Tuesday, April 29, 2014

44. International Travel Pack for Me: Susan style, + Tech

Не мечи́те би́сер пе́ред сви́ньями.                                                 

Cast not your pearls before swine.

 Literal: Don't cast beads in front of pigs.

Many have asked me to give a list of what I chose to pack to prepare for HSCT in Moscow. I'm doing this one fast, but I did think about it in the night last night and hope it's helpful. 

The HSCT in MOSCOW list of foods/clothing others have provided seem more than adequate, but I did not pack anything but the Lipton tea flavored drink packets I like from home to flavor water.  I figured I could find everything else here, so left all that heavy other food stuff at home. I found everything I needed here, within a pleasant walk of hospital, so seems to me the only factor to consider here is ambulatory ability you might consider - this part of Moscow is NOT very handicap friendly. (map to stores shown below)

I will admit I have been known to pack Medifast food if I'm on a buying trip that I fantasize doubles as a diet, but in fact, I also admit willingly it almost never gets dipped into nor used and so is just extra baggage with good intention. I hope I get points!  

Clothing: I want light natural layer-able clothing, everywhere. I will not sweat out Florence in anyone's drip-dry wicking polyester sport clothing, sorry. I prefer the natural cooling of either silk or silk/wool blend, the finer the better because it's comfortable. AND bonus: light to pack, so I don't end up with 100 euro over-packed fee per bag by tucking in a few things for the return trip (usually antiques, true).  So light-weight counts for me. I have favorite travel slacks that weigh almost nothing and are super high quality thin wool fabric. They always look great, never wrinkle. I also toss in jeans, just because, well, I'm American and I need some to feel safe. Cashmere sweaters (shell, over, cardigan) are super light to pack and super warm, comfortable. Heavier wool, not always in my pack, but maybe for Greenland later on. And a good quality rain-worthy light (and probably long) overcoat and I think you can do a trip (like this one) that ranged from freezing sleet to nice sunny warm early summer-like days. And do it with nice form, as well.  That's the all-weather countdown. Adjust for summer/winter, when I try not to travel abroad. And I travel with lots of black/gray, a couple things to bring color in, only black shoes. I could go to a funeral or a wedding, easily - same day. Would have to buy a pair of heels on location, though.

Shoes: My hard/fast international travel rule is "It's not a fashion show - never ever take new shoes". In fact, CIDP has given me restriction that have me traveling with the most treasured God-awful worn out pair of Sesto Meucci 1.5" heel loafers you would ever see. I get scorned looks and bad service in Paris over them now, but I don't care. They help my damaged legs walk almost double what I can do in anything else. Pack for YOUR feet. You will walk more than you imagine, and your feet will thank me. Add in a good gel-heel/ball of foot pad, and they'll send me roses.  I packed 1 pair of 1.5" heeled boots for the cold, and my 1.5" heel horrids for the walking, plus the requisite Puma flip-flops for ISO room 'slippers'.  Nothing more.

CC protection: I am aware of all the problems in walking with ccs. I do have this super-light titanium (or whatever) cc case that I found in Paris last autumn, and it (ostensibly) also keeps card fraud walk-by readers blocked.  Here's the one I have. I think it was 80 euro, shops at the Louvre, but you can find a huge variety anywhere.

Noise canceling headphones:   I have great 'block it out' natural capacity, and so was not so into adding these. But I also know that in hospital we have a tough time blocking ongoing sounds to rest, so I popped for this BOSE earbud set. I used them on the flight over, and I have not really used them in hospital, but would if I needed to. Nights are mostly quiet, and I'm in 329, furthest from the Nurse's station and the noisy activity.

And now the really important stuff

What I do consider, however is what will help me make my trip smooth, like 'glide-smooth' and keep me from wasting any of it trying to figure out where I am, what museum is close, how to communicate in a language I can't even master the alphabet of, as well as keep me online, with email, Face-to-face contact (various apps) and even use my own device to download museum guides so I don't have that 8000-tourist-sweaty strap thing hanging around my neck, and have hands free with my camera if applicable, while using my headphones and ipad mini or my iPhone.

