Monday, August 30, 2010

Made In USA 1987

I would like to first tell the story concerning the title of this blog entry.  I wanted it to be a play on the tattoo Ricky Stanzi (the Iowa Hawkeye quarterback) even though pretty much anyone that will read this blog would not get it.  I thought it was a good way to title the theme of the blog, so I went for it.  The tattoo is on his back and says Made In USA and underneath 1987. I was also made in the USA in 1987.  (Ok, actually, it was 1986, but I was born in 1987, so whatever.)  Anyway, I googled "americanzni" thinking something about his tattoo would come up because both "Americanzi" and his tattoo are linked to his absurd patriotism.  Google thought I was confused and thought I meant American, so the first 5 sites or so were American Airlines, Anglo Americans in Chile, and things like that.  When I finally got down to the hits I was really looking for I found Black Heart, Gold Pants, I knew they had a picture, and I found what I wanted (and then got distracted reading random postings).  I just thought it was a funny story of how Google is silly (American Airlines) and creepy (Anglo Americans in Chile).

You might remember this shirt from the 9/11 Patriotic Party

So, I was made in America, and I have been lucky enough to hold on to my citizenship.  I also hold a US passport, which I have a nice cover for.  The cover not only protects it from getting beat up in my travels, but it also hides the front that says United States of America on it.  I don't like having the United States of America readily visible because I think it could allow for people to hassle me.  There have only been a couple of times I have gotten any grief for being American (we won't even mention the death threat in Glasgow... that was a whole new level of grief), but I don't like the idea that people can see where I am from and make quick judgments about me.  I also don't like when they ask me to sing Yankee Doodle and when I refuse, they go ahead and sing for me.

The judgments that get made and the questions that get asked are almost always concerning American foreign policy.  What is frustrating is when people ask why the US enacts certain policies.  I cannot answer all of those questions.  I have no clue why we invaded Iraq; I straight up have no clue.  I understand wanting to have an open conversation about policy, but I don't like the assumption that I agree with all of the policies of the US.  Spend 5 minutes with me and you will discover I can be critical of US policy.

This is not to say I don't love being an American.  I understand the privlige that comes with being an American and holding a US passport.  First of all, I am allowed to live comfortably in one of the richest nations in the world.  I can participate in open discourse and vote in elections.  I don't fear for my life and I don't wonder where my next meal is coming from.  I live under a stable government that provides me with adequate education and roads to drive on.  I am free to travel anywhere in the country, and I do not have to worry about clean water.  I do not have to worry about polio, malaria, or typhoid.  I understand this list goes on forever, and I realize how lucky I am to live in the US. 

Beyond just living in the US, holding a US passport also opens doors.  I can go pretty much anywhere I want in the world without much hassle (at the border, not necessarily from the citizens).  I might have to pay a reciprocity fee.  (I paid one when I got here.  I understand they charge US citizens because we charge them, but I don't think either country should have the fee, especially considering there is a free trade agreement.)  I might need to apply for a visa or some other minor inconvenience, but I am not restricted from going pretty much anywhere I want (with the exception of North Korea and Cuba, and even Cuba is easy to get to.)  I really am thankful for that.

I always have been.  However, I don't think it really hit me until I was telling Clea why I like to keep a cover on my passport.  The converstation moved to how US citizens are able to go wherever they want without much trouble.  She looked at my passport and said, "You're really lucky." 

I understand and am greatful for the benefits of being an American.  I also understand that sometimes I act like a spoiled American- like when I get annoyed that I have to turn on the califone to take a hot shower or when I look at the open flame on the propane heater and think how dangerous it is.  But I don't think my "American-ness" extends to the point that it should stop people from liking me just because I am American.  Please don't look at my passport and pass judgment- at least get to know me a little before you decide to hate me.  Or preferably, just don't hate me.

Peace and love from a grateful American.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What a Stellar View

Words cannot describe the beauty I saw today.  The pictures can't even do it justice.  And the way I had to get to the scenery made it that much more rewarding.

We decided to do a hiking trip in a reserve right outside Santiago.  I was down for a couple of reasons.  First, the smog starts to get to me.  And second, it was only going to cost me a metro ride out to Las Condes and back, and I like cheap fun.

Meeting at the metro was the easy part, but then we had some dificulties figuring out which bus to get on because we weren't sure of the direction we needed.  That didn't stop us for long, and we were soon on our way to the Reserva Ecológica Contrafuertes Cordillerano (that's Spanish for Andean Mountain Buttress Ecological Reserve).  

