Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time to ACTUALLY Pack!

WARNING: This post is me literally sitting here and deciding what to bring to Swaziland, so it's pretty detailed. If you're someone leaving for exchange, looking for a detailed post about packing - you found it! Oh, and just so you know, this is more of a "what" to pack post. I'll probably write a "how-to-get-all-this-stuff-to-fit" post once I actually start packing.

If you're not really into this packing stuff, I apologize. I'm looking forward to getting to Swaziland and finally having real culture posts again, but these next two weeks are going to be a lot of "hey-look-I'm-an-exchange-student-getting-ready" posts.

Now that my flight leaves in exactly two weeks, I should probably start actually packing, instead of the random putting things in and out of my backpack that I've been doing since August.

First of all, you should probably know that while I am a girl, my packing list looks suspiciously like a guy's. I have a buzz cut, which eliminates the "hair" category on a packing list, and I don't wear make-up, wear jewelry (except for earrings), have bunches of different pairs of shoes, and so on.

(note: It doesn't matter if you're going away for three months or a year - laundry exists. You pack enough clothes for about two weeks either way).
The biggest thing to remember when making a packing list is to MAKE ONE and to STICK TO IT. That way, you never end up throwing random things into your suitcase.

CLOTHING: As far as packing goes, I'm planning on wearing jeans, socks, gym shoes, a t-shirt, hoodie, scarf, and belt on the plane. Everything that you wear doesn't need to fit into a suitcase, and between leaving from Chicago in the wintertime and overly air-conditioned planes, I'm hoping it's not overkill. Oh, and again, remember, LAUNDRY EXISTS!
  1. T-Shirts: I'm bringing 15 (two weeks' worth). They're easy to pack. I recommend rolling them.
  2. Shorts: Swaziland has its warm times, so I'm planning on bringing three or four pairs of shorts. I usually opt for basketball shorts, but whatever you do, just try to bring shorts you can wear with many different tops, so that bright pink pair of booty shorts? Probably not worth putting in the suitcase.
  3. Jeans: I know they're heavy, but they're useful. I'm planning on packing one pair, and wearing one pair on the plane. For most people, I'd say pack two, but I wear basketball shorts well into Chicago winters, and I'm assuming I'm going to be able to handle most Swazi weather in basketball shorts.
  4. Sweatshirts: They're obnoxious, but necessary. I'm going to wear my heaviest hoodie, and pack probably two more. I honestly only wear hoodies; if you're a fashion-y sweater person, I suppose you'd want more variety, but I got nothing to help you. I wear t-shirts and sweatshirts... so, uh, don't ask me for advice on packing fashionable clothes. Oh, and for packing, put your bulky sweatshirts into freezer Ziplocs, sit on them to squeeze the air out, and them zip them shut - instant space bags!
  5. Footwear: I wear flip-flops most of the time, even in Chicago winters. Therefore, I'm bringing two pairs of flip-flops, wearing my bulky gym shoes when travelling, and packing a pair of Converse. I'm bringing three pairs of socks. That seems like nothing, but I can do laundry, and buy more if need be. But honestly, I wear flip-flops, so socks aren't an everyday thing. I'm also bringing one pair of black heels to use for all dress occasions. When packing, I recommend putting all your shoes into plastic bags, whether grocery bags or Ziplocs. No matter how good you think your feet smell, you'll be happy you don't have to wash all your clothes right when you arrive, just to stop them from smelling like feet.
  6. Dress clothes: Gross. I hate dressing up. But, I am bringing a pair of black slacks, two dress shirts, and a fitted suit jacket. I figure with an array of scarves, I can make a couple different dress outfits out of that.
  7. Scarves: I am bringing lots of scarves - they work as blankets on a cold plane, shawls in a conservative neighborhood, and a bit of color. Also, when wearing jeans and a t-shirt, sometimes a well-wrapped scarf convinces people I put more effort into my outfit than I actually did. So yeah, ten or more scarves. Scarves are easy to pack - fold them neatly (doesn't hurt to iron out the wrinkles first), place them all together in a freezer Ziploc bag, sit on it to squeeze the air out, and zip it shut.
  8. Other: Underwear/bras (hopefully a 'duh'), a few neutral colored tank-tops, a swimsuit, a few floor-length skirts (for certain circumstances where Swazi culture just requires it) and a belt. Oh, and I think I'm supposed to bring an American "national costume," which I'm still figuring out. There isn't really a standard American "traditional cultural dress."
I would never pack this much for a three-month exchange. I feel ridiculous bringing this much, but I don't think I'm bringing anything I won't use. Listed out, it's a lot though. (Just going to take a moment right here to check my privilege and be thankful).
