Two checked suitcases. One hundred pounds. That’s what they tell me to pack for 27 months. Macedonia has four seasons so I’ll need a wide variety of clothing. I also need to take gifts for my hosts. What about my shoes? Eileen, the queen of shoes–how do I decide which ones to take and I need to take boots! Oh what a dilemma! How many different outfits can I wear with yellow shoes. Probably two–better forget them. Same goes for the red ones, the green ones, the green plaid ones, the other red ones. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Winter clothes take up a lot of room in a suitcase. A coat and three or four sweaters and it seems like the suitcase is more than half full. Enter Zip Lock bags. They make these wonderful bags that you can put your stuff in, zip them shut and then attache the vacuum hose to them and poof–about one fourth of the original size. Now this is a wonderful thing to know!
But we also have to have a carry on with enough clothes to get us through the first week of training. I had not planned on taking a carry on with clothing. I was carrying my purse and my back pack with all of my computer gear in it. Okay Plan B: Find large tote for purse and back pack so it looks like one carry on and pack the carry on bag for the one week. Oh, and don’t forget a towel as the place we will be staying does not provide them. Dang it! All of my towels are nice thick plush ones that take up a ton of space. Hmmm. What do back packers and hikers do? Quick Google search turns up special towels that take up not much more space than a single piece of underwear. Now, where do I find one locally. Off to Dunham’s. Yes, we have them. Right over here, Ma’am. Ummm–this is 12 inches by 30 inches–that won’t wrap around my head let alone my body. Fortunately, Dick’s had a much better supply and I know have a towel that will wrap around me and get me dry after a shower.
Now it is decision time. Two checked bags plus my carry-ons? We don’t have porter service when we arrive in Skopje. Can I reduce the amount of stuff I want to take and survive for 27 months? I rethink and rethink again all that I am packing and determine that Americans tend to always take too much. So, I reduce what I am taking and manage to pack everything in one large suitcase and one carry on bag–with the aid of those handy-dandy Zip Lock bags! I even have room when I’m all done for a large bottle of taco seasoning (which seems to be a commodity many currently serving volunteers are yearning for), my 14 spice rub, some lavender, and crushed celery leaves. (From previous experience, I know that celery is not an easily found commodity in Europe, and we will want to come up with some facsimile of an American Thanksgiving which absolutely requires the flavor of celery in the stuffing.) I will have room for my tea as well.
So now I’m ready to go except for packing my toiletries. I leave Michigan on 12 September at 6 AM. From there, I will go to Philadelphia and on Saturday, the 13th we go to JFK and from there to Vienna and then to Skopje. Once we claim our bags and load them on the truck we get on a bus, head for Tetovo and the Woodrow Wilson School. That’s when the adventure really begins. Stay tuned.