Yes, I am a total MAC-addict. As you can see. If I were a more sleek packer or did not also run a business while traveling, I could do this with just my iPhone and iPad Mini, but we women tend to always err toward over-packing.  My business runs from anywhere in the world from my MacAir (and employees at home), thin, light, doable keyboard for all the correspondence and I need it for all the normal programs I must access to run business. I can't do a lot of things I need on iPad alone, though in a year or two perhaps that will change. I have absolutely NO justifiable reason to have brought along the IPad Air, except that it was new and I wanted to play with it. It's just me. I won't change, don't even try.

If you can do this trip with a Kindle, more power to you! But I have all my tools loaded in mostly my iPhone and iPad Mini, which go right into my purse all the time. Here, in a choir of angels, and only 314 grams, the world unfolds for me.     There are, of course, the usual uses:

A fully stocked library, no trees were destroyed nor environment damaged by ink, chemicals

Any movies or TV series I want, all at fingertips (this is where VPN helps, btw)

 All those apps I think I will want for a particular trip, (usually I imagine I will learn a language). One 'folder' holds them all, and folders are titled by location for me. I use this stuff everywhere! OR imagine I will some day when I have time to sit and learn Russian.  Museum guides are in another folder, unless they're specific to say, Red Square. You organize your way, I'll disorganize mine.  

Most of that is standard stuff, and I'm not trying to sell Mac nor apps - just to remind you that WIFI and your tech is your lifeline while you are here. Please don't forget to prepare for this vital part of your HSCT path.  

So, I wanted to tell you what I think will help a MOSCOW HSCT trip (and any other you make) an easier friendlier world experience for you.  I tend to hoard apps. I also have the few that really work hard for me.  Here are a few I will suggest you might want to use:

Not perfect, but GOOGLE Translate is essential to you being here and able to communicate with staff. As many know, it works with a myriad of languages, uses spoken (activate it) entry and translates in text so the person who you want to communicate with can read in their language what you are saying. LOAD it on all your portable tech items, keep within reach.  Some of the nurses are using it, and I'm sure it makes their job communicating with us easier, too, so familiarize yourself with it if you have it only on a phone. Again, Kindle -you're on your own.

WORD LENS Along those lines, but ultra-cool (Thank you, my son Brett, for finding this for me), this app works using your pad/phone camera and will translate signs, food labels, etc., It's hard to capture in a photo (particularly because I am shaky at this stage of downward bloods) but it does translate word by word.  Again, you can use it with many languages, many travels. A cool free app!

Cultural Differences Guide:  International communication has other important cues that are NOT on an app - Thanks, Eddie Nash for the reminder. We are mini-emisary for our own country any time we travel internationally. Let's be good ones!  Here is a good site to review specifically for Russia visit, but this type of 'courtesy communcation and gesture' guide can be found regarding any international destination:

Currency converter you can easily get to and use is a must. Obvious reasons, I can skip blather here.

POCKET EARTH:  While I fully appreciate GoogleMaps, I depend upon this one in cities around the world. It is an app you can completely download the city's entire map - driving, walking map that is fully useful without wifi, so on the hoof, so to speak. It is awesome in many ways and my 'go to' for wandering and not getting totally lost (which can also be fun, but not while here in Moscow trying to do HSCT)

The photo of it in action on my iPad Mini (above) is actually the hospital lower right, and I can see the path to the main high street where stores are, know where I'm going to get things and know exactly how to get home, even post-chemo and slightly light headed. I didn't mark the route, but will  probably do so and add that in a while.  

Okay, enough  - I'm going to nap a while. I hope this will help you all, no matter what travel you have coming up, and I'm positive it will help Moscow HSCT patients navigate their time here.

I'm about to read on my iPad 'til I can't hold my eyes open, and then navigate a nice nap and let my new immune system continues to grow. Still doing well. 

PS. This is also important:  I did, first time ever, go ahead and register with the US Embassy here in Moscow (online, simple) once I was in Country. That way I get any email notices that might be important safety-wise, plus they know where I am should all hell break loose and they need to evacuate Americans (this was never a worry, by the way - just sounded cool to write it that way).  But I did just get this email, so it does work (partial email, lots more detailed in full):

United States Embassy Moscow, Russia
Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Upcoming Rallies/Demonstrations
May 1 – 6, 2014

U.S. Embassy Moscow informs U.S. citizens and family members that Russian authorities have issued permits for several pro-government and opposition group rallies/demonstrations to take place in Moscow May 1 – 6, 2014. Specifics on these  gatherings are detailed below.

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