Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Well bless my soul!

Tomorrow, sometime, Marilyn and I leave for Florida. I'll be en route to India. Marilyn will be staying in Florida with her mom, Anne, who, at 92 and bravely recovering over the past few years from two broken legs, will definitely enjoy having a daughter around to keep her company and help her out from day to day.

We'll be in two cars for the trip to Florida because of the huge amount of stuff we'll be bringing along. I have a couple of hundred lbs of baggage; Marilyn has whatever she will need for 5 months in Florida; and then there are the dogs... So we decided we'd just take both cars, with a car top carrier on top of mine.

I can hardly believe this is happening. The reality will only sink in once I set foot on Indian soil in the early hours of the morning of Dec. 6.

We're more or less all packed up and ready to go, but tomorrow morning I have to make a quick trip into school to go over my courses with the instructor who's going to teach them for me next semester. I expect we'll be on our way by midday, though.

We'll be taking three days to get to M's mom's place in Cape Coral, FL, because M doesn't have the stamina I do for driving long distances. We'll stop every couple of hours for this and that, and we'll stop overnight before dark, because in the dark it's too hard for either Marilyn or me to keep each other in plain view.

It's going to be an interesting trip!You'd be amazed what one has to consider when doing something like this. For example, I now know all there is to know about airline baggage allowances. I discovered, for example, that the cheapest way to reliably and swiftly ship, say, 150 lbs of goods is to take it along as excess baggage. UPS, DHL, FedEx would charge around $800 or more. As airline excess baggage I should get away with paying maybe $400.

My Fulbright scholarship grant covers me for up to $500 of excess baggage.

Bingo! No brainer.

At the airport in Fort Myers, I'll check all my luggage through to New Delhi—other than my carry on laptop computer case, which, aside from the laptop, will include sundry items such as meds, etc. that I don’t want to lose sight of. I'll pay whatever excess baggage fees I have to, and then claim reimbursement from the Fulbright folks at some later date.

Why do I have excess baggage, you may ask? What happened to "traveling light?"

Well, I got a couple of educational software developers to donate about 1100 CD-ROMs for me to take and distribute in India. Then I had my university produce 250 CD-ROMs of my own professional and teaching materials—again for distribution to students and faculty in India. Finally, I asked the print shop at my university to produce 6 hard copies of each of two of my books--so I can donate them to libraries here and there in India.

The CDs and books alone weigh in at over 130 lbs. So there we go; there ain't no way I'm going to avoid excess baggage on this trip!

Getting it all together while teaching a full schedule of classes is exhausting, however; more so than I ever anticipated. In fact, I'm looking forward to being in India so I can finally slow down!

One day at a time, though. All will be well :)

By way of compensation, I've had a couple of lovely send offs from my colleagues and students. My colleagues took me out to dinner last week to wish me bon voyage. Then, this evening, I had a lovely send off while I was at school.

I was busy in the computer lab with a few students who were finishing up their work for the semester when I heard this commotion in the hallway outside. In walked 30 or so of my students to wish me bon voyage!! What a beautiful surprise!

They came bearing gifts—cookies and farewell cards and such—and something wrapped up in silver foil.

Well, I kind of guessed what it was because of its shape (and also because I'd joked about it often enough in class—and you'll have to ask my students what the context was!). But when I literally tore open the wrapping paper, the contents turned out to be a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey!!

Now there's a first. I never before had students buy me any kind of alcohol.

But I think it's a tradition I'd like to encourage them to maintain.

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