Clea, Chloe, and Jemma waiting for the bus
 We got there and started hiking.  We, or I at least, was not quite expecting what we had gotten into.  It was tough.  It got especially tough for me when we started to get up higher- my lungs were struggin' with the altitude.  We kept going though.

We wondered if we were taking the right path a couple of times, but we followed the arrows made of rocks and found our way up the hill.  

Helpful arrows point the way up the hill   

We had to stop and play in the snow that hadn't melted yet:


I want you to understand that I am making this sound like a walk in the park compared to what it actually was.  There was sliding down loose gravel and fearing we were going to slide into a cactus or two.  Not to mention it was beyond steep at points.  Jemma even slid down some parts on her butt.  And I almost ended up on my butt a couple of times.  When I got home, my feet and ankles were black with dirt, and I was wearing shoes the whole time.  After hours of pressing on to get to the top, we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen: The Andes (without the haze and smog blocking a perfect view).  Look:

This is a real photo.  I know it's hard to believe, but it's not a postcard.  And it's not photoshopped.  To be honest, this picture doesn't do it justice either.  It was amazing to clearly see the mountains.  The hike was a bitch; the altitude made it really hard, and combined with the terrain... but the view once we got over that hill was spectacular.  

The grossest part of the whole adventure was being above the smog.  Looking down trying to find Santiago and only being able to find a gray cloud of smog was straight up nasty.  And I live in this:

All in all, it was awesome.  I got to challenge myself hiking up the Andean foothills for about 6 hours or so, and I was rewarded with a stellar view. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oh, Summer Evenings in Iowa, I Miss You

I find that when I am away from the States (and even just away from Iowa) I ocationally and randomly get hit in the face with missing something.  And it is usually something that I don't actively think about or do on a regular basis.  I rarely miss the people in my life, and before you get angry let me explain why.  I can still hear your voice and see your face via Skype; I can stalk you through facebook; I can send you emails with stories that reminded me of you and you can reciprocate.  There is ample oporutnity to stay in contact with friends and family, and I don't think there is a deep need to miss them.  I obviously miss things like kicking Peter's ass while playing Monopoly and Travis sneekily assulting me while I am trying to figure out what Evil Bear Buddies wants me to write in my paper.  But really, I can easily stay in contact with all of you, and access to you is literally at my fingertips.

The things I randomly miss are... random.  The other night I was laying in bed, and for some strange reason it was quite out.  (This is strange because I live on a fairly busy road and that road connects two other busier roads.  I can always hear people and cars and occasionally a police siren or two.)  I all of a sudden missed the sounds of the cicadas on an Iowa summer night.  I closed my eyes and tried to think of how they sound, and I was sad because I won't hear them again until at least next (Iowa) summer.  I was walking to Clea's apartment the other day, and I had a quick pang of missing sprawling suburbia (don't tell anyone I said that).  Seeing yards with flowers and plants- it was quite a strange thing to miss for me.  I have also been missing Olive Garden the last couple of days, but that is only because I hear they have their never ending pasta bowl right now.  I'm sad I'm missing out.

However, I guess I don't just miss things when I am away from home.  I miss things from the places I have been, and I get strong feelings of nostalgia and a deep want of them in my life.  I am sure everybody is thinking of my desire to receive tapas with my beer.  I even crave Pingüinos like I had in Mexico City sometimes.  (Good news: I found some at the corner store by my apartment!)  I also mss the smell of the laundry in Mexico City.  Don't ask me why- I have no clue.  And when I get back to Iowa, I am going to have strong cravings for good empanadas, and I don't know if I am going to be able to find them.  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Look At All Those US Exported Options

I always find it interesting to see what American businesses have exported themselves to foreign and exotic places... like Santiago.

Obviously, McDonald's is all over the world, but here, they have small kiosk shops that just sell ice cream in some of the metro stations.  (Speaking of these ice cream stands, they raised their prices by about 600 pesos today.  Yesterday an ice cream cone was 300 pesos, and today, they were 900 pesos.)  A McDonald's ice cream stand is something I have never seen before, and I kind of like it.  Part of the reason I may like this so much could be because I have recently been craving ice cream like woa.

