19 January 2010


Today I made my first attempt to pack. It was highly successful, I think. Here are some lessons I learned during my packing adventure:

1. Not all voltage converters are created equal and it's important to pay attention to what you want them to do. For example, often times people buy the wrong converter and end up frying their straighteners as well as their hair the first time they use them. At least, that's what Neal at Brookstone said. Also, while my straightener should work with the converter I bought, my blow dryer will not [good-bye bulky, hard-to-pack blow dryer!] and I'm not sure if my computer will. I'm also not sure if it's kosher/a good idea to plug a surge protecter power strip into the converter and thus use it for multiple electronics. More on that when I find out the answers.
2. Space saver bags truly save tremendous amounts of space. Today I packed a down comforter, bedding, two towels, a bath mat, a hand towel, two dresses, one skirt, twelve shirts, two sweatshirts/sweaters, and pajamas using space saver bags and it all fit in three bags, which all fit in the same, medium-sized suitcase. In addition to that happy reality, there is still room for a couple pairs of jeans and some toiletries in the suitcase and it doesn't even weigh 50lbs yet.
3. The urge to pack everything I own is enormous.
4. I need less stuff than I think I do.
5. I own a lot of stuff.

After learning all those lessons, I'm happy to say I think I will be able to pack everything I need and even a few [American] creature comforts quite easily without bringing the stereotypical myriad of luggage I hear Europeans deem annoyingly American.

02 January 2010

The dessert was definitely worth it.

I did it! I've finally turned in all my paperwork, dotted every "i," crossed every "t," and done everything I'm supposed to do to legally fly to France and stay there for six months. Woo hoo!
Earlier this week my dad and I flew from snowy Kansas City to snowier Chicago so that I could turn in all my visa paperwork at the French Consulate. I don't know if it's a result or 9/11 or if they always did things this way, but the French government requires people turn in their paperwork in person, no mailing the forms and receiving the visa in return. I was worried because everyone gave me the impression that the whole visa process is extremely complicated but it truly wasn't.
The forms were simple to fill out, I made copies of all the necessary papers (a registration form showing I'm accepted to attend a French university), my mom got the money form notarized (she promised the French government I will have money for living in France), got two copies of a passport photo, and off I went!
When I first found out I had to go to Chicago for the visa I thought I should go by myself as a sort of trial run for going to France by myself--figure out how to use the subway, how to get a cab, how to navigate life by myself. But, my dad said he would come with me and I wasn't quite ready to be a big girl yet, so we went together. I'm glad he did, because we met up with his friend from high school who took us to dinner at Gibson's (we said we wanted "the Ultimate Chicago Dinner Experience" when Ed asked what we were hungry for, and Gibson's is what we got). The food was delicious but it was the dessert that was the meal's crowning glory.
The desserts there are designed to serve 5-10 people, diners have to come to a consensus on what they want to share before they order. Ed was having none of that, however, and insisted that we each order a dessert so we could take the extras home. They were huge. I ordered a chocolate mousse pie and it was literally as big as my head. It was delicious.
Compared to that meal, my experience at the consulate was almost disappointing. We walked into a huge skyscraper, got visitor passes, went to the 37th floor, and waited for the receptionist to call my name. At that point, I went up to the window (it was designed like a teller window at a bank), slid my paperwork under the glass, paid, put my fingers on the scanner to get prints, and posed for a picture (no smiling allowed). The whole process took less than five minutes and we were on our way back out the door.
Hopefully I'll get my pre-paid, self-addressed U.S. Express Mail envelope full of my passport with a French visa inside it in the next couple days...if I don't, that would be a long trip just for some dessert!

10 January 2010
My visa arrived, safe and sound, with an ugly picture [no smile] of my face printed on the visa and glued to my passport. I'm official allowed in France!