About Me

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I'm just a stressed-out-perfectionist-not-so-average-cupcake-making-graduate-student-from-Kansas trying to find my place in this world.
Current Adventure: Interning for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect: THE PRACTICE PACK

Almost twelve months ago, my parents gave me the perfect gift for someone who loves to travel: a four-piece Diane von Furstenburg pink luggage set. Besides domestic air travel and my trip around Europe this past winter, I haven’t used it much. So, the main reason I applied to Semester at Sea was so that I could use my luggage. Just kidding. I actually wanted to see the world . . . however, using my pink bags came in at a close second. But, it turns out that we need soft-sided luggage for Semester at Sea, so I had to go to Wal-Mart and buy at 30 inch rolling duffel bag. It’s black and nowhere near as cute. However, I still love it because together we will traverse across the universe!

My beautiful pink bags:

I also need an overnight backpack for all the trips I’ll do in the countries. At first, I thought that I could just use my school backpack. I was wrong. Apparently for that trip which involves camels, the Sahara, and nomads, I will need to bring four days worth of bottled water plus everything else I need to live. So, the next step on my Semester at Sea to-do list was to buy a medium-sized frame pack. Last week, I walked into The Travel Store on a whim, and I do mean THE Travel Store. They have everything. Did you know that there is a science to backpack fitting? Did you know that there are professional backpack fitters? Who go through a three-month program to become a professional backpack fitter? Well, there is, there are, and they do. I walked into the store and was immediately drawn to a cute, pink backpack on the lowest part of the wall. I flipped over the tag and it was $49. Score! The ones that I had been looking at online were well over $100. Then, this nice, older man comes up and asks if I need a child’s backpack for a niece or someone. Then comes our awkward exchange, “uh . . . um . . . no, it’s for me.” “Ah, I see, well that’s part of our Fancy Nancy collection. The adult backpacks are over here, on the east wall.” He then proceeds to take my measurements, put a plastic cut out of a backpack on me, pick out a pack, fill it with sandbags, go and get a special backboard that was cut exactly to the shape of my back, put it in, and then he said I was ready to go. To go? I was just window-shopping. But, I felt bad because he just spent so much time on me. . . not to mention the fact that he just custom fit that backpack to my back. So, I took it, all $150 of it. This backpack better be worth it. It had also better last until I have children. They will take this backpack with them to school, because I will not be able to afford anything else after this trip.

The not-as-cute black duffel:

I now have the two main pieces of luggage I will take with me. I’m still deciding what bag I’ll take for the day trips and hanging around in the port cities.

So, the practice pack. . .I did one. I’ll have to do it again, for sure. I did this a few nights ago, and I wasn’t very thorough; I just wanted to do it to get some of my energy about the trip out. Seriously, I haven’t been sleeping I’m so excited. Semester at Sea recommends that you lay everything out that you want to take, put half back, and then pack. Hopefully I can take their advice. I need to go to Wal-Mart and get a bunch of socks (I love new socks!) and underwear. Laundry services on the ship are few and far between, so I want to be prepared. I also need to buy some Woolite hand washing packages. I think I’ll just do most of my laundry in my bathroom in order to save money and not get my clothes lost (apparently the laundry service loses and shrinks clothes frequently). I’m also going to go to Salvation Army to buy a pair of scrub bottoms for, hopefully, less than a couple bucks. I want to be able to wear them while I’m on the service trips like the Habitat for Humanity International build . . . that way, if I ruin them, I’m not out of a pair of pants that I actually like and paid good money for.

There is so. much. stuff. I still need to buy. For example, all my toiletries, the Woolite, batteries, a battery-operated alarm clock, souvenirs from Kansas for the different families that I meet in the ports, magnets (the ship walls are magnetic and tape is forbidden), pictures of family and friends, and um. . . well, that’s it. It seems like a lot more when you think about how much shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, etc. you use in four months. I guess I have already bought a lot of the stuff that I need. Last week, I bought my school supplies for the trip: one five subject notebook, one folder that has eight pockets for all the papers I’ll get, pencils, pens, a stapler, and a nice little pencil case. I’m horrible with my pencils. I always lose them. I can’t do that this semester though because I won’ have another chance to buy them. I have all my textbooks. I have all my medicine for the trip (over the counter and prescription), I have all my contact lenses, my contact solution, and a new pair of walking shoes and comfy sandals. So, I’d say I’m about fifty percent prepared so far! Not too shabby.

Maybe I’ll go practice packing again now. . . practice makes perfect and I have to get this right. I wouldn’t want to forget something important on the trip of a lifetime, would I?

Monday, July 26, 2010

I must have been born to travel.

