Monday, November 28, 2011

Give Thanks

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, happiness and many blessings. I spent Thanksgiving with my awesome in-laws. My days were filled with delicious food, loving family, and great conversation—but not much rest. I haven’t written in a while, so here’s an update on the happenings of the past few weeks.

Good-Bye Brooklyn

We’re officially moved. We packed up and vacated our Brooklyn apartment last week. This was sort of a three-part process. We had to pack our trunks for Ghana, pack everything to be stored with his family, and pack a suitcase full of clothes and whatnot that we’ll live out of over the remaining weeks that we’re in the states. 

In packing for Ghana, despite my best efforts, by the time I finished loading my trunk, I had the feeling that I definitely over-packed. I reassessed my load; however, there wasn’t really anything that I felt I could do without. The Mister calls it my contingency packing. I pretty much packed for any reasonably possible situation that we may face over a year’s time. 

Well, my lingering fear of over-packing was alleviated in talking to one of the Site-Directors in Ghana. We had a conference call with some of the teachers (all foreign nationals to Ghana) currently with the program. It was basically an opportunity for us to ask any questions that we might have, and for them to share any advice or suggestions that they would like to have known going into the experience. Long story short, to my relief, I packed adequately.

Here are some tidbits just for information’s sake:  

Our packed trunks are currently stored in New York City in the apartment in which we will stay when we return from our three- weeks stay in the Midwest.

We shipped our belongings to be stored with his family via Amtrak Express. This is a simple and very affordable service for shipping belongings cross-country. I definitely recommend it for anyone making a long distance move on a budget. The only thing is: I guess not every Amtrak station accommodates this service. For example, we had to ship from Newark (NJ) Penn Station because although New York Penn Station accepts shipments, we couldn’t ship from NY. 

So we are currently in the Midwest. Our shipped belongings arrived seamlessly without incident (it took approximately 5 days) and are stored snugly in his family’s garage.
We’ll be here for two more weeks enjoying his friends and family. Then we’ll return New York for another two weeks with my friends and family. And then we’re off to Ghana!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Packing Blues

Packing sucks! Imagine summer’s over and you’re packing for a three day jaunt to your favorite tropical island. Great—your summer favorites get to make an encore. Now imagine you’re packing for a weeklong vacation or even two weeks long: out comes the B-Team summer wear. Now imagine that you’re packing for a yearlong summer! Should be simple right? Summer clothes: a go, fall & winter: no, and spring: A-Team.  Well sadly, I’m not finding packing for Ghana so simple. 

First off, packing away my winter clothes for storage was surprisingly a bit painful. I hate winter, but I love my winter clothes. The one thing that gives me solace throughout the bitter cold months is my winter wardrobe: my warm and cozy sweaters, funky knit stockings, colorful scarves, boots, coats, etc. As I packed away my winter threads I realized how much I would miss bundling up. Again, it’s not necessarily the cold of the winter that I’ll miss, but more the snuggly feeling of coming in from the cold and jumping into a pair of sweatpants, or the super stylish “I am it!” feeling of a perfectly layered outfit, and that extra oomph in my step as I pound the pavement in my newest (or trusty) pull-a-whole-outfit-together boots. I had to talk myself out of convincing myself that any of that would be the least bit useful in Ghana. I’m a hard sell—even to myself, so in true over-packer fashion a few sweatshirts made the cut. My logic: What if I get stuck in the rain, get drenched, and need something cozy and warm to don when I finally get home? Or better yet, what if there’s an air conditioned building? Better safe than sorry. 

Do you or have you ever had a hard time separating from clothes? 

With winter clothes decided, next up were jeans. Initially, I figured I’d take about three pair with me. I love jeans, but not so much in the summer heat. However, realistically I can’t imagine packing for a yearlong trip and not taking any jeans. So, I think I have about five pair set aside. There were too many different cuts, fits and washes to choose between. I may have to revisit the jean selections and downsize a wee bit more. 

I won’t give spring and fall much attention, because my spring and fall wardrobe consists of a mix of all seasons really. Mix a little summer with a cardigan or scarf, take off a layer of winter, add a splash year-round, and boom: basic fall and spring wardrobe. So most of what I would wear in spring or fall, for the purpose of packing, gets a summer or winter designation.

So that brings me to summer. Now this should be easy, right? Wrong. Firstly, I’m trying to keep myself from over-packing. I can quite possibly reason for myself every possible situation for which each article of summer clothing would be necessary. But I’m fighting the urge for a few reasons. 

