Friday, May 14, 2010

Volcanoes, Shoes, & other Inconveniences

In three days, I will leave for Belfast from the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX. I have so much to do before then -- plus, the Newark-Belfast leg of our journey could be complicated by ash clouds from the eruption of Iceland's volcano, Eyjafjallajokull. Its effects on European air travel have proven to be just as intense as this volcano's name. However, assuming that we can make it out of the country on Tuesday, I need to get down to business: packing.

With the contents of 3 full suitcases dumped on my living room floor, I quickly became overwhelmed by the task at hand. Seriously, how can I fit everything that I need (or could at some point need) for the next 2 months into 1 checked item? Let's be real -- my rain boots have already usurped about one-quarter of the allotted space. Interestingly, Belfast natives apparently don't wear rain boots too often, which I find strange and slightly impractical considering it rains there approximately 213 days/year. Well, my feet will be dry and I won't be obscenely conspicuous because I opted for my dark blue ones over the hot pink with polka dots. I doubt the decision to include my rain boots only when I look at how little room it leaves for clothes...

In all honesty, the pressure of packing has been considerably alleviated by two main forces:
1) The nature of our DukeEngage program. None of our community partners in Belfast will be expecting us to wear business casual to work -- jeans are the standard dress and a comparatively simple wardrobe will suffice for the summer. When you don't have the expectation of looking cute everyday, it becomes infinitely easier to leave lots of things at home. It's actually kind of liberating.

2) My mama. She's the most practical & efficient packer I know. Besides remembering all the essential things (yes, I usually forget a toothbrush wherever I go), she also is very willing to tell me when I'm going a little overboard. I think we're setting the shoe limit at 4 -- somewhere near the upper limit for her, but lower limit for me.

It's been said that people resemble tea bags, in that their true colors show when they are put in hot water. Though for most it isn't comparable to being steeped in boiling water, packing certainly reveals truths about a person. After having moved from home to Tufts and then from Tufts to Duke, I still cannot claim any advanced/superior packing skills. But each time I did leave some things behind, in dorm rooms, hallways, and trash cans. And I'm pretty sure I've never once thought to myself, Where in the world did I put ___? In the end, there are very few material things that are uniquely necessary to existence -- the most important we carry inside. And the rest, we acquire and use as we go.

My mom always has me make "priority piles" before I start packing my bag, which basically boil down to this: need, want, & don't need. To a certain extent, this compelling framework guides our lives. We ask ourselves from time to time, even when we aren't packing: What is high-priority? And what can I bear to leave behind?


  1. I love everything you just said - it's so true!

    Don't stress too much about packing. I had no idea how to go about bringing what I would need for five months and at least two seasons, but somehow it all worked out. You'll figure it out! And if you need anything, there are some fantastic CHEAP department stores in every city I've been in.

    You are right about the rainboots though - I haven't seen a single person here wearing them. It seems like everyone goes for leather knee or ankle boots instead.

  2. You'll be in Belfast in three days - I will be in Belfast in a week and three days! FB me.

  3. aww~ glad you're blogging, again, and can't wait to hear more about the program and the adventures that will ensue~! Happy packing!