Last 24 Hours

My last day in the states has come at last. My mom came over this morning to help me pack. As you can see I was a little overwhelmed:

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How to fit all of this into one bag?

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How am I going to fit my life into this one bag?!

Finally we narrowed down the pile to what I wanted to bring, plus my carry on and now I am ready to rumble tomorrow! I’ve checked into my first flight already with Delta, but since my second flight is later I won’t be able to check in until tonight. I don’t expect I will be sleeping much tonight anyway, so I am not too concerned. My family is treating me to Jackie’s Galaxy tonight, which is a somewhat trendy Asian cuisine place. They have fantastic sushi so I am very excited for that. Then tomorrow morning at 5 am we will all pile into the minivan to make the pilgrimage up to Boston. I want to arrive in plenty of time so there’s no rush with checking my bags and going through security. I will post more on that tomorrow.

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Feya wants to know “I see you’ve packed all of YOUR stuff, but you forgot to leave room for me and MY stuff!”

Now for those of you interested how to pack your life into one suitcase and one carry on, here are my recommendations:

  1. List!! Making a list helps minimize that “ooh, did I forget something important?” anxiety. Also I found I kept remembering something, running to find it, remembering something else on the way, and forgetting the first thing!
  2. Make outfits. Before my mom came over I laid all the clothes I could possibly want to bring out on the bed (minus undies and such). Things could only come if they fit into a few outfits.
  3. Space makes waste! My grandpa got me these great vacuum seal bags for Christmas, you just fill them up and zip them shut and then roll them and the air escapes. Your stuff is then extra flat and fits much more easily. I’ve also seen tips online about putting small items inside of your shoes to make use of that space.
  4. Think inside the box. Check with your airline about their size and weight limits and double check  so you aren’t stuck with a hefty oversize fine.
  5. Your carry-on is your lifeline. You should be able to survive out of it for a few days to a week if they lose your luggage. I’ve packed an extra toothbrush, hairbrush, deodorant, and changes of clothes in it. Also anything valuable (monetary or sentimental) should be in your carry-on so you can keep an eye on it. The TSA now has this nifty 3-1-1 system for liquids and gels, make sure you are aware of it.
  6. Leave room to bring things back. You will want to buy souvenirs and cool clothes and such abroad, so leave room in your suitcase to bring it back.
  7. You made a list, and now check it twice! You will be a sad puppy if you get there and find you’ve left your charger or god forbid your passport at home!

I’m going to post an itemized list of what I packed, and then when I’m abroad or when I get home I’ll post an update about what I might have left at home or brought instead.

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A Very Belated Post-Snowed In

I started writing this post on Friday while my fiancee and I rode out Blizzard Nemo, the wicked nor’easter that pummeled the East Coast with two feet of snow. I consider myself a born and bred Rhode Islander; white clam chowder and Del’s run in my veins. But I am still not a fan of the brutal winters here. It’s a wonder the first settlers weren’t like “Screw this! We are turning this boat around!” Anyway, I lost power before I posted it and didn’t get it back for a few days, so here’s my belated post.

Nor'easter  IMG_0515 IMG_0518

The three pictures above were taken as the storm progressed. The first is about three hours in, the second about two hours after that, and then as you can see in the last picture, things went haywire from there. My battery died, so I don’t have a picture of the full magnitude of two feet of snow.

Anyway, Thursday was my last day of work at Sam’s Club, where I worked for a year and a half first as a cashier then as a member service associate. Leaving my job with no new job lined up made this whole thing much more real (I can’t work on a student visa or they will deport me). I’ve really enjoyed my time at Sam’s Club, it’s a great company to work for and I worked for/with a great group of people. I consider all of my coworkers, past and present, as my Sam’s Club family. Everyone has been so supportive and excited for me as I embark on this great adventure and I hope some of them will follow me to Chile via this blog.

That’s all I have to say for now, I have 11 days left and I am scared to death but so excited. Join me next time as I attempt to pack 5 months of my life into one suitcase and a carry-on!

Family News!!!

Today while I was getting the oil in my trusty Ford Escort (named Curtis) changed, I checked my email on my phone and received some VERY EXCITING NEWS! MY HOST FAMILY HAS BEEN SELECTED!!!

My Chile family is made up of four people and a dog. Gloria is the mother, Camila is close to my age and is the daughter, and Sebastián and Benjamin are twelve and ten, respectively. The dog is an old beagle, I don’t know his or her name yet. The boys like to play soccer, and as a family they enjoy going on walks in the park and spending time with friends and extended family. The message also had pictures, but I won’t post pictures of them until I have their permission.

I am super super excited. Knowing who I will be living with really helps to lower my anxiety and worries. I will be sending them an email soon to introduce myself and to let them know how excited I am. I don’t think I could have picked a better family myself. I especially hope Camila and I will get along. For the first time, I will be the younger sister! (My sister is four years younger than me, and Camila is one year older). I hope the two boys are like most boys that age-I hope they want to show me interesting things and ask me lots of questions! Maybe I can help them with homework, since I’m not very good at soccer! And my host mom seems really kind and patient, just like my own mom.

I won’t have to wait too long until I meet them. My flight leaves in just 24 days, 15 hours, 53 minutes, and 3 seconds! Eeeep! On a related note, I submitted my notice at work. I work at a local Sam’s Club, and my last day will be February 10th. I will miss my Sam’s Club family, but I plan on reapplying when I get home.

Financial Good News!

