Sunday Morning 5/22/2022: Beginning in Mexico

We are slowly settling into our life in San Miguel de Allende. We continue to recover from the long journey to get here as well as the altitude and climate. It is very dry here, especially so for us after living in always-humid Hawaii, and Brett and I have both been drinking lots and lots of (bottled) water since our arrival. It has also been very hot here so far (in the 90s every day all week), another big change for us, so we’re also trying to adapt to that. Our apartment has thick stucco walls, good fans, and heavy drapes that block out the afternoon sun when it’s at its peak so we stay comfortable indoors and only go out mornings or evenings. Altitude adjustment will happen gradually and there’s really nothing much we can do to speed it up, but we’ve basically come from being at sea level to an elevation of over a mile and think it will take a few more days before the drowsiness and sluggishness completely fade away (we’ve been told it can take around two weeks to fully adjust).

The meat case and charcuterie island at City Market, just a 15-minute walk from our apartment. While we love the little shops that line the streets, this is the most beautiful and impressive supermarket I have ever seen in my life. It’s like entering a fantasy store with everything and anything one could possibly want. The aisle full of nothing but olive oils alone is worth a visit.

We’ve spent the past few days discovering what’s available nearby and so far we’ve found a nearby supermarket that can only be described as Whole Foods on steroids (but with prices like Aldi); a smaller, less expensive, but equally nice supermarket; a couple of lovely little organic markets that sell wonderful breads, produce, and other good things; a nearby tortilla shop; and lots of great little restaurants and cafes. We’ve just started our exploration of the center of SMA and other neighborhoods, and we’re looking forward to discovering more about the city. Brett and I try to use Spanish as much as possible, but frankly we’re pathetic (yesterday I answered the taxi driver in Japanese). I’m hoping more of what I learned in the past will come back during our stay.

Last day in Philadelphia

We had a great final day in Philadelphia last Sunday afternoon. Meiling was on her way back to Boston before 6:00 a.m., but WenYu didn’t have to be at the train station until 4:30 in the afternoon, and YaYu needed to move out of her dorm room by noon. So, Brett, WenYu, and I went over to Bryn Mawr in the morning to help get everything out of YaYu’s room and over to a temporary room in another dorm where she’ll live until the end of the month. After we were done with that chore (more like chaos) we headed downtown to the Reading Street Market for cheesesteaks. We each got a traditional with grilled onions and Cheez Whiz at Spataros, and boy was that sandwich tender, juicy, flavorful, and downright DELICIOUS! We wolfed them down. While we were eating I asked YaYu how far we were from the Liberty Bell and it turned out to be just a 15 minute walk away so as soon as we were done with lunch off we went! None of us had ever seen the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall before, so we enjoyed a brief look at both before taking WenYu to the station. Following that we took YaYu back to Bryn Mawr and said our goodbyes to her, then went back to our hotel to finish packing and get a good night’s sleep before departing for Baltimore in the morning. By the way, after living on quiet little Kaua’i for the past several years, driving in Philadelphia gave all of us heart palpitations!

A special note to commenter Libby: I found your most recent comment in my spam folder this past week, maybe because you’re posting from overseas? I thought I had rescued it and was planning to read and answer but instead the comment vaporized and can’t be found anywhere. I’m so sorry.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Getting to San Miguel de Allende provided a difficult travel experience once again, but we stayed calm, persevered, and eventually arrived. 2) In spite of everything we were completely unpacked and settled in on our second day, our pantry and refrigerator are now stocked for the rest of the month, and we’ve started venturing out of our neighborhood into other parts of the city.

Clockwise from the top left: a colorful street in our neighborhood; a design shop along the Ancha; Parque Benito Juarez; the Parroquia San Miguel Archangel; the entrance to El Encanto restaurant; traditional pottery in the Mercado de Artesanias;.

  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) Besides getting out more, we’re going to finally meet Debbie and Michael Campbell, the Senior Nomads, on Wednesday! They were the inspiration for our nomadic life, and Brett and I have long hoped our paths would cross someday and . . . here we are! They have been to SMA several times and we’re looking forward to learning more about things we can do and see while we’re here. 2) We’re planning to go to the big SMA organic market for the first time this coming week. Besides loads of fresh organic produce for sale there are also vendors selling homemade enchiladas, tamales, tacos, and other good things – we want to try some vegetable tamales!
  • Ways we saved: 1) Parking in a downtown Philadelphia lot last Sunday came to $33 (!!!) for two hours and five minutes but Brett remembered to get our ticket validated and we only had to pay $11, still expensive but much, much better than what it could have been (after we couldn’t find any street parking). 2) There may be some potential savings: because our flight from Baltimore to Toronto was over four hours late in arriving and completely the fault of Air Canada (not the weather), we qualify for a refund and were told we may get as much as $400 (CAD) each. We’ve filed for the refund and will see what happens. 3) We have found food to be very inexpensive in SMA so far – we’ll probably spend less than half of what we used to spend on Kaua’i for the two of us.
Waiting for brunch in the back courtyard at Rustica, a lovely little restaurant right around the corner from us.
  • Good things that happened: 1) On our first morning in SMA, we had a delicious brunch at a restaurant down the street and around the corner that our host had recommended. We got sticker shock when we saw the menu, and our entire meal plus tip ended up being around what we use to pay for one breakfast entree on Kaua’i! 2) Because of the great organic and natural food stores near our apartment, we have been eating healthy vegan and vegetarian foods once again. We were getting very tired of airport, fast, and other unhealthy food options. 3) Fresh tortillas in Mexico are mind-blowing if all you’ve ever had are ones from the supermarket in the U.S.

