Monday, August 30, 2010

Last-minute packing

My itinerary finally came in this morning! I had an uneasy night, waking up every few minutes starting around 6am, like a kid on a particularly nerve-wracking Christmas Eve, waiting to get an email on my Blackberry. That email finally came around 9am!

...saying I was to leave from JFK at 11:30pm on Tuesday.

I live in Virginia. JFK is in New York City.

I was a little concerned.

Of course, it was all sorted out. I have a ridiculous itinerary. I arrive at JFK around 12:30pm tomorrow, and have an 11-hour layover in the Big Apple. I fly out near midnight, to get into Istanbul at 5pm local time. It's a ten hour flight--and I'd rather be loaded with downtime then suffer anything longer than ten hours in the air. I may wind up eating my words. After six hours in Turkey, I'll fly into Tbilisi, touching down at 3am local.

Clearly, I'm gaining a few hours here and there. My trip time spans something like 25 hours, but it'll be more like 32 to 34 with the time changes. Georgia is eight hours ahead, set your clocks accordingly!

Packing is coming along nicely, as it should the night before I leave. I still have so much to do, including dinner with my family, and a quick last-minute visit to Williamsburg. I'll be up late, exhausted in the morning, and totally out of it by the time I finally hit Georgia.

I've got pants, shirts, shorts, socks, scarves, a winter coat, shoes, books, gifts, cables, toiletries...but as long as I cover the essentials, everything else will fall in to place. I'm done worrying about it. I'm ready for the ride, for a new adventure, for something totally new.

From what I can gather from other teachers already in Tbilisi, I should have internet access at some point. I'll be blogging, of course, and facebooking. Skype may even be in order!

Friday, August 27, 2010

YOU try packing for a year! (Subtitle: can I just leave now?)

I found out recently that it's incredibly difficult to pack when you don't know exactly when you're leaving. It shouldn't be. My date range was clear, so all I had to do was prepare for the nearest date (the 28th) and hope for the furthest (the 31st). Today, we were informed of our itineraries...kind of. Sure, it was a lot of fun to see some of my new Facebook friends post their flight information, but all I was told was that I'll get my specific information on Sunday, leave on Tuesday, and can only take a single checked bag. My worst fears have been confirmed.

The question, then, is as eternal as it is critical: duffel bag or traditional luggage? Both have their advantages and faults. Take the latter, for example. First of all, I have greater protection for my perishables, potables, and breakables. Then there are the wheels. Oh, the wheel, what an amazing and simple invention. The last thing I would want is to get weighed down at an airport.

On the other hand, the duffel is significantly lighter than the traditional luggage, which probably weighs in at about 10 pounds by itself. And I can throw it on my back which makes me more mobile, if a little slower. I think the duffel even has a little more space.

So which will it be? I'm not sure. Maybe I should pay some extra money and take both. One thing is certain: my days, hours, and minutes in the United States are numbered. And that's pretty exciting.

[edit -- for more information on how to actually pack, check out Carla's blog post hilariously titled Packpossible! A fellow Greenheart Georgia volunteer, Carla is clearly more prepared than I am. She's already put some things in her suitcase, for example.]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One last time, from the College

How William and Mary doth bustle with activity on this, the great First Day of Classes. So many of my now-Senior friends have expressed excitement about their Last First Day of College, though many will go on to higher education. Still, it is monumental to think of a culmination of years of hard work in a place so welcoming and yet so challenging. Live it well, my friends.

And here I sit, in the Daily Grind, one of William and Mary's greatest hipster refugees, yet with distinctly less scenester and more Faulkner, particularly near exam time. The scent of coffee is not altogether strong here, though the dude behind the counter has gauged ears, a deep V and a big knit hat. Why not? After all, the temperature has dipped back into the double digits today. I've never spent a lot of time at the Grind. To tell you the truth, I've never felt quite "hip" enough (do these effing kids still use that expression? I'll have to compensate to be sure. Kei$ha! The Flaming Lips! Blogosphere!). But it's nice, has good coffee, and occasionally one of my friends will pass through, chat for a bit, and go back to panicking about some paper I'm sure. Ah, to be one of them.

I will miss this place, one that has been easily accessible over the past four years. There are so many good people here, who have many good things ahead of them. May your year be bright, William and Mary. Try not to take too many heavy books into Morton, it might sink.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

To rig and gig, or fly and buy?

Whew, that week mark is quite significant, when you know your adventure is looming within the frame of seven days. I am a latecomer to the party, having applied late, but I've joined Facebook groups, friended fellow teachers, and started research into exactly what I want to bring with me. A year of my life packed into a 50 pound suitcase. Either I have to rework laws of spatial physics to allow for everything I want and need to take, or I'll have to bring one heck of a carry-on.

Not pictured: my luggage.

In case you didn't know -- I sure didn't! -- the "Teach and Learn with Georgia" program is a pretty big deal in Georgia. According to another blog in the Greenheart community, it's actually been featured on Georgian television. Our orientation packet even warns us to be prepared for media presence at the airport in Tbilisi. Talk about being an ambassador to a reemergent culture. Kimberly Berls can tell you all about what the Georgian government is doing here. It's quite a responsibility for us all, but from the discussions on Facebook, I've gathered that this is an enthusiastic and excited group of people ready to participate in a wonderful opportunity.

I have a tremendous amount to do, a number of people to see, and stuff to sell. The title of this post, and I know you were wondering, refers to a conundrum involving my guitar. Specifically, I am debating whether or not to pack it up and take it with me, or leave it here and invest in an inexpensive guitar in Georgia. I know this is may seem out there, but shipping a guitar is rough on the instrument, and I don't want to risk damage.

Hopefully my itinerary will come tomorrow!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why'd they have to name it GEORGIA?

The day you get accepted to something after graduation, be it a job, grad school, or program is a truly remarkable, life-changing day indeed. Or so I've been told.

I've been told that there's a certain amount of celebration, a veritable soirée if you will, when that phone call comes in. Tears are shed, phone calls are made, and, perhaps most importantly, Facebook statuses are updated. Elation is a word that gets thrown around a lot.

It's been over 3 months since I graduated, and man, have I sent out some résumés. And applications. And phone calls. And I finally got accepted to something. Check it. The Republic of Georgia? When you first say this to someone, they probably laugh and say something clever about peaches. Nope, it's that little country below Russia.

It's really nestled amongst countries that people are generally either a) afraid of or b) totally unfamiliar with.

Yeah, that's a yearlong contract I've signed up for, teaching ESL to kids in a public school (in the Imereti region, if I'm not mistaken). You're probably thinking I was totally elated when I found out I was accepted. Well, not exactly. For me, the decision to leave was a long and difficult one. I spent several days just considering the impact of leaving everything I have here behind and travelling to a country in a part of the world I have never been. And I won't even be able to speak the language! (At first, that is...)

But really, it was inevitable that I would accept. From the minute that application was sent off, I felt that it was going to happen. It's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Just before I found the job (via Idealist), I had posted a status on Facebook to this effect: "Anybody know of some program I could find that would take me away for like...10 months?" BAM. I find this listing, and while it's technically a yearlong commitment, I will be involved from September to June. Ten months!

So, I'm restarting this blog. And while my adventures to Guatemala were not well chronicled (in blog form, at least, but I took a good number of pictures), I should have slightly more reliable internet access in Georgia. I depart on August 30th, but will blog a few more times before I go. Don't you want to know what I'm going to PACK?