On Sunday morning, Richard's started having some weird abdominal pain, which quickly progressed to unbearable. So I took him up to the hospital here in Suva. They confirmed what I was thinking....appendicitis. So they started him on morphine and antibiotics while waiting on the ultrasound to definitively diagnosis it. That's when the fun began....after 48 hours in the hospital, 5 ultrasounds, and multiple bags of antibiotics...we still did not have a definitive diagnosis (but boy do we have an appreciation for American hospitals/nurses). In fact, they could not even find his appendix....so we didn't know if it had burst or the technology/technician was just bad. Unfortunately, Fiji's ONLY (and by ONLY I mean there is ONE in the ENTIRE country) CT machine was out-of-order and wouldn't be repaired until the end of month (so about 2 more weeks). On the bright side, Richard was feeling better, so he was released (with a mountain of oral antibiotics to continue taking for the next 10 days....it was 3 types 2-3 times a day some before eating, some after...we had to make a chart to make sure he took every thing at the right time). So the Embassy Med Unit made the decision, he need to go to Singapore (our official medevac point) to be evaluated since we still didn't know if his appendix had burst and he only felt better due to all the antibiotics or if the antibiotics had treated the appendicitis or if it was something entirely different. So while the kids were getting a mufti day for Fiji Day at school and wore their best Bula wear, Richard was hoping on a plane to Singapore.
So come to find out, it is standard to start a patient on mega-amounts of antibiotics prior to surgery (I guess to prevent complications if the appendix would happen to seep or drip on removal). Apparently, in the last few years doctors have discovered that surgery can actually be avoided and appendicitis treated with mega-amounts of antibiotics. In Singapore, Richard's appendix was finally found and it was still intact! It was slightly enlarged (but not abnormally so), which indicated it likely had been infected but the infection was now gone and things were heading back to normal. So Richard was cleared to returned back to Suva! While waiting on the paperwork, he walked around Singapore a bit and finally made it down to the Merlion (which we had missed seeing up close on our last trip).
Richard returned on Diwali (so he did not miss all the firework fun two years in a row). The following day, the kids had another mufti day for Diwali. Girl's dresses all pretty and sparkly and relatively inexpensive while boy's/men's clothing is super expensive. Can't explain that one...but lucky for us Mason was cool not getting dressed up for Diwali.
Warning - super sad part. So back in October I posted this for a Monday's Moment...I never had time to explain. Upon landing on our arrival back from New Zealand, Richard turned on his work phone and started checking his email. He saw a message from a co-worker who we shared our housekeeper Malika with (she worked 2 days for us, 1 day for him, and 1 day for someone else). It was a short email that just said she was in the hospital and in a coma. We were all..WHAT?!?!? She had worked for us an extra day, the day before we flew out as I had to work and the kids were out of school. Mason had ukulele lessons when I got off work which were downtown. Since the bus station is also downtown, I had given her a ride so she wouldn't have to walk as far to the bus station since I was going that way. We'd chatted the whole way. She was getting out of the car and told Clarissa and I to have a good trip, and I said 'you too'...then we laughed and I said 'I mean have a good week'. When Richard and I got back to the house, we realized that Malika hadn't come the whole time we were gone (she was going to come on her regular days to take of the cat, do some laundry, tidy up the constant ant rain, etc...easy short days). So over the course of about 3.5 weeks, we got bits and pieces of information (no HIPPA laws here...we even got a copy of a Dr's report). It seems Malika came down with typhoid fever at some point while we were gone. She had gotten severely dehydrated and ended up in the hospital due to that. Here's where it gets fuzzy. For some reason, she needed surgery (we are not sure why/for what), but as a result she threw a blood clot (and we are assuming that caused a stroke) as she never woke up from the surgery. Which was the coma she was in when we landed. She was in this coma for at least 2 weeks. During which we spoke with her daughter. Her daughter told us that she would not be coming back to work. While Richard was gone, the kids made get well soon cards for her. On Friday, I had Corona hospital trolley. So I took the cards the kids had made, we had her Christmas bonus already put aside so we decided to give that to her family (there is public medicine but we were sure it could be used for something), some items Malika had left at our house, and was hoping to catch a family member during visiting hours when I was done with trolley. I had never been to the ICU at the public hospital, so I ended up having to find a security guard and get escorted over there. When we made it, they asked me what her name was to verify she was still in ICU. I showed them the Dr's report I had and they found her name on the roster....and that's when I saw it....next to her name it said 'deceased 10:00am'...literally, while I was in the hospital doing the trolley she had passed away! They only let family in ICU normally, but since she had already passed the guard was allowed to escort me in. I met her sister, son, daughter, nephew, niece....they knew all about Clarissa, Mason and IsaLei. It was so sweet that she had told her family stories about us (even about our dry erase board of Fijian words when we were trying to name Isa). I gave them the cards, there were lots of tears. It was sweet, her daughter and niece did her hair and make-up...and this was Malika! Every afternoon, after she finished her work she would change her clothes and freshen up before leaving. We waited until Richard got home from work to tell the kids. It wasn't a complete shock, but it has been hard (I'm teary eyed typing this right now). The real sad part is she was only 52...young in my mind and we feel for her youngest son who is still in high school, as she had been widowed about 10 years ago. There have been multiple times where we commented that we really miss the way Malika did something or having her around for something. I think the worst thing is, I don't have any photos of her (and I searched for hours)! She helped at Clarissa's birthday party, so I swore I had a photo of her from then and I did...of her knee! While Malika made lovely floral arrangements with flowers from our yard, Clarissa and I made this little flower bowl in her memory.