Both Brett and I have high hopes that another week here will find us feeling back to normal. After all the interruptions and ups and downs and changes we’ve been through over the past month or so, we’re looking forward to being settled for a while. Both of us are done with feeling tired, having our sleep interrupted or not getting to sleep at all, and not eating as well as we should. I’m looking forward to being alert enough to read again without immediately falling asleep! San Miguel de Allende seems like it will be an ideal location to pull ourselves back together.

Although this was a somewhat crazy week for us, I hope everyone else had a good one and got lots accomplished. I also hope everyone is looking forward to the week coming up as much as we are!

Our Home In San Miguel de Allende

We somehow ended up with another beautiful view out our front door!

We’ve only been in San Miguel de Allende for a couple of days, but we are already in love with our apartment. Located in the Allende neighborhood, the apartment complex is a little slice of paradise tucked away in the city. We’re located just a short walk away from the center of SMA, and the streets that take us there are filled with everything we could possibly need. The only downside, if there is one, is that the complex is located up a hill. That means the walk down is easy, but a bit more difficult on the return, especially when carrying bags full of groceries or such. Our neighbors have already advised that we should walk into town but take a taxi to come back. We haven’t tried that yet, but it’s good advice.

Our apartment is located on the second level of the three-level complex. We have a open-plan living/dining/kitchen, a bedroom with a king-size bed and a big closet, a small bathroom with a shower, and a large hallway with extra storage. Like our living room on Kaua’i, the front door looks out onto nature, to a gorgeous central courtyard, complete with a fountain. It’s all very peaceful, and a wonderful place to relax and come home to.

The fireplace in the living room works, but is not for use by renters. The floors throughout the apartment are tiled – they help keep the place cool.

Another view of the living room from the dining table, looking back to the hallway and bedroom. The very comfortable sofa can be pulled out to make another king-size bed.

The dining area with the kitchen behind. The cabinet is full of cleaning supplies because once-a-week maid service is included in the rental (a surprise to us).

The well-equipped kitchen with the purified water jug front and center. We will probably use a bottle a week, with it delivered to our door when requested. The only downside here is we are still washing dishes by hand. There’s a very nice, new washer and dryer that’s out of sight to the right.

The hallway to the bedroom with its lovely built-in storage – Brett is keeping his clothes in three of the drawers. Our small bathroom is to the right.

The bedroom with its very comfortable king-size bed, big closet for our clothes and suitcases, and built-in corner desk which Brett immediately commandeered when we arrived.

I love everything about our apartment, but the courtyard may be the best thing about this place. Cool, colorful, peaceful, and filled with plants of all kinds, it’s a joy to have all of this right outside our door and to awaken each morning to birds singing outside. We also have delightful, friendly neighbors!

We’re in Mexico! (in spite of another wretched travel day)

The view from our front door: palm tree, flowers, and an orange tree again!

After some sad goodbyes to the girls throughout the day, Brett and I were packed and ready to leave Pennsylvania last Sunday night. We got a good night’s sleep, and woke up at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, ready to head back to Baltimore to turn in our car and get checked in for our afternoon flight to Toronto. The drive back to Baltimore was lovely this time, the complete opposite of our trip up to Philadelphia. There was little to no traffic, the scenery through Pennsylvania bucolic, and we arrived at the car rental return right on schedule. We had time for a leisurely lunch at the airport and were checked in for our flight approximately two hours before boarding. Heavy storms had been expected to pass through Baltimore, but although it was cloudy when we arrived a couple of hours later the sky was clear and there were nothing but blue skies as far as the eye could see. What could go wrong?

Plenty as it turns out. At 3:30, less than an hour before boarding, we received a notice that our flight had been delayed by an hour because of “technical” problems up in Toronto. Soon after, a second message arrived that the flight had been delayed for a second time and would now be departing two hours after the original flight time. Over the next five and a half hours we receive eight messages, each announcing a further delay, caused as it turned out by staffing issues in Toronto and a very inexperienced ground staff in Baltimore. We were finally boarded around 7:00 p.m. but sat on the plane for another hour while the staff tried to fix the tickets of six passengers they had screwed up earlier (they failed). We eventually arrived in Toronto at 10:20 p.m., more than six hours later than our scheduled arrival.

Our room at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel was beautiful and comfortable, and conveniently located to the airport, but we spent less than four hours there.

