Friday, March 24, 2017

Swim Carnival

Warning...proud Momma post....full of photos (for the grandparents of course).

So let me give you some background. Mason took to the water like a fish when I did swim "lessons" with him at 6 months and he never looked back.


Clarissa on the other hand....totally different child, totally different attitude. You should of seen the stink-eye she gave the twins we took swim "lessons" with that dared to splash her with water (same age, same place). She happily played in the pool for years after that with many unsuccessful attempts to teach her to go underwater. She is very strong-willed and was not going to do that until she was ready. Right before arriving in Fiji, we did some private lessons at a new place in Charleston during our home leave and she finally went underwater and discovered that we were telling her the truth about how much fun it was and in the last 15 months she has really taken off.

Since Week 3 this term, for 2 week stretches each class has been doing swimming for part of their PE. For Clarissa's grade, during their weeks on Monday - Thursday she went to school in her swimsuit. As soon as school started they loaded into the bus and drove to the pool did swimming and then were back to school to put on uniforms by morning tea. We think this is a real great thing and every school should do swimming lessons....it really is an important skill to have. As last week finished up the swim lessons, this week they celebrated with a swim carnival!


Cheering on the Eagle's during the first race (her house). A couple weeks ago, we filled out a form selecting our child's swim level (1-4) and then selected two races for them to compete in. Level 1 is for beginners so they included things like a noodle race race and kickboard race. Level 2 was for slightly stronger racers and included a kickboard race as well as freestyle and backstroke both only 25 meters. (Levels 3 & 4 also included the butterfly and breaststroke at 25, 50 and 100 meter distances). I signed Clarissa up for Level 2 kickboard and freestyle 25 meter races.


All lined up, while the racing portion ran 9:00 - 12:30ish, it was relatively timely and efficient. Each kid had two races so there was a bit of boredom when it wasn't your turn hanging out under your house tent.


Zoomed in, ready with her kickboard.


Action shot jumping in on the whistle blow, then they race began with the starting pistol shot.


Looking determined.


Starting to get ahead of the pack....


Close up.....I think she came in 2nd or 3rd in her group. I heard her time was like 53:33 seconds....


For the 25m freestyle they had the under 7 girls double up in the lanes.


Getting ready to go....


Getting goggles ready....


Chatting with her lane buddy....lol.


Due to a false start, then everyone thinking they had to go, they restarted in the water. She is still in lane 5.


And she is off....look at those little arms go!


Doing really well, powering through.


She was one of the last ones to come in, but I am so proud of her for finishing and not giving up!


In addition to the 2 weeks of school swimming, I have also been having her participate in a twice weekly swim club (plus snorkeling on getaways and then just fun swimming in our pool). She got nervous before both races, but was able to pull herself together and not only swam but did really great for someone who would not stick her face underwater 15 months ago....like I said, proud momma post!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Weekend at the Warwick

So based on the number of resident specials available during the month of February, we discovered that there is a low season at resorts in Fiji (we also discovered that it rains a lot on the dry side of the island during February too....hence the low season at resorts...lol). Over President's Day weekend in February, Richard had an extra day off work so we decided to take advantage of one of the resident specials....we had a lot to choose from. We ended up going with the Warwick Resort along the Coral Coast....they had us at "complimentary couple's one hour massage"! How could you beat that!

So Friday after school, the kids got home and changed out of their uniforms. We then picked Richard up from work (he ended up having to work a little late) on our way out of town. It rained a good portion of our drive up there which didn't bode well for a fun weekend.....at check-in we saw the kids club schedule for the next day (looked like lots of fun!), but unfortunately the break for lunch was during our couples massage....so we had reschedule for two individual massages....still works! We had a little dinner and called it a night. The next morning we woke to some light rain....yeah! We went to breakfast, Clarissa put on a fashion show....


and then she headed over to kids club (we had heard a lot of great things about it and the schedule looked really fun, fish feedings, crab races, etc). (Mason wasn't feeling so hot the previous night/morning so he opted to rest). We ran into Sigatoka to do some shopping. On the sidewalk, they have a really neat plaque honoring last years gold medal Olympic team! At least it was close when they beat the USA....lol.


When we got back, Richard headed to his massage and I picked up Clarissa. Due to the rainy weather, most of the fun kids activities were cancelled in the kids club and Clarissa hung out and watched movies...bummer. The kids and then went over for their free lunch. Then we switched and I got my massage...woohoo! Luckily, the weather had cleared some and the rain had stopped. So when the kids were in the pool when I got back. I then was horrible and insisted on mandatory fun and we headed out to the reef for some snorkeling (can't wait till later since we have ebbing tides to deal with). Clarissa was immediately in blue sea star heaven...picking up everyone that she saw!


We also lots of cool fishes that we stalked.


On the edge of the sea grasses, we found two relatively small Giant Clams! Though they were less than a meter apart, their mantle colors were slightly different. (It's thought a variety of factors affect mantle color but nobody knows for sure).


Just for a 'keeping it real' moment....even while snorkeling in a Fijian paradise, kids will arguing and fight semi-submerged....and I am kind enough to let them work it out on their own to learn life skills, (but in the mean time I will not only document it, I will share it for your viewing enjoyment)!