Onto happier news....event time! The following week I had work and an AWA potluck and I had to make something for Mason to take into the ISS biggest morning tea. Year 7 was doing a breast cancer fundraiser for morning tea time and donated the proceeds to the Fiji Cancer Society....they did so well that they made it to the local newspaper!
As you can see, it was also another mufti day....Pink!!
Both kids fully embraced the theme. That night we had three parties to attend!! The school had the primary Halloween event from 4-6, the secondary Halloween event from 6:30-10, and a co-worker was hosting an adults Halloween Bash from 8pm on. We knew about the primary event and adults even and had planned to have Mason watch Clarissa, even talked to him about it. Then a couple days before the event, they sent a note home the parents about the secondary event. We asked Mason if was interested in going, replied he already got a ticket.....uh....there goes our sitter! Since I had gotten a costume made at a tailors, I went ahead to the adults party and when Mason got home Richard showed up fashionably late. Clarissa's favorite princess has always been Snow White....so why not get a SW dress made....in chatting with a co-worker she mentioned why not Bula Snow White....bam! So if Snow White moved to Fiji and kept with her personal style....this is what she would look like.....
Clarissa told me my hair was not dark enough....but otherwise, I was an acceptable Snow White. She was actually with me when I dropped the fabric at the tailor's and was so excited when she found out what I was going to be....(actually confused the tailor...he was all for you or her?). Saturday, we had a birthday party and Sunday I had to bake someone's birthday cake! On Tuesday, my first big work event happened! Threw a GIANT (about 200 RSVPed guests) Halloween party....13 years of birthday party planning paid off! Parent fail, didn't get any photos of my children (though I had set up for someone to take photos for the Embassy...so I put all trust in that photographer). She got this
It was just too hot to have my hair down, so I had it clipped up. Mason decided to dress up as Sherlock Holmes (but forgot some key elements at home), so ended up walking around as a "sexy businessman". Clarissa dressed as Princess Leia, complete with wig...which lasted about 1 minute and then she carried the wig in her bag. The photographer got a great shot of her and her posse, they looked like a force to be reckoned with! Seriously, if I came up to them in a dark alley at night........
We did a photo reenactment at home with the wig.....(btw, I feel like Clarissa is built pretty proportionally, but I had to do some massive hemming to the sleeves of this costume!).
When we got home, we celebrated Richard's birthday....
My body decided it wanted to try and get sick but I tried to take it easy the rest of the week between work, book club and friend's birthday brunch....so pretty low-key...lol. On Saturday, I held the first CLO (work thing again) Fill the Freezer event! I thought it went pretty good (everything was super tasty afterwards and I've been asked when the next one is). So I limited it to 6 people, and we made 6 meals to put into our freezers to then pull out after a long day at work. Richard got a couple group photos of us in action towards the beginning. We made two types of marinated chicken (one with a side of chopped veggies), calzones, enchiladas, black bean burgers, and breaded chicken tenders.
Of course, doing prep work with a group is always more fun! It helps a ton here because there are no pre-made frozen anything and only one restaurant in the city that delivers if they aren't too busy. Best idea ever that I had, was asking our new housekeeper Teresia, if she could come work that day (and we all split the cost). She washed dishes as we dirtied them, which with things like measuring spoons/cups and giant bowls that was super handy to have those clean again.
As soon as we were done (ran a little later than expected...oops). We headed over to a co-worker's house to celebrate Loy Krathon (the Thai Festival of Lights).
They had made a krathong for everyone. It is made from a piece of banana trunk that is covered with banana leaves and flowers (mine had a frangipani...my favorite flower).