We had been told to expect possible long delays at Toronto airport both for arrivals (two to three hour waits to get through customs) and departures (two to three hour waits to get through security), but we sailed through immigration and were welcomed to Canada. Brett’s suitcase appeared quickly on the baggage carousel but mine was nowhere to be found. We eventually learned that was because the staff at Baltimore had checked my bag all the way to Mexico City but Brett’s only to Toronto! All I can say is thank goodness we went to look or Brett’s bag never would have made it to Mexico. We then headed the short distance to the Sheraton hotel only to find ourselves at the end of a line of over 50 people, all waiting to get a room for the night. After standing in line for over a half hour the manager came out and announced going forward only those with a reservation would be given a room. The line suddenly got very small and we were soon handed our key. We walked into our gorgeous room just after 1:00 a.m., the room where we had planned to get a good night’s sleep before heading to Mexico. We instead got a two-hour nap and a hot shower before leaving before 4:00 a.m. to recheck Brett’s suitcase and beat the long lines at security.

When we set out yesterday though our fortunes had changed, thank goodness, because we were now flying Business Class. We had a special check-in line and a special line through security so no waiting. We ate a light breakfast at the airport (bagels and coffee, purchased with the dining voucher we had been given at Baltimore by Air Canada), boarded on time, and had a very comfortable flight to Mexico City, which arrived on time. I got to watch my all-time favorite travel movie during the flight, Crazy Rich Asians (I’ve so far watched it 12 times on different trips), and we both got a little sleep. The line to get through immigration in Mexico City was long, but before long we were through and on our way up to San Miguel de Allende in a private van with a great driver. We were delivered to the door of our charming apartment by our driver and lovely host, then unpacked our pajamas, fell into bed, and slept for another 14 hours!

We awoke this morning to birdsong and a lovely view from our front doors, almost like the view from the apartment in Kaua’i! I’m enjoying my second cup of coffee, the washing machine is taking care of our first load of dirty travel clothes, and all is well. We’re heading out in a little while to check out our neighborhood and have some breakfast, as well as find a grocery store to stock up. But otherwise, today will be a day of rest and recuperation as we begin our time in San Miguel de Allende. We’re so happy to be here!

Sunday Morning 5/15/2022: Graduation!

Taking a moment to brag: YaYu graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors.

And then there were four . . . college graduates, that is! What a great day we had yesterday, even though it rained all day. The graduation ceremony was lovely, and afterwards we enjoyed tea sandwiches and cookies back at YaYu’s dorm along with her friends/roommates and their parents. With YaYu’s commencement, all four of our children are now college graduates and have officially flown out of our nest. We are so very proud of ALL of them.

Meiling and WenYu arrived in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon and we spent a fun evening with YaYu beginning with a celebratory dinner at the White Dog Cafe (which serves local, sustainable foods) and then went for some house-made ice cream from a nearby shop – the available flavors were creative and incredibly tasty. Afterwards we walked over to a combination Japanese restaurant and small grocery store and found prices lower than what we paid in Kaua’i! Brett got me another reusable shopping bag for my birthday, this one with a Japan theme (the bags are turning into my favorite souvenir – they’re low cost and very useful). We dropped YaYu back at her dorm with a box of Covid self-tests, and she texted us back shortly with a picture of her negative test: she had cleared the virus in time for graduation!

We enjoyed a fabulous celebration meal on Friday with some very yummy food followed by artisanal ice cream, and a small birthday gift for me – a lovely evening! (we were not actually seated in a parking lot at dinner)

The day after our arrival in Pennsylvania Brett and I headed over to Whole Foods, the closest market to our hotel, to pick up food for the week. We have been committed to eating as many meals as possible in our room, so we shopped with that in mind. We were stunned when our bill for a cart full of food came to a full $65 (and some change) less than expected, at Whole Foods of all places, but I guess our brains were still figuring everything according to what it would cost on Kaua’i. We took YaYu out for pizza on Thursday, celebrated YaYu’s graduation and my birthday at our dinner on Friday but otherwise we’ve eaten in our room. I sure hope food prices in Nashville are similar to those we’ve experienced here – so very much lower than what we’re accustomed to.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Getting to Philadelphia from Hawaii was THE major accomplishment, but we survived (even though we continue are still suffering a bit from jet lag). 2) On Thursday we took YaYu to IKEA to find a bed for her new living quarters, and on Friday we picked up Meiling and WenYu and have been having a grand time together. Meiling left early this morning; WenYu is heading to NYC later this afternoon for a short reunion there with Wellesley and Portland friends. 3) Brett got our admission forms completed for our entry into Canada, including proof of vaccination and other information. We are ready to go!
We were able to watch YaYu ring the Bryn Mawr’s Taylor Bell to announce she had finished her coursework and was ready to graduate
  • Good things that happened: We have had a wonderful time with the girls, and YaYu’s graduation was great from start to finish.
  • Ways we saved: 1) We have somehow miraculously stayed close to our budget for our time in Pennsylvania. Our car rental is paid in full, our hotel is paid in full (and we were not charged extra to have Meiling and WenYu stay with us in our room), and we did not go crazy on our food spending. I hope Nashville is as affordable as Philadelphia has been (compared to Hawaii). 2) I was able to chose another billing plan for my new direct loan and my monthly payment will now be one-third less than what I’ve been paying for the past 22+ years, and I will save nearly $14K in interest over what I would have with the old loan.
  • What we’re looking forward to: This time next week we’ll be in Mexico! I’m actually looking forward to our flights as I had forgotten we’ll be in business class this time. We booked a direct shuttle service to San Miguel de Allende from the Mexico City airport, recommended by our Airbnb host, when Brett received a very unexpected refund from the dentist he saw three years ago in Portland. The amount of the refund exactly covers the cost of the shuttle, and it will deliver us directly to the door of our apartment in SMA.

