Saturday, December 10, 2016

Travel Photography Opportunity....

So I subscribe to an expat listserv. It is typically most interesting when we have just received our assignment and we can see questions/answers about the country we are moving to. I think on one occasion I have been able to answer a question someone asked about Georgia...but most days I skim and delete. Well one day, I see an offer for a free photo shoot....what! Family photos...I'm there!

There is a company called Travelshoot (who knew!) that will take photos of you when on a trip/vacation in exotic locales or with an iconic landmark in the background....(thinking if we ever make it to Paris....Eiffel Tower here we come!). Part of the company's interview process is a test photo shoot with a potential photographer. So we had to assess the photographer in return for some awesome photos (and giving them permission to use our likeness on their website)....sounds like winning all around....and who doesn't like being a winner!

We lucked out in our photographer was a young woman. Clarissa has always had an aversion to having her photo taken by strangers, but girl power will sometimes prevail over we started talking about her about a week before, so by the time we met our photographer we kind of "knew" her and so Clarissa cooperated for the most part....

The boys acting if they owned the beach or something....

So if you visit Travelshoot's Fiji location page you will see our lovely faces there (kind of cool too). We don't get anything for the link....we just have to give them credit for taking the photos...(part of that winning thing I mentioned). If you are on our Christmas card list you will be seeing some more of our smiling faces coming to your mailbox soon. I'll add a few more here for the Bushia/ grandparents/ anyone worried we aren't doing well to have their worries put to ease....honestly there were so many great shots it was hard to pick a favorite and we will definitely be printing and framing several for our walls.  

So I guess Mason does look a little bit like me....

Up to no good.....

When she wants to turn on the charm, she can really do it!

Vote time.....I like the one above more, it shows her missing tooth...documenting a rite of passage. Richard likes the bottom one better.....which one should go on the wall?!?!?

Sigh....he just had to "dab"...

There we go....we can frame this one!

Daddy and me.....

I think she was singing here.....

I'm laughing because Clarissa is singing the mommy and daddy sittin' in a tree K-I-S-S-U-N-G song (yes, she misspells it every time).

 Photobomber....okay, so maybe we got it so she was too comfortable with the!

Vinaka Vakalevu..(Thank you very much in Fijian)..for the photoshoot!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The little elementary school that could.....

So I try to blog in a relatively chronological order...but sometimes I get really far behind or get started on a post that I never quite finish....this is one of those. Back in mid-October, I had the opportunity to visit a school up in the Ra district. If you recall, back in February Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Fiji and hit it hard (that was another one of those posts I never got to but we did move a month or so afterwards and then life kept me busy). So I'll give it a bit of wall space on the blog now....

So Richard grew up in South Carolina and survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989 which was a Category 5 hurricane with wind speed speeds topping out at 162 mph and lowest pressure of 918 mb. I went to college in Florida and survived Hurricane Opal in 1995, which took the prize of being the only Category 4 hurricane with getting as low as 916 mb (wind speeds topped out at 150 mph) (thanks Wikipedia for the historical factoids!). I didn't realize how nasty Opal was until it brought up in the news when Katrina was barring down on the Gulf Coast. So when Tropical Cyclone Winston start coming around Fiji, Richard and I kept are eye on him and started watching the weather. TC Winston had a peculiar track kept swinging by us....first went by us to the west, then went past us to the south, then it did a 180 turn, and put Fiji in it's cross hairs and came directly at us (that's when we started to worry). I found this map online and it shows the whole track line.

We hypothesized that in the US, due to the big landmasses storms get slowed down and fall apart typically, here in the South Pacific without any big land mass nearby, TC Winston must of hit some pressure change that caused it to turn but nothing to ever slow it down/stop it, hence all the stalkerish drive-bys. TC Winston was the strongest cyclone to make landfall in the southern hemisphere in recorded a category 5, with peak wind intensity of 230 km/h (145 mph) and lowest pressure of 915 mb (again, thanks wikipedia).

TC Winston was a beast of a storm. It hit February 20 and I went to visit this elementary school in October....eight (8) months read that right. As you drove close to the school, you could see people still had tents in their yards. The school we visited still is missing a roof over several classrooms (and it is not the only one)!

Facts tables separate the temporarily roofed classroom from the unroofed one...

Luckily a number of AID organizations have donated tents for the school to use in place of the missing classrooms.

I went to photograph the inside of classroom group was shy as it appears I interrupted their morning tea.....

Another class raced out to have their photo taken!

They were all Year One they were 6 & 7 year olds....I told them my little girl was 6 and showed them a picture of Clarissa.....we were then friends and started taking selfies....

