Packing and moving

I feel like every reader can relate when I say this:

Packing and moving sucks.

This is one exception where the end point really is better than the journey. And of course, the journey is as difficult as we could possibly make it.

Thanks to Aeroflot, there is a definite limit to how much stuff I can drag with me to Bishkek. With all the traveling I’ve done up until now, short and long-term, I’m astonished that I still face so much trouble deciding how to pack effectively.

I think my moment of glory for short-term packing came this past weekend, when Farrell and I flew to upstate New York for the wedding of two friends. I managed to take only a messenger bag and, surprising to me, it wasn’t even bursting at the seams. Turns out, you can get away with packing less if you only bring one outfit to wear anytime you won’t be in the company of other people. Sneaky, yes, and sort of scuzzy, but when AirTran started threatening to check baggage against the passengers’ will due to a perceived lack of overhead storage space, I knew I would have no problems. I even had my laptop and a hefty novel.

My smug packing victory was shattered as soon as I arrived home and realized I had to rearrange the contents of my three suitcases in hopes that my clothes wouldn’t burst out of them during what I expect could be a turbulent trip over Siberia. I fully recognize that the easiest way to gain space is to pack less stuff. But, oh, it’s so difficult sometimes. I learned the hard way during my first long-term trip abroad, a semester in Amman, Jordan, that having a decent choice of clothes was vital to my day-to-day happiness. Midway through the semester it was an extra hit to my homesick, culture-shocked morale trying to put together a decent outfit with the same four tops, especially compared to the others girls in my program who just bit the dang bullet with excess baggage charges and were still coming up with new and fabulous looks. One day I even skipped class and went shopping, and even though I dropped over $50 on a single dress, it lifted my spirits immensely.

And then there’s the apartment. My endless supply of kitchen gadgets. Three computers. Four tall bookshelves weighed down with old textbooks and novels, that we both swear we’ll read again someday. A freaking piano. Farrell’s recording equipment: microphones, guitars, a 24-channel mixing board, speakers, amps, pedals, and a tape machine that weighs as much as a black hole. (Uhh, yeah. He’s a bit into music.)

None of it can come with us. Sigh.

It’s tough to try and predict what I would need or want to have with me in Kyrgyzstan and what is and is not available. I’ve had a sewing project on my mind for a while and dropped some serious cash on a gorgeous swath of Liberty of London fabric; do I risk the hassle of bringing my own needles and thread or do I attempt to wander around the market asking for an “игла”? Maybe I can join some sort of babushka sewing circle, a Soviet-style “stitch and bitch”.

And my cameras. My trusty Rebel and its three lenses are coming along. I couldn’t imagine standing in the shadows of the Tien Shan mountains without my Diana lens. When I got back from Iraq I convinced myself that I would have time to experiment with an old film camera I bought on Etsy… which, between work, weddings, and general summer life, never happened. That thing might not even work, but I’d feel too guilty packing it away in my Dad’s shed for a year. (Although, in Bishkek-as-I-imagine-it, I’m sure I could find some kitschy vintage Soviet cameras in a dusty antique store.) There’s my point-and-shoot as well, plus all necessary wires, chargers, batteries, film, and memory cards.

All of it in my carry-on, because, hello, I won’t risk losing all of that on the Russian black market. I have a nightmare scenario in my head of arriving to Bishkek only to receive a “sorry-we-lost-all-of-your-possessions” voucher for the equivalent of 23 dollars while some greasy character (I’m imagining Eugene Hutz in Everything is Illuminated) pawns my electronics to buy his girlfriend some hoop earrings.

Err, you know, something like that. Better safe than sorry.

Thinking about what my new expat life in Bishkek will be like has brought up all sorts of questions. Has Lady Gaga arrived to Bishkek, and if so, will it be up-to-date or will all the marshrutkas play “Just Dance” on repeat?

What about baking supplies? Will I be able to find baking soda and baking powder or will there just be “baking carbonate”? Will there be a repeat of baking experiences in Jordan? Do all measuring cups in the former USSR look like this?

And finally, the biggest question, will there be a running (and obsessive) theme of adorable old babushkas in every post from now on?

Probably. Yes. Definitely.

I have one more cooking-related post in the draft pile that will have nothing to do with Kyrgyzstan or babushkas, and then get ready for a year’s worth of “So here’s the thing about Kyrgyzstan…”

Stay tuned.