Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fiji Hideaway Weekend

Sigh....so my plans to get caught up were foiled....there is an odd illness floating around. It starts with leg pain (poor Clarissa we thought it was growing pains and gave her the ole suck it up buttercup) which is then followed by really high temperatures (104°F/40°C) for about 3 days followed by a lovely rash a couple days later. Doctors are not really sure how it is transmitted (CDC is starting to lean towards a possible mosquito vector I've heard), but symptoms can randomly pop up again for up to 6 weeks....so lots of sick days for Clarissa which means I don't get much done.....but hey, by the time she is grown she will have an immune system of steel! 

So within Suva, there isn't too terribly much to do. There are several movie theaters (which we frequent....and have seen nearly every kids movie that has been released recently!). The prices are much more affordable compared to going to movies in the US....we even splurge and go for the premium seats with foot rests and fancy coffee drink delivery! There is the vegetable market....but the kids don't get too exited about shopping for vegetables on the weekend...lol. There is also the handicraft market, but one can only have so many tiki masks (sorry Richard....). There is also the sea wall/water front park which gets pretty crowded evenings and weekends. Suva is a port city with mangroves trees.....so no pretty beaches like you picture when someone says Fiji. In order to get to a beach you have drive at least 45 minutes out of Suva up the coast....so it is not something you do every afternoon....but we are trying to head out of town once a month and when we do go, make it a weekend getaway. The first year or so here, we will probably try out a variety of resorts until we have a couple favorites which we will go to the most.....so without further ado, here is the first resort we went to....

Fiji Hideaway is located along the Coral Coast just before the town of Sigatoka. It was just under a two hour drive from Suva. The embassy had a VIP visit so Richard ended up having to work. The kids and I headed out mid-morning. It was grey and drizzling in Suva (just as it had been for the last couple weeks while I had been digging us out of boxes during their term break). About halfway along our drive the sun finally started to break through the clouds. Once we made it there and checked in, I don't know if it was the sunlight, escaping the car, or just seeing our ocean front bure view the kids were happy! (FYI - bures are historically Fijian wood and straw huts, in the modern tourism industry they are now synonymous with bungalows...they can be private but the ones in our price range have multiple units).

Our room seemed to be in an older bure (it looks like they are in the process of doing some renovations), but it was still nice. They even decorated our bed and bathroom with palm fronds and frangipani flowers.

Swimsuits were quickly donned to go play in the pool. The trails around the resort were quite pleasant to walk around with all the lush greenery and cute little tiki heads around.

The pool included a waterslide for the kids (it said ages 5-12 only....sigh no fun for us) and an island you swim out to and jump off of. During the day, the offer a lot of entertainment and games (we just ignored that and did our own thing). There is a deep section of the pool (likely for SCUBA training) that Mason loved diving in.

After the VIP left, Richard had a driver bring him up to the Hideaway (he was about 2 hours behind us....but had we waited you know he would have gotten delayed). So as he neared, I got the kiddos out of the pool and we headed out to the beach to walk back to our bure....

and daddy finally made it in time to explore at low tide!!

The sunset that first evening was essentially non existent due to the all the cloud cover that apparently Richard had brought with him....hee hee. We all got showered, had a tasty dinner, on our walk back we found lots of frogs and lizards, we noticed some of the clouds had begun to get blown off and there were so many more stars visible than in Suva (and way more than we have ever seen elsewhere)! We swung in the hammock and did a good bit of stargazing that evening.

At first, we didn't know what that yellow orb and blue background was when we looked out the window the next morning....lol it was bright and sunny! Yippee! Before heading to breakfast, I had some cuddle buddies in the hammock.

If you ask the kids what their favorite thing was that weekend, swinging in the hammock (band-aid needing injuries aside) will be the unanimous answer! After breakfast, since it was high tide, we quickly got on our snorkel gear to go explore the reef right in front of our bure!

We were hopefully that Clarissa would enjoy just looking with her googles underwater, but it was a tad too salty for her.....baby steps....she will hopefully be a mermaid before we leave Fiji. We ended up doing a little divide and conquer. Mason and I went out snorkeling with the GoPro, while Richard and Clarissa made a sand castle and picked up shells. Then Richard and I switched. Later, Mason and Clarissa went to the kids club for a bit and Richard and I snorkeled some more but the tide was going out and we didn't get too far. So the photos and video are from those three times. I don't think we did too shabby for our first underwater snorkel video. Watch out for the sea urchin, the three fish attacks on the camera, and the huge rock with a mass of anemones and tomato anemone fish (I circumnavigate the rock, at low tide, so it is super shallow and I am trying not to touch the coral and the video gets a tad shakey...I apologize but the coral comes first and the curious fish checking me out is pretty cool so I kept it in the video)!