We head back to Baltimore early tomorrow morning (using toll roads this time!) to turn in our rental car and head first to Toronto. We’ll spend the night there and then catch an early morning flight down to Mexico City. We’re looking forward to getting together with long-time reader Natalie in Toronto at our hotel tomorrow evening. It’s hard for us to believe that we left Kaua’i a week ago tomorrow, but even harder to accept sometimes that we’re not going back after this trip is over. Our time so far on the mainland has almost seemed at times like we’re visiting a foreign country because it’s so different in so many ways, from prices to traffic to the weather to the stores and shops available. We’re a bit sad we were not able to visit either Gettysburg or Valley Forge, but there wasn’t enough time and we were honestly much too tired to do any sightseeing. Those visits will be a good excuse to return to Pennsylvania in the future.

Our baby graduated! We’ll have one more graduation to attend for YaYu (her goal is a Ph.D.), but that won’t be for a few more years.

We’ve had a great, busy, but tiring week in Philadelphia but wouldn’t have had it any other way (other than that horrid trip up from Baltimore). We’re looking forward to the week coming up, with hopefully a more relaxing travel experience than the one last week, and starting our long stay in San Miguel de Allende. Wishing all a very good week filled with lots of good things!

Happy Birthday To Me

(photo credit toa heftier/unsplash)

Tomorrow I enter my eighth decade. I remember thinking as a child that teenagers seemed incredibly old and I couldn’t even imagine, let alone contemplate, how old my parents and grandparents were, and yet here I am now, an official old person.

I read this short essay by Annie Lamott the other day on turning 68 and thought it expressed my feelings pretty well about turning 70. Life is pretty crazy and awful right now, but it’s also pretty wonderful too.

Thank you to all of my readers for being a part of my life. And, don’t forget to look up!

I am going to be 68 in six days, if I live that long. I’m optimistic. Mostly.

God, what a world. What a heartbreaking, terrifying freak show. It is completely ruining my birthday plans. I was going to celebrate how age and the grace of myopia have given me the perspective that almost everything sorts itself out in the end. That good will and decency and charity and love always eventually conspire to bring light into the darkest corners. That the crucifixion looked like a big win for the Romans.

But turning 68 means you weren’t born yesterday. Turning 68 means you’ve seen what you’ve seen—Ukraine, Sandy Hook, the permafrost…Marjorie Taylor Greene. By 68, you have seen dear friends literally ravaged by cancer, lost children, unspeakable losses. The midterms are coming up. My mind is slipping. My dog died.

Really, to use the theological terms, it is just too frigging much.

And regrettably, by 68, one is both seriously uninterested in a vigorous debate on the existence of evil, or even worse, a pep talk.

So what does that leave? Glad you asked: the answer is simple. A few very best friends with whom you can share your truth. That’s the main thing. By 68, you know that the whole system of our lives works because we are not all nuts on the same day. You call someone and tell them that you hate everyone and all of life, and they will be glad you called. They felt that way three days and you helped them pull out of it by making them laugh or a cup of tea. You took them for a walk, or to Target.

Also, besides our friends, getting outside and looking up and around changes us: remember, you can trap bees on the bottom of Mason jars with a bit of honey and without a lid, because they don’t look up. They just walk around bitterly bumping into the glass walls. That is SO me. All they have to do is look up and fly away. So we look up. In 68 years, I have never seen a boring sky. I have never felt blasé about the moon, or birdsong, or paper whites.

It is a crazy drunken clown college outside our windows now, almost too much beauty and renewal to take in. The world is warming up.

Well, how does us appreciating spring help the people of Ukraine? If we believe in chaos theory, and the butterfly effect, that the flapping of a Monarch’s wings near my home can lead to a weather change in Tokyo, then maybe noticing beauty—flapping our wings with amazement—changes things in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It means goodness is quantum. Even to help the small world helps. Even prayer, which seems to do nothing. Everything is connected.

