Restocking the Travel Savings

Our travel savings account currently registers at $0.00. Every last penny is gone, although all of it was used just as intended: for travel. If we are ever going to travel again though we need to build it back up again and there’s no reason not to start now.

Before we began our Big Adventure in 2018, we were able to automatically save a nice amount in the travel account every month, with some transferred automatically right into savings and the rest from other sources. However, we are currently committed to helping YaYu graduate from college without debt, and we are putting away over a quarter of our income into savings each month toward that expense. If we’re lucky, the amount we save will cover the difference between her financial aid and what she owes. YaYu has always paid a big piece of that difference with scholarships and summer work, but there will be no job for her this summer, and the external scholarships have run out. Also, she was previously one of three, then two, in our family attending college, but for the next two years, she will be the only one and her aid will be less because of that. She has saved every refund she has received so far this year and received a notice that she will receive a couple of thousand dollars in additional grant aid next year, but what she will owe next year is a big unknown. The first bill will come due in July (along with news about whether the college plans to reopen in the fall, another big unknown), and once she gets that we will either be able to relax a bit or have to figure out how to tighten our belts a little more. She may have to borrow, but we hope to keep that amount, if it happens, as low as possible. 

As we have no idea what travel costs may look like in the future, we have no idea of what sort of savings goal to set for ourselves other than it will have to be very modest for the time being. Our goal is simply to try to save as much as we can. We want to have enough to get us to YaYu’s graduation in 2022, which will be a good start at seeing what we can accomplish.

Here’s what will be going into the account:

  • We will initially be transferring $25/month into our travel savings each month. It’s very little, but if we find we can afford a little more later we will increase the allotment.
  • We will again be saving all our change and $1 bills. We’re not using cash as much these days as we did in the past, so this won’t build up as fast as it used to.
  • All refunds from recycling will go toward travel.
  • All other refunds and rebates, like the annual rebate from our insurance, will also go for travel. We’re not expecting many of these though.
  • We receive a lump-sum payment each year from Meiling (and this year will from WenYu as well) for the cost of keeping them on our phone plan. It’s not a huge amount as our phone plan is very low cost but we will put these payments into our travel account.
  • If we can somehow ever come under our monthly budget for food, the difference will go into travel savings. Likewise for gasoline. Under current conditions, this is something else that’s unlikely to happen, but we’re going to try.
  • Any other miscellaneous money that comes our way will go straight into travel savings.

If we’ve learned anything from the past it’s that slowly but surely, even small amounts put away eventually add up to something bigger, and more quickly than one might imagine. And, YaYu will eventually graduate and what we currently put away for her can go toward travel once again.

We’ve done this before and we know we can do this again. We don’t know what the new rules for travel will be yet, but we do know it’s the right time for us to get started saving for it.

Sunday Morning 4/26/2020: The New Normal

A few front-door sunsets from last week.

It’s been a so-so week, a continuation of our new normal. We’ve gotten out for a couple of walks (although that can be difficult to do with the restrictions), and to get food and supplies. Our washing machine was delivered and works great, but the dryer can’t be hooked up yet (no vent) so clothes will need to be hung up or go to the laundromat to be dried for the time being. Finding a drying rack on the island though was like searching for a needle in a haystack, although a small one was eventually found. A few more packages arrived from Amazon this past week with items to make our lives easier, but we are still waiting on several other things, especially our bed linens, which seem to be either lost or trapped in limbo somewhere. The weather has been mostly delightful, but we’ve also had rain and it’s been cloudy and quite windy some days. The sunsets have been amazing though. It feels for the most part like we’re neither going forward nor moving backward. Kaua’i hasn’t had a new case of the virus in over a week, and only two people on the island still remain in isolation. Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island had only a handful of cases last week which has been wonderful news as well. Openings are already being planned for next month, but as for visitors, how many will dare get on a plane to fly here? What will open? And, testing someone for the virus after they arrive is too late for the islands, but who is going to test everyone before they come? And what happens if a visitor brings the virus again – what will happen then? 

Last Wednesday, following the advice of a reader and reading up on our rights for a refund, I contacted Aeromexico. Because the flight would have arrived in the U.S., and because they, not us, canceled the flight, US Department of Transportation regulations clearly state we are entitled to a full refund. Period. Aeromexico wouldn’t budge though – all they would offer was a voucher good for 365 days or a reservation on another flight, neither of which works for us. So, we are now disputing the charge through our bank and have reported Aeromexico to the DOT, who has already issued strong warnings to all airlines about the rules for issuing refunds, international carriers included. It may take a while, but hopefully, we will get those tickets refunded (not sure of what happens though if Aeromexico declares bankruptcy).

We are also having difficulty setting up anything with Royal Hawaiian. We have called and emailed, and have been told they will get right back with us, but we’ve heard nothing. We are trying to be patient – it can’t be easy for them under current conditions, but we also don’t want to have to buy more things to tide us over until our shipment arrives. We learned this past week though that one saucepan and one frying pan were not enough to work with so we added a big covered saute pan to our collection of cookware as well as a ladle and serving spoon. These are all things we already own but that are currently in storage, but will be put away for YaYu once our stuff does arrive.

I was able to snap a few pictures at Glass Beach before we had to leave.