A few nights ago I called the friendly folks over at Citizen’s Bank customer service to have a chat about how my (and sometimes my parents’) hard-earned U.S. dollars will be able to metamorphose into lovely useful Chilean pesos and fly with me to Chile. I currently have the standard Visa Citizen’s Bank debit card as well as a Mastercard credit card. I spoke with Brad, who was very helpful, who told me that in terms of my debit card, the only fee Citizen’s will charge is a 3% currency conversion fee which is fantastic. Of course I will have to keep in mind any fees the merchants or ATMs might charge. His recommendation was to do one bulk ATM transaction say every other week, keep the money somewhere safe at home, and just take what I would need for the day with me. I know we will talk more about this subject at orientation, so I will keep you posted.

Then I was transferred over to the credit department to learn about my Mastercard. Brad was super helpful in getting me a real person to talk to instead of sending me into the automated robot system. I talked to Muriel, who told me that I would only have to worry about a currency conversion fee of 2.80% with a minimum fee of $1.50.

Overall I’m happy because lots of banks charge international transaction fees on top of currency conversion fees, but Citizen’s Bank doesn’t. Yeay for being able to keep my own money!!

39 Days, 13 Hours, 52 Minutes, 20 Seconds….

Not a ton left to do in terms of preparations except to wait. I have a countdown to when my flight leaves Boston on my phone that tells me to the second how much waiting there is left. I fluctuate between sheer terror and excitement. This is going to be such an amazing experience, but I’ve never lived outside of the country before, I’ve never been away from my family and fiancee this long, and I’ve never lived in a city. I think a large part of my anxiety is because I really don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what my host family will be like, I don’t know what my living arrangements will look like, I don’t know what classes I’ll be taking or how hard they will be. So much unknown! But I am also excited for the challenge, the novelty, the excitement, and the experience. Logically I know I’ll be okay, but could someone tell my subconscious?

I went to my local Sprint store to talk to the folks there about the possibility of getting my iPhone 4s unlocked so I could put a Chilean sim card in it when I got to Santiago. If I just took my current phone, every time I wanted to tell my host family I would be late for dinner, it would be like calling Chile from the United States. Muy caro! (Very expensive). Unfortunately unlocking is against company policy and would void the warranty as well as the insurance plan I purchased, so I won’t be doing that. They recommended instead I just put my phone in airplane mode or disable the text and call features while I’m there, essentially turning my phone into an iPod Touch, and getting a prepaid flip phone down there, which I will do.

My typhoid pills are almost done, I just have one dose left. Some people would prefer just to have the one needle and not have to mess around with pills that have to be taken 2 hours after eating and 1 hour before, with a glass of water, every other day. I say Boo Needles! They are nasty poky things that make me anxious and sweaty. No thank you!

Health Insurance and an Adversion to Needles

Today my mom and I went to the travel clinic at the Merriam Hospital in Providence to get me caught up on my vaccinations for weird South American fevers that can kill me. For those of you who don’t know, I HATE NEEDLES!! Like they are very high on my list of least favorite things, right up there with leeches and social injustice. So I was not exactly looking forward to the visit, although I was trying to act like a big girl by reminding myself that having typhoid is most certainly worse than the vaccine for typhoid.

Previous to this visit, I had given my friendly neighborhood health care provider a call and asked if this visit and the resulting pokes would be covered by my plan. I was assured by the kind lady over the phone that as vaccines fall under preventative care, they would be fully covered, and the travel clinic was one in their network. Upon arrival at the clinic however, the receptionist told me I was sadly misinformed, that my insurance never covers these vaccines. While mom stepped out to call out insurance back, I went ahead with the consultation appointment anyway since no matter what I needed those shots.

This clinic was the same one I visited when I was 10 years old and visited the Amazon rainforests of Peru, so they were able to pull up that visit in April 2002 as well as my immunization record. Thankfully, I already had many of the vaccines recommended for travel to Chile, and they are still floating around in my bloodstream, being all awesome and disease-preventive! The only gap in my immunizations seemed to be a typhoid fever vaccine. More good news, I could choose between a 4 dose course of pills or a shot. Guess which one I picked!

Victory Baby - Needed Typhoid Immunization Available in pill form

Mom worked her magic with the health care provider over the phone, and got them to cover the typhoid vaccine right at the clinic, so I got off with just a $75 consultation fee. I’m going to go ahead and submit that receipt on the off chance that they reimburse me, but I won’t hold my breath. Damn you health insurance companies and your conflicting information!

Dwindling To-Do List

I just got off the phone with our lovely health insurance providers who gave me the great news that my vaccinations at the travel clinic will be fully covered without a copay. Yeay! I won’t know for sure until I get there, but I know that the CDC recommends that I get vaccinated against typhoid, tetanus, and one of the hepatitises before I go. I love shots (said no one ever).

Grumpy Cat 1 - I Have to get shots? Good.

Otherwise my preparations are going splendidly. As you know I successfully acquired a student visa from the mysterious geriatric twins of the Honorary Chilean Consulate of Boston (think Burt and Ernie, except Burt and Burt). I’ve registered myself with the Department of State so they can save me in an emergency, and my plane tickets are purchased and accumulating interest on my credit card.

Thank you also to my family for the generous gifts this year! I have enough travel-sized toiletries to last me my whole trip, which is actually a great money saver, thank you! A HUGE thank you also to my Uncle Chris and Auntie Nicole who were much too generous with their present!

Now on to the final stages of the preparation, getting poked with hypodermic needles and packing. Hurray!