But quantum is perhaps a little esoteric in our current condition. (Well, mine: I’m sure you’re just fine.) I think infinitely less esoteric stuff at 68. Probably best to have both feet on the ground, ogle the daffodils, take a sack of canned good over to the food pantry, and pick up trash. This helps our insides enormously.

So Sunday I will celebrate the absolutely astonishing miracle that I, specifically, was even born. As Fredrick Buechner wrote, “The grace of God means something like, “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” I will celebrate that I have shelter and friends and warm socks and feet to put in them, and that God or Gus found a way to turn the madness and shame of my addiction into grace, I’ll shake my head with wonder, which I do more and more as I age, at all the beauty that is left and all that still works after so much has been taken away. So celebrate with me. Step outside and let your mouth drop open. Feed the poor with me, locally or, if you want to buy me something, make a donation to UNICEF. My party will not be the same without you.

The No Good, Very Bad Travel Day

I’ll start with the good first: All of our checked bags made it from Kaua’i to Baltimore. Our rental car was upgraded at no cost from an intermediate car to a small SUV. Our hotel in Pennsylvania (once we found it) has a very comfortable bed.

Taking off from Lihue – Aloha Oe, Kaua’i!

Almost everything else about our journey from Lihue to Philadelphia was not so good. We knew it was going to be long, but it was also one of those trips where I wondered why I ever considered traveling to be a good thing.

As we neared Lihue on Monday morning, Brett noticed the parking tag for the condo complex was still hanging from the rearview mirror. It was required to be in the car when parked at the complex ($150 if not there), but returned to the room when we departed. Since there wasn’t time to turn around and take it back, a $50 charge will be assessed to us. Not a great way to start the day.

We were very grateful though when we got to the airport that we had gotten such an early start. We were astonished by the number of people there – the security lines snaked out and down the sidewalks! The only other times we’d seen similar lines were at the end of the winter holiday season, but this was a Monday morning in May! Brett dropped me off at the terminal with the suitcases before returning our rental car while I got our bags checked in and then got into the security line, where I learned these crowds were now an everyday occurrence. Let me also just say that I will never travel with that many bags again! Hawaiian Airlines staff were very helpful but it was still overwhelming wrangling four BIG bags to where they needed to be. I had initially attempted to check the bags when I checked in online for our flights but the program kept assessing a fee of $670 for the extra bags which I knew wasn’t correct, so I was glad I waited and paid just $140 at airport, the correct amount. I got a knot in my stomach though when our bags were placed w-a-y off to side for the TSA check, but we were leaving on a later flight and I was told they would get to them as our departure time approached. Then, halfway through our wait in the security line Brett suddenly realized he still had the key fob for our rental car in his pocket (push button start), but he was able to run over and give it to the Budget shuttle driver for return – apparently he was not the first person this has happened to! I hate to think what that would have cost us if he’d discovered that thing any later than he did.

It took us an hour to go through the security line at Lihue. Both of our carry-on bags were pulled for an extra check and the woman pawed through everything in my bag and pulled things out looking for who knows what – it took me quite a while to get everything repacked after she was done (and didn’t find anything). We had a less than an hour at that point until our flight, and $19.64 later we had a bottle of water and a dry turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch, the least expensive food we could find (and after standing in another long line). The flight over to Honolulu was as quick as usual, we were at the gate for our Delta flight in no time, and left Honolulu for Atlanta on time.

The extra comfort seats on our Delta flight were well worth the expense as we had room for everything and room to cross our legs. We were in the middle of the row though so had to climb out over people on the aisle whenever we needed to use the bathroom. Thankfully the people on either side of us stayed masked as we did throughout the flight. The plane was COLD though – both of us wore our jackets the entire time, stayed covered with a blanket, and we still shivered. We each got about 1 1/2 hours of sleep – the woman behind me kicked the entire time; Brett said it was the same for him.

We arrived on time in Atlanta, a little after 6:00 in the morning, for a three hour layover. Delta had fed us right before landing (a surprisingly delicious egg muffin sandwich) so we got some coffee and waited. Our flights always, always seem to be at gates the furthest away from each other, and Atlanta was no exception – getting from our arrival gate to our departure gate we walked nearly a mile! The flight up to Baltimore was easy, just an hour and a half and we slept through most of it. We were thrilled to find all our bags when we got there, but had to pay a ridiculous $6 to rent a cart to carry them out the door to catch the shuttle over to the rental car pick up. After our experience getting a rental car in Lihue we weren’t sure what to expect, but there was no line and the rental agent upgraded us to a Honda CRV at no charge. Getting all of our bags to the car was another adventure but we eventually got them loaded and were on our way.

And then everything fell apart.

Brett, unknown to me, had put together a very convoluted route to Philadelphia in order to avoid the tolls . . . and then he got lost. I had fallen half asleep on the way, and woke up when he started grumbling that he didn’t know where we were. I fired up Google Maps on my phone and discovered we had somehow ended up 65 miles east of Philadelphia, near Lancaster! I got us going the right direction, but our car trip from Baltimore to our hotel ended up taking us over six hours! Our hotel turned out to be in a business park and very difficult to find, which also didn’t help. We were beyond exhausted when we arrived, both somewhat angry with each other but knew that was from being so tired. We eventually got our bags up to our room and fell asleep for 14 hours.