We’d like to get outside every day, but sometimes all we manage is a trip out to the deck to sit and read. On Monday we drove down to Poipu to walk and see the sunset – it was lovely and the sunset was gorgeous. We also got back for a walk yesterday afternoon. On Wednesday we went in the other direction to walk on Glass Beach, but the police arrived about 10 minutes after we did and ordered all nine of us that were there to leave. Thank goodness for our Hawaii driver’s licenses because we would have received a ticket and fine otherwise. We had hoped to put off shopping until next week, but we ran out of food on Wednesday, so on Thursday Brett and I went to Costco and then to Big Save in Koloa, the nearest store to our house, and stocked up again. Other than a weekly trip to the farm stand, we now have enough to get us through at least another three weeks. There are no bargains to be had on Kaua’i though – our food bill was through the roof again, especially since we’re feeding three right now.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished Secondhand, and am a little over halfway through The Splendid and the Vile – it’s a much longer book than I realized, although very interesting. Midnight at Chernobyl came off of hold at the library this past week so that’s my current daytime book. It’s very readable, especially for such a complicated topic – I actually can now understand nuclear fission, radioactivity, and how a nuclear reactor operates because of the author’s clear explanations. Secondhand was a very thought-provoking book about what happens to our stuff after we’re done with it, and after finishing the book I felt pleased with how well we did before leaving Kaua’i in 2018 in getting our things recycled and reused. We threw away very little. 
  • Listening to: Sundays have been very quiet in our neighborhood, but someone was mowing their lawn earlier. Otherwise, all I’m hearing is the sound of a fairly strong breeze blowing through the trees outside. YaYu is still sleeping, and Brett’s quietly making himself breakfast in the kitchen.
  • Watching: All three of us have been watching the British detective series Shetland, one episode an evening in order to stretch it out. We have three more seasons left to go, each with six episodes, so we’ve got another couple of weeks until we have to find something else. YaYu watches a couple of other shows, but I have no idea what they are.
    We got all this from the farmstand down the road for $20: two zucchini, three papayas, a mango, three tomatoes, a cucumber, a big bunch of apple bananas, and cilantro. They had so much beautiful produce that it was hard to decide what to get – can’t wait to go back!
  • Cooking: Our small refrigerator and freezer are full once again, as is our pantry. Tonight we’re having grilled Polish sausages with potato salad, and we’ll also finish up the last of some four-bean salad. Also on the menu this week will be mabo dofu with steamed rice; grilled fish tacos with fresh mango salsa; and fried rice. We’ll be trying out the Instant Pot as well, although we’re not sure what we want to make just yet.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: It was a pain to take care of, but I’m glad I got the ball rolling to get our refund from Aeromexico. YaYu also organized the refrigerator and pantry which was a big help. I am also glad we got our food shopping done as it’s currently a difficult and somewhat unpleasant chore these days.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am especially looking forward to getting our coffee table this week – I never realized how much we use one until we didn’t have one. The table we ordered is nothing fancy or expensive, but it’s solid wood, has a design we love, and it got good reviews on Amazon, so Brett and I have our fingers crossed. This coming week will also be YaYu’s last for this term’s classes – she is ready to be done with those and move on to her junior year!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our Instant Pot arriving yesterday was a huge surprise as it wasn’t scheduled to come until Wednesday of this week. YaYu and I have been deep reading the instruction booklet and we have decided to start slow and work our way up to more complicated recipes. In spite of not being able to use the dryer right now, having a washing machine again is wonderful. A brand new stacking unit was delivered on Thursday and by that evening we were caught up with all our dirty laundry, at least the washing. Don’t know what the solution will be for venting the dryer though – possibly under the house? We actually prefer line drying for many things so we had ordered a big drying rack from Amazon, and Brett (eventually) found another small one hidden away at a local hardware store – between the two we should be able to get everything dried on laundry day and will save the dryer only for a few items. We can also drive down to the laundromat in Eleele if we need to, to use the big dryers there – the washer’s spin cycle does such an amazing job of extracting water that it didn’t take long and cost very little to dry the three loads of wet clothes we brought to the laundromat on Thursday evening. Brett also found what may have been the last set of ice cube trays on the island, also hidden away at a store, and we were set by Saturday evening for gin & tonics once again. They were made with Hendrick’s Gin, from Scotland (found at Costco in blockade runner-sized bottles) so we also had some lovely memories of our time in the UK while we sipped our drinks.
    They were as tasty and refreshing as we imagined!
  • Thinking of frugal things that happened: We had five no-spend days this past week, but then spent a lot when we did our food shopping which ran our daily spending average right back up to the limit. We are well stocked with food for the next few weeks though. I also found a quarter that had been left behind in the change machine at the laundromat, but every little bit counts, and it was put away for the future.
    Brett apparently got the good genes – he just does not look like he’s 70 years old.
  • Grateful for: I am both fortunate and grateful, as always, for Brett’s steadfast companionship and love, and for his willingness to assemble all these many items that keep arriving from Amazon but also for his help with unglamorous household tasks like laundry, dishwashing, recycling, and all sorts of other things that need to be done each day. YaYu has also been a huge help, especially with cooking. It’s been fun to prep everything for her knowing she will turn it into something delicious. Under what are difficult conditions for her, including being separated from her friends and boyfriend, and being cooped up in a small apartment with her mom and dad trying to finish her classes remotely, she has stayed positive and helpful and is fun to have around.
  • Bonus question: What’s the first thing you want to do when the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and things start opening back up? I NEED A HAIRCUT! (yes, I’m shouting). While I have enjoyed having longer hair these past few months, and the cut I got last December in Portland has grown out well, Kauai’s humid/windy weather and my very curly hair are not a good match. As long as I stay inside I’m OK, but if I step outside for a moment all I’m left with is a big frizzy mess. I am also growing tired of how long it takes for my hair to dry now that it’s longer (and I can’t use a dryer – that also makes for very frizzy hair). So, as soon as it’s possible, I am getting my hair cut short again. I am also looking forward to getting back to the beach and sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella with my Kindle and a Diet Coke or an iced tea. Right now if I tried it I’d get a ticket (as it’s a non-essential activity).
The view from my chair on the deck. The hose runs from a rain barrel next to the house over to the koi pond on the left.

My wish for the next week is that outside of a visit to the local farmstand, we don’t discover something else we need so we don’t have to buy anything. I am sick of spending money! I am greatly tired of “moving in” too, and outside of the few things yet to arrive from Amazon I would like to feel a bit more settled than I have for the past few weeks. I am hoping to have a week where we can get out a few times for walks, but also really enjoy the space we’re in. The deck is all set up now, with a big umbrella, comfortable chairs and side tables for drinks, and I’m looking forward to being out there more (weather permitting) and enjoying my coffee or some iced tea while I look out and savor our beautiful back yard (which was “groomed” this past week so it’s looking especially nice!).

I try to stay positive, but it’s been a whiny, not so happy sort of week, and I have to believe this one coming up will be better. This has just been such a crazy, sad, frustrating, mixed-up time for everyone, and then having to get through this move on top of everything got the best of me the past few days. It will all work out though – things always do. 

That’s all for this week – I continue to hope that good things happen for you and yours, that you have good books to read and good food to eat, and that you’re all staying safe and well.

Back to the Future: The R-Word

I was very surprised when I came across this post from January 2011 because I thought this part of our journey had come much, much later.

Brett and I have long called ourselves “accidental retirees.” We had never thought much about or discussed retirement although we did save, but at the beginning of 2010 we did not believe we would ever be able to retire. We were drowning in debt at that point, had depleted our savings, and we were still raising young children – retirement was nothing more than a pipe dream. While we had committed ourselves to getting out of debt we were unable to see ourselves ever surviving without being employed somewhere. However, it appears that after just one (very difficult) year of debt reduction, we were not only thinking about but apparently actively starting to plan Brett’s retirement!

The game-changer was not only the elimination of over half of our debt, but discovering Brett would qualify for an additional family allowance from Social Security. Before January 2011 we had no idea such a thing even existed, let alone that we would qualify for it. I remember Brett and I talking with a counselor at Social Security, and finding out that because we had three children under age 18 that we would receive the full allowance, at least for a couple of years. With that, and with Brett’s military retirement, a small pension from his employer, his regular Social Security, and our debt eliminated, retirement became an affordable reality.

Brett did not retire in 2012 – that didn’t happen until June 2013 because stuff continued to happen and the rest of our debt did not get paid off as quickly as we hoped. However, at the beginning of 2011, we finally knew where the path we were on was taking us and how we were going to get there, and we had an even bigger motivation for finally getting rid of our debt. That journey never really got much easier, but knowing what awaited us at the end made a huge difference. 

The R-Word

No, it’s not Rest, Relaxation, Reuse or Recycle. The R-word here is Retirement. 

Brett is eligible to retire (Social Security-type retire) in just a little over a year. This is both exciting and somewhat frightening at the same time. The date is coming fast too, although frankly, not fast enough for Brett. He wants to be done with work yesterday, although he plans to continue working at his current position until the end of 2012. His huge desire to retire is the primary factor behind our urgency to pay off our debt.

The conventional wisdom is that you should work as long as possible, and put off taking your Social Security benefits in order to draw the full benefit upon retirement. We’re in a somewhat unique position though because we have dependents under the age of 18, so Brett will be eligible to receive the full family allowance for a while along with his standard Social Security payment. It makes sense for him to retire earlier rather than later. Social Security, along with his military retirement and pension from his current job, will provide us with an adequate income when he does leave his job. He will probably continue to work part-time somewhere because he’s not a sit-around sort of guy, but that’s an unknown for now. Right around when the time comes for our youngest (YaYu) to age out of eligibility for the allowance, my Social Security and pension will kick in to bring our income back up, although my pension will probably be just enough to buy milk every month. We’re not going to be rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ll be OK, especially if we don’t have any debt.