There is also a Burger King close to the place I work, and I have always wanted to go in and ask if they have veggie burgers.  However, I don't know the Spanish word for veggie burger, so I have not looked into that.  It would be interesting to find out if they do though.  I know McDonald's changes their menu for different parts of the world, and even for different regions in the US.  The Burger King near my place of employment is also near two McDonald's (and there is the McDonald's ice cream stand in the metro).  It is a really busy area with lots of businesses around, so placing fast food joints in the area makes sense.  But it always seems like McDonald's is always busier.  I wonder why McDonald's is always busy (especially at lunch) anywhere in the world.  Why is McDonald's so damn popular everywhere?!

Beyond the obvious, I am always surprised by some of the restaurants I find in other countries.  One of the most surprising is KFC.  Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits seems like something the rest of the world wouldn't be that in to, but apparently, they are.  I remember seeing my first international KFC in Mexico City and thinking it was silly.  There is also one near my apartment here in Santiago, and when I first saw it, I laughed to myself. 

American pizza chains are also something I have found all over the world.  There is a Pizza Hut near where I work- I just noticed it today.  It made me want some $10 taco pizza, but I doubt they offer it.  Pizza hut doesn't even know what taco pizza is in Florida, so I am guessing taco pizza is an Iowa/mid-west thing.  There is a Telepizza near my apartment that I found, and I remembered them from Spain.  They have ok pizza, and I wondered why they never came to the US.  Perhaps the market is already too saturated with pizza take out chains for them to really compete?  It's strange running to chains that are not found in the US because there is such a presence of US chains... everywhere.  (There is even an Applebee's out in the Santiago 'burbs- or what I call the 'burbs.  It is really just outside the hustle and bustle of the condensed city centre.)

There are also random brands that show up everywhere: Doritos, Kellogg's, and of, course, the Chileans depend on Nestle for the NesCafe (barf!).  Nestle has a bunch of other stuff here though, as well.  Like, I just bought a Negrita bar at the corner shop- the package says it is a cookie with vanilla flavored cream covered in chocolate brought to you, or me rather, by Nestle.  There is also milk available from Nestle (among about a thousand other suppliers as well- shopping for milk is rather overwhelming.)

Even though these brands have a presence here in Santiago, it does not necessarily mean variety.  Take the Doritos for example.  I have only seen nacho cheese flavor and regular tortilla chips (which are AMAZING), but I haven't seen any of the other flavors we have in the states.  I doubt they exist here.  There is also only Coke, Coke Light, and Coke Zero.  They don't have any of the fancy flavors we have.  I was talking to Clea about the Coke varieties she has in South Africa, and she said it is the same there as it is here.  They had Cherry Coke for a short time, but it was only a limited time offer.  They also don't have all of the different flavors of soda that we do- most street vendors don't offer caffiene free options like Sprite, and I haven't seen root beer anywhere.  There is less variety of everything here (except milk for some reason- there is ample selection there).  There are only two choices for tortilla chips- Doritos or Carlos something or another.  There is, like, one brand of juice with 3 flavors.  There are a few brands of rice and pasta, but you have to look hard to find anything that is whole grain- it is all bleached white crap.  It is kind of nice not having to sift through a million different choices to make a decision, but it is hard when the thing I want isn't there (or hard to find in the case of the whole grain rice).  Look to when I wanted some cheese for my pasta and sandwiches- there aren't as many choices as Hy-Vee has.  In sliced form I found American (or some processed equivilant) and gouda.  I clearly went for the gouda.  There was only one kind of "shreaded" cheese.  It was ungodly expensive and only came in a giant bag.  Even in "block" form there were only about two or three choices.  I just want some cheddar!

On the flip side, I understand the lack of variety.  There is not a lot of room, and there are a lot of things a super market has to pack in.  The entire super market is about the size of one of the large dairy sections at Hy-Vee.  However, the lack of variety extends to the entire city.  It is really interesting to think about how many choices we have in the US.  There is no giant isle of soda to chose from at the super market, and there aren't 12 brands of pasta coming in whole grain, fortified, and enriched varieties.  It makes me wonder why there are so many options in the US, and if US brands are present in foreign markets, why there aren't more options from those brands in foreign markets.

All this talk of food is making me hungry.  The question is, do I make a sandwich, or eat some Kellogg's Choco Krispies de Melvin?  Hmmmm....

Peace out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Small Talk and Strays

I always find it interesting when people tell me about their pre-conceptions of Americans and when I hear about/learn of common conceptions of Americans.  So far, I have encountered two instances of this, and I thought both were kind of interesting.