After some more pool time, we all got cleaned up and headed to kids favorite South Pacific pizza joint....Eco Cafe for dinner. Afterwards, we walked around the shoreline and enjoyed an obscured sunset. We headed out on some of the little jetties and you could see lots of little fishes swimming around. Clarissa and I even saw an eel, but it quickly hid!


The shy sun hiding behind clouds....but lots of nice reflections.


Boats by the ocean....


So the majority of the land in Fiji is native land that can not be bought. So a resort will obtain a 99 year lease to a section of land (typically right next to a village), my understanding is some of this lease money goes back to said village or there is a nightly surcharge that is for the village.. Here are some photos of the village adjacent to the Warwick.....nice waterfront location!


Note the rain coming down close to land....a storm is a coming....


But let's zoom into the sunset instead of focusing on the rain....much better!


Fire power.....pretty happy with how that turned out!


At some point, the kids headed back to the room to play on iPads (free wifi w/o mom & dad hounding them on usage....too bad it was really sssssllllloooowwww), so Richard and I went and enjoyed a cocktail (piña colada if you remember....lol). From the balcony bar, I got this pretty cool shot from there.


I guess if there has to be clouds, at least they give photos some "texture" and make them a bit more interesting. After some more nighttime showers, we woke the next morning, of course, to bright and sunny skies! We did have a late check out, so we snorkeled a bit and chillaxed at the pool some before heading home. The kids opted to cut their snorkeling short for pool time. Richard headed in with them while I snorkeled some more (he then went back and snorkeled more after I came....darn required adult supervision...). While I was out solo.....I saw a black tip reef shark! I barely caught it on video.....so here is a enhanced screen grab.....but so cool. I'm not sure if Richard and the kids believed me until I found the video and was all there it is....and then there were all 'oh yeah'.


Again, not the best photo.....but that's what sharks do...they lurk in the shadows.....It was not all that big maybe about a meter long. What weekend resort blog post with snorkeling would be complete without a little highlight montage video? So here you go....watch for giant clams, an eel, a crown of thorns, in addition to your usual schools of fishes.


Here's a little out take video of silly snorkeler antics....


All in all, it was semi rainy/nice weekend away. It rained most of the time in Suva, so at least we got some sunshine. While a nice resort, it was not our favorite in the area....so not sure if we will venture back to the Warwick again or not. We are starting to see the end of our time in Fiji and there are so many other places we want to visit.....

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Been Craftin'

So when we first arrived at post, I was aware that working would be difficult here. While Fiji does have a bilateral agreement, there is a high local unemployment rate, so a lot of hoops need to be jumped through to prove that there is no one locally qualified to do the job you are applying for. I was okay with that and had planned to not look for employment. I did have (apparently unrealistic) hopes of being able to volunteer my marine knowledge and experience. Again, paperwork doting i's and crossing t's would have needed to be done as volunteering would affect my visa....but I hit a ton of dead ends and no responses (I even let them know when I would be leaving the country, so there would be no concern of me trying to take a job in the future...I sincerely just wanted to offer my services). I would have benefited from some warm fuzzies while helping the ocean/reefs and the marine biology portion of my résumé wouldn't be quite so desolate. Alas, that was not to be.....

(On a side note, I did get a surprise email about an unpublished report I had written about 10 years ago. I worked with a few people and we recently got it published! If you have some insomnia and you would like to read about the Seafood consumption habits of South Carolina shrimp baiters, click on this link to the journal, I have 50 free online copies to share).  

So in order to contribute to the family budget/society a bit, I applied for a part time job at the Embassy. I received a contingent job offer back in November...woo hoo!! My offer was contingent on obtaining the same clearance I had when we were posted in Georgia. So, there was about an one year gap that would need to investigated (a program has been developed to help EFMs...aka family members like me, more easily transfer their clearance from post to post....it started the beginning of 2016...right after we arrived at post, so too late for me sign up for it as we had already departed our last post...sigh). I got all the necessary paperwork in as quickly as I could...as the election had just occurred and new administration hires can quickly backlog investigations. As I type this, I am still waiting on my clearance which could come through any day....oh but wait...there is a 90 day federal job hiring freezing happening too....well that bites....

So while I wait...I've been craftin'! Fabric is relatively inexpensive here...(about 1/2 the price of fabric in the US) and it is super bright and colorful. How can you not be happy when looking at? Apparently, when we leave post, we will always be reminded of Fiji.....

I've made Clarissa two pairs of pajama pants...one regular length and one capri length (good for early morning walks on the beach...don't have to roll those up!). I've also made Clarissa's favorite doll Baby Ruth matching diapers.



So Clarissa likes using Pure Fiji hair conditioner...(so spoiled...I'll have to stock up before we leave), so I will typically let her skip washing her hair the next day as it is normally still soft and yummy smelling (pineapple or starfruit are our favorite scents!). We were using free hotel shower caps.....so I order some waterproof fabric and made her a shower cap! Now she is happy and stylin' on her skip day!


