Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Packing List

Let’s talk about packing.

I know this will probably be lost on future SPAN 3330 students because you don’t see the blog until you’re on the trip, but the student-written packing list blows out of proportion the more difficult aspects of the trip.

Having read the earlier group’s well-written advice in English and the later group’s less-well-written advice in Spanish, I trusted the English advice more, which tended to emphasize “BRING USEFUL THINGS NOT PRETTY THINGS OR YOU WILL DIE.” Having experienced the Maymester myself now, I don’t understand what all the fuss was about. It almost makes me think the earlier advice list was written by someone who literally only packed heels and super cute and impractical clothes and so the side trips caught her way off guard. It made the trip sound very intense and like you were going to be doing the Inca Trail all over Peru over the course of the three and a half weeks.

In reality, you can afford to bring some nice clothing or, if not nice, just not all-hands-on-deck-bring-whatever-you-think-will-best-boost-your-chances-of-survival clothing. When all was said and done, we lived very comfortably during our time in Peru, particularly compared to how many native Peruvians live on a daily basis (i.e. as we saw in Maras, where they had an unheated, unprotected outdoor space to shower themselves but had installed a more traditional if unorthodox electric shower in the outhouse for the benefit of the guests).

What you really need as far as athletic clothing goes is just enough to last you a few days at a time, as that is how long the side trips last over the weekends. Obviously it won’t hurt you to bring more practical clothing in general than simply cute clothing, but you can afford to bring some nice things to wear. On ordinary days in Lima and Cuzco you definitely don’t need athletic clothing. However, my year was an El Niño year, and Profe said that it had been unseasonably warm, so do take seriously the advice that it might get super cold because it might, I can’t really speak for that aspect of the trip. It never really got super cold for us except for maybe a couple nights.

Ultimately, however, despite the fact that the emphasis in my packing on pragmatism as opposed to aesthetic, I think having the group receive this advice does do at least one nice thing: it doesn’t create any kind of awkward disparities that get recorded in the many pictures that get taken over the course of the trip, where some people might bring nicer clothes while some bring more pragmatic clothes, which obviously would lead to some rather strange group photos. Having everyone emphasize practical, more athletic clothing lends a kind of charm to the group photos that wouldn’t otherwise be there, and I think people bonded a little bit over the shared experience of continuously underdressing together among college peers for a month straight.

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