You then place a candle and three incense sticks into it. You light the incense and candle, let go of all your misfortune from the past year and make a wish for the new year as you place it into water and watch it float away.
Of course being soggy Suva, it was raining....you can see Clarissa hunkered down under an umbrella watching the lights go by.
The next week was another fun one, I had a Corona meeting, had to bake some cookies for the year 7 poetry slam, and Richard flew to DC for a training course. Oh and Clarissa and I had to go to the Poetry Slam on Thursday night. It started at 6pm and all 40-something year 7 kids read and analyzed a poem that they had written, followed by snacks (hence the cookies) afterwards. It actually went pretty quick (and I was impressed with the quality of the poems), I think it was done by 8pm and we were home by 9pm. Of course being a proud momma, I was really impressed with Mason's poem. It wasn't his personal favorite poem he had written, but the teacher had given them the theme of migration...so they had to read a poem they had written about migration. Which before I show you his poem, a really neat thing about the curriculum they use is the units of inquiry spill over across multiple subjects. In Social Science they were looking at weather and global warming and how it can cause changes in migration patterns of animals, they then looked at wars and other social/economic influences that could cause mass migrations of people. That tied into English where they were learning about poetry and the teacher had them read/analyze poems about migration...and then eventually write their own about it.....so without further ado, here is Mason's poem title "Migration: It has the Best in Mind but the Worst Ahead" along with his analysis.
I also scanned the written version (I warned I was a proud momma). The teacher gave every parent a rubric to fill out based on how they did. Of course, Mason was all did you give me all 5's. I was all...uh no, I used to be a teacher...so I probably graded you harder than most parents. So then he asked what I didn't give him full points on. I said well one was about hand gestures and at the beginning you didn't have any, to which he responded oh yeah I remembered halfway through....
That weekend we made Mason's cookie cakes for school (I made two his class is so big (well both Year 7 classes get together for fun stuff like birthdays)). I guessed and was correct....chocolate chip cookie cakes...totally an American thing....needless to say....BIG HIT! No one had ever had one before but they all loved it (his class is mostly Australians and New Zealanders...his fellow Americans left earlier this year). That Sunday was Mason's actual birthday, Clarissa and I had a joint party to go (a set of twins and their friend....so a three person party....talk about some craziness). He had entered teen-dome! So he was happy to stay at home and finally able to set up some social media accounts we had so meanly made him wait until he had met the required age to legally set up.
Also that prior week, our sweet innocent six month kitten had gone into her first heat. Clarissa was also home sick and we had a funny conversation:
C: "Mom, why is Isa meowing funny like that?"
D: "She wants to have babies and she's calling for a husband."
Later that day...
C: "Isa, stop that. No husband for you!"
So needless to say, I called an made an appointment for her "desexing" as they call it here. The above photo was her on the drive home. She was zonked out in the car. We may or may not have laughed at "drunk kitty" when she tried to walk out of her carrier when we got home. Later that night, not only did I have book club, I hosted (it was actually easier with Richard still out of town...didn't have to worry about the kids). Then more craziness began! On Thursday, AWA was hosting their Annual Thanksgiving Luncheon (as CLO I'm the Embassy rep....so lots of stress with this event, but it worked out in the end), on Friday morning I had Corona Trolley (last one for the year), mid day we had an Embassy Thanksgiving Luncheon with/for the local staff. As soon as the kids were home from school we headed out of town to relax for my birthday weekend! We hit our tried and true faves! EcoCafe and the Intercon.
Lol, actually we hit EcoCafe on our way up and on our way home! Yum! Richard had sent a message to the resort and told them it was my birthday, so they decorated the room with balloons (and gave me a bottle of bubbles.....but I opted to not drink an entire bottle by myself....that wouldn't have been fun the next morning)! I did get a beach cabana massage because I could!
Clarissa choose a winning crab one day for the hermit crab races and got herself a bowl of ice cream! She also did some other questionable things (eating ice out of the free apple bowl for example) and got herself a stomach bug as well.....good times! Richard made it home from DC on my actual birthday, I passed off a sick kid and
escaped to left for work. Later that week, was actual Thanksgiving. Given the kids go to an international school, as oppose to an American school....they had school and Richard and I went to a brunch. It was a lovely day! The next day, I made and iced Mason's cupcakes for his birthday party (we had convinced him to hold off on his party till Richard was home....for some odd reason I didn't want to be the lone parent chaperoning a party with 15 or so teenagers....). For simplicity sake, we decided to have it at a local pizza place....so we just ordered a crapload of food, they gorged themselves, we sang multiple versus of the Happy Birthday song and the poor flamingo was disassembled....(currently one of his fave animals....so it was fun cupcake cake to make). Clarissa loved being dragged along too...
