Packing? Who has time for that??

Well friends, next week at this time, I’ll be waking up in Uganda.  Well, probably not actually at this time, since it is 8 hours ahead there.  And really I know what time I’m posting this, but I don’t know what time you are reading this.

Anyway, it is that time again… time to avoid packing and procrastinate in any way possible.

I’m pretty good at thinking of things to do other than pack, and once I do start I’d say I’m semi-pro at finding “important” distractions.  However, since this is a bigger trip than I usually take, I don’t want to take any chances in actually being too productive in my packing over the next few days.  So I went ahead and scheduled some alternate activities for between now and Wednesday when I leave.  If you are looking for me, and think I should be in my room putting things in suitcases, here are some other places to consider checking:

  • El Rodeo, eating Friday night dinner with the fam
  • David’s garage.  Or backyard.
  • the pedicure place
  • Lunch with the ladies
  • Target Field
  • Church
  • Jill’s kitchen
  • The dentist (yep – these are the lengths I will go to avoid packing)
  • Lunch with Rachel
  • On a walk with cute babies and their moms
  • My parent’s house
  • FroYo establishments everywhere

Wish me luck!  I think this is going to be a really successful and stress-free packing experience 😉

Africa Preparations Part 2

Another important element of preparing for Africa is figuring out what clothes to pack.

When packing for two months, you need to factor in several things:

  1. The weather.  Word on the street is it is about 85 F each day in Uganda.
  2. The culture.  I need to dress modestly (which isn’t a huge issue for me) but I need to make sure that I don’t wear shorts (capris are okay), keep my shoulders mostly covered, and have at least one dress for church.
  3. The day to day.  I don’t want to wear anything that I will be afraid to get dirty.  I need to like it enough to wear it for two months, but not so much that if it gets ruined I will bat an eyelash.
  4. The safari.  I potentially need different clothes for the safari portion of my trip than for the orphanage part of my trip.  I need clothes that will protect me from nature, but blend in with nature enough to not scare away the animals, and be comfortable for traveling.  This has probably been the trickiest part of my packing.  Until this frock was suggested:

This is an adult tiger costume pajama.  And here is the product description on Amazon: Easy Snap Up Front, Pocket for Valuables, Warm and Snuggly Costume Doubles as PJ’s For Use Inside and Out.

We can thank Jill for filling me in on this well kept secret of the internet.  We decided there were a lot of pros to this ensemble.

I mean, it would be comfortable, keep the Mosquitos off me, AND I would totally blend in with the animals.  I could probably get really close to nature.

Then there is the valuables pocket.  Jill suggested that, to be safe, the pocket should hold raw meat. That way, if the animals decide to eat me, I can throw it to them and run away really fast or climb a tall tree like Katniss (we do try to bring all things back to Hunger Games whenever possible).

And BONUS!  There is a variety of animal designs available, so I can change clothes depending on what animal we are trying to get the closest to that particular day:

Lions, giraffes, even dinosaurs!

Yes, I think I am prepared for all of my African adventures.

Now the only question that remains is A) what necklace would go best with the dinosaur costume, and B) which one should I wear for the plane ride over?  I’m thinking giraffe – I don’t want anyone to think I am a real wild animal and be scared to sit by me on the plane ride.  Or maybe I do want that… more room to stretch out and lay down for the long flights… hmm….

And just in case you think I’m kidding, (ok, I am totally kidding) this has worked in real life!  Check it out!  

(here is a link to the panda photos with more pics and a slight explanation)

Safari-Wear

Have we talked about the fact that I’m going on a safari at the end of my trip to Uganda?  My sister is flying out and we are going on a six day safari with a tour business that is associated with Rafiki Africa Ministries.  And bonus!  Half the proceeds go back to benefit the orphanage.  We are super excited.

And then sooner or later we asked the question, “What does one wear on a safari?”

Well, with the internets as our guide, we were told that we should wear a hat to protect us from the sun, and neutral colors so we don’t scare off all the animals.

This seems totally reasonable.

Until you look in my closet.

For example, I’m guessing that they don’t mean this hat 

And do I own any neutral colors?

Because these outfits are more typical of my wardrobe: 

Note that my usual outfit is, “perhaps a moderately bright shirt, layered with a brighter cardigan, and usually adding a still brighter scarf for that extra “needed” pop of color.