One thing we are talking about now is whether to stay in Portland or move elsewhere and if so, where? Brett and I are both getting tired of the rain and the cold of Portland winters, but the girls love it here. Any move would have to be done after Meiling graduates from high school in 2014 as she does not do particularly well with change, and is the most embedded here. But I’m not sure we will want to stay an additional four years after that for YaYu to graduate. We have long dreamed of moving out to the Oregon coast, but realize we would face the same weather there as we do here. Although I’m originally from California, I have little desire to go back there, and any place on the east coast would be too far away from our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson in Japan. Hawaii is a possibility, although the cost of living is quite high there. We have lots to think about, and thankfully don’t need to make any quick decisions.

We made some not-so-smart financial choices in the past and would be in even better financial shape if we’d done a few things differently, but we also did some things right or smart, like making the commitment for Brett to stick it out with the navy for 22 years, even though it was not an easy life. Adopting three children when we were in our mid- to late-40s was maybe not a smart financial move, but the right thing for us, and the best thing we ever did in every other sense. Going back to school in our 40s and borrowing for that was also not the brightest choice we made, but we’re both glad we have our degrees, and in Brett’s case it has paid off. Sticking with his current employer for all these years has also turned out well, although he could have made more money elsewhere. His Fortune 500 company has provided incredible benefits that no one else could come close to matching, and some of those will continue to be there after retirement.

If I know just one thing now, it’s that time passes way more quickly than you ever think it will and suddenly something like actual retirement looms. When we were young, when Brett was deployed, time seemed to stretch out forever. I never gave much of a thought to retirement or what we’d be doing or how we’d pay for things but all of a sudden . . . here it is. “Old people” were always talking about retirement and saving and investments but we felt like we had forever to get there. How wrong we were! We know that Social Security, in its current form, should be there for us and for that we are immensely grateful. For our son, or our daughters, or others younger than us, maybe not. We’re lucky and we know it.

P.S. I was doubly surprised to see Hawaii mentioned this early as well, as I remembered that as coming much later too.

P.P.S. Neither of us has ever had to (or wanted to) work after retirement – with a changed, more frugal lifestyle, our income, approximately two-thirds of what we earned pre-retirement, has turned out to be enough that we haven’t needed additional employment.

The Resting Nomads

Our travel clothes and suitcases have their own closet, complete with a dehumidifier so they’ll be ready to go on the road again someday.

Brett is in a happy place right now. He is happy to have a permanent residence once again, to have an address where we can collect our own mail. He is glad not to be living out of a suitcase or lugging those suitcases around. He is especially thrilled to be back on Kaua’i. 

I’m happy to be here too and know that coming back and resettling was the right thing for us to do at this time. But, in my heart, I still am missing our life on the road. I liked not owning things, and of going someplace new and experiencing new things and new cultures every few weeks or months. Our travels were a dream come for me.

I wasn’t ready to be done with full-time traveling. Brett was, or at least was closer to being done than I was. I still dream about traveling and the places I want to see and I still want to talk about traveling. Brett doesn’t, at least not for the immediate future. He wants to burrow back into Kaua’i and island life. We have agreed though that we do want to travel again when the world rights itself and this horrible virus is under control.

We know though that travel for us will never be the same as it was, and that a full-time life on the road won’t be happening again. Instead, we want to aim for two big trips a year, one to Japan and one to another place on our bucket list. We imagine that international travel, once it opens up again, is likely to be far more expensive than in the past, with fewer options and more restrictions, and we believe there will be uncertainties that were not there before, and experiences that may not be available again.

For the time being we are going to be resting nomads. Our primary focus for the next two years will be on getting YaYu through her last two years at school. This is currently looking like it it may be more of a financial challenge than we initially imagined, but we won’t know exactly how much we will need to help until mid-summer. We will continue to save for future travel, but it will be minimal compared to what we were able to do in the past. Dreaming costs us nothing though, and in the next couple of years we will come up with a list of places we want to go, along with plans for how to make our dreams a reality.

We’ve accomplished goals and made our dreams come true before and we know we can do it again. The Occasional Nomads will be back, more occasional than before, but for now, we rest.

Sunday Morning 4/19/2020: Social Isolation

Friday’s sunset from the front door

This past Thursday was the first day since we arrived on Kaua’i that we did not have to go anywhere or do anything associated with relocation nor did we have to interact with anyone else. After all the energy and effort this move has required, it’s been nicer than we imagined to have some time to ourselves – we’ve slept in, and relaxed and read during the day (YaYu is already bored though). There are still things that need to be taken care of, but the big stuff is done and we can finally step back and just fully enjoy being home.

For a few days last week though we began to wonder if we had made a mistake renting this place as our neighbors to the front and upstairs were being very noisy. It started with heavy footsteps upstairs all day and well into the night, but on Sunday and Tuesday nights they partied until the wee hours of the morning, playing loud music, talking loudly, clumping around, and so forth. On Wednesday afternoon though Brett got a chance to talk with them and mentioned the noise. They all apologized profusely and said they would be more careful, and they have been. It turns out they all work together at the Grand Hyatt and are all currently laid off – our landlord, their employer, has provided housing for them here. One of our neighbors is the executive chef at one of the restaurants while another is the general manager for the hotel’s restaurants, and the third guy is in charge of all entertainment at the hotel! They told Brett they hoped all of us could get together one of these days and have a barbecue and get to know each other better – we’re up for that! The two guys who live in front of us also asked us to please use their new, fancy washer and dryer from now on to do our laundry until ours arrive, rather than pay to use a laundromat.

