How small IS that suitcase?

Let’s face it. I’m a little holier-than-thou when it comes to packing for travel. Blame 12 years of bicycle touring, having to stuff three weeks’ worth of clothes and everything else into one set of panniers. Sure, I could wash things, drying them on a clothesline strung next to the tent. And, sure, I sometimes had to tell myself, “These people will never see me again” as I went to a nice restaurant in my biking shoes, Lands’ End polo and matching pull-on knit skirt.

But I was good at packing, and I like to think I still am.

This trip to Prague seemed like a good reason (excuse?) to buy a new suitcase. Criteria: small, lightweight, hard-sided, not black (tired of carefully scrutinizing every bag that comes off the carousel (yes, I have bright tags, but they are often the same color as United’s OVERWEIGHT or SPECIAL HANDLING tags). With a backpack and one Vera quilted bag, could I find a small suitcase that could take it all the rest?

Everyone knew I was looking for one. I stated my needs on my Facebook timeline, and my friends came through with suggestions. Google also knew I had been surfing the luggage sites and still, four weeks after I purchased the perfect bag, Google still tries to entice me by posting ads from Samsonite, Tumi, Travelpro.

"I didn't know you were a magician," says Dr. Cat Goodall as she watches Candace pull out all the clothes. (photo by Kaitlynn LeBeau)

“I didn’t know you were a magician,” says Dr. Cat Goodall as she watches Candace pull out all the clothes. (photo by Kaitlynn LeBeau)

With the new dark green Tumi (last year’s color so $100 off) in hand, I used my skills and packed the suitcase – clothes for everything from at least one formal dinner to the military boot camp and temps from 50s to almost 90. I took the suitcase, carefully and neatly packed, to class and demonstrated:

  • the art of choosing one basic color (black) so you can get by with shoes that match everything;
  • the skill of choosing only knits and non-wrinkle-able clothes that can go in the washer and not need and iron;
  • the technique of laying pants in alternate directions so the legs drape over each side of the suitcase, laying the rolled up shirts and other clothes on them and flopping the legs over the top. No wrinkles in anything;
  • and ever so many more instinctive skills that allow you to fit in more than you could image.

In fact, my fellow prof, Cat Goodall, looked in awe at all I pulled out. We referred to it as the Clown Car Suitcase. Will it work that well Friday night when I pack for good and wonder if I really need shorts or a second sweater or – horrors – a fourth pair of shoes.

Students aren’t the only ones with blogs

As I watched the KentInPrague site grow and had my students choose dates for blogging while they’re in country, I decided they shouldn’t have all the fun. So… here I’ll keep track of my own observations and reactions.

“To what?” you might ask. To two weeks in Prague, Czech Republic. Let me back up and explain. Dr. Catherine Goodall and I are starting an adventure with10 students from the Schools of Communication and Information and Journalism and Mass Communication. Each has selected a topic of interest on the general theme, “Modern Media and Democracy.” Each has been exploring this for the past three weeks of daily classes on the Kent State campus and will be prepared to do more research and interviews as they produce either a final multimedia story or a research paper.

Topics range from media coverage of the Romanies (gypsies), which sounds eerily like issues with reporting about blacks in the U.S., to trust of media in the two countries, to media campaigns about smoking. The students’ ideas are intriguing, and the possibilities are endless.

That is, if we can meet the challenge of having cell phones that keep us connected — and don’t cost a gazillion dollars, if we can all get some money exchanged to Czech crowns at a decent rate, and if we can pack for everything from a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to a somewhat hands-on boot camp at a military university like the ones they conduct for soon-to-be-embedded journalists.

The trip runs from Aug. 3 – 18, but immersion in the process is in full swing. Tomorrow I’ll share the joys of packing when too many years of bicycle touring has turned me into a I-can-pack-less-than-you-can sort of snob. Well…I probably can.

Then there’s the burning question: Will I still keep the lovely leather journal I bought for this trip, or is this blog my only way to capture the moment? We’ll see…