  1. Laptop and charger
  2. iPod and charger
  3. External hard drive and cord
  4. Memory card reader and cord
  5. Waterproof camera, battery pack, and charger
  6. Nice "photographer" camera, two battery packs, and charger
  7. USB drive
  8. Plenty of SD memory cards and cases
  9. Outlet adaptors
Packing a lot in this category is absurd. Pack whatever you want, but be aware that eventually, you're going to have to go out and buy some of the local stuff. Don't plan on packing enough for the entire time you're there, unless it's a summer program. Even then, try the local toothpaste, deodorant, or whatever. That's part of the adventure! Here's what I'm bringing
  1. One tube of toothpaste, two toothbrushes (just because I have a habit of loosing toothbrushes, and will probably loose one while travelling, before I even get to the school. There's a difference between being afraid of local items, and refusing to pay eight dollars for an airport toothbrush).
  2. One thing of deodorant
  3. Um... that's it.
Here's the things that I'm not bringing, and why:
  1. Hairbrush: I have a buzz cut. I highly recommend it - most convenient thing EVER.
  2. Shampoo: I don't think you understand - I have less than a quarter of an inch of hair. I wash my head with a washcloth... shampoo isn't necessary.
  3. Clippers: Here, I cut my own hair every other week with my own pair of clippers. I'm not bring it, just because the voltage doesn't match up, and it's not worth buying a voltage converter to use a five dollar pair of clippers. I'll figure something else out once I get there.
  4. Razors: Can't carry them on, and while I could check some, my checked bag is my tuba... I just figure buying them there is easier. I'm not too picky.
Not really necessary for most exchange programs, but for UWC, I'll be living in dorms, so it's necessary. If you're living with a host family, you really don't need to bring this stuff.
  1. Bedding: UWC asks that I bring two sets of sheets, two pillowcases, a blanket, and a pillow. Sheets and pillowcases are easy enough to pack, and while the blanket is kind of annoying, I decided to bring a big quilt. It's not puffy of anything, which is nice as far as packing goes. It's going to take up a lot of room in my bag nonetheless, but I figure that it'll be nice to have a blanket from here, instead of having to buy some random one there. When packing bedding, I fold everything neatly, and can fit the sheets, pillowcases, and blanket into a 10"x10" plastic cube thing that an old set of sheets came in when we bought them.
  2. Towels: I have one travel "microfiber" towel, which is amazingly teeny-tiny all folded up, but still a decent sized towel unfolded. While I'm probably going to wind up wanting two towels, I'll buy another one there if need be. While I think it's reasonable to want a blanket from home, a towel doesn't work like that, at least for me. I'm packing a washcloth.
  3. Room decorations: Descriptions of empty dorm rooms usually run along the lines of "prison cells." While it's not possible to bring the sorts of stuff people sometimes get for college in the States (rugs, lamps, curtains, funky chairs, microwaves, strings of Christmas lights, etc), I'm still bringing some decorations. For me, that means a full sized Jordan flag, as well as flags from Scotland and England (after spending the summer with the British counselors at camp), as well as some pictures, and a few posters I snagged out of National Geographics. Ironically, I don't think I'll be bringing a United States flag. Whoops!
  4. Dorm necessities: A mug, a spoon, and a flashlight. Easy enough to bring, and while I could buy them there, I think it'll be nice to have a mug from home. And I really don't want to have to go buy a spoon and flashlight there, when those might be the easiest things on my entire packing list.
  1. School supplies: UWC provides stationary and such, but I still need to provide my own pens, pencils, calculator, erasers, and such. I figure I'll bring my calculator, and a few pens and pencils, as well as a few big erasers. It won't take up too much room, but I'm definitely planning on winding up buying more there at some point.
  2. Backpack: My "personal item" on the plane will be my laptop, in my school backpack, so I'll just use that.
  3. A book for the plane. Not sure what yet, but something.
OH, and I'm bringing a tuba, which means I'm bringing a tuba, a hard shell case, several mouthpieces, and a bunch of sheet music, which is hard enough to procure in the States, much less in Africa. So, all this clothing and stuff? It's getting packed around the tuba in the case. I'm literally not bringing a suitcase - just my tuba, a backpack, and a small shoulder bag.  YAY FOR TRYING TO PACK LIGHT AND THEN DECIDING TO BRING A MASSIVE HUNK OF TUNED METAL! Ridiculous, but I after much deliberation I decided that I couldn't bear to just stop playing the tuba.

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