Look at the tiny neon juvenile fish swimming in the coral!

Blue sea star! We saw a ton snorkeling.....that was an item on my Fiji Bucket List! So cool!!!

Four striped damselfish (Hambug dacylus)

Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus)

As I mentioned, we dropped the kids off at the Kids Club. They post a schedule everyday and we planned their drop off based on craft time (both love crafts). We were a little disappointed with the club. Mason & Clarissa happened to be the only two kids that day, so they didn't follow the schedule that day and just had them do coloring pages and watch a movie instead of the sea animal craft. This could be due to is was a Sunday and most people were checking out that day and other days they are better at following the schedule...idk. Richard and I did get a little bit of time to relax in the hammock, grab some lunch, snorkel again, and walk the shore (before I headed off for a massage...Richard got a massage while the kids had their lunch).

After my massage, it was low tide. This rock that Richard photographed in the morning was now fully exposed and you could walk all the way out to it from the beach without getting fully submerged (it only got about knee deep for me).

So the kids and I headed out there. Mason had seen the blue sea stars snorkeling, but Clarissa still had not seen any. So we were also on the look out for those. 

Which we successfully found! Score! There are some with 4 legs and some with 5 legs (and the ones with 4 legs don't appear to have lost a leg, they seem proportional). We did quickly put this sea star back in the water between/after taking its picture. We made it to the rock...Mason was smart and wore his crocs...Clarissa and I were barefoot. That did not stop her from quickly scaling up and over the rock.

After exploring we all got cleaned up for dinner...if you remember, we didn't look too shabby. The sunset was gorgeous that night (I started the post with a sunset photo and posted another here). The resort does a tiki lighting ceremony with Lali drums too. They light a torch on the island in the middle of the swimming pool.

After dinner, we told the kids we were going to have some mandatory fun even though they were tired and wanted to go to bed (mean parents letting them stay up late!). They had a show at one of the restaurants where they demonstrated the different dances from the different islands/villages. We caught the very end of that.

They then had everyone move outside for the main event! Fire dancing!! (not to be confused with the fire walkers....which we will need to go see as well while here in Fiji). Here are a few clips I put together. Once they saw the fire being twirled all around they "forgave" us for keeping them up late.

The next morning, we had hoped to do the glass bottom boat tour so Clarissa (and our first Fiji guest, Flat Stanley) could see the reef and all the fishes but there was some mechanical problems. They offered to take us out the next morning...but we were checking out (we told the next time....and there will be a next time!). So we just took a slow morning to enjoy this view

some more. The kids got some more hammock time and

Richard even kicked back and relaxed a bit!

Next time, we would like to plan the trip so that Richard and I can both dive....as I snorkeled and kicked down....I just wanted to stay down and not pop backed up to the surface. We saw so much snorkeling, I can only imagine how much more we will see diving. It was a great first weekend away, we liked the resort and its proximity to the reef (which was the main reason I picked this one when reading reviews online) and we plan to come back.

Lesson learned this first resort weekend....bring a new swimsuit for every day at the resort! You spend most of your time in your swim suit and it does not ever really dry out. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

And the award for slackest updater goes to.....

So we've super busy since I've actually sat down and done a real blog post, but since it I appears I have had something bite my toe and I need to keep it elevated here I am, giving up my award in the middle of award season.....sigh!

We moved into our final house the second week of March (that ended up being several weeks delayed due to TC Winston, but it's all good now...well worth the wait). The third week of March our consumables/supplemental HHE arrived from the US (initially these were suppose to be delivered the day after we moved in, but were delayed due to spiders being spotted when the container containing our crates was opened. The entire container need to be fumigated/sealed for a day and then aired out for a day before delivery). After unpacking, I earned my 'mommy of the year' award and got someones new Christmas bike put together....

Now, if it could stop raining nearly every weekend, we could head down to the sea wall and practice riding without training wheels!

We went to an Easter Party put on by the US Embassy and the American Women's Association (also known as the AWA....I've joined...I'll talk about them again). Someone was super excited for the egg hunt.


Disregard the stalker like focus of Mason, somebody is in middle school now. Mom can't be getting too close taking pictures of him admitting to having fun....

During the 4th week of March, all the paperwork was finished up and we got to drive our car on the wrong side (to us) of the road on Tuesday. The following Friday (being Holy Friday and all) was the kids first school holiday and the beginning of their first term break! The term break was a good length, a little over two weeks. Long enough for the kids to get bored but short enough that they didn't really get out of the swing of being in school. 

We had time to play with the GoPro in the pool and figure out the buttons (FYI, you can't use the cool iPhone app underwater...aka kids can't swim with the camera underwater while I sun myself and hit record).