In the short time we’ve been in the apartment, Brett, YaYu, and I have each been able to carve out our own space, and we try to be respectful of each others’ schedules. All of us are enjoying the deck and being able to be outside to read and relax or work on our tans so we’re not so pasty – the chairs and umbrella were very worthwhile purchases. I’m sleeping better than I have in a long time, and YaYu says the sofa is very comfortable for sleeping too. We’ve got the kitchen figured out and even the little bar sink no longer bothers us. I’m looking forward now to getting our storage shipment over here and really settling in, although that effort is just getting started.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I had another book come off of hold from the library, so I’m now reading Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter during the day, and continuing with The Splendid and the Vile at night.
  • Listening to: It’s a pretty quiet morning all around. YaYu is still sleeping and Brett is reading so it’s quiet inside. Our upstairs neighbor just ran his vacuum cleaner but that didn’t last long thankfully. It’s pretty quiet outside as well – just a quiet breeze this morning, some birds singing, and no chickens or roosters. Considering that our current location is far more rural than where we lived before, we’re sort amazed how much quieter it is. We thought we’d be overrun by poultry here, but that isn’t the case at all. There are fewer dogs barking too.
  • Watching: YaYu and I finished up Season 13 of Top Chef – our favorite chef came in second but the chef that won deserved it. Brett and I are now watching Shetland via our BritBox subscription.
  • Cooking/baking: We are making real progress in opening up space in the refrigerator and will continue to work on using up more of the food we still have on hand this week. YaYu is making oyakodon tonight for our dinner which we’ll have with rice and cucumbers. We won’t be getting a CSA bag this week and will stop at a nearby farm stand instead and see what they have for sale – we decided we’d rather pick our own produce than have it chosen for us. Also on the menu this week will be pork and vegetable stir fry; tofu curry with steamed rice; breakfast for dinner (pancakes); and BLT sandwiches and chips. We may try and make a Thai chicken pizza as well but that will depend on whether we can find some smaller sheet pans – the standard one we bought is too big for our small apartment-size oven (and is now holding overflow items under the bathroom sink).
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: For the first time in forty years, I made rice in a saucepan. Seriously, I’ve never used anything but a rice cooker since we first went to Japan in 1980, so I count making perfect Japanese sticky rice on the stovetop (the first electric stove I’ve cooked on in nearly 30 years) a genuine accomplishment. We contacted Royal Hawaiian to get the ball rolling on getting our stuff back over here but that’s going slowly – we’re still waiting on a callback from them. Our bed frame arrived on Tuesday (two days earlier than expected) and Brett got that assembled. While it’s wonderful to be off the floor, the bed is now higher than I’m used to although I’m getting used to it. Brett has continued to break down cardboard and recycle it as packages trickle in from Amazon, and the UPS store in Lihue took all of the styrofoam we’ve accumulated as well so that isn’t building up around the apartment.
    Assembling things is one of Brett’s happy places – he’s exceptionally good at it.
    Can you see how high the bed is? The frame is 18 inches high versus the standard 14 inches.
  • Looking forward to next week: Our new washer and dryer are scheduled to be delivered and set up on Thursday – YEAH! Our landlord said we might get just a 15-minute warning that it’s coming, but we’re not going anywhere so that’s OK. Tuesday will be Brett’s 70th birthday and we’ll have a small celebration for him that evening which will include coconut cake, one of his favorites (store-bought from Pepperidge Farm though as our cake pans are still in storage). We’re hoping to get down to Poipu again for some exercise and to view the sunset at least a couple of times next week as well.
    I have needed this little shelf on my counter my whole life and didn’t know it.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The things that came in from Amazon this past week, including the bed frame, have made things a lot more comfortable around here. We now have nice, cushy cotton bathroom rugs, our bottles of cooking oils and spices are organized on the counter; and plenty of Mrs. Meyer’s liquid hand soap on hand (we’ve been unable to find liquid soap at any store on the island). It’s been fun having a package arrive almost daily.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We received full credit for the Alaska Airlines tickets we purchased back in February (they were sadly not eligible for a refund). The credit is good for any future ticket and will cover the cost of getting YaYu back to Pennsylvania in the fall, with some leftover to help with getting her back here for Christmas as well. I got an email yesterday evening from Aeromexico that our flight had been canceled and that we now had an open ticket that can be used on any Aeromexico flight in the future through March of 2021. Brett and I won’t be able to use it so I am going to call and see if I can get a refund although that wasn’t offered. We spent very little this week – I ordered some summer pajamas (all I have now are the winter-weight ones I traveled with and they are getting to be too warm) and a couple of other small things for the house (cleats for window shade cords and a tray for the refrigerator to corral the bottles of sauces and condiments). YaYu got a further refund from Bryn Mawr and put it into her savings account for next year. Our stimulus money arrived the first day it was available, and is sitting in the bank – it will go toward covering the cost of getting our shipment over here. We’re using up what we have already bought and didn’t buy any additional food this week. Sadly though we had to throw out a few things from the fridge – some produce and a package of tofu froze because there was too much stuff in there. Another non-frugal thing that happened was a trip to the laundromat down in Eleele – it cost $12.75 to do three loads of laundry so we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our own washer and dryer, and are grateful for the offer to use the neighbors’ appliances in the meantime.
  • Grateful for: As we hear more and more about possible disruptions to the food supply chain, we are grateful to be on Kaua’i. The island abounds with small farms and ranches, and with restaurants closed there is plenty of affordable produce available – farm stands are all over the place. Fresh fish is also easy to find, and because beef and other proteins (pork and lamb) are also raised on the island these are currently more available as well to the public for purchase. We continue to pick up toilet paper and other scarce items when we see them so have a good supply on hand. If things get dicey, we will be OK here for the long haul.
    A simple gyotaku print (not the one I did). Creating one of these isn’t as easy as it may look, but I had fun doing it and was happy with the result.
  • Bonus question: What are you looking forward to the most to having back out of storage? I’m especially looking forward to having our art back with us again – they are the things that will truly make this place feel like home again. We used to carry a LOT of pictures around with us during our time in the navy and in Portland, and our walls were covered with them, mostly Japanese and Chinese prints that we accumulated during our tours in Japan, but we gave away several pieces to friends and sent other pieces to auction when we left Portland in 2014 (and did rather well with that). We kept only the pieces that were deeply meaningful to us. Those include an antique hand-carved six-foot ranma (wooden transom) and an old hand-painted fabric Children’s Day banner; four prints from old Japanese books I acquired in Kyoto when I was 18; an early 19th century Japanese woodblock print by Kunisada; a woodblock print by contemporary artist Katsuyuki Nishijma of a street we walked down several times during our years in Japan; a gyotaku print I made (using a tilapia as the printing plate); the map of Tokyo’s subway and train system I carried everywhere with me from 1989 to 1992, complete with worn creases, and had framed; and a wonderful chart given to Brett by renowned information designer Eduard Tufte, of Napolean’s march to and retreat from Russia. We also kept four pictures/photos of special memories from previous travels and a woodblock print of The Princess and the Pea that hung in my mother’s home. Again, it sounds like a lot, but when spread around the apartment it will be just enough – I can already see where everything will go. I’ve missed all of it and can’t wait to see everything again.
We have barely made a dent in the KitKats. They’ve all been very good.

In the Before Time, we would have been departing Japan and on our way to Mexico today. Even after nearly a month since we left, it’s still difficult for me to look at pictures from our time in Japan. We really didn’t want to leave, and even in hindsight I sometimes wonder what might have happened if we had stayed. I know now that leaving certainly would have been far more difficult if we had delayed our departure by even a week and life there would be difficult if we had gotten caught up in the current lockdown. But, we didn’t delay, we came back to beautiful Kaua’i and now it’s time to reset our lives and get on with it. I’m thankful for all those KitKats we brought back – they make each day here a little sweeter and help bring back happy memories of our time in Japan.

Once again, I hope that you and yours are staying safe and healthy, and finding things to do and ways to stay connected with others. We are all definitely living in “interesting” times!

Moving = $$$$

After many frugal months on the road, our last three weeks have been anything but. Moving always costs money, sometimes a LOT more than expected. We get that. Even when the navy (supposedly) covered all our transfers back in the day, from pack-out to unpack, those moves were still a drain on our bank account. These last three weeks though have been unlike any move we’ve experienced before.

Once the decision was made to return to the U.S., to Kaua’i, the money started to flow. Although our previous flight reservations were changed to cover our flight back with no added expense, we still had to purchase YaYu a ticket plus pay for almost three weeks in a vacation condo to cover her quarantine and have a home base while we looked for a permanent place to live. When we were searching for a rental back in March, almost everything on the island was still booked for vacations and there was a very limited selection of rentals to choose from. We ended up paying over $140/day, one of the least expensive rentals we could find, double our usual budget of $70/day. However, if we’d been able to start looking two weeks later, maybe even a week later, we could have had our choice of almost everything, anywhere on the island, and at a much better price.

Finding a place to live on Kaua’i turned out to be easier than expected although we had to pay two months’ rent upfront (one month as a security deposit). We got lucky and found a lovely, affordable place on the south side of the island, our first choice for location and with utilities included in our rent so we didn’t have to also pay additional deposits to set up electric and water service in our name. We also had to buy a car right away, and again we were very fortunate to be able to buy our old car back at a great price (and it’s in great condition). 