We will see YaYu this afternoon and be more than glad to turn her suitcases over to her. Our first stop today though will be the Whole Foods Market just down the street for some healthy foods we can keep in the room. We’re otherwise going to continue to rest and recover from what turned out to be a ridiculously long (over 36 hours) and difficult travel day. We’re in Pennsylvania, we have our luggage, and the adventure is on!

Sunday Morning 5/8/2022: Mother’s Day/Last Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Wishing you all a day of peace, calm, and getting a bit spoiled.

Today is also Brett’s and my last day on Kaua’i, and our day will be spent finishing up our packing and cleaning out the refrigerator so we’re ready to go tomorrow. Brett already spoils me every day but I know he’ll put in a little extra effort today.

We’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning to start our journey back to the mainland. Our flight leaves Kaua’i at 1:30 in the afternoon but we want to be at the airport by 11:30 to turn in the rental car and get all our bags checked (two for us and two full of YaYu’s stuff). Traffic heading south can be bottlenecked in Kapaa in the mornings, especially on Mondays, so we want to give ourselves plenty of time to get through that mess as well.

We made a last visit to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse on Wednesday. The views never disappoint. Brett got a new lighthouse t-shirt to take back to the mainland (he’s worn out two others).

We’ve enjoyed a quiet week in Princeville. We were thoroughly exhausted when we arrived last Sunday, more than we realized, and then had to turn around on Monday and head back down to Lihue to run a bunch of errands. We felt as if we were bleeding money at every stop: fees to get our wills witnessed and notarized; postage costs to send said wills to our son in Japan and the inflatable mattress back to YaYu; another lock for one of YaYu’s suitcases purchased from Target; gas at $4.99/gallon at Costco (cheapest on the island); food for the week from Walmart; and lunch from Konohiki Seafood. On Wednesday we headed back down the road to Kilauea to pick up my prescription from our doctor and visit the lighthouse once more, and on Thursday we did laundry, but other than going out for a walk most days we rested and read in our little condo. It’s been gloomy and rained a great deal this past week and we never got a chance to go to the pool.

This last Sunday morning on Kaua’i I am thinking about:

  • Things we accomplished this past week: All of our last minute moving stuff got done: we used up things, donated things, threw away things, and got all of our last minute business taken care of, including address changes and picking up my prescription from our doctor. We’ve done everything we ever wanted to do on Kaua’i, eaten at every place we ever wanted to dine, and we’re in good shape to go tomorrow. I’m thankful that between downpours Brett and I were able to get some walks in this week.
  • Good things that happened: We had a call from YaYu on Tuesday evening that she had been hired for a research position at Drexel University! She had been worried she wouldn’t find a job but then got three good offers this past week and picked the best fit. Along with finding a great place to live with her best friends, and having amassed a tidy amount of savings, she is in a very good place to begin her post-college life. On the not-so-good side of things though she caught COVID this past week from a visitor to her dorm floor who was sick and came up unmasked. YaYu is currently quarantined and missing out on several special activities for seniors, but she should be able to march in her graduation ceremony on the 14th. Brett and I are not sure how much time we’ll be able to spend with her, although we’ll all be masked the entire time.
Hawaii is the most isolated inhabited place on Earth. When you spot Hawaii in the picture above, the cost of living and supply chain issues here make a little more sense.
  • How we saved: All of our Monday expenses were necessary and planned for, and other than getting Brett a new Kilauea Lighthouse t-shirt, a reusable lighthouse shopping bag and another one for me from Foodland (they make the best reusable bags) we had a no-spend week. Our food for the week cost $109 (from Walmart and Konohiki Seafood), not bad for a bunch of (mostly) microwavable convenience foods that kept us out of restaurants. Every last bit will be gone by tomorrow morning with nothing wasted.

We didn’t eat the healthiest of foods last week, but we measured everything, kept our portions small, and were able to stay out of restaurants. The dinner plates in the condo are HUGE, so sometimes we put everything on one plate and shared.

  • Looking forward to next week: We thought we’d be helping YaYu get settled in her new place in Philadelphia, but it turns out she’ll be staying on campus until June 1 so we’ll be doing some other things for/with her instead. Meiling and WenYu arrive in PA on Friday morning and we’ll all be going out for a celebratory family meal that evening to celebrate YaYu’s graduation and my 70th birthday which both happen on Saturday. Brett and I are looking forward to visiting the Gettysburg battlefield on Thursday and we may try to also visit the Valley Forge historical site. We are not looking forward to our long flights tomorrow and will stay double masked the entire time.

Nene grazing on the golf course and Princeville’s mountain view. The pale white streaks on the face of the mountains are waterfalls, which form whenever it rains.