At the end of March the last of our belongings we were waiting on (we do still have things in storage), were set to be delivered. They opened the container and found a spider (they actually emailed us a photo, probably thinking we wouldn't believe that 'excuse' again).....so we had to wait another weekend for the fumigation process. It worked out well. On Mondays, Malika, our housekeeper, is here, so she helped unload boxes as the movers brought them in. OUR KING SIZE BED ARRIVED! Amazingly, in the first crate they opened. I had bought some new bedding (our old sheets/quilt/mattress cover were 8+ years old and that mineral rich Tbilisi water did them in!). They had arrived in our supplemental HHE several weeks earlier and were already washed and ready to go. So while the movers were opening the second crate, I put together the bed and then Malika put the bedding on....so comfortable that first night....too bad it had a musty/'6 months in a container followed by fumigation' odor that lasted a couple days. 

Luckily (for me), the last week of the term break we had two back to back tropical depressions followed by Tropical Cyclone Zena (who, though named after a warrior princess, ended up fizzling out as she made landfall)......so it essentially rained non-stop for a week or so. So hanging out inside, playing Barbies, Legos (and whatever toy they were suddenly reunited with) & WiiU while mommy unpacks was perfectly acceptable.

The last weekend of the term break, we ventured out of town on our own for the first time. I booked us a room for a couple nights at the Fiji Hideaway Resort....but that weekend gets a post all to itself, so you will have to wait.....all I will say is that the rain stopped, the sun came out, and one item on my Fiji Bucket list got checked off!

We returned from a much needed weekend away on Monday afternoon, the bus picked the kids up Tuesday morning for the start of term 2, production practice picked right back up (if I forgot to mention it, Mason got a part in the school production....he is loving it!). With the kids gone, now I could really make some progress digging us out of boxes and not having to stop and play snack provider every 15 minutes (or so it seems). Clarissa's class was leading the primary school assembly on Friday, so I did stop unpacking to go to that! This is part of my favorite song they have learned. Mr. Tim is leading the kids in the Bula song about their island in the sun. (Bula is hello in Fijian). Clarissa is in the front row (since their class was leading part of the assembly), second from the right.

The next week I did more unpacking. Clarissa came down with some fever mid-week. Poor thing was running a 101°F (38.5°C) temps, but no other symptoms. I kept her home for two days and she was bored senseless. She was stressing her birthday on Friday....that's all she had been talking about for weeks....she didn't want miss it. Her fever finally broke and she could go to school (so I was last minute baking/decorating cupcakes). That evening, she opened her gifts. Luckily, I had unpacked enough to find the box of the birthday figurines. These were given to me by my Grandmother (Clarissa calls her Bushia) and now I am handing them down to Clarissa. As you can see, she loves them!

Also, on that Friday, I had a chance to do a market tour with the AWA. I've got a lot of yummy looking photos, I will save those for another post. It was nice to have someone point out where things are (I had no clue there was a second floor, even though I had gone several times before), mention the vendors that have the best quality of certain items, explain what some of the local crops are and their nutritional content, and describe ways to prepare these local items. I also scored some awesome mommy points by picking up the birthday girl some fresh flowers at the market. Malika was at the house when I got home and I discovered a hobby of hers is flower arranging. She helped me wash the ants off and put them in the vase (she has since added more greenery from the yard and made a second vase worth of flowers with stuff from our yard). These cost me about $5US!

Disregard the pile of unhung artwork in the back of the above photo....lol! So, we had warned Clarissa we probably wouldn't have the house unpacked enough to have her birthday party on her birthday weekend....but I worked and was able to get the house relatively presentable to have her party last weekend (it was sunny with all activities planned for outside and we just kept two bedroom doors closed)!! I will save that cuteness for another post too....

Monday at some point, I noticed my toe was a little sore. I figured I had stubbed it or something running in the rain. Clarissa's stomach wasn't feeling well, so she stayed home from school yesterday. We decided to have a little spa mani/pedi girl time and I got out the fancy bubbly foot soak.....oops! About an hour or so after that warm water soak, my toe/foot was swelling nicely, getting difficult to walk on, and starting to bruise even. I then attempted to undue that and ice it. After dinner was made, I pretty much sat down, propped it up and didn't get it up again. I took some ibuprofen before bed and could walk again this morning. The swelling had gone down substantially! I still went up to the medical unit at the Embassy to have it checked out (I do have a dive planned for tomorrow...priorities people!) I have full range of motion in my toe (which rules out a break), but he could see the red bump protruding out of my toe. So it is likely a bite or sting of some sort. I just need to monitor it, keep it elevated, continue taking ibuprofen to keep swelling down, and as long as my fins are not too snug I can go diving. So here I am, following orders, elevating my foot (so I can't finish getting the house put together), my fins aren't too snug...therefore tomorrow....I'm going diving! I do promise that soon there will be a post giving you the grand tour of our house!