Sunday, May 3, 2015

Adventures in Kenya Series - Final Preparations, Packing List

The first leg of my flight to Amsterdam leaves Newark, NJ at 5:50 this evening.  With the time change, I will arrive around 8AM in the Netherlands tomorrow if everything is on time.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous. Many times I have told teachers I was working with or students in my classes that being out of our comfort zone is where learning happens.  So, I figure I'm right where I should be.

The aspect of the trip that has me slighly uncomfortable is the lack of exact planning. When we travel as a family, or when I go to a conference to speak, I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of every hotel reservation, flight, meeting, etc.  The nature of this trip is that it can't be planned that way.  And, that's OK. I've got a general idea of where I'm going and what I'm doing most days, but where exactly I'll be sleeping, or eating, or what I will experience at many locations is still a mystery to me. I guess that's why it feels like an adventure. I think it's important for me to let the experience happen organically. That's the way I will get the most out of it, and bring the most home.  It's probably a good lesson for me to learn to let go.

Sushi, Thai food, and the Kentucky Derby.
My horse finished 4th
I know I'm going to miss Lori and the kids a great deal while I'm gone. Since this is a professional blog, I rarely bring my personal life into posts, but the three of them are the world to me. I've travelled quite a bit in the last 2 years since winning PAEMST, but this will be the longest I've been gone and the time change and connectivity issues will make it more difficult than ever to keep in touch with them.  I'm still planning to Skype them as often as possible, even if it's evening for me and before they leave for school in the morning.  We spent a great last day together today watching the new Marvel Avengers movie that just opened and then watching the Kentucky Derby with family over sushi and Thai food. Like many great days, this one ended with ice cream.

Ice-cream is a great way to end a day
Almost every night before bed I read from the Harry Potter series to my son. I've downloaded the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince to my iPad, and I'm hoping to steal a few minutes here and there to record myself reading on YouTube to send back to him to watch before bed.

I started my anti-malarial pills yesterday.  So far, I haven't experienced any nasty side effects. I also had a few cranberry and tonic waters at dinner. I hear the quinine in the tonic keeps mosquitos away, so I'm going to try drinking it as much as I can. 

To be as low-maintenence as possible, I got my hair clipped uber-short.  It's the shortest I've ever had it cut.  As an added bonus, my insanely awesome Tilley Hat fits better now. 

Choosing what to bring has been a challenge. I'm allowed two checked bags that can weigh up to 50 lbs each.  They are both maxed out on weight. 

One bag is filled with supplies for the schools. I'm bringing over base-10 blocks, colored counting chips, lots of different numbered dice, number lines, cuisinare rods, Judy clocks, and fraction blocks for some of the students with whom I'll be working.  I'll be giving their teachers a crash course in teaching with hands-on math materials.  Each of the materials I'm bringing has been featured in a Distance Teaching Project video by our Wallenpaupack students, so the teachers and students will be able to refer back to the videos to see how to use them as well.  In that bag I also have a few books and supplies that other teachers have sent to me to bring. I wish that I could have accomodated everyone that wanted me to bring supplies over to the kids in Kibera, but I just couldn't. We had some left-over University of Scranton hats that people didn't take at Edcamp NEPA, so I'm bringing them to give to new friends. It'll be nice to show some pride in my Alma Matter halfway around the world. The contents of that bag are padded nicely with some stuffed animals that Michael was looking to donate. I'm sure I'll find them happy homes in Kibera.

The second checked bag is filled with my clothes, toiletries, a few more school supplies, and some random items that will be fun to have.  At the request of Tracy Hanson from NGGE, who has been on an amazing trip around the world to promote student and community driven education, I am bringing some maple syrup and pancake mix.  I will be meeting her in Nairobi, and she wants to make pancakes with real syrup for our Kenyan friends.  I'm also bringing her a bottle of Advil, which she told me is tough to get in the parts of Africa she's been visiting (Kenya and Cameroon).  I had to switch suitcases while packing because of weight. The piece of luggage that I originally packed these items in was too heavy, so I switched to a rolling duffle bag that allowed me to get in a few extra pounds worth of stuff. 

Organizing my carry-on bag was a little tricky as well. All of the camera and electronic equipment I'm bringing to document the trip has to stay with me, but I also don't want to lug around a heavy pack all day in Amsterdam.  I'm bringing a GoPro camera with several mounts and an external microphone, my iPad, a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet/laptop, my Nikon D90 kit with a few lenses and filters, and a Dolica Ultra Lghtweight Tripod which is sturdy enough for my SLR and folds up to about 16 inches long and weighs less than 3lbs (less than the syrup and pancake mix in the other bag). The Surface 3 seems like the perfect travel device - lightweight, can be used as a tablet, but still functions as a laptop if needed. I'm also packing a few extra pairs of clothes in this luggage as well - in case my other bag gets lost for a few days. I'll be carrying any important documents and such in a money belt under my clothes, including the checks with money raised by our students, kids in Greece, and kids in Kansas that will provide water filters and clean drinking water to almost 500 students in Kibera schools, and 194 homes in the Slum.

For my few hours in Amsterdam I think I'll pack a small daypack in my carry-on bag which I can remove while in the city.  I'll leave the large bag in a locker at the airport and then pick it up before my overnight flight to Nairobi.  

I picked up a cheap Windows phone that I'll use while in Africa.  The plan is to get a Sim card the first day that I arrive with a phone number and data plan. It'll be kind of cool to have a Kenyan phone number.

I'm as ready as I can be, I think. Next time I post will likely be from the Netherlands as I wait for my plane to Kenya. I think I hear the call to post...







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