Monday, July 23, 2012

Tomorrow Came Way Too Fast

I am flying to Swaziland tomorrow and I'll admit it, I'm slightly terrified. I've been playing it cool all this time thinking, "I've done long flights and a foreign country before. This is no big deal!"Honestly, I think that the only reason I felt that way was because I couldn't believe that I was actually going to Swaziland. Getting to go on this trip was such a crazy blur of events that were so incredible I couldn't even grasp it all. I kept saying, "I'm going to Africa this summer!" But, it was just talk, just a concept, too amazing to be a reality. It feels like forever ago when I was riding home from Iowa for spring break and got a text from one of my friends who saw on Facebook that my sister had won a t-shirt contest. That moment of pure joy and gratitude put me into a kind of blissful shock and today I woke up and realized that this crazy "leaving tomorrow" thing came way too fast.

I feel unprepared even though I've checked and double checked that I had everything I needed for this trip. I've crossed everything off my list but no matter how much I reassure myself that I've got everything down, I can't help but be completely positive that I don't have anything down at all.

But when I stop and really think about that, I realize that it's going to be okay to be unprepared. Yes, I undoubtedly will forget something, maybe even something important, but it's okay because it's going to work out for the best. The beautiful and terrifying thing about all of this is that I don't know what "for the best" is. I don't know what to expect and that's mortifying but spectacular too. I used to say that this was no big deal, but it is. Going on a mission trip to Swaziland is a big deal, but it's also the right deal. It's a deal that I suddenly found my heart fully committed to before I ever knew that there was a crazy t-shirt contest in store for me. This is what I am supposed to be doing. Yes, I cant shake the feelings of nervousness, terror, feeling unprepared, and a thousand other things that are haunting me right now, but I also can't shake the overwhelming knowledge that this is beautifully and inexplicably right.

Tomorrow is happening. It's going to be here before I can blink an eye and I'm not ready, not at all. But  even with all the time in the world to spend thinking and preparing, I still never would be. All I can keep telling myself is that the fear, the nerves, and everything else is okay. I've never been in this alone.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Do I Absolutely Need?

Today is Saturday and I just finished cramming most of what I need to survive in a third-world country for nearly two weeks in a backpack. It's a large backpack, but still, a backpack. I am leaving for Swaziland on Tuesday morning. Well, sort of. First my team has to get all of our bags loaded in a van, then drive to Chicago, then fly to Atlanta, then catch tremendously long flight to Johannesburg, South Africa and then, finally, drive the five hours to Swaziland.

I've never thought of myself as a particularly heavy packer. I know girls who go through three outfits a day. I only need one, thank you very much! I don't straighten, curl, or even blow dry my hair. I wear a minimal amount of makeup if I wear any at all. I always try to pack just what I absolutely need. But, as it turned out this time, what I absolutely needed wasn't able to be zipped closed in my bag. I tried rearranging again and again to no avail. I simply had too much stuff.

I was in a predicament. Most of this stuff was just what our team leader had instructed us to pack. But, clearly, something had to go!

"Okay," I thought, "What do I get rid of when I have everything I am supposed to have?"

I stared down into the chaotic tumble of travel items. The first thing that caught my attention was the mini pillow and blanket. These were not huge items. It wasn't like I was bringing a full sized pillow and a comforter, but did I really need both for the plane? No. The blanket could be folded to make a pillow if I needed it and I already had two sweatshirts with me. So, just like that, a surprisingly large chunk of space appeared.

Next came the shoes. Did I really need a pair for the carepoint, church, and the plane? No. The shoes I wore on the plane could very easily double as church shoes, so I chucked the shoes I had carefully matched with my dress for church into a pile in the corner.

I got rid of some skirts, t-shirts, pairs of socks, bras, and limited myself to one pair of jeans (sorry if that horrifies anyone). Eventually, the bag zipped and honestly, I am pretty sure that I am still over-prepared in the wipe, tissue, snack, medication, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, and soap department.

It's funny how much I still have even after stripping away nearly a quarter of what I was sure I needed. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if I got rid of a few more things before I leave on Tuesday!