I figured since my bill is (finally) paid, I have my textbooks and plane tickets in hand, AND there are only thirty (eek!) days left until I board the MV Explorer, I should probably start posting to my blog. Good idea? I think so. So, the plan is that I will update my blog frequently while I’m gone on Semester at Sea in order to let everyone know all the adventures I’ve had, let my parents know I’m alive, and give middle school students homework. I know, I’m a horrible person; but seriously, students will be reading my blog and discussing places I’ve been, things I’ve seen, the history of major monuments, etc. in class. So, shout out to the Louisburg Middle School Geography class: I’ll try not to make it too boring! To all my other “followers”: I hope you’ll stick with me throughout the trip. I can’t wait to bring back pictures and stories (you know me and my stories) of all of the exciting things I’ve seen and experienced! I’ll miss all of you!

I’m going to back track a bit and let everyone know all about what I’m actually doing this fall. I will be sailing as one of the Seamans-Kruse scholars on the MV Explorer through a program called Semester at Sea. There will be about six hundred other students onboard, and we will circumnavigate the globe in a little under four months, stopping in twelve countries. And if that weren’t awesome enough, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah will be sailing with us the entire time too! Have I mentioned I’m excited? Well, I am.

Here’s the itinerary:

August 27th: Halifax, Canada

September 4th-8th: Cadiz, Spain

September 10th-14th: Casablanca, Morocco

September 22nd-25th: Takoradi, Ghana

October 3rd-8th: Cape Town, South Africa

October 14th-15th: Port Louis, Mauritius

October 22nd-27th: Chennai, India

October 31st-November 1st: Singapore

November 3rd-8th: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

November 11th-16th: Hong Kong/Shanghai, China

November 19th-23rd: Kobe/Yokohama, Japan

December 3rd-6th: Honolulu/Hilo, Hawaii, USA

December 13th: San Diego, CA, USA

I’m so excited!

While I’m on the ship, life will be just like I’m at Dartmouth . . . only not, because I’ll be on a cruise ship, relaxing on the 7th deck in my new swimming suit, rather than in the frigid Baker Stacks. . . so, the only thing similar is that I’ll have to go to class. But, don’t feel too bad for me, the classrooms have huge floor-to-ceiling windows where you can see dolphins! I will also have to work two hours per day (only while we’re at sea though), since I did get a work-study position onboard to alleviate some of the (ridiculous) tuition costs. I will be the “communications assistant.” It sounds kind of neat; I’ll get to write/edit press releases, the daily blog, and be the helper to visiting media and special guests (like, HRH the Prince of Morocco). While we’re in port, we don’t go to class (yes, it will be like spring break every other week). We will be basically free to do whatever we want as long as we stay in the country where we ported. I will have to do some required trips for my classes, but I won’t choose those until I am on the ship.

Since I got accepted in December, I have been preparing for Semester at Sea. I had to get ten (ouch!) vaccinations, including the Yellow Fever shot, which is so incredibly painful. My arm was black and blue for at least two weeks. I also had to get Malaria pills, oral Typhoid treatment, and anti-seasickness patches.

I applied for visas to Ghana, India, and China way back in March. I should get my passport back this week! Just trying to get my visa for India was a huge ordeal. Apparently when I sent the India application in, I signed it in red ink (I know, bad idea). The next day (I had to pay $30 to overnight the forms and my passport), some lady calls me and tells me to redo it and overnight the forms to her again. So, I did. Three months go by, and I assume that since I redid my application, everything should be going smoothly at the embassies in D.C. However, two weeks ago, I got an angry voicemail telling me that I signed the form in red ink (like I didn’t know that. . .). They lost the form that I paid thirty dollars a second time to send to them! I was freaking out. Thankfully, they gave me their corporate account number, so they paid the $30 the third time that I sent it to them. Hopefully, India will let me in still. Even if they don’t, I still learned a lesson: don’t sign forms in red ink.

Last week was an exciting week for Semester at Sea students—we had to book all overnight trips for the entire semester and all day trips for the first three ports. I’m doing three big overnight trips. The first will be in Morocco. It involves camels, the Sahara, and nomads. You’ll have to wait until September 14th for the rest of the details. I also chose to go to the Taj Mahal and Varanasi in India and The Great Wall in China. I figured that if I’m going around the world, I should probably see those two, even if the tours are rather, well, touristy. Besides those trips though, I hope that I make a bunch of new friends and that we’ll do the rest indie style. . . for cheap.

I’ll post again as soon as I have more exciting news. It’ll probably be about how I have to fit four months worth of toiletries, clothes (for all climates!), textbooks and school supplies into one 30 inch rolling duffel bag. It should be interesting. Thank goodness that my mom is an expert packer.