On Saturday, my mom and I went shopping for clothes appropriate for me to take to Viet Nam. We headed to the outlets just outside of Austin, excited to spend the day together even though neither of us particularly enjoys shopping--only a slight understatement. For me, of course, my aversion to shopping is only exacerbated by my poor decision-making skills, for what is shopping other than one long series of decisions? (although I guess if I'm going there, I could ask another, more depressing question: what is life other than one long series of decisions?)
However, this is not meant to be a tirade against shopping--although I could mount the soapbox to preach against the ills of consumerism and the unfortunate cost (measured in both time and money) of a pair of pants that actually fits--it was a fun day, all in all, and, considering that I will soon (in exactly 2 months yesterday) be so far away that, if you wanted to visit me, it wouldn't really matter if you chose to go east or west (one less decision for people like me), a day with my mom is priceless. So what is this meant to be? A reminder that you do learn something every day...even if it is only all the things you don't know.
As we alternated between the blinding, 100 degree Texas toaster and frigid shops that, no matter how classy, insisted on jarring their customers' brains with racy rap, I wondered why decision making--always so difficult for me--was even harder today.
It is slightly easier to shop when you have some knowledge of what's coming. I remember how the decisions of those milestone shopping trips in the past were colored by past experience, or at least by some idea of what to expect:
Back-to-School: "Dress code is the same as last year. There's only so many colors of solid polos to choose from."
Senior Prom: "I want to look good but not get a lecture about modesty from Sr. so-and-so this year."
Off-to-College: "Dorm rooms all contain the same main component--limited space."
Grocery Shopping: "Ice cream."
Saturday was different. I know where I'm going on August 15th; however, I have no idea what to expect. This makes knowing what to buy difficult; emotional preparation....well, emotional; comfort, impossible.
While I crossed some items off my shopping list on Saturday, it actually triggered more questions than purchases.
shoes: How far will I live from work? Will I walk, or bike, or take public transportation, or...?
dress for formal occasions: How short is too short?
shorts for running (unfortunately, probably not synonymous with "running shorts": How do people exercise in Viet Nam? Or do they simply live less sedentary lives than most Americans (by no means a difficult feat)?
cardigan sweater: Apparently, it can get cold during Viet Nam winters. 40-50 degrees--Michigan spring?
Chicago Manual of Style: A trusty, versatile tool essential to any variety of editing. Good, because I have no idea what sorts of manuscripts I'll be editing at the Gioi!
presents for host family: Who are they? According to Derek, MCC Viet Nam Coordinator, some member of my family should speak some English.
lunch: Should I learn how to use chopsticks?
As I anticipate my departure date, my list of things to buy and do gets--slowly--shorter, but my list of questions grows longer, my excitement mounts, and my suppressed nerves scratch away at my stomach. But I can comfort myself with the thought that, surely if I can survive a whole day of shopping in Texas, I can survive anything. If I don't know anything else (and clearly, I don't know much), I do know that I have never before been able to so fully appreciate the saying "expect the unexpected."