Thursday, July 15, 2010


I have way too much stuff.

I decided to tackle the office this week, which meant going through the filing cabinet, the piles of papers and journals and books, the two big closets, and the top of my desk.


So far, I've carted off about three bags of trash, taken an overflowing armload of paper down to recycling (with another pile started), found several boxes that I never unpacked from when I moved in more than three years ago, discovered three old cell phones (with various accessories), filled a "to donate" box, spent an entire day punching holes and putting things in binders, and kicked up a storm of dog hair and dust (gross!).

And, yet. The office doesn't look any better than it did before I started this project. I think it may look worse. I have so many things, and I don't know where to put them. Which is why they've been sitting in piles.

And I haven't even opened the craft closet yet.


So what did I do this afternoon?

I bought more stuff.

I'm starting to stock up on what I'll need to take to Malawi. Today was a trip to Target for toiletries. I'm trying to be more conservative than I was when I first went and packed enough to survive nuclear holocaust. Seriously, I'm still using some of my stockpiled supplies from eight years ago.

So I'm trying to be more reasonable and remember that I can get most things there, even if I have to travel a bit to get them or compromise on what I think I need. Even so, I'm starting to accept that I'm not going to make my goal of packing in one camping backpack (and a mid-size tote bag for my carry-0n). I keep reminding myself that I have to schlep whatever I pack from Lilongwe to Zomba---on a minibus---and then from the bus depot to where I'm staying. Less stuff equals less grunting and sweating and generally making a spectacle of myself as a spoiled Westerner. Still, some things are more easily, more cheaply, and more reliably bought here.


I'm also debating how many tech gizmos I need and/or want to take with me. I'm definitely taking my netbook. I bought it a year ago with fieldwork in mind. And I will actually need it for fieldnotes. I tried doing my fieldnotes by hand last time I went; it was an utter disaster.

My family is getting me a Kindle for an early birthday gift. Yay! Not packing books will hugely lighten my load.

I think I'm going to get a Live Scribe pen. My roommate at the Fulbright orientation gave it a raving recommendation, and it does seem like it will simplify organizing and transcribing my fieldnotes. And I needed to get a new digital voice recorder anyway, because I haven't seen the one I bought two years ago in, well, two years. So . . . .

My biggest debate is whether to invest in a digital SLR. I have a digital point-and-shoot camera, and I have a film SLR. The digital point-and-shoot works . . . okay. It's slow and tends to oversaturate with the flash, but I get decent enough photos. The film SLR takes great photos, but I'd have to pack a ton of film and then hope that the film doesn't get ruined by the heat and dust and multiple x-ray machines and so forth. The digital SLR would take much better photos without me having to lug around film (and pay exorbitant fees to get it developed at a good photo shop---I wouldn't want to trust the drug store photo lab with my film).

Actually, I think I talked myself into it as I was typing that last sentence.

And I can justify it as a research tool and as necessary for ensuring that I have good-quality photos for my future book (based on the dissertation). But still . . . $700 is a good chunk of my research allowance (and about half of my normal monthly income) and other things are starting to add up. On my credit card because I haven't been able to get the last piece of documentation I need to get my grant processed.

If I do decide to get the camera, I'm deciding between the Nikon D5000 or the Canon EOS Rebel T1i. The Canon is the best-selling camera and got higher marks from Consumer Reports, but my film SLR is a Nikon, so I might be able to swap out the lenses between the two. Any thoughts, opinions, or experience?


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