Jennifer (waiting for a travel date as we are waiting for a court date and trying not to go crazy like me) has requested a special post- "What to Bring/What to leave" on her first trip to Russia. I actually LOVE this idea of post requesting, since I can only say in so many words "we don't know anything". So if you would like to request a topic I would LOVE to post it here! (Fun, right? I could be like the Casey Casum of the blog world!)
So, Jennifer, this one is for you!
What to bring in your carry-on
Your dossier (with copies of all of your Apostilled documents)
A change of nice clothes (if this is the only thing you have to wear you'll want to look slightly nice when you meet the government officials)
My kindle (or a good book)
Medication (tummy trouble, headache, cold med, etc)
Hand sanitizer and a bar of soap (everything else is just gravy if your luggage is lost or stolen)
Passport with disappointing visa sticker intact (you would think when you pay that much money for a Visa it should, well, I don't know, like be on a scroll with calligraphy or something. Turns out it was just a sticker 2 inches by three inches stuck to the middle of my passport. No wax seal or nothin'!)
New money in 100's and a few 50's and 20's spread out over various parts of our bodies (two waist packs and one neck holder one)
I brought a tiny "side saddle" very hideous purse with a spot for everything. It was ugly but it kept me organized and I could keep important stuff on my body against me at all times, like passports and tickets. In it I had a "if I get robbed wallet" with like a hundred dollars in it.
Stuff I should have left home
Chad's book (he watched all the movies available and never picked it up)
Make-up and a bag of other toiletry items such as travel tooth brushes and facial wipes (it's better to come to terms with the fact you will look like a hag the entire week and leave the face at home and pack the toiletries)
Long underwear, hats, gloves, scarves. It was 1000 degrees inside at all times. I wanted to get down to my skivvies and roll in the snow any chance I got, not bundle up against it!
More than one pair of shoes. My snow-ish boots would have been enough because as soon as you walk in the door you take off your shoes (that goes for the orphanage and people's homes)
A language pocket translator guide. We were with our translator the whole time and when we weren't no one talked to us anyway, so we didn't crack the book.
Stuff I should have packed on my checked luggage
Blow up travel pillow (as if you will have room to tilt your head 10 degrees to the right or left when you are packed in your seat tighter than sardines!)
Emergency food (save this for your trip to bring your little one home, the airline actually fed us really well!)
Stuff to pack
Not nearly as many clothes as you think you need. Pack what you think you need and then take at least half of it away. Everyone we came in contact with wore the same outfit everyday. I thought I did a fab job with two suitcases and two carry on backpacks, but really I could have just brought clean underoos everyday and like 3 outfits for the week. I was not there to make a fashion statement AND our translator thought it was hilarious that I thought I was "packing light".
A power strip/surge protector that you can plug ALL your American electrical devises into. I got the Universal EWSS505 Surge protectormine (per Amy) at http://www.eastwestintl.com/proddetail.asp?pid=3772. I think it was $40 and it was soooo worth it. Just be careful when you are grabbing to unplug it. That made me yell some cuss words one day when my arm was blown backwards and the blue fireball came out of the outlet, but I was just happy the blackberry/video camera/digital camera was spared the surge of energy. To get a price quote on eastwest, just send them an inquiry and they get back with you about the price. It's weird, but you can negotiate cost and shipping.
The host family we stayed with had toiletries for us (soap, shampoo, etc) but I still would bring my own stuff. I couldn't read what anything was anyway. My luck I would end up putting hair remover on my face or something and end up without eyebrows.
We did not bring a laptop and I'm glad. We had access to our host family's computer-and-
We rented an International Blackberry (traded for Chad's non-International Blackberry) it was only $10 to rent the phone and it had unlimited access to the Internet. Phone calls were still pricey but we only called home once and we were thankful we had it when we were stranded in Frankfurt and then again when we missed our connector in DC (BOOOOO Lufthansa!!!)
A few toys for Charlie to break the ice, food for him (little goldfish and teddy grahams in portable cups) and of course a few loveys and a photo book to leave with him. I also wanted to test his language skills so I made some flashcards with pictures on them and phonetic Russian pronunciations for me. So I could say "Ree-bah???" and see if he would hand me the picture of the fish. I made a "Stas" flashcard with his picture and a "mama and papa" flashcard with our picture. I also made him a card with our dogs and labeled it Sa-bak-a." I don't think he had ever seen a dog.
Half my suitcase was orphanage gifts for the kids. I bought tons of fleece hoodies and shoes (gender neutral, because the boys are often dressed like lil' girls, half the pictures of Charlie are him sporting some fab bunny tights)
Stuff I wish I would have brought
Disposable cameras to leave with the orphanage workers to take pictures of him while we've been gone. Especially now that it will be months between our visits. I am kicking myself over that one.
More bills in smaller denominations in my purse for airport layovers, tips, etc. By the end of the week when we wanted to buy a few souvenirs from the street vendors in Pskov we only had big bills and it was a hassle to exchange it.
More stuff for the kids at the orphanage and less stuff for me (I am serious about the clothes thing, I know it sounds gross, but it's ok to wear the same thing twice or three times...) You'll fit in more!
The best advice I have is pack light and when you think you are packing light, pack even less. Even in tiny Pskov, we were never without if we truly needed something. We could always ask someone to pick something up for us if we truly needed it (like tic-tacs!) and some water (without bubbles is in the light blue cap, dark blue is seltzer, ick)
Ok- who is going to pick the next topic?