The first was during my training when I was informed that Americans are good at small talk.  We are able to open up and talk to anybody about anything at any given time.  Carlos was saying he found it facinating to watch the Americans interact during our training sessions because we would act like friends.  We would chat about what we did that day, the weather, exchange numbers, how long our flights were, where we were from, go get lunch together, etc.  This is apparently something that Chileans don't do, and they find it really interesting when Americans do it.  They like to see it, and they want to learn how to engage in small talk.  During training we were told that it was important to be ourselves, including engaging in small talk, because 1. It is culturally relavent to the language the students are learning; and 2. They want to learn more about it and see it in practice.

I find this conception of Americans really facinating for a couple of reasons.

First, I am not good at small talk.  I am awkward and weird, and I never know what to say.  (However, I will say that as soon as I got on the plane to come here (and maybe even before that) I told myself I would be more outgoing.  I told myself I needed to be more proactive in my socializing in order to not spend the next six months completely isolated from everybody and everything in Santiago.  I think I have done pretty well for myself since my arrival, considering how terribly self conscience I am when meeting people, and even after meeting people.) 

Second, I feel like this is a strange idea to have of Americans.  It is not something I have ever really thought about, and I still don't know if I really agree that Americans are really that good or participate that much in small talk.  I could easily be wrong.  I guess I hadn't thought about it much, so when I was told that Chileans have this conception of Americans, I thought it was strange.

I don't know- What do you think?

I don't know if you have heard, but Santiago is full, and I mean full, of stray dogs (and a few cats here and there).  I have decided to occasionally include pictures of some of the strays I find.  I feel like it is appropriate because strays are popping up all over my life in Santiago, so my blog about Chile should have strays popping up in it  now and again.  

Strays (and pigeons!) by Palacio de la Moneda

It's A Small World, Afterall

First of all, I hope that song is now stuck in you head.  Because it has been stuck in mine for a couple of days now, and I want to share the joy with all of you readers :)

I have always thought it was a small world.  The older I get, the more I find myself running into people I am somehow connected to, and I run into them in completely random places.  I think my time at Magic Kingdom demonstrates perfectly: First, my family and I ran into people from Ankeny, and my mom had a delightful chat with them.  Then, when we were waiting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean, the guy operating the ride saw my Iowa tshirt, and yelled, "Go Hawks!"  He was originally from Iowa (and a Hawk Fan!).  Finally, when we were waiting in line to get out of the park, we ran into family from Hopkinton, the same (VERY small) town my grandma is from.  After talking to them, we found out that their grandma and my great grandma were cousins.  We were related to the randoms we ran into in line at Disney World.  You might be thinking, "Well, yeah, you can find a connection to pretty much anybody on the planet- it's like 6 degrees of seperation."  But what I think is interesting is that these connections even have the ability to be made.

So what does this have to do with me being in Santiago?  Let me tell you.

Right after I found out I got this job I found out that someone I knew would also be traveling to Santiago around the same time as me.  Out of the few people I know in this world, I would not be the only person I knew in Santiago.  Whether it be a casual acquaintance or a dear close friend, I think it still points to what a small world it is.

Right after my going away party I ran into an old roommate who wasn't able to make it to the party.  She asked where I was going, and when I told her Santiago, her face lit up.  She has a friend currently living here, and has been living here for awhile.  She said that he would probably be willing to show me around and help me with adjusting.  After talking to him, I find out two more things that make me say, "It's a small fucking world."  1. Most of his gringo friends are English teachers, and most of them work at the same institute I work at.  2. We are practically neighbors.  He lives near the metro stop I usually go to, so we live very near each other. 

People I know in Santiago count is up to 2 before even leaving.

Now that I am here, I have met people, obviously.  Crazy Clea is my favorite.  I knew we would be good friends when I was telling her about my new peanut butter addiction (which is going to be difficult to deal with because I ate the jar of peanut butter I brought from home in less than a week, and I can't find any at the grocery store).  When I said the words "peanut butter" her face lit up- she loves peanut butter too!  Part of why I found this so exciting was because she is from South Africa, and I did not know they had peanut butter there (I operate under the assumption that no place else in the world has peanut butter, not because I think the US is the only place cool enough to enjoy peanut butter, but because I assume everybody else just has Nutella).  I couldn't believe I found another person that loved peanut butter so much, and she was from the other side of the world!  Not only that, but she also loves Big Bang Theory.  I am one of the very few people I know that not only like, but love the show.  And Clea loves it to.  Both of us actually brought episodes on our hard drives!  When I went over to her place last night we found out that her roommate (who is from Australia) also loves The Big Bang Theory.  Not only did they have access to this random American show (that none of my friends watch), but they liked it (which none of my friends do).  We also talked about how much we enjoy How I Met Your Mother, but everybody loves that, so it wasn't as profound for me.