One: I genuinely don’t want to over-pack. We’re packing for Ghana in humongous trunks which, tempting as it might be, can fit pretty much my entire closet and then some. But I’m pretty certain that I won’t get an ounce of sympathy from The Mister if I don’t keep my trunk to a reasonable weight. And I secretly want to disprove the stereotype that women over-pack by packing the bare minimum necessities.
Our trunks aside The Mister to give an idea of their size.

Are you an over-packer or lighty-flighty? 

Two: Shopping! I’ve heard that Ghana is the fashion capital of Africa. Plus I love African bracelets and earrings. Plus there’s no way I’d go across the world and not bring back gifts for friends and family. With that said, I’m sure I’ll do plenty of shopping while there, so I’m trying to leave room for souvenirs.

Three: Feasibility. The village that we’ll be living in doesn’t have running water. I’m not sure from where or how, but we will have to fetch water with which to bathe, and I guess to cook and drink with as well. So clearly, a washing machine will not be one of the luxuries afforded to me. So that means that any clothing that I bring I have to be willing and able to wash by hand. Goodbye delicate cycle, goodbye dry clean only.

And lastly, four: Dress code. 
“Women and men should dress modestly since immodest dress or behavior will certainly attract undesirable attention… Women are encouraged to wear dresses, skirts or slacks… Females should try not to wear shorts. Sarongs are encouraged as an alternative or light linens, Bermuda shorts or knee length shorts.”
-Excerpt from Teacher Welcome Manual
By American standards my summer wardrobe is completely appropriate. I wear tank tops under all of my dresses so as not to show cleavage; my shorts, though above the knee, are a respectable length; to keep cool, I wear sleeveless tops instead of tank tops alone. Overall I’d say my summer wardrobe is all around acceptable from a family BBQ to a company picnic. But I’m worried that what’s acceptable in America, may be harlotry immodest in Ghana. Is a strapless, knee-length dress immodest? What about bare shoulders? What about leggings as workout pants? Or running shorts! Do you really expect me a person to go running in knee-length shorts? I’m just not sure how strictly the social dress code is enforced or obeyed. I really want to respect the culture, so taking these things into consideration actually makes packing summer clothes that much harder. 
Me at company picnic.
I have just about a week left to figure it all out and make some definite decisions. A part of me wants to stick to the minimalist agenda and leave anything questionable behind. But the fashionista in me doesn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to wear some of my summer favorites year-round. 

What do you think? Have you ever had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Play it safe or push the envelope?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Officially Mrs. Mister!

Before planning for Ghana, The Mister and I had been planning a Jamaican destination wedding to take place next year. Being from different cities, a destination wedding seemed like the neutral perfect opportunity to bring both of our families together. However, when we accepted our new positions overseas, we did so knowing that we’d be heading over as husband and wife

We didn’t quite know how we would work out getting married. At first, Jamaica was still on the table. We naively thought that maybe we could scale it down: we’d fly out with our parents for a private beach wedding. But logistics and, more importantly, finances quickly busted that bubble. Given the adventure we’re about to embark on, it would be insane financially irresponsible to spend that kind of money on anything but preparation for Ghana. 

We played around with a few more ideas, but they all pretty much ended in us coming to the same conclusion.  That’s when we decided on a courthouse wedding. The thing about a courthouse wedding is: it’s just business. All of the pomp and circumstance that goes into the planning and execution of a traditional wedding is (for all legal purposes) frivolous without the signing of the contract that makes man and woman husband and wife. So in deciding to wed at the courthouse The Mister and I had to ask ourselves, “What are we trying to accomplish?” and “What’s the most logical way of meeting our goal?” Staring an opportunity of a lifetime in the face, it became clear to us how unimportant the ceremonial aspect of being wed can be.

And so…. The deed is done! The Mister and I were married on November 1st. We woke up, exchanged personal vows and rings to each other, and then went down to the courthouse to make it official legal. No hubbub or fanfare. My mother and sister were there to witness. And that was it.   

 Our rings!

Well, that was almost it. This past weekend my mother hosted a dinner party in our honor. It was a beautiful gathering with some of my dearest friends and family and there was even an African drummer! I guess “no fanfare” is like speaking Dutch to a mother-of-the-bride. :) But we definitely enjoyed ourselves and appreciated everyone coming out to share in our love for one another.