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?

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