Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Great Tent Fiasco

This latest update comes to you all from the keys of my shiny new (and highly cherished) lapTot. I was recently gifted an itty-bitty Toshiba netbook from my cool, cool aunt (shout out to my amazing aunt Tammie), and now have little Tot as a companion on my forthcoming adventures. While visiting my aunt, I spent some time relaxing, acquiring a few new clothing items, and reveling in the fact that my packing was shaping up, winding down, and very much under control.

And then the news came in...

As part of a particularly enthusiasic group of Trainees, we are literally flooding our Facebook wall with helpful bits of research, information, tips, and tricks (As a note: while it is probably likely that ours is the first group to have been connected to FB for so long that we are more attached to it as a resource than previous groups and therefore are utilizing it to a higher degree, I choose to think it's because we are super-cool). Yesterday morning, word comes through the grapevine that Trainees are "highly recommended" to be equipped with a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad." TENT?! SLEEPING BAG!? Panic ensues. I mean really! Do these people realize how much a TENT weighs?!?!

Apparently during training we will be taking, shall we say, 'little trips to the countryside.' These are called site visits, during which we will be split into groups, packed into Land Rovers and shipped off to actual Volunteers' sites to stay for a few days and experience village life as we should expect it to be. This I knew before hand. What I didn't realize is that we are expected to provide our own sleeping materials for these trips... Not that a sleeping bag would be a bad thing to have for other occasions, but a tent? Not happening.

So the discussions exploded. Who's packing, who's not, who's sharing with whom...I even offered my snuggling services in exchange for a space on someone's floor. In the big scheme of things, I don't suppose this is that big of a deal. Part of why we signed up for this whole thing is that we want an adventure, and part of what will make us successful is our ability to get creative, be flexible, and improvise. We probably don't even need anything, which is why the packing list that they give us is only full of suggestions, guidelines, and recommendations. We pick and choose what we absolutely can't live without. The significance for me was the wake-up call that this gave me. I thought I was doing fine, but now I feel like "Am I forgetting something really important?" The stress of packing was not something I was feeling. I had my tech squared away, my communication all strategized, and some leisurely shopping for the odd pair of socks or trousers in my future. And yet as I tottered hopelessly around the shelves of REI, my eyes glazing over with the slickest, sweetest stuff for the travel-savvy explorer (like chewable balls of energy, zippered suitcase organizers, and an ice pick-cum-boat anchor), I realized that maybe I was waaaaay more unprepared than I thought. I was totally content with my new lime green word-combo luggage locks, but suddenly they seemed so paltry, insignificant compared to how much stuff I was missing out on.

After an evening of frenzied research, I came to the following conclusions:1) I am not a turtle, I do not carry my house on my back, tent. 2) I am a small person, I need a warm place to sleep, therefore...kid's sized sleeping bag, rated to +30 (I also get cold easily, which is why I asked to go to Africa). 3) I will, in all likelihood, bring something that I will never need and/or use, I will not bring something that I do need and don't realize it, stressing about packing. I refuse to let myself get worked up. End of story.

I have a feeling that we will all be laughing about this one 'round the campfire in a few months' time. "Hey, remember that one time when we were all freaking out about sherpa-ing our way through these site-visits? Hardy-hardy-harr! Here, have some misquito netting..." Goodtimes. 'Til then...


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