The next week started the end of year program fun! Clarissa's class performed to the song 'Shout'. She has so much sass when she really gets into it! It was awesome, this year their school upload each classes performance online. So while it is not focused on her you do see Clarissa in it.
We also started getting all the school work from the entire year coming home. This little gem even made it on to the school's Facebook page!
I did have a super fun work day. I was invited with a select group of other expat men and women (but only the women came) to get a tour, sample the lunch menu (at our own expense), and try out their non-motorized equipment at a super exclusive resort in Pacific Harbour. So, uh yes, I will go Nanuka Auberge and check it out! I mean the resort has it's own private airplane landing strip and helipad! So more than likely out of my price range! We received fresh coconuts upon arrival.
The villas were phenomenal to say the least (they had a family arriving that afternoon and they had written Bula and the kid's name with rocks on the bottom of their private pool, the villa had a theatre room, need I go on). Due the fact it was raining and we were unable to use the pool/snorkel, they did a cooking lesson, with prawns and bamboo (you stuffed prawns and seasoning into the bamboo, pour coconut milk on top, stick in the fire for a few minutes, then have a man in a grass skirt cut open the bamboo....viola, easy appetizer!).
The whole group of expat ladies eating their prawns. After lunch, the sun came out (they had a band playing and they played 'I can see clearly now'....ahh, too perfect! I went for a quick snorkel, found the reef but with all the rain the visibility wasn't very good. Some of the other ladies had already started to get cleaned up for afternoon tea before some of us were grabbed for a photo with the lali drum...so pardon my bum like appearance.
By this time, our holiday elves have shown up and have been getting into all kinds of mischief (seriously I thought they were suppose to report to Santa on the kid's behavior).
Those little rascals TPed the bathroom!!
Next up, Mason's Middle School Celebration. I'm sorry buddy, but this is just a special type of torture for parents. This year was better and we got out in a mere two hours! It is great for the handful of kids that get award after award after award. For the rest of the kids, they typically get one award and participate in their class performance. Mason did get an award, but he walked so fast I opted to not post that photo (I did seriously consider posting a photo of Speedy Gonzales though). Just like that, the school year was done! The next day, we had a holiday party for local and American kids at the Embassy (CLO thing!). The public schools had been out for a week already, a lot of the American kids were starting to scatter, so I planned it early.
We had coloring pages (which were a lifesaver when we went through 4 DVD players due to region error messages trying to get the movie to start), watched Kung Fu Panda Christmas and Shrek the Halls, had snacks, and the man in red showed up with presents!!! He had a whole sleigh-full!!
So a prior CLO had held an event at the Embassy several years ago and had left notes (I love not re-inventing the wheel). She had each parent bring a wrapped gift (with a dollar limit) for their child for Santa to give out....genius!!! It is a small enough Embassy that it wouldn't too tricky.....hopefully. The RSVPs started pouring in. I think by the deadline I had over 50 kids on the guest list!! I ran out of room in the bags I had brought in and moved to the
cart sleigh! Santa and his elf showed up with the sleigh of gifts.
Santa would then read the name on the gift and ask "where is ____?" And of course the kid is going to come running up for
a picture with Santa a present! No tears at all! Even my super shy Clarissa was giving Santa cuddles!
I didn't get a picture of Mason and Santa together, but he liked the pig socks Santa gave him!
So Santa also invited a four legged friend he knew. A rare dog breed here in Fiji. A little pug named Gus. He is in training to be a hospital therapy dog and is super great with kids.
So to end the party, he showed the kids some neat tricks he could do. In fact, after Santa finished up taking some family photos the kids were so mesmerized in the dog they couldn't be bothered to say bye to Santa....I felt bad for him....
That weekend, we hung out and got packed up for our cruise. We found this
big huge ginormous beetle looking insect of some sort by the pool. Richard didn't want to get his finger too close in fear it would pinch it off with that pincher looking mouth in front!
We have some cool Georgia flag ornaments from our last post. I finally gave up trying to find some similar ones here and made my own! I think they turned out pretty good. Can't wait to hang them on our tree next year.
So we opted to not really decorate the house much this year, given how busy we were and that we were going on a cruise (coming soon in its own post). We were returning on Christmas Eve! We also had a kitten who likes to climb. So Clarissa put up her little tree in her room and we put up a few other little things. On Christmas morning, we moved the tree into the den for gift opening. I think everyone was happy with that arrangement. Both kids and the cat all looked and smiled for the camera! It was a Christmas miracle!!