So my main reason for going up there was a friend of mine is working with a local rotary club. They are helping the school rebuild....and one 'project' we did was help some with the library.

The school was able to save some books in plastic tubs prior to the storm hitting but wind and water were not nice to a lot of the library (also following TC Winston, when trying to dry everything out, TC Zena came by and dropped a lot more rain on Fiji). My friend had collected some donated books and art/school supplies and we were delivering them to school.

We also took the some snacks up to the teachers for a morning tea treat (one of the male teacher's wife was out of town....he really appreciated the food too!).

While we were at the school, an aid organization that has finally made it through all the paperwork arrived and hopefully construction of the roof will be completed the next cyclone season has begun already.  It was a lovely day and great to see a little elementary school that is still chugging along without a roof but the kids were happy and learning....I'm also excited to know that as Clarissa becomes a stronger reader and outgrows the early reader books we own I have a wonder place to donate all those books to (and save us weight on our next pack out!).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Happy T minus 365 to Social Media Day

So we're those annoying parents. The ones that say "well, [insert desired social media account of the day] user agreement requires you to be 13 years old to have an account. Since you aren't 13 yet, no you can't have an [account] yet." I mean! I have kindly offered to post any YouTube videos he wants to share on my account, but that apparently is an even worse So a few weeks back.....someone had his last birthday before his social media!

Harry Potter Clue was a hit!

Mason lucked out and had a weekend birthday this year. So his birthday was pretty relaxing. He decided he wanted to go out for breakfast (so we did), we had some errands to run (more on that another day), he also wanted pizza for dinner....but since we'd had a big breakfast we somewhat skipped lunch and had the infamous lunner. Then around dinner time we ate some strawberries (amazing there were some in available....we hadn't seen any fresh ones in months, so we splurged for a birthday treat) and other fruit before birthday cake. Overall a fun/low-key birthday. I forgot to get a photo of the fruit feast before we dug in.....this is a couple minutes in....

When were back in Singapore, we picked up a Lego figure cake mold. For Richard's birthday, I made a Rex Fury cake (from the Lego City: Undercover video game). Mason, having been sorted into the Hufflepuff house, wanted one of the more famous hufflepuffs for a I made the Lego version of Cedric Diggory in his Tri-Wizard Cup uniform....

I had a little batter left over...and attempted to make a little tri-wizard cup....the colors were all wrong and it was upside down (well I did have gravity to work with) I was informed....oh well.

For Mason's party, timing couldn't have been more perfect! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was opening the week after his birthday. So we had originally planned to pick a few friends, do pizza for lunch, then the movie....he couldn't narrow his invitee list down, so he opted to invite more friends and just do the movie. Which was fine...even easier for me (we did limit him to only his class at school, he has friends in every grade he wanted to invited). I found some free downloadable invite wording here with the school crest and then tweaked for the movie he was seeing. I emailed the parents the details. Movie times weren't available for the Saturday showing until Wednesday....when I got the tickets and he took the invites to school on Thursday, so it was all last minute....but luckily that works in Fiji!

So Mason and 14 of his closest friends enjoyed the movie. I didn't get a picture of them all (about half were dressed up....which apparently cosplay is not a thing in Fiji and they got a lot of stares). I bought them drinks (soda & powerade were hits....water not so much!). They all bought their own snacks. Being tweens none wanted to go into the theatre without the others, but finally it was the 2:50 start time and so I just gave tickets to the ones that already had their food and they finally went in. When the last of them got their food I followed them in. They were all playing musical seats (they do assigned seating with tickets here and the randomness of my ticket passing out was just not working for them). They did great, we didn't get kicked out, and I really enjoyed the movie. For a 'party favor', I made some Deathly Hallows sugar cookies. I found the recipe here, but I used a different icing I found here that said it dried real fast and worked well with humidity (since I had to smuggle the favors in to pass out after the movie I didn't want it all smushed and melted to the bag). They looked cool, the symbol was used in FB&WTFT, and were super tasty!

I made a lot! Took two batches of icing!

After the movie end, we passed out the cookies. It was a mad house in the theatre lobby, it was packed with the ton of people. Mason said bye to all his friends and they scattered like nifflers spotting a shiny object. I didn't get any phone calls from any of his friends' parents asking where their tween was, so I assume they all made it home fine.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tambua Sands Weekend

What's the expression....while the cat's away the mice will Richard had a 2 week training in DC at the end of October/beginning of November, with travel time he ended up being gone about 2.5 weeks. Of the three weekends he was gone, logistically the last one worked out best for the kids and I to head to a resort for a little get-away with a spa and kids club since we be tired of so much alone time with one another. So by the time I decided which weekend to head of town, when I started contacting resorts, a lot had no availability....oops. Eventually I did find a resort I've heard a number of people have gone to with availability....weekend saved (but oops no spa or kids club)! As soon as the kids got off the bus, I had them changed clothes and off we headed. We managed to beat most of the evening/get out of town traffic and arrived at Tambua Sands Beach Resort in about 2 hours. We got checked in and they helped us get our bags to our bure. We dropped everything and ran out the front door to enjoy the sunset!