We knew furniture was going to be an upfront expense and budgeted accordingly. We needed a sofa, dining table and chairs, a bed and frame, bedside tables, a TV and something to set it on, and once we found our apartment we knew we wanted chairs and an umbrella for the deck, and a grill. We soon discovered we needed a coffee table (we underestimated the need for this piece of furniture – currently we have nowhere to set a drink if we’re sitting on the sofa) and lamps. Thankfully we found pieces that fit within our budget; the only piece of furniture we still want at this point is a sofa table, but it can wait. We thankfully didn’t need to buy a dresser as the closet in the master bedroom is fitted out with built-in mesh drawers, nor did we have to buy a microwave oven – the kitchen came equipped with one. We are still waiting for the apartment’s washer and dryer to be installed, but those two items still haven’t arrived at Home Depot. There will be rugs and a side table for the living room coming in our stored items, and when those and our other things arrive we will be set. Although the above sounds like a lot when I write it all out, it’s currently very minimal but enough for now.

It’s been the other small but necessary stuff to make the place habitable that has added up surprisingly quickly and been the real drain on our bank account. These are the things I like to call the hidden costs of moving, the small but necessary household items you rarely think about but add up quickly when you need to buy them. We’ve had to purchase a broom, dustpan, and other cleaning paraphernalia. Bathroom rugs. An anti-slip mat for the shower. A trashcan and wastebaskets. Basic cooking utensils including a frying pan and lidded saucepan. Command hooks. Glassware. Very basic dishes and cutlery. Bed linens and pillows. Kitchen linens. Towels and washcloths. Hangers for the closet. Placemats. Hot pads. And on, and on, and on – in our case, all the things we got rid of or stored before we left on our adventure but need once again to set up housekeeping. 

Finding things on Kaua’i can be a challenge even when times are good, but during this shutdown, it’s been more than challenging at times. We were fortunate that two furniture stores agreed to open for us, and that we found things we liked that were also good quality and affordable. Wearing our masks, and bringing along our alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer, we’ve made numerous stops the past two weeks at Home Depot, Costco, and Walmart for other necessary items. Amazon has been a lifesaver too, although shipping times, even with Prime, have been running from the sublime to the ridiculous, and almost nothing arrives in less than 10 days.

Our friends, Alan and Cheryl, have also returned a few items we gave them when we departed in 2018, including our vacuum cleaner, Brett’s tools and ladder, and some of our old dishes. They turned out not to need these items, and we’re grateful to have them back and not have to buy them again.

We have splurged on a few items to make our life more comfortable. I bought some decorative pillows for the sofa. I also ordered a good-quality hand mixer and a three-quart InstaPot, especially because that was less expensive than buying a new rice cooker and slow cooker (although the InstaPot isn’t scheduled to arrive until the end of the month). YaYu loves smoothies, and I bought her a blender she can take back to college whenever she returns. 

Thankfully, the spending associated with the move seems to have come to an end. Everything is falling into place, and all we’re doing now, for the most part, is waiting for our Amazon orders to trickle in. The apartment is comfortable and in a great location. We’re making do with what we have and learning to appreciate a more minimalist lifestyle these days.

We have come to realize though this would have been our scenario whenever we stopped traveling, although I like to think that with more lead time we could have spread all the spending out a bit, and been better prepared. A less frantic schedule under hopefully better conditions would have been easier if nothing else. Whatever, for now, we’ve landed and we’re safe and comfortable, and that’s what matters.

Food Shopping on Kaua’i – 4/13/2020

What was supposed to be our first “regular” food shopping trip on the island turned out to be anything but regular. I took YaYu along with me since she’s been complaining about not having snacks as well as some of her favorite foods. We ended up buying a few things for her that weren’t on our list, but I’m hoping those will last for a while.

We began at Costco, and as well as purchasing food we also picked up two non-food items while we were there: a new beach towel ($9.99) for YaYu to use as an exercise mat (she works out daily), and a memory foam mat ($14.99) to go in the kitchen so standing isn’t so uncomfortable while we wash dishes. Total spent at Costco: $168.81 ($161.31 + $7.50 tax). 

Our second stop was Safeway, mainly because it was located next to Costco and made for an easier trip. Safeway is the most expensive grocery store on the island, but they have an incredible selection and their stores are usually well-stocked – you can pretty much always find what you need there, and there’s almost always a lower-cost store brand. Also, their sale prices can be better than in other stores. For example, we found Breyer’s ice cream on sale for $4.99/package while at Big Save it’s currently $8.99. Total spent at Safeway was $59.00 ($56.34 + $2.66 tax).

Below are the items we bought this week. I would love to know how these prices compare with what you would pay for similar items.

Dairy: We bought a half-gallon of 1% milk ($3.99), and two packages of Breyer’s ice cream, lactose-free vanilla (for YaYu) and peach cobbler.

Pantry Items: Chicken broth ($3.49); sweet chili sauce ($3.99); rice vinegar ($3.19); stirfry sauce ($5.99); fettucini ($1.50); a small container of Parmesan cheese ($2.99); 1-pound box of sugar ($3.29); 5-pound bag of sushi rice ($4.99); case of 24 packages of Sapporo Ichiban ramen ($12.99). Everything except the ramen came from Safeway. Three of the very few items Safeway was out of or low on were flour, sugar, and yeast – people are baking!! The sweet chili sauce is a dip for wonton chips, and the stirfry sauce is made locally and doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup.

YaYu Things: Besides the Sapporo Ichiban noodles (her favorite), YaYu also picked out a tub of red pepper hummus ($6.99); a 4-pack of Portuguese sausages ($9.49); a container of kimchi ($6.99); and a bag of dried mango ($12.49) when we were at Costco.

Snack Items: A big bag of Kettle Himalayan salt potato chips ($5.99); a bag of wonton chips  ($9.99); roasted cashews ($15.49); a bag of manapua (steamed char siu pork buns) ($13.99); and a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake ($5.99). The potato chips and cashews are pretty much for Brett, the wonton chips are (mostly) mine, the manapua are for Brett and me, and coconut cake is for Brett’s birthday next week. Everything but the cake should last for two to three weeks. The manapua are made in Honolulu, and the “One Ton” wonton chips are made in Hilo, on the Big Island.

Beverages: One case of Diet Coke (my vice) ($11.29 + $1.44 deposit); Fever Tree ginger beer ($15.99 + $4 deposit) for Brett and YaYu; a bottle of pinot noir for Brett ($10.99), and Kirkland Pinot Grigio ($5.99) for me. We had bought the Kirkland pinot grigio in the box but discovered it takes up too much room in our small fridge so I switched back to regular bottles.

Produce: two jumbo yellow onions ($2.96), and a half-price container of celery sticks ($1.99). We don’t use much celery, so the sticks were a better value than buying a regular bundle of celery.

The refrigerator is still stuffed, so I have made a command decision that other than picking up our CSA bag next week there will be no food purchases (and we may go without the CSA bag as well). I had intended to buy a Costco meatloaf and mashed potatoes to have this week, but it is going to have to wait until there is more room in the fridge and I can justify spending the $$ on it. I feel like I really need to get a handle on our food spending here as it’s currently so out of whack. We did so well with our budget in Japan but are struggling with it here and now. I know we’ll get there, but for now it’s very frustrating.

Sunday Morning 4/12/2020: Settling In

First, wishes for a very happy and meaningful Easter to those who celebrate! Today’s a bittersweet day for us because we were looking forward to celebrating with our grandkids. We had reservations for Sunday Brunch at the New Sanno Hotel with our son and family, and this would have been our last full Sunday in Japan. Restaurants are now closed at the New Sanno (and pretty much everywhere), and Tokyo is on lockdown, so even if we were still in Japan we wouldn’t have been able to go or do much of anything.