Right now I’m breaking that mold – wearing a simple black shirt.  But don’t worry, I paired it with a scarf that is bright pink and turquoise, with a small section of gold sequins (I figure sequins always make up for any lack of color in the rest of my outfit)

Tricky.

Not exactly wardrobe choices that say, “Hey there little lion.  Hi mr. impala.  What’s up, gorilla.  It’s cool that we’re all hanging out here in the wild.  I wore some neutral colors so you wouldn’t immediately see me and bolt before my slow-to-spot-anything-eyes can find you.”

I’m guessing there aren’t hedges to hide my brightly colored clothes behind? Wish me luck, kids.  It seems like I’ll need it.

Memory Laning: lost luggage

When Tiffany and I went to Guatemala, I learned a valuable lesson about packing appropriately.

I’m going to skip the flight down.  That was trauma enough.  Then there was the most confusing layover of my life in Mexico City.  Also, let’s not dwell here.

Eventually, we landed in Guatemala City.  We arrived in the middle of the night and waited for a long time for our luggage to arrive at baggage claim.  Except it never did.  Eventually we had to concede that it just wouldn’t be arriving that night.

Our dismay over our meager belongings.

Putting on a happy face and excited to explore Guatemala - luggage or not.

We took a cab to our hostel.  The thing is, they didn’t want to let us in the hostel gates.  We’d told them we were coming late, but apparently that didn’t matter anymore.  We were terrified that our cab driver would desert us in this dark road outside the hostel gates in the middle of the night in Guatemala City, when neither of us speak Spanish.  Call me crazy, but that seemed a bit on the unsafe side.  We refused to let the cab driver take our carry-ons from the trunk until they opened the gate for us.  That night we laid in the dark on two semi-clean (emphasis on the semi) twin beds, listening to airplanes fly overhead, just counting down the hours until morning when Amber would come pick us up and bring us to Antigua.

Now, here is the deal.  I knew that you should pack certain things in your carry-on suitcase in case your luggage gets lost.  However, I learned a valuable lesson about how much to back in your carry-on.  In attempts to pack light, I’d brought a backpack as my carry-on and I had just one or two changes of clothes.  That doesn’t help in the pajama-ing, showering, or climbing a volcano situations.

I got a lot of use out of that tank top...

Amber called the airport every day as our fearless interpreter.  Every day they put her off.  I quickly ran out of clothing, but Tiffany-the-wise-packer did not.  She showed off on a daily basis, putting on her new, clean, cute outfits 🙂

When it was time for us to climb a volcano, I had nothing appropriate to wear to accommodate for the shifting temperatures so I bought this sweet long sleeve t-shirt at the market.  A moose.  Abercrombie. And a Sesame Street tag.  That is class, right there.

After our trip was half over, it was discovered that our luggage had indeed arrived.  If memory serves me right, it arrived the day before, but was sent to the hostel in Guatemala City, not to the address of our hotel in Antigua where we had asked for it to be delivered and we would need to go fetch it. 

We were pretty ticked.  But then we were mostly just happy to have the rest of our luggage. 

If you are ever headed to Antigua, be forewarned that I checked with a lot of people, and it turned out that everyone and their brother loses their luggage on the way to Guatemala, and on average it takes 3 days to be reunited with your belongings. 

Now, if I’m in a situation where I am going to check luggage, I make sure and pack a lot more in my carry-on.  Like a boyscout: be prepared.

Clothes are literally leaping into my suitcase.

Ok, that title is a lie.  But my clothing and I are in a fight right now.  They ALL want to come with me to Europe.  But they cannot.  I am packing in a carry-on sized suitcase (which will be checked), a backpack, and a small messenger bag.

I said, “Some of you will come with me, and some of you will stay home.  But I love each one of you.”

They said, “If you leave one shirt behind, you leave us all behind.  We stick together!”

So as you can see, we are at a bit of a stand-still (much like the MN gov. when it comes to settling a budget).

Solution 1: Hire a butler, circa 1910, to haul our steamer trunks across the continent of Europe for us.  Then we can pack as much as we want, not worry about carrying it up and down the streets of Austria, and everyone wins.

