Thursday, 22 August 2013

'To be prepared is half the victory'

In the words of the great Cervantes, 'to be prepared is half the victory'. I am the kind of girl that panics without at plan so in that respect Cervantes and I are one in the same. Best to be over prepared than under! Sometimes, however, my quest to plan for every eventuality has resulted in pushing the limits of my luggage allowance and ending up with some obscure things to unpack at the other end (a head torch for a stint teaching in Chile - really???).

Over the summer I have been slowly but surely piecing together what I'm hoping will be the tools to emerge victorious from the harsh Russian winter. With only 16 days left, I'm pleased to say that I feel like I'm almost there - with only a hat left to get hold of I am almost ready to conquer!! 

Thought I'd share some of my must packs with you...

The thing two things I was panicking most about finding were 1. a warm winter coat (not the easiest thing to find in the summer) and 2. what our year abroad supervisor Anne calls 'slush-proof' shoes.

1. After being lectured on the merits of £190 Primaloft by the staff of Berghaus Bristol, trying on the £200 North Face parka and stressing over last winters stock room dregs (all over £170)  in Blacks in Bath, I think I've hit the jackpot with this little number from Zara! My snow jacket -parka length filled with premium duck feather down and a snip at £109 (luckily I also had a £50 gift voucher that needed spending making it an absolute bargain!!)

Luckily the fur is detachable (it is literally huge) though without it it does look a bit less glam. I know the colour is a little bit risqué but the material seems much more wipe clean than its black equivalent (practicalities!!). At least in the white I look much less like a lump of coal and more like a beautiful snowflake (my sister's words not mine). Chuffed with this!

2. Slush-proof footwear is NEVER, and I mean NEVER EVER attractive, but considering what I had to work with I thought I did OK. Again a bargain, £30 in the Blacks end of line online sale. 

White, water resistant quilted sides, really grippy soles and fur lining...with all this white I might end up looking like the abominable snow man.

With the two major purchases taken care of, the others seemed pretty easy...worrying really, I've either mucked it up or forgotten something major!

Jumpers, long sleeves and fleeces

Slippers - a Russian cultural essential. You will be asked remove your shoes when you go in to Russian houses, they often have a stock of house shoes in various sizes but always nicer to have your own! 

Also got some lovely slipper socks and one of my lovely friends Claire also got me some reusable hand warmers to keep me toasty :) 

With all of these lovely things to pack, I need the space to do it. With a 23 kilo hand luggage allowance on top of a 23 kilos of checked in luggage, I intend to make full use of all my space. Luckily there was a very nice lady at Dolmo luggage in Bluewater to help me choose a carry on bag.

It even has a handy strap to hook it over the pull handle of your suitcase...handy for onward train travel from Moscow.

The final essential going in to my case is a present for my host family. I will be staying with a Russian хозяйка (housewife) or hopefully a family! I always like to take something to say thank you for having me and I saw something perfect on a recent trip to London. I was out seeing the sights with visiting family when, after a tour around Buckingham Palace, I found these.

A nice tin of shortbread biscuits (a hit with host families past) in a Royal blue tin with the queen's insignia. The families I've stayed with before have been curious about our Royals so I thought this would be a cool present and a conversation starter.

So there is a rather long list of the things going in to my case...I hope I haven't bored you! 

As you can probably tell, all in all I am more excited than apprehensive about my trip to Russia! I just want to get going!!!!!