Final preparations

So what have I been up to these last few months?

Six weeks ago, I quit my day job. I’ve been traveling quite a bit since: one last weekend trip with two of my best friends; a visit to my mom’s family and my sister’s college, ostensibly to see my sister play rugby (I am doomed never to see my sister play rugby); a weeklong trip around New York State and Pennsylvania to visit a fellow writer and my scattered college friends; finally, last week, a relaxing family vacation with my father and brother. (Ask them how well I relaxed.)

I’ve also been shopping. Lots of shopping: I needed a professional mini-wardrobe that wouldn’t get dingy or destroyed by harsh washing, good quality long underwear, luggage I could carry over rough roads, and so on. It cost a lot more than I planned to spend, but that’s because I decided to splurge on quality stuff and a few things I don’t necessarily need to buy.

Then I had to gather together everything I bought with everything I already owned and planned to bring.

Bizarrely, everything fits into one bag:

Mind, I haven’t weighed anything yet. And there are some fairly bulky items I haven’t packed (pillows, a scrapbook, my winter coat). I get two bags that fall within airline restrictions (50 lbs. each, with combined dimensions of 107 linear inches) and my carry-ons. One of my checked bags goes into storage for PST, and I live out of the other bag and my carry-ons throughout the summer. I’m planning to check that duffle and a hiking backpack, and to use my beloved and battered grade-school backpack and a laptop bag as carry-ons.

I have also been working on two projects that will be very important during my early days in Mongolia: a gift for my host family, and a scrapbook of people and places in the U.S.

The host family gift should theoretically be the easier of the two. But I’m very picky about gifts, and I’ve had trouble finding something I’m satisfied with. So far I’ve considered maple syrup (would make an awesome gift, but might cause trouble in customs); maple candies (I plan on bringing some, but I have to find a good-sized box for the whole family); a coffee table book about Buffalo (theoretically nice to show more about my hometown, but I had trouble finding one that had a variety of pictures and not a lot of text). I’m still wavering between the coffee table book and a Buffalo mug full of maple candies.

The scrapbook isn’t as difficult to figure out, but it’s been pretty time-consuming. I’m doing a page for each family member, several for close friends, a few for my house and dog and hometown, and one for each of the community groups that have been important to me (my sorority; my oboe studio in college; my karate dojo). I’ve labeled each one in English and in the best mangled proto-Mongolian I can accomplish. I don’t want to put the whole thing online — it’s a bit personal for that — but here’s a sample spread, the one with my house and dog:

As I write this, about a week in advance, I still have to finish the scrapbook and actually pack; by the time it’s published, I should theoretically be all set for my imminent departure. On Tuesday, May 26th, I travel to San Fransisco, where I will meet my cohort and and attend a two days of orientation.

Then we fly to Mongolia.