For Jean and me this trip has three phases, which complicates packing. First we go to London for a week, where we will visit the Eden Project in Cornwall (sort of a mega Osher Rainforest), as well as the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. We have to check out the competition to see if these institutions have some great ideas that we might borrow for California Academy of Sciences. Then we go to Madagascar via Paris. And then we top off the trip with a few days in Paris.
By stopping in London first, we’ll also make some progress getting over jet lag, since the time difference between San Francisco and Madagascar is 10 hours, 8 of which are between SFO and London. That’s a healthy jet lag to overcome, so we are taking it in stages.
But, before we even leave for good old SFO we have to PACK. And PACKING is one of life’s great challenges. It also can jeopardize marital bliss.
The picture above shows my suitcase in the process of being assembled, constructed, crammed, and all the other words used during packing. Actually, I won’t share with you ALL of the words I have used in the process of stowing away what I will need for a week in London (normal stuff), three weeks in warm and humid Madagascar (very different stuff), and then a few days in Paris at the end (chic, where are you?). To be truthful, I neatened things up for the picture. Sharing reality with you was too much to contemplate. Jean sneaked in the chocolate chip cookies in case the airline’s stock is down and they are cutting back to no nibbles but pretzels. It’s a long flight.
London and Paris are easy. For Jean, of course, it’s chic all the way. For me, khakis will have to do, perhaps taken upscale by the creative touch of a blue blazer. It’s an original look shared with generations of the Brooks Brothers crowd. Men have a way of all looking the same.
The main challenge is what to take for Madagascar. Our companions, the Almedas, are experienced travelers in that part of the world, and we have been following their advice closely. We have acquired full wardrobes of nylon and polyester clothing (light, rugged, and fast drying), new hiking boots, walking sticks, comfy socks, and so forth. In the process we have become frequent shoppers at REI on Brannan Street in San Francisco. The staff there are wonderfully helpful. They all seem to have just returned from a hike or a climb and eager to tell about it. They look FIT. Not one had the courage to ask whether we wanted the senior citizen’s discount. This was wise on their part. (Of course, there may not be a discount.) Regardless, REI rocks for the set we have just joined. Can a sleeping bag be far behind? Cool.
Then there is the small matter of health. We have pulled out all the stops. Vaccinations for this plague and that. Big pink pills for warding off malaria. Cipro antibiotic just in case the “system” goes on the fritz because of some unfriendly creatures in the water. Speaking of water, we now have a new, high-tech UV water purifier that is guaranteed to zap any unfriendly organisms when activated in a bottle of water. It runs on 4 AA cells. Then, just in case the zapper misses something, we also have Pepto-Bismol and lots of other stuff too. I associate Pepto-Bismol with being sick when I was growing up. I somehow had myself convinced that it was the reason I was sick, but I guess that’s looking at things backwards. My mother had great faith in the restorative powers of that pink fluid. I had mixed feelings.
So, preparing to leave has been an involved process that has gone on over a month or two, as this item and that were added to growing piles that eventually would have to be PACKED.
I should point out that for the sake of harmony in the household Jean and I have two separate packing operations in two separate locations. Cellphone calls back and forth from one to the other are allowed, but I have resisted visiting her area in person. I value my life and that sense of harmony the Japanese call “wa”. Naturally, I am always available to offer helpful advice. As yet she hasn’t asked for advice, but I’m sure the moment will come and then I’ll be ready!
The goal: one suitcase each, one small duffel each, and one camera/computer backpack that will be packed on my back. That’s that and that’s it and no more, except for two Kindles since megabytes of books weigh a lot less than paper.