Solution 2: The Spreadsheet. My sister and I have an extensive google doc for our trip, with tabs for each city, an expense sheet, a daily itinerary, joint packing list, and personal packing lists.  On my personal packing pages, I have one where am listing out each day’s forecast, activities, and potential outfit, including shirts, pants, cardigan, and accessories.  I laid out all the options of clothing on my bed, then began trying on varying combinations, strategically considering mixing, matching, and switching up accessories.  I think I have come up with a plan of what to wear each day.  I then have another where I actually list out all the items I need to pack, sorted into categories and in the column either for carry-on backpack or tiny suitcase.  Yes, I realize this is a bit over the top.  But it works.  And I may have used the word “ruffle” to describe 2/3 of the clothes I packed.  So that is something to get excited for.

Other packing strategies: 

We are firm believers in rolling our clothes.  This goes back to the days of rolling clothes and putting them in gallon sized ziplock bags for the Boundary Waters.

Putting all my cords together in a pouch/bag/thing.  That way when I need to plug in an electronic device, I will have that jumbled mess together instead of spread out everywhere.

New idea: packing cubes.  My sister discovered them when we were looking for a wedding registry on the REI website.  The reviews say things like, “Did angels in heaven bring these to me?  Because they are amazing.”  Or that is not actually a review I read, but it IS the review I’m hoping to write after this trip.  The reviews did talk about how it helped people stay organized when packing, especially when they are traveling to multiple locations, because everything doesn’t get strewn everywhere each time you open your suitcase.  I’m excited to give it a shot.

All these little organizational wonders...

into one neatly packed little suitcase!

Shoes: Shoes are always my biggest conundrum when it comes to trips.  I want stylish feet, but I also know from experience that practicality is the most important.  There is a particular brand that I try and avoid.  They have suckered me in on numerous times abroad.  Their shoe looks like a cute yet supportive option for your feet.  And every time, my feet look like I’ve walked through a field of scissors at the end of the day.  So this year I stayed strong and went a different route.  I really am a flip-flop or cute ballet flat kind of girl, so it pains me to leave those less-than-practical shoes at home.  How do you find a balance between clunky tennis shoes everywhere you go, and your feet not falling off after a day of walking?

This year I am going with

  • New Balance light weight tennis shoes.  They are cute, yet good walking shoes.  They’ve proven their worth in Canada and Argentina.
  • Toms.  They feel like a cloud is giving my foot a hug, yet they are also comfortable to walk some sort of distance in.  They are cute with jeans, capris or skirts.  I give full credit for this suggestion to my roommate.
  • These new sandals.  The brand is Priva and they are I think related to Clarks.  They go around my ankle so my feet won’t fall of the sides, yet they have an awesome sole.  And best of all, they do not rub anywhere on my foot to potentially give me giant blisters of hurt.  As you may have read in the previous post, my sandals never arrived.  I contacted the company, and they refunded my money.  Instead I’m bringing my black teva sandal/flip flops that can fake their way to being dressy enough for our type of outings.  And have also proven their walking worth on previous trips.

I will give you a full shoe report upon my return, but I feel good about my decisions.  I have a sandal for going out in the evenings or walking small distances, a shoe that will be good for a day out and about, and a shoe that prides itself on how far it will carry me for those days that are full of walking.

The Nook.  I love to read, and it is a great way to pass the time on planes, trains, and automobiles.  It is always such a challenge when I’m packing for trips to bring the right amount of books.  I am also a fast reader.  I don’t want to run out of material, but I also don’t want to overpack because books are heavy and take up space.  I am delighted to have a nook to bring on this trip.  All my reading materials in one tiny package. 

I have a lot of genres stored up, so whichever way the wind blows me, a book will be waiting.  The latest Sophie Kinsella book, the sisterhood of the traveling pants girls grown up in: Sisterhood Everlasting, The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, Hunger Games, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Room – everyone is talking about it, some Harlan Coban, Kristin Hannah, Karen Kingsbury, John Grisham, and some classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Little Women.

And then I have my giant camera and memory cards that will hold the millions of pictures I am bound to take.  Get excited!

Goal: don’t forget the passport and those darn rail passes.  Either of those things could trigger an epic failure to our trip.  Good thing I’m so responsible??

Well, Happy Trails to me!  I’ll see you on the other side of the ocean!