Princeville is a very lovely, manicured community filled with big, beautiful houses and condominiums situated around two championship golf courses (one of which hasn’t been open since 2015!). We enjoyed walking on paths around the golf course closest to our condo, seeing the all the nene, and waterfalls coming down the mountains, but will remain forever thankful for our funky little apartment with its beautiful yard in such a great neighborhood and location on the other side of the island. Princeville is just not our style.

Here’s to the wonderful additional two years we’ve spent on Kaua’i and to new adventures beginning this coming week! So lucky and thankful we got to live Kaua’i, not once but twice.

Game Changer

Brett and I are still coming to terms with how much of a game changer our move to Nashville is going to be for us going forward.

We have absolutely NO REGRETS about accepting our son and daughter-in-law’s request to move to Nashville for the next two years. The request was unexpected, but there was never any doubt about accepting. Brett and I have loads of experience making changes on the fly, can quickly adapt and adjust, and we always make the best of any situation.

However, this move not only changes our plans for the next couple of years, but, as we’ve been figuring out the last few weeks, also for years ahead.

There will be loads of things happening in the next few months we were not expecting to have to do again for a few more years, including purchasing a car and once again buying furniture and other things we’ll need, from a coffee maker to mixing bowls to bed linens and towels. We thankfully didn’t get rid of everything, but most of what we owned here in Hawaii is now gone.

With international travel off the agenda for the next couple of years, Brett and I knew the odds of returning to full-time travel once our DIL and granddaughter returned to Japan were greatly diminished. We talked about whether it made more sense to rent furniture for the next couple of years and buy a used car, but decided we would be happier in the long run if we purchased furniture pieces we could live with for the rest of our lives, and a car that would last the rest of our lives as well.

Once we accepted the above, we realized we wanted own a dog again as well and would adjust future travel plans around that reality. We’ve come up with two paths once our time in Nashville is over: putting our furniture and other possessions into storage and setting off on an extended road trip around Canada and the U.S. along with our puppy for a couple of years, or buying a house and settling down somewhere in the northeast, most likely Maine, and traveling during the winter months (our middle daughter, WenYu, has already offered to store our car and all of the girls have volunteered to watch Kaipo). Both plans have lots of positives and potential for us.

Brett and I were very excited about our upcoming full time travels once again, and have honestly felt sad at times about abandoning those plans. But we are both forward thinkers and optimists, and we also like the options and opportunities we’ve been given. We plan to make the most of our future, and will remain nomads, even if that only turns out to be occasionally.

Brett & Laura Have Left the Building

Saturday evening’s final sunset view

We met our landlord yesterday morning at 8:15, turned over our keys, and were out of our apartment before 9:00 and on our way to breakfast at the Kalaheo Cafe. After breakfast we headed up to Princeville for a very enjoyable (and long overdue) visit with our friends Joy and Les, then headed over to our condo at 3:00 and promptly collapsed. The condo is small, but it’s nice to be sleeping on a real mattress again. We also have enough space and appliances to make our own meals for the rest of our time on Kaua’i.

Last Thursday the apartment’s new tenant asked us if we would move out on Saturday so she could move in a day early, but we told her via the landlord we had paid rent until May 1, and would be staying the night unless she was willing to pay for a hotel room for us (she wasn’t). The apartment was clean as a whistle when we left on Sunday and our entire deposit was returned. Such a difference from our last move-out experience!

The yard was in full bloom this past week. We’re going to miss the yard most of all, I think.

Besides cleaning the apartment all last week, we took care of some other business:

  • I consolidated my student loans to a Direct Federal Loan. I sort of wish I had done this earlier, but I had been afraid I would have to take on a much higher interest rate. However, it turned out my new interest rate will be just .375% higher than my old rate. Because I will again have a direct loan from the government versus a private lender I will be eligible for maybe some of my loan to be forgiven if rumors of that turn out to be true. President Biden is not going to forgive every student loan out there, or even forgive $50K from everyone’s balance, but an amount may be forgiven based on a sliding scale and/or have the interest reduced, maybe to 0%. We’ll see. Whatever happens, having a direct federal loan is all-around better for me for a variety of reasons than what I was previously locked into, and we have committed ourselves to paying off the balance in less than five years, forgiveness or not.
Our little guy is going to stay little. He’ll maybe only weigh 9-10 pounds when fully grown.
  • We got a puppy! Brett and I have missed owning a dog and decided we were ready for another. Our previous dogs were all rescues, but after much thought and a LOT of research we decided we wanted a puppy this time. We found a reputable breeder located near Nashville that had the breed that we were looking for and we made a deposit on a male Shih-poo (Shih Tzu and toy poodle mix). Shih-poos are smart, affectionate, hypoallergenic (they don’t shed), and are devoted to their owners. They require regular grooming, but only every 2 to 3 months. We’ve named our little guy Kaipo, Hawaiian for beloved boy or sweetest boy. He’s currently eight weeks old, but the breeder is going to continue to provide care until we can pick him up in August as well as make sure he is up to date on vaccinations. Our granddaughter is over the moon as she will be away from their family’s beloved Boston terrier for the next two years, but now will have our little guy for her to play with and help train.

