Next wednesday I’ll depart on a five-week excursion through Katowice, Prague, Kiev, Chernobyl, Odessa and Artemovsk, meeting my girlfriend, my uncle and a very close, long-time friend along the way. There will be buses, trains and planes. There will be museums, castles and cobbled streets, as well as food, beer, vodka, underground champagne factories and salt mines. Along the way I’ll be snapping photos and taking note of the places and people we encounter. And then, upon returning to Artemovsk sometime in July, I’ll report here on what all was experienced.
I’m writing this now to simply ask that you excuse my brief absence from the blogosphere. There will probably be a time or two in which I check my email, but other than those times I’m going to do my best to spend the days and nights unconnected to this wired world and instead step out into the physical one.
Until July, all the best.
I was staring wide-eyed at my alarm clock this morning when it went off at 5:00 a.m. The anticipation had gotten the best of me, and I slept just an hour the night before I was to begin my travels eastward. My mind was too busy to rest. Visions of what life would be like in Ukraine and the thrill that comes with traveling to a new place were both wild and alive inside me. After a shower, coffee and some final packing arrangements, I was off to the airport.
From Portland I flew to Phoenix, where I caught a connection to Washington DC. Along the way I met some other Peace Corps Trainees. Emily and Kate, both from Portland, Carson, from Phoenix, and Hailey, an Oaklander, shared a cab with me from the airport to our hotel – the Holiday Inn in Georgetown. We shared stories of what we’d been doing prior to receiving our invitations, thoughts on what’s to come and spoke at great length about the perils of packing for a two-year adventure. We ate together at a quaint Italian joint down the street, then we went our separate ways. Tomorrow we’ll come together again for what the Peace Corps calls “staging” – a day-long seminar of sorts that means to discuss what we’ll experience, encounter, have to endure over the next three months of training.
I am tired now, because of the traveling and the time change. But before I turn in, I’ll leave you with another photo from 30,000 feet above the earth.
As you’d imagine, packing for a 27-month adventure can be difficult. Especially when you’re limited to just three bags and you’ve got enough books set aside to fill them all. Unfortunately, I could not pack them all. But I did manage to fit some Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Orwell and a few others. With what room I had left, I fit the following items:
7 pairs of trousers
8 plain white tees
12 button-up shirts
Enough socks and underwear to last two weeks without washing
Battery charger and batteries
Minolta 35mm camera
Polaroid ProPack camera
Canon digital Power Shot camera
2 decks of playing cards
Small photo album
2 pair of casual boots/shoes
Pair of trainers
Copies of important documents
Small gifts for Ukrainian host family
The packing process really began about 8 weeks ago, following the arrival of my invitation to serve in the Peace Corps. After giving notice to my employer and landlord, I began consolidating my possessions. I gave away large furniture, donated unnecessary clothing, kitchen items and anything that couldn’t fit in a small storage space at my parents’ house. I kept my writing desk, antique chair, typewriter, important personal items and documents. I did some major purging. And it felt great. I downsized my life, and kept only those few things of significance.
Now, as I look at my two medium-sized packed bags in the middle of the floor, I’m astonished at how little one actually needs to live. In reality, I could narrow it down even further. But since I don’t have to, I suppose the books can stay.