Lawai valley, as seen from our living room window

I’m sorry for not posting this past week, but we were busy! We officially moved into our new permanent residence this past Friday, the day YaYu could finally leave quarantine. Getting the place ready was exhausting though – Brett and I are almost getting too old for this. He and I traveled down to the south side every day, driving 43 miles and an hour and ten minutes each way, and often with stops at Costco or Home Depot on the way for supplies. Although it was already very clean, we did another deep clean, moved furniture, unpacked and put things away, and took care of everything else we could to make the place habitable. We’d drive back to the condo every evening and collapse, only to get up the next day and go for another round.

Monday was the toughest day. We started out by picking up a cargo van early in the morning, then headed over to Costco to pick up a new gas grill as well as a market umbrella and stand for the deck. A very nice Costco employee helped Brett get everything loaded into the van. The umbrella stand was apparently made from a combination of pure lead and depleted uranium, and the grill wasn’t much lighter (a customer inside the store helped Brett get them on our cart because I was worthless when it came to lifting – the two of them looked like a pair of masked bandits!). The next stop was Home Depot where we picked up a few cleaning supplies, two resin Adirondack chairs, and a chaise lounge, also for the deck. Then it was down to the house to drop off the chairs, chaise, and umbrella before Brett headed back up to Kapaa to meet up with our friend, Alan, who helped Brett get our sofa and mattress from the furniture store. While they were gone I deep cleaned the kitchen and started unpacking and putting away some of the things we had bought. Brett and Alan arrived late afternoon with the (heavy) furniture, new grill, and umbrella stand and through a sheer force of will those two old men got everything up and into the apartment. We didn’t make it home that night until nearly 8:00 p.m. where YaYu had dinner waiting for us.

The rest of the week was a little bit easier but the days were still long. I got the kitchen pulled together (the bar sink is challenging but not impossible), Brett put the grill together, set up the deck, and got the TV hooked up; I got all our travel clothing and items sorted and put away (and cried a little while I did) and the linens too. On Thursday the TV/storage cabinet and dining table and chairs we purchased were delivered. We got everything arranged the way we wanted and were finally ready to move in on Friday morning!

The apartment is currently very minimally furnished, but everything we bought is comfortable and fits perfectly in the space. We have beautiful views from every window. I know the place will eventually look much more like home once we get our storage shipment and have our personal items again. This place has made us realize how very, very little scenery we had outside our former house in Kapaa, just a hillside out the back and the side of the neighbor’s house, but no flowers or interesting or beautiful plants. Here we look out at either rolling hills or a beautiful tropical garden in the back yard – it’s so refreshing and pleasant. The apartment stays cool too – for all the work we’ve done we’ve never had to turn on the ceiling fans where our old house never ever caught a breeze – the windows all faced the wrong direction. We’ve got our fingers crossed the breezes last through the summer and into the early fall.

I don’t think I can ever get tired of this view out our front door.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I got out my Kindle again yesterday and started reading The Splendid and the Vile again and was able to concentrate for more than a few pages – it felt good to be reading again. I will get back to The Dutch House after that.
  • Listening to: The sky is bright blue, and the only sounds are a soft breeze blowing through the palms out back and the birds singing. We have the front door open and the breeze is sweeping through the living room as well. Kaua’i, I have missed you!
  • Watching: Meiling and WenYu have been asking us to watch Tiger King so we can discuss it together, but I’m still resisting. YaYu and I watched Train to Busan on Friday (an enjoyable film if you’re into zombies) and then started watching old Top Chef seasons yesterday (she loves cooking shows and I love Top Chef).

    We made pesto from the basil we got in last week’s CSA box and served it with tortellini, green beans from the box, and garlic toast.
  • Cooking: We got this week’s CSA box this past Friday instead of having to wait until tomorrow (containing salad mix, broccoli, bok choy, microgreens, green onions, and cherry tomatoes) and between it and all the stuff we brought down from the condo our very small refrigerator is stuffed. We definitely bought too much food when we arrived, not knowing we would eventually have such a small refrigerator and freezer here. Trying to use up as much as we can of what we have on hand, YaYu and I came up with a menu for the week that will create more space in the fridge. Tonight we’re having breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, sausages, roasted cherry tomatoes, and croissants). The menu for the rest of the week includes spaghetti carbonara with green salads and artichokes; tofu and vegetable stirfry over rice; chicken yakisoba; croissant tuna sandwiches with microgreens and chips; potstickers, rice, and garlic broccoli; and meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and four-bean salad. She and I will do our shopping tomorrow but we have very little to buy this week. YaYu will use the bok choy when she makes noodles.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Besides getting moved in and settled, Brett has broken down I-don’t-know-how-many cardboard boxes and gotten all of them out of the apartment and recycled. We put away almost everything and got things organized surprisingly quickly, one of the benefits, I guess, of not having a lot of stuff and being in a place with lots of closets and cabinets.
  • Looking forward to next week: Some of the things we ordered from Amazon that we weren’t expecting until the end of the week have either already arrived or are now going to arrive this coming week, like our bed frame! Yeah! Also expected to show up this week will be our new bedding (duvet, cover, and shams), placemats, and hopefully the coffee table.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The BEST thing that happened this week was that our daughter-in-law’s department decided to allow their team to work remotely, so she no longer has to ride a crowded train to work and back every day during the shutdown. We have been so worried about her, especially as the number of COVID-19 cases has been rising again in Tokyo. All four of them are at home now, but they’re making it work. Thankfully their house allows for our son and DIL to have their own offices, but also easily get out to help the kids. Our new hybrid memory foam mattress is very comfortable – one more night on that mattress in the condo and I would have lost it as it was by far the worst mattress we slept on in nearly two years. The new bedside tables we ordered from Amazon arrived two days early – they were waiting for us when we arrived at the apartment on Friday morning. We’re very happy with them – although they didn’t cost much they’re all wood (no particleboard), very stylish, and were easy to put together. I can’t wait to get the bed frame and get the mattress up off the floor.

    C shares his foreign currency collection with his class, while K takes a break with some Lego.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Once again, this has not been a particularly frugal week in many ways – moving and setting up a home always comes with many hidden and unknown spending surprises. However, when we picked up the grill we had chosen at Costco the price had dropped by $40, as had the prices of the umbrella and stand – $120 saved! We also ended up choosing a smaller TV (43″ vs. 55″) that cost $200 less than what we had thought we would pay, and by purchasing the chaise lounge at Home Depot versus Costco we saved another $40! We have been using and enjoying everything from our CSA box and only threw out one tiny bit of lettuce when we moved our food down from the condo.
  • Grateful for: We’re thankful to have this move over with, and feel that we are in a great location now to hunker down for the next month or longer. There’s still more to be done, but the bulk of the work is over (well, until our shipment arrives).
  • Bonus question: What was your worst moving experience? We have moved many times, but the worst one was after we sold our house (a 1924 Craftsman bungalow) in 2005 to the Buyers From Hell. We dealt with one annoying request after another from them and their agent the minute their offer was accepted, but the last straw was when they announced less than a week before closing that they wanted to take possession of the house 24 hours after closing instead of the 96 hours stipulated in the contract. They made their usual empty threats but this time we said OK because we were beyond ready to be done with them. However, this meant the new deadline was 4:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July. We somehow found some movers to help us that day (they were great and fun to work with) but even with their help, we scrambled all day to get everything out on time on such short notice. To make things even worse, the buyers and their agent arrived an hour before the deadline and stood out in front of the house to watch us, with their agent calling our agent and screaming at him that we were going to be in breach of the agreement, that we were going to leave the house dirty, etc. The whole episode was absolutely bizarre, unprofessional, and beyond stressful, but we somehow made it out with minutes to spare and with the house spotlessly clean. Karma always operates on its own schedule though. The buyers had paid more than our asking price in what was a hot market and planned to renovate/upgrade and flip the house to make a killing, but the housing bubble burst not long after the sale and they ended up losing money and having to stay in the house longer than planned.

