It's the new medium-sized suitcase that I bought at the luggage outlet last week. Bigger than a carry-on, but smaller than the huge thing I took to Australia. I also had the things I ordered from Rick Steeves--three bags that compress your things and other travel aids.
Having the bags actually made me start planning, and curiosity about how much I could fit in one of those compression bags got me to actually start organizing my clothes into categories. I have a bag for "good" clothes (things to wear if we're going out to a nice dinner), a bag for underwear and socks, and a bag for t-shirts. The leaves the pants to be packed loose, but they fit, two extra pairs of shoes fit. For me to bring three pairs of shoes on a trip is unheard of, but I will have my walking shoes, which I'll wear onto the plane because they are too bulky to pack, I'll have my loafers, which I'll wear with the "good clothes," and because we're going to be on the beach, I decided to also bring my Birkinstocks. Usually I wear the same pair of shoes for the whole vacation.
So clothes are pretty much all packed. And it's not even the weekend -- and we don't leave until Monday.
But it's the other stuff that's the challenge. I'm taking both iTouch and iPod (because the iTouch doesn't have as much battery life and the iPod has all of my audio books) and their charger. I'm taking one camera and its charger. I'm taking the Flip video camera and extra batteries (both of which will go in a camera bag in my backpack). I have a great poncho that folds up into a tiny pouch that will also go in my backpack, and I'm going to get a "bagolini," which also folds up into a small pouch and can hold "extras" that I might buy while on the trip (the idea that I won't buy something to bring home is so ludicrous, I can only laugh. I am the "ubiquitous gift shop" queen.)
I'm trying to figure out money. Not the "how much" of it, but the "how to carry it." I'm taking 2 credit cards and an ATM card. I don't want to take my wallet because it's too heavy or my purse because it's too big. But I need something to put cash and especially coins in (I remember the difficulty with identifying coins in foreign countries, so I generally gave paper money, which were easier to identify the denomination, and then ended up with lots of coins!). I will probably look for a coin purse somewhere later this week. I have a small card carrier but without a purse to carry, I'm not sure where to put it.
I bought a small bag the other day to carry toiletries in (because I hate the one I've been packing for years) but it's like a small black clutch purse, so if we're going somewhere "nice" to eat, I can just use that as a purse and leave the backpack in the hotel.
It is coming together, slowly. By the time we leave for the airport on Monday, I'll be all organized.
This is Fred. No, I haven't gone completely crazy and agreed to sponsor a third child, but Compassion says that there are kids who have sponsors who never write to them, so in addition to being a sponsor, you can also be a correspondence sponsor and, since I now have this corresponding thing down to a science (you should see the charts and lists I have!), I volunteered to write to a child whose sponsor isn't writing to him. Fred is 6 years old and is in the Philippines.
I don't know if it's the internet that has made this whole sponsoring thing better than it used to be, but this really feels like a "community." Sponsors interact with one another and share experiences, and ideas for what to send their kids or say to their kids. They share letters from their kids and those who have been fortunate enough to visit the centers where the kids go to school, there are lots of videos, blogs and photographs to give everyone a sense of how this organization operates.
I'm somewhat uncomfortable with all the "God talk." Not that there's anything wrong with it, but it's so foreign to my thought processes. I don't see myself sharing bible verses, for example, with any of the fostered children. It just doesn't feel "real" to me. (And, to quote Steve's partner Jimmy, "We were raised Catholic -- we knew nothing about the Bible!)
Another nice thing about Compassion is that they encourage you to write frequently and to send gifts to the children. Nothing can be thicker than 1/4" and pretty much you can only send paper things (though some folks have sent balloons), but I'm finding that I can be rather creative within those guidelines. And I'm always on the lookout for things that I can send when I'm out, though truthfully, with all the stuff left over from my scrapbooking days, I could correspond with 100 kids and send them things every week and never run out of things to send!
I just sent Anjali some blue flowered ribbons to match the color of her blue sari and I sent Pedro, who likes art, a fancy coloring book with geometric designs to color in -- happy to see that it was under 1/4" thick. I made a little book (3-1/2" x 5" in dimension and under 1/4" thick) of pictures of "Our Silly Dogs", which I thought they might like. And I have lots of other ideas of things to send to them.You read the stories of these kids and you see the pictures from the trips that sponsors make and it just tears your heart out that such poverty exists in this world and how much better if we took a little time to make a tiny corner of the world a little bit better for one kid...or more.