was looking forward to his cake. He let his dinner settle for a while we watched a few shows on my laptop, and then he dug in.

Unfortunately, and much to my disappointment, the cake wasn’t as moist as it could have been. But, Tom, the sugar enthusiast, savored every bite and had a second helping this morning with his coffee. Surely tonight after dinner, he’ll have another.

As a special treat for Christmas, this morning, I made myself a low-carb almond flour cinnamon coffee cake, making a second cake to bring to Louise and Danie this afternoon, who also eat like me. Although the recipe didn’t originate from my efforts, this cake is a favorite of mine. Knowing how good this is, here is the recipe for those who prefer to eat a low carb/keto diet from this site:

“ROBIN’S COFFEE CAKE
1/2 cup butter, softened slightly
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup granular Splenda or equivalent liquid Splenda
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs, room temperature
6 1/2 ounces almond flour, 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream the butter, cream cheese, Splenda, and extracts. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix the almond flour and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture gradually. Pour into a greased 9″ round cake pan. Mix the topping ingredients until crumbly; sprinkle over the cake batter. Bake at 350º 45-50 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and the cake is firm to the touch.

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup almond flour, 2 ounces
1/4 cup granular Splenda or equivalent liquid Splenda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, softened just until pliable

Makes 12 servings
Can be frozen

With granular Splenda:
Per Serving: 286 Calories; 26g Fat; 8g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 5g Net Carbs

With liquid Splenda:
Per Serving: 276 Calories; 26g Fat; 8g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 3g Net Carbs

May all of you who celebrate have a fantastic Christmas holiday. Those celebrating Chanukah, Kwanza, or any other seasonal holidays, may you also have a wonderful holiday season.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #274. For more, please click here.