These past two weeks in quarantine have been difficult ones for YaYu, starting with leaving her boyfriend and friends and making the long trip over here only to have to stay indoors for a full two weeks – she couldn’t even get out for a walk! She has friends here too, but couldn’t/can’t socialize with them. But, she has taken it all in stride and has never complained once about her situation and has been a big help with the cooking and other chores. Even when we had no Internet service for our last two days in the condo she found a way to do what she needed to do in order to get her coursework done. We’re thankful she is healthy and with us (and she has said repeatedly she is happy to be here too).

YaYu has also always been our biggest critic, but she likes our new place and says it’s perfect for us. We think it’s pretty perfect too. We’re in a quiet, private area, have nice neighbors, wonderful breezes, and are in a good location to take care of our shopping and exercise needs. The only complaint we can make for now is that our upstairs neighbors can walk rather heavily at times across the floor, but thankfully that doesn’t happen much. Did I mention this place also has a HUGE bathroom? It’s actually bigger than our bedroom and has a large walk-in shower with three nozzles and a giant Jacuzzi/soaking tub. The jets in the tub are currently not working, but that’s something we hope to take care of in the future. Anyway, we’re happy to be here and are looking forward to getting our items out of storage to make it more personal.

One half of the giant bathroom. That corner behind the tub is crying out for some candles.

There’s even a chandelier!

I continue to hope all my readers are well and managing sufficiently during this difficult time. What are you all doing these days to stay sane? The move has kept us busy but now we are going to have to find other things to keep us occupied. I’d love to hear from you about how you’re coping. Most of all though, please take care to stay healthy and safe!

Sunday Morning 4/5/2020: Staying Home While Moving In

Afternoons on the lanai . . .

What another strange week this has been, trying to balance social isolation with getting ourselves ready to move into a new place in less than two weeks. We’re off to a good start, but there is still much to do, all while trying to have as little interaction with others as possible.

Social distancing at Costco . . .

We signed our lease this past Tuesday. It was great to get another look around at the layout and start figuring out where things could go. After taking care of that, we headed back up to Kapaa to Otsuka’s furniture store, where the manager opened the store just for us so that we could shop for a sofa and mattress. We purchased a beautiful, pale gray leather sectional sofa (on sale) and a hybrid memory foam mattress. With a friend’s help, we will pick up both on our own tomorrow and get them down to the apartment as the store is not allowed to do deliveries under the current state shutdown rules. On Wednesday we went back down to the south side to open a post office box and set up a weekly CSA pickup at the Monkeypod Jam store, then went to Costco to get started on getting things we need for the new place. We had hoped to stop at Walmart as well that day, but by the time we finished at Costco we were too tired so headed straight for the condo. We took Thursday off from shopping and took care of things like address changes, internet service, voter registration, and census forms. Brett got a next-day appointment for the internet set up so was down at the apartment again early Friday morning, but while the network is operational the internet doesn’t work! The technician wouldn’t come into the apartment either because according to him we had not been quarantined long enough. Brett has been on the phone with the internet company and they think the problems can be fixed tomorrow over the phone. Brett also did our Walmart shopping on Friday and got some more things we needed. Yesterday we visited another furniture store in Lihue, Two Frogs Hugging, that also graciously made special accommodations for us to come in and shop, and we found an affordable teak table and chairs, and a storage cabinet that will also function as a TV stand. Brett will be up early on Monday to rent a truck or van from Home Depot, the only place such things are available right now. We will run over to Costco first and pick up a gas grill and TV, then go back up to Otsuka’s to pick up the sofa and mattress so all the big and/or heavy things can go down to our place at the same time (our friend Alan will be helping move the heavy pieces). Anyway, things are moving along and we will be ready to move out of the condo this Friday morning to begin life in our new apartment!

. . . and at Walmart.

Although we’re getting things done, moving and starting over from scratch in the middle of all the shutdowns going on all over is still proving to be a challenge at times and we’re constantly having to change and adapt. Stores here don’t have the things we need (can’t find a white bathmat, for example). We had planned to place an order with IKEA and include flat packs in our shipment from Portland that Brett would assemble here. However, the earliest possible delivery date available from the Portland IKEA was May 15! At that point, our shipment probably wouldn’t leave Portland until the end of the month at the earliest and not arrive here until late-June/early-July at the earliest. So, we decided to scrap the IKEA idea and use local sources and Amazon to find other pieces of furniture and things we need. It may end up costing us a bit more, but on the plus side we should end up with better quality goods than what we would have gotten from IKEA and our shipment over here won’t cost as much. We’re going to get started next week on getting our stored items back over here and have our fingers crossed there are no problems with that.