So you aren't worried that Clarissa is getting all my crafty love. Mason had a pile of t-shirts that he had out grown, but had sentimental value and he couldn't part with. In an effort to reduce our HHE weight, I made him a t-shirt pillowcase for a reading pillow he took to school for DEAR (drop everything and read) time at school. He loves it and I scored major cool points (important with tweens....which by saying that I probably just lost said cool points).


So when we were in Hawaii, we tracked down a fabric shop as I needed some knit fabric for the Powerpuff Girl costumes and knits are impossible to find here. While there....we found the mother lode of Aloha fabrics....there were so many choices, almost to the point of being overwhelming and I didn't get any yards of anything (but I do have their web address). I did pick up some fat quarters of assorted Aloha patterns with the intention of making some placemats. I made them double sided so I can easily mix it up...


As most of you know, I'm a tree hugger. When Richard and I first got married, we had some gift cards to Bed, Bath & Beyond. I picked up several sets of some solid colored everyday napkins. Come this June....that will be 10 years.....so while unpacking when our belongings arrived last year. I noticed our napkins were getting pretty threadbare and stained.....so viola....new napkins! I made regular size and cocktail size. The small ones are for good a sandwich at lunch, ice pops, or book club nibbles! (Locally, those knotted rag rugs are sold on the street. I asked our housekeeper if anyone in her village makes those and if she wanted to take our old napkins to give to them to cut out the bad parts but use the still good parts to make rugs with....she took them...yeah, internal tree hugger still happy).


After napkins, probably one of the most used items...my shell collecting bag. After our first couple beach weekends where I was juggling my phone and then kept finding beautiful shells I had to pick up and suddenly my hands were full and my phone was starting to get sandy....I was all there has to be a better way. Viola...thank you internet! Ordered some mesh fabric and used some local fabric to make shell collecting bags (I made my mother-in-law one too for a Christmas gift). Clarissa always asks for it when we are ready to go for a walk on the beach!


When going over our house inventory (and noting all damage), our coffee table has a lot of scratches and scuffs on top of it due to many of years of being well loved. So per Richard's suggestion, I made a table runner to hide/protect it. To tie the room together a bit, I also made matching ones for some other tables in the room.



When arriving at post, you are typically given a certain amount of furniture. Sometimes you can send some back and sometimes you can request extra items. We requested a couple extra side tables (one holds our printer) and we put one in the kitchen to hold fresh fruit. To disguise the fact that it is a side table I found some cute beer bottle/surf board fabric locally...perfect for the kitchen....and made a little table cloth.


Clarissa really enjoys dress up. In addition to princess up dresses and crowns. She also likes to put on some Clare's (or hand me down mommy) make-up. When doing her semi-annual cleaning/purge of her room, I noticed lots of make up dust and lip gloss smears on the built in table in front of her mirror. In an effort to avoid damage fees when we depart post, I found the perfect use for some of the spa girl fabric I found and it was too cute to not get in Hawaii.


Clarissa has decided to have a small Spa birthday party with a few friends. So I used the remaining spa girl fabric to make the goody bags. (We have only decided on a theme and number of guests....not the guest list yet...so don't tell anyone yet).


So we have figured out due to a number of quirks, part of our house is an add on from the original construction (which we greatly appreciate). One of those add-ons is our closet/bathroom. There is no door separating that addition from the bedroom, just a doorway. So I made a curtain that we can pull to hide our clothing when we have company. The kids are also adjusting beautifully begrudgingly to sharing a bathroom again. Most of the time it is not an issue, but in the mornings before school it seems to always be a problem. Inevitably, one child needs privacy when the other is about to brush their teeth. So in an effort to make mornings more pleasant (aka reduce the number of door slam & locks followed by yells), I made a privacy curtain. It has helped.....some.


We lucked out with a cabinet in the hall that hides most of our consumables. We do have some odd shaped large items (three tiered stand and cupcake carrier I'm talking to you), that we don't use often but need to stash somewhere. So they fit nicely on top of the hall cabinet. In an effort, to hide my odd shaped items from prying eyes, I made another little curtain.


When I wouldn't be sewing something for a few weeks, our housekeeper would always take a piece of fabric I had laying around and cover up my sewing machine to protect it from dust....so I figured, why not make a pretty Bula fabric sewing machine cover. Still straight lines, but with a little complexity.


I'm working on more, but I don't have photos to post yet....and as you may have noticed, most things involve straight(ish) lines.....during our upcoming R&R, I am hoping to take a few more skills classes. I may graduate to things like skirts and zippers...woohoo!

So even though I always draw a blank when people ask what have you been doing, but between the weekly grocery shopping (which involves several hours and stops at 4-5 shops to get the items you need), running the kids to their assorted activities, planning weekends away, setting up appointments for our upcoming R&R, taking care of things around the house, blogging and crafting. I am surprisingly busy....but it's hard to fit that into the short answer someone probably wants when asking....lol. I'm also trying to get all the little projects I've found online that I've printed out and said 'ooh, that would be handy to have' or 'that would be fun to make' finished up before I potentially start that job I mentioned earlier....that I may start...someday...hopefully not a month or two before we leave post....