This world is such a magical and beautiful place, and I love it.

Peace and love.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This is Not Safe, Santiago

When I first arrived to Santiago, it was kind of chilly.  It was like a fall day in Iowa- I had on jeans and a hoodie, and I was doing fine.  The interwebs said that it was going to be in the mid-60's when I arrived, so we will just say that is what the temperature was.  I got to the apartment I am staying at, and by the time the sun went down, I was sooooo cold.  The apartment is old, and that means something completely different here (I will talk more about it at a later time).  There is always a draft, and it is almost always chilly inside.  For example, the other day I had on a long sleeved shirt and pants, and I was cold inside.  I thought that meant I should wear my jacket to go outside, but when I got out there, it was so beautiful, and I was hot in my long sleeves.  So, clearly, there is a significant draft.  Anyway, back to the day I got here.  My roommate said that she could call the gas company for me to get the gas for the heater.  I thought, "What is she talking about?"  Then she showed me the heater- it is a metal box that you hook up a propane tank to.  Then, you turn the gas on, push a button, hold a match up to it, and hope your arm doesn't blow off.  It is terrifying.  Look:

This is the back where you hook up the propane tank.  To switch it on, flip the black nobby thing at the top.
This is the front after it has been lit.  You can see the blue flame that lights the square part.  The heat comes out there and at the top in the front.
 This thing is just sitting in my room, hanging out.  I paid about $15 USD or so for the tank of propane.  At first I thought I would be fine without it, but after getting out of the shower the first night and thinking I was going to die of pneumonia, I thought it would be a good investment. 

There no central heating system.  This is all there is.  It isn't that bad.  Except that my room smells like propane when I use it.  And it isn't very safe.  And it makes me want marshmallows.  And I am always afraid I am going to light something on fire.  And it doesn't really heat the room very well.

Most of the buildings don't actually have central heating systems with thermostats to control the heat.  Even the place I work doesn't have a thermostat.  There is a heater in the room (not like this one- they have one that is heat/air conditioning hooked to the wall like what you usually see at a hotel), and then you have to turn it on and off when you want to use it.

It is very different than in the States.  You turn the heat on to warm up, but as soon as you turn the heat off, you are cold again because of the draft.  It makes me realize how privliged I am to live in such an amazing country.  These are completely normal things for them to be dealing with, but for me it gets annoying sometimes.  I realize how that sounds, but I think it points to the fact that we live in a place where we really do have everything.  We don't have to deal with these inconveniences.  I also don't want people to think that I am annoyed with this all the time.  It has only be a couple of times when I got out of a cold shower (I will explain that in a later entry- there are more pictures!) and I just wanted to go into a warm room to put on my pajamas and go to bed.  Instead, I went into a semi-warm room that reeked of propane.  It really makes me realize how much I have, and I hope that some of these stories I tell make you take a step back and realize everything you really have.  I don't mean that in a preachy way, I just think that sometimes we forget to reflect.

Peace and love from Santiago.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Double D's: Dry and Dirty

I have decided that I am going to nickname Santiago "Double D's" because it is so dry and dirty.  I have used well over half of a (small) bottle of lotion since I got here!  I wake up and put lotion on before I get dressed and every night when I get out of the shower.  And my skin is still dry sometimes!  It is insane! 

The second D is for dirty.  Yes, there is silty dust and trash in the streets, but the big thing that is crazy to me is the smog.   I don't think I have had a clear view of the Andes since I have been here.  I don't think I have even had a clear view of Cerro San Cristóbal from any distance away.  I also almost always wipe my nose at the end of the day, and there is black gunk.  Gross.  This can't be good for my lungs.  There isn't really that much traffic.  Streets are less congested than the metro is during rush hour, but the city is like a bowl, so the smog can't get out.  The Andes helps keep it all in.