We’re expecting a quiet week coming up; the only big tasks we have left are turning in the modem to our Internet provider, getting our wills witnessed, notarized, and mailed off to our son in Japan, and mailing the inflatable mattress to YaYu. We hope we’ll be able to sit out by the pool this coming, or maybe even go to the beach up here (the condo comes with beach chairs & umbrella) but the weather is expected to be less than ideal all week so that probably won’t happen.

One last look back as we headed out the door.

One week from today we’ll board a plane and leave Kaua’i once again. We didn’t think we’d be coming back when we left in 2018, and yet when the call came for Americans overseas to go home in 2020, Kaua’i was where we headed because it was home. Setting up again was a crazy ride, but with help from some very kind people on the island we found a great apartment and were able to get it furnished. Kaua’i has been a wonderful, safe place to ride out the pandemic, and we’ll always be grateful that for almost a year we were able to experience the island without any tourists to contend with (they are currently visiting in record numbers, even more than pre-pandemic). We plan to come back to Kaua’i once more though, for our 50th anniversary, but for now, it’s time to move on to new adventures!

Boring In a Good Way

We love our rental car!

After two weeks without a car, our upstairs neighbor stopped by on Thursday to ask if he could get anything for us and we asked if he could possibly take us to the airport before 1:00 on Friday so we could pick up our rental car. No problem, he said, and told us to text him when we were ready to go. We sent a text at 12:45 on Friday that we were ready and he replied he’d be down in a moment, but then didn’t show up until 1:30! When we finally got to the airport the wait to get to the rental desk was over two hours long, but because I was checked in with Budget once I got to the agent everything went quickly and smoothly, and a car was waiting for us, a Hyundai Kona (compact SUV), a better grade of car than what we had reserved. Although we were completely exhausted by the time we finally left the airport, we somehow got all our errands finished and were home at 5:30. We finished up our yard sale tasks, made our signs, and then collapsed for the night.

Saturday morning . . .

We had thankfully almost completely set up our yard sale by the end of Thursday, with everything cleaned, sorted, tagged and priced, so the last chores on Friday wouldn’t be overwhelming. Saturday’s sale turned out to be an amazing success, far beyond anything we imagined. We started at 9:00 a.m. and by 2:10 in the afternoon we had only 14 items left (priced at a total of $39), and when the last four people came on Sunday to pick up their things they bought 13 of those leftover items! We ended up cancelling the sale on Sunday, and took the $595 we earned to the bank on Monday. Everyone we met on Saturday was incredibly friendly, we never had to quibble about prices or haggle, and we “talked story” with everyone, one of the things we have enjoyed most about living in Hawai’i.

. . . and Saturday evening.

We sent two more packages to Massachusetts yesterday, filled with winter clothes, boots, and wooden hangers as well as some odd pieces for kitchen organization that we didn’t want to have to buy again in Tennessee. The one item leftover from the yard sale (a lamp) will go to the thrift store tomorrow.

Last year when our neighbors moved out, they filled our building’s 120-gallon and 90-gallon trash cans to overflowing with the leftover food in their house (it took three weeks to dispose of the trash they left behind). We took one Trader Joe’s bag to the trash this past week, and will either use up or recycle everything else.

The apartment is almost completely cleaned and ready for turnover. The weather was rainy and overcast most of last week (and still is mainly), so during one nice stretch Brett cleaned the exterior of all the windows and the screens while I cleaned the interiors. Since we were pretty much stuck indoors, whenever Brett wasn’t reading he had the vacuum cleaner out and was cleaning something or another while I worked on getting the yard sale organized. I was able to get the refrigerator and all of the kitchen cabinets, drawers, and pantry shelves cleaned as I organized for the sale.

Meals have been . . . interesting. We picked up several quick microwave meals on Friday at Target, a package of Asian chicken wrap sandwiches at Costco, and takeout from Panda Express for that evening’s meal along with a luxurious piece of haupia (coconut) cake from a local patisserie for Brett’s birthday. We went back to the deli yesterday and got a couple of big (delicious) sandwiches so I think we’re set for the rest of this week. We’ll pick up a few more things on our way up to the condo on Sunday but we’re mostly set now for food until we leave. Desserts until we depart Kaua’i are some very yummy carrot cupcakes from Costco and some very yummy vegan ice cream we found at Target.

Our hangout these last few days

We now spend most of our free time on our inflatable mattress reading because there’s no place else for us to sit and really nothing much else for us to do, although weather permitting we’re going to go up to Kukuiolono Park and walking the Pavilion loop a few times in the afternoons. I’m getting a manicure and pedicure later this afternoon and am looking forward to that – it’s been too long – and Brett’s getting his last hair cut on Wednesday from his favorite barber. We’ll deep clean the bathroom on Saturday, and otherwise will just have the floors left to mop.

It’s honestly kind of boring, but in a good way.