Saturday, November 14, 2009

Care packages

When Americans receive packages from home, South Africans get very excited because Americans usually get really cool things like American candy, Doritos, Oreos, homemade sweets, and electronic gadgets like ipods, netbooks, DVD players, etc...

I, on the other hand, receive nothing like these. I don’t eat sugar or snacks and I don’t share an attraction to electronic gadgetry. I’m quite the boring American, so it seems, as I like to read for fun and take long walks to look at trees, plants, and birds. Ho hum!

My care packages have consisted of:

Books: I originally asked for books, specifically I asked for field guides pertaining to South African flora and fauna. My mom found a way to order books for me in South Africa to avoid international shipping fees. She has sent wonderful field guides on South African wildflowers, birds, and gardening. I’m all set for field guides and with my camera, can keep myself wildly entertained for endless hours. I’ve also found myself two public libraries that are relatively close to me that can get me any thing I’d like. Hooray!

Deanna sent me my favorite care package so far: it was stuffed with month-old editions of LEO, the Highlander, and the Courier-Journal’s section of “Neighborhoods: Crescent Hill/Highlands.” I spent an entire evening reading these from cover to cover and in the end, I felt drunk with home and seemed as though I had just come in from an evening on Bardstown Road. It felt good to be “home” again.

Deanna sent me another, when I was sick: it was full of her healing tea (we call it DDT), a wad of Puffs Plus, and a chap stick. This package also contained a Leatherman tool that my parents had hoped to send me off to Africa with, but didn’t arrive in the mail in time.

My artist friends Leila and Kara sent me a package that was full of surprises. I had asked for bars of Dr. Bronners soap, (as I can’t find any non-petroleum based soaps here and the ones full of chemicals shred my skin) and in the box were two delicious bars. Leila and Kara are artists, so the package itself as a prize. The package was decorated in a Halloween theme and the packing material consisted of crinkly strips of black and orange crepe paper. There was a wonderful note on the inside the from Kara that included a wonderful sketch of my now-famous scorpion. A wonderful series of colorful words were wound around in such a way that I had to turn the box to read them. What fun! One of the two (Leila? Kara?) passed along a beautiful ceramic bead wrapped in a decorated shirt sleeve (yes, the shirt sleeve only!) that said: time to role up your sleeves! The shirt sleeve is a lovely reminder for why I am here and I love the bead: it is adorned with a branch of green leaves of the deciduous variety, a wonderful reminder of home.

And my most favorite gifts from home are simply letters from home. I had no idea how life-giving news from home can feel, and having a letter feels like a happy prize. I usually pick my letters up from the post, carry them home like protected treasure, and don’t open them until late in the day—to savor the thrill of anticipation. I read each letter very slowly and at least three times! Absolutely no news is mundane and I savor every word. I keep all letters to reread on days when I’m feeling especially blue.

I had no idea how emotionally satisfying it could be to receive letters from home. I once ended a romantic relationship—actually, I was engaged!!--with a dear young man who was out at sea serving the US Navy. I sent this heartbreaking news via a “dear john letter” and think how devastating it must have been for him. I had no idea how cruel the action was. Now I know. What a stupid young woman I was…

I had quite the prize this week: SIX letters in one day! There was some kind of letter blockage that has cleared and I had hours and hours of news from home last night. My friends Leila and Bonnie begin a letter and return to it over the course of days and even weeks: it’s a great way to have snapshots into everyone’s lives.

If anyone is dying to send me something, there are a few things that I’d like to have that are hard to find here. These are all small too, and hopefully the easiest and cheapest to send. Please note, padded envelops are the easiest for me to receive: they require no form of ID, etc. Deanna has sent the larger padded envelops and they come to me straightway. Even a tiny box requires proof of identification, the opening of windows, etc. J

The only extra step needed with padded envelops is that things need to be taped down and not moving about loosely in the envelop. (If things are loose and moving about, the envelop is likely to be opened for inspection.)

I’d love to have some of the “top shelf” dental floss. I have plenty of the less expensive kind, but feel as though I will throw a tooth every time I use it. The “more advanced” dental flosses (ribbons) are available here, but they are pricey and hard to find. Dental floss would be something easy to send in a small padded envelop.

Along these dental care lines, I’d love to have some StimuDents or other type of disposable inter-dental massagers. Again, these are available here but are hard to find and are kind of pricey.

Also, the Dr. Bronners bar soaps would be a happy gift at any time. They are pricey in the States and a bit heavy to ship, so sending only a bar or two at a time will save on shipping costs. I use this soap for everything, even shampoo, so I can never have enough of it.

Since spices are pricey, I’m hoping you guys might send me some small zip-locks with a pinch of your favorite spices in them along with your favorite ways of using them. I’m already hankering for some dark mustard seed and whole cumin seed… And I’m sure I’ll be wanting to try any spice that would perk up sautéed veggies.

I’m furiously allergic to latex but must still scrub the toilet. If anyone could send me some latex-free disposable gloves, those are always a great gift.

If anyone has any souvenir-type of note cards or stationary with a Kentucky theme—or American—those make great thank-you cards for the people who are helping me here. I’ve yet to meet anyone here that knows of Kentucky and these types of cards from the US are a big hit.

I’ll begin to teach little ones in January and the stickers teachers use to reward kids would be wonderful to have on hand. Since handing out stickers will go a long way for classroom management (I hope!), I will need a lot of them.

If anyone has any old editions of the Sun magazine or the New Yorker, (or any thin magazine that is heavy with wonderful hours of reading pleasure but would be relatively inexpensive to ship), those would be wonderfully welcome.

Along those lines, if anyone comes across any articles, stories, or poems they find interesting or inspiring, those can easily be torn from magazines and newspapers and tucked into a mailing envelop.

And any photo from home is the gift that keeps on giving. Keep those snap shots coming!

If you’d like to send me something, shoot me an email at: I can’t post my mailing address on a blog for security reasons.

Thanks in advance!

Soon, Karen
November 13, 2009

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