Airbnb stepped up this past week and refunded the full amount of our Mexico stay, overriding the host’s decision to only refund 75%. We’re still out of luck with our Aeromexico tickets, but are going to hold off on contacting Alaska Airlines as things may change yet again next month. We also received a credit from Bryn Mawr for part of YaYu’s flight home! That was a nice surprise and reduced the cost of that ticket. Both WenYu and YaYu are receiving refunds for some of their room and board costs, as well as a small final lump-sum payment for lost income through work-study. YaYu will be banking both amounts to use toward next year’s costs. Finally, I qualified for a break on my student loan – no payments due until September 30 – something I wasn’t sure would happen as it’s an old loan contracted under different rules than now. I’m on autopay though so payments will continue, but all of it will go directly to knock down some more of the principal.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I have tried to read a couple of times, but my mind still wanders too much and I can’t focus. I think once this move is over and we start getting settled I’ll be more relaxed and ready to read again.
  • Listening to: It’s a beautiful, quiet morning. The sun is shining, there’s a gentle breeze blowing, Brett is puttering around in the kitchen, YaYu is still asleep, and other than birds singing outside it’s perfectly quiet. It makes me think how noisy this condo complex must have been when it was full of tourists! The whole island has been quiet ever since we arrived, and we’ve heard several locals comment that it’s almost been a return to how it was in the past.
  • Watching: I watched this week was the movie Parasite on Amazon Prime, but that was all. I thought it was superb and completely worthy of the academy award. Meiling sort of jokingly asked if we had been watching Tiger King, but I don’t think there is anything that could make me watch that. I’ve been compiling a list of movies to watch on Amazon once we get settled and get our streaming services up and running.
  • Cooking: I haven’t really come up with a menu for the week, and am not even sure what we’re having tonight. YaYu is the cook these days (I’m the prep cook), and I’m going to let her look at what we have and decide what she’d like to make. Costco had chicken in when we were there on Wednesday so I grabbed a package of thigh fillets, and we still have ground pork, tofu, pork chops, and eggs on hand for protein as well as plenty of vegetables and bread. I’m pretty sure we’ll be having mabo dofu this week and the pan of stuffed peppers from Costco, but other than that I haven’t a clue what she’ll come up with! We’re going to order a pre-made meal from Monkeypod to have on Friday evening as we’ll be busy unpacking and settling in that day. The following week YaYu and I will work together to make a menu for the week on Monday after we receive our CSA bag and see what we have, then we’ll do the grocery shopping for the rest of what we need on Tuesday.
    This is around 1/3 of what we bought at Costco (and some recycling). The rest of the stuff stayed in the trunk of our car and Brett took it down on Friday.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: We have bought everything we need that we could find here on the island; everything else for the apartment will be coming from the mainland. I have ordered some things from Amazon that we couldn’t find here, including a bed frame and nightstands, but much of the order isn’t due to arrive until the end of the month, and some of it not until the end of May!
  • Looking forward to next week: Although there’s a lot to do to get ready, I am looking forward to moving into our place and getting adjusted to our “new normal” on the south shore of the island. We are also looking forward to getting the paperwork completed for the car transfer and also getting our driver’s licenses updated.
    Homemade banana splits for a sweet anniversary treat!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a lovely anniversary dinner last Monday, and we discovered we had everything on hand to make banana splits so dessert turned out to be a bit fancier than originally planned! Also, we’ve seen some Royal Hawaiian trucks out on the road delivering and picking up shipments this past week, so that gives us hope that it won’t take too long to get our stuff. We’ll see. The sofa we bought was a great value and something of a dream come true for us, and we’re happy with the other furniture we found as well. 
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: There is nothing frugal about setting up housekeeping from scratch, especially when there are only two places open to buy necessary items, but we are doing the best we can. It’s felt though as if our money has just flowed through our fingers this week, but it’s also been sort of amazing all that we’ve needed to get, even to set up a simple lifestyle. However, with the discount we were given at Otsuka’s we ended up paying less for a better sofa than the leather one available at Costco! Getting our refund from Airbnb was a huge relief because of the host’s pressure for us to cancel without guarantee of a refund. There’s been no food waste since we’ve been at the condo, I’m happy to report, something of a surprise considering the amount of food we moved in with.
  • Grateful for: We were both touched and thankful that the managers of Otsuka’s and Two Frogs Hugging offered to open their stores for us so that we could shop safely on our own. There are very few furniture stores on the island (and they’re currently all closed), and Costco has an extremely limited supply of furniture, with just two sofa choices that didn’t appeal to us at all. Two Frogs Hugging had a great selection of interesting pieces at affordable prices (as well as many things way outside our spending limit), and we were allowed to shop in their warehouse for some great bargains. We’re also very thankful for the Monkeypod Jam store setting up and serving as a CSA pick-up location. It’s very close to our new place, and we’re looking forward to getting some great Kaua’i produce as well as helping out local farmers. We’ll be getting a bag of mixed items for the same as what we used to pay when we lived in Kapaa (only this time the farmers will choose what we get).
  • Bonus question: How are you filling your days under a stay-at-home order? When we are not busy in some capacity working on getting moved, I’m mostly on my laptop, reading blogs and news, (I think I’ve solved the WordPress/Blogger commenting issue!), checking into Twitter to see what’s going on, writing or at least trying to come up with topics for the blog, and looking for sources for things we need. I’ve also been playing a fun game on my phone from time to time, Animal Restaurant, recommended to me by Meiling. Although I thought it started off slowly, I’m now completely hooked. Nothing I’m doing requires a lot of concentration though – I’m still unable to read more than a couple of pages before my brain is off thinking of all the other things I’m juggling in my head. It’s the same with watching TV. Of course, there are always meals to fix or at least prep for, cleaning to be done, beds to make, laundry to do, and endless things to pick up around the condo and those take time too. It’s kind of a sad, lazy life right now and somewhat depressing even with all we have going on.
There’s no social distancing right now at the Minato Ward Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau (photo credit: The Japan Times)

From what we’ve heard from our son, and what I’ve been reading, it seems we got out of Japan, or at least Tokyo, at the right time, although Japan recently extended stays for visitors, including short-term tourists like we were. We still could have been stuck there for several more months though. Foreign visitors are currently stranded though as almost all international flights have been suspended. Many of these visitors were having to crowd into immigration offices along with the usual spring rush of students and other workers to try and get their visas extended, but the wait time for that deadline was recently extended by 90 days. It’s scary to think where we’d be at this point if we had stayed, and especially where YaYu would be. Japan is bracing for COVID-19 cases to explode again and what’s going to happen in the next few weeks is unknown. By the time we left many, many people in Tokyo were ignoring the social distancing orders – restaurants and shopping malls were full, and people were gathering for outings cherry blossom viewing parties in parks. High schools in Tokyo have been ordered to remain closed until May, and whether other schools will follow next week is currently unknown. I am especially worried for our daughter-in-law because she works for the national government, and it’s extremely unlikely that she will be ordered or even allowed to work from home – she is considered “essential.” She has to ride the train to and from her work as well as parking near where she works is completely unaffordable.

I hope you are all continuing to stay safe and healthy, as are your family and friends, and that you’re keeping your distance. To those of you with relatives or friends who have contacted the virus, I’m sending you and them all my good thoughts and prayers, for a speedy recovery. What a trying, scary time this is!

Mono No Aware

Probably the most exquisite expression of mono no aware in Japan is the cherry blossoms that arrive each spring, their beauty enhanced by an accompanying sadness that they will only last for a short while.

Mono no aware (物の哀れ), literally “the pathos of things”, is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence (無常, mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life. Mono no aware is the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last. It’s basically about being both saddened and appreciative of transience (from Wikipedia).

Brett and I never imagined our great adventure would end so abruptly. We had planned to travel into the year 2022 and had a list of places we wanted to visit. We were going to spend at least a year in Mexico, and travel from there back to Argentina and other places in South American, and also visit Panama to see the canal before heading back over to Europe.

But life has handed us, and the world really, a reminder of the impermanence of things, and of the transience that occurs in life, sometimes suddenly. This is not to show the foolishness of making plans, as some would say, but that all things in life, both good and bad, eventually change or come to an end, as does life itself.

While Brett and I are both happy and grateful to be back on Kaua’i, we’re also sad that our nomadic life has ended. We know we will travel again someday, but not in the same way or with the same feelings of adventure we carried with us these past months. We miss our life on the road, of being in a different place, doing new things, meeting new people, and learning new ways.

We grew very close as we traveled as we depended on each other for both companionship and sustenance. Our relationship flourished on the road and we found new strengths and a deeper connection to each other. Many of the adaptations we made along the way will stay with us, but we are now having to pick up and remember old patterns and habits once again. Whether these old ways will last or be needed remains to be seen, but after such a sudden change to our lives, they are comforting and are helping us make sense of where we are and what we need to do.

What a good time we had though! We were blessed to be able to travel as we did, and we had a truly wonderful time doing it. We constantly felt as if we had won the golden ticket. Neither of us can remember a bad experience, although we remember becoming frustrated at times. We took more pictures than we can count and these past few days we’ve been amazed by how clear our memories that go with the pictures are, that we can remember what we ate that day or people we met, or what was going on around us when we took the picture.

We knew our nomadic life wasn’t going to last forever, but we thought we’d get to end our full-time travels on our own terms and on our own schedule. Change, however, writes its own rules from time to time. The changes we’re facing now have happened quickly, too quickly actually, and adjustment to this new normal of isolation and sadness is not easy. What is easy now is to be scared. We know though that this too will eventually pass and life will change yet again. Our task now is to appreciate the transience and impermanence we face for what it is – an integral part of life. Mono no aware. We are not the same people we were before. For now, we can and will take joy that we, our family, and friends are well, that we have good friends nearby, that our youngest daughter is with us and safe, and that we have returned to a place we love.