Note: The 'Fiji Filter' that makes everything look beautiful.....even bickering siblings.....

Someone really wanted to go swimming in the ocean....but we needed to get some dinner first....

Someone else was happy to have the hammock back to themselves....

I do wonder if pink clouds is where purple rain comes from....

After dinner we hung out and played some ping pong while waiting for the every exciting crab races. The kids did decorate the 'race track' too.

Then Mason played a game of pool with the activities guy, Tui (who was soon to become Clarissa's new bestie).

Mason's crab, Hillary, won the race and he got a bowl of ice cream for the prize. Clarissa hung out at the bar waiting for the ice cream.... We headed back to our room to listen to the ocean as we drifted off to sleep.

Saturday morning was the last morning before daylight savings began, so the sun rose around 5 when you sleep with the windows open to keep you cool at night (yeah, Richard would have been miserable with no AC) the morning sun woke Princess Early Riser (Mason on the other hand happily slept in). So Clarissa and I went out to explore. Right outside our bure, we found these fluffy flowers all over the soft and fluffy!

Scattered everywhere....(it is from the Sea Poison Tree or Fish Poison Tree (Barringtonia asiatica) the seeds can be ground up and used to stun fish).

So pretty!

The other day, I showed you Clarissa and I were the only ones up this early enjoying the rising sun. It was very peaceful as we looked for shells the tide had brought in.

Great start to the day. 

Afterwards, we headed to the breakfast. The kids wore their swimsuits so they could immediately partake in the pool waters.

After swimming/enjoying the view we got cleaned up and headed to the Kula Eco Park. Mason had been here on a field trip, but Clarissa and I hadn't gone yet. I was excited to see the Fiji Banded Iguana, though Clarissa was not going to look nor touch any snakes. We arrived just in time for the sea turtle hatchling feeding.

We not only found the Fijian Banded Iguana, we got to hold them!

 Also got to hold a snake!

Clarissa decided to look at the snake....

Then, she not only touched the snake, she held the snake! We think this was the Fiji burrowing snake (Ogmodon vitianus), or locally known as the Bolo.

We then walked around and checked out all the birds (and the only mammal indigenous to the Fiji Islands) on the property.

Fruit bats....those indigenous mammals.

We stalked this peacock for a long time and told him what a sexy beast he was....but apparently that wasn't enough to get him to strut his stuff and show us his plumage in its full glory!

After circumnavigating the park, we headed to the little gift shop. Clarissa had some tooth fairy money burning a hole in her little purse. She bought a cute necklace with a sea horse pendant carved out of a shell. As we were leaving it started to pour down rain....good timing!! We headed to a lunch spot we had heard great things about Eco Cafe....we heard they have a tasty wood fire oven cooked pizza. So we tried it out.....the rain stopped after we ordered. The view was amazing and the pizza yummy! We will be going again (in fact we have since taken Richard).

We headed back to Tambua Sands. High tide was mid-day so we attempted to snorkel, but the tide was already heading out again and the water got shallow pretty quickly so we gave up on that and headed to the pool again. Afterwards, we got cleaned up for dinner. I put some flowers in Clarissa's hair....because I could!

Before dinnertime (they had set hours), we watched the was a beautiful one....with lots of selfies. 


After the looks like the sun is actually in the water.....

I practiced some free range parenting and allowed Clarissa to hang out at the bar with her buddy Tui....

After dinner, the kids went on a frog hunt (technically a cane toad hunt, but I didn't want to be the annoying biologist correcting people)! Clarissa caught 8 frogs and Mason caught only 1....that's my girl! They then raced the frogs. Another little boy from Germany picked one of Clarissa's to race. That frog won, but since Clarissa won the frog catching portion they both got a bowl of ice cream! 

We crashed hard that night! Daylight savings kicked in and we sprung ahead at 2:00 am, so the sunrise was at a much more reasonable 6:00 am on Sunday..... After breakfast, Clarissa sadly said goodbye to her bestie Tui....Mason and I are still amazed how much she quickly she befriended him. She's normally super shy around strangers. She wanted me to take a picture for her iPad to remember him (even though both kids want to come back and stay in the honeymoon suite which has a private jacuzzi/mini pool.....). The resort had lots of cute, witty signs....I think one was my fave that summarizes our weekend.