Speaking of the Andes, I went for a huge walk all over the place yesterday, and I have decided that the Andes are like I-80 back home.  Travis tells me that many people in Iowa figure out their directions based on where they are in relation to I-80: If I-80 is to your south and you are facing that direction, you know you are facing south and so on.  Well, I use the Andes in much the same fashion.  When I see the Andes in front of me, I know I am facing east, if they are beside me I am north or south, and if they are behind me I am facing west.  I wonder if this is a trick Santinguinos (and Chileans in general) use. 

I also can't get over seeing the Andes.  Every now and then they pick out from between buildings and I am struck by how awesome they look.  And seeing them between buildings is also pretty neat.  Seeing the Andes also reminds me of where I am and how awesome this is.

There is so much other stuff I want to write about! There is finally internet at the apartment, but I have to plug into an ethernet and have a user name and password so it is still a pain to use.  I am hoping that I can get caught up with the blogging soon though!  I have a whole list of things I want to write about!  And even some pictures to share!

Peace from Santiago.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Not having internet is really frustrating.  I just want to throw that out there.  Because I have had about 3 ideas to blog about, and no internet at the apartment to blog with. 

I clogged the toilet yesterday.  I put toilet paper in the toilet.  I thought about asking if I was supposed to throw it in the trash can when I was on the plane, and I completely forgot about it.  Oopsie.  It is all fine now though.  This toilet situation was discovered on Saturday evening.  What is strange about this city is that on Sunday, NOTHING is open, so if we were going to have to call someone, it would have to wait until Monday.  It is strange to think about not having anything but the supermarket available on Sunday.  There also weren't a lot of people out and about, but that could also be because it is so cold out.  There is also nothing open before like 10AM.  I got up this morning and I was going to do a bunch of stuff, but no.  Not much was open.  It's a strange place, and I wish I had internet to blog about it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

¿Bienvenido a Miami?

So, it is apparently one of the coldest winters they have ever had here.  It is still not too bad; I would be fine in a long sleeve shirt and being in the sun.  However, the apartment I am in is FREEZING!  It is colder in the apartment than it is outside.  And there is no central heating.  I have to buy a propane tank for a little space heater that goes in my room.  That seems kind of unsafe, but maybe it is just me and my silly American ways.  But the cold temperatures and lack of heat instantly reminded me of Miami during the Orange Bowl.  There are two differences: Laura is not there for me to beg to be my big spoon and keep me warm, and I have leggings, pants, beater, and sweatshirt to sleep in (so I am actually warm at night). 

There is a situation with the lock on the apartment door, so I have not had much of a chance to get out and explore :(  This should be changing today though.  And she is sick, so she will be home all day, and I can go out and explore!  Hopefully.  I think her hippy ways prevent her from getting to worked up about things, so it might take a while.

Her hippy ways also prevent her from getting worked up about the fact that the wireless doesn't work.  This isn't a huge deal except that it is the only way I have to communicate with my family right now.  And I would like to finish figuring out the online situation with DMACC.  And I can't do that without wirless.  Well, I could, but I don't want to spend all of my money on internet access.  Thanks though.

I went to a market yesterday to get some fruits and veggies.  It was kind of overwhelming at first because I didn't know how some of the things were sold (per kilo, per item, per bunch...).  I got it figured out, and I am excited to try some of the different fruits and veggies they have here.  

Ok, time for exploring Santiago.  Chao for now!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Should Pack

So, at the specific request of Travis, and others thinking it is a good idea, I will blog about my grand Chilean adventure.  I am not there yet, but I figure 1. Starting before I leave will give me more incentive to actually do it while I am there instead of just putting it off; and 2. Blogging about packing seemed like fun.

 First of all, the flooding that is going on in the area scared me because whenever there is flooding (and even when there isn't) there is water in our basement.  Everything I had "packed" was sitting in a corner of the basement (my corner when I am in Ankeny), and I thought it was probably under water.  The good news is that the backyard was redone last spring, so the water doesn't come in the basement anymore!  w00t!

Packing for 6 months kinda sucks because it is annoying.  (I also feel like part of the annoyance is that I can't just stand in front of my closet and throw things in my suitcase; instead, I have had everything I am taking in suitcases for about 2 and a half weeks now.)  I feel like I am over packing, but I am pretty sure there is going to be a lot of extra room in my suitcases.  We will see how this pans out.  

As part of this blog, I would like anybody who reads it to offer suggestions about things to write about, comments about things they like/dislike, if they like tuna or salmon better... you  know, feedback in general.  I am horrible at writing, so I would like your help.