What I packed . . . What I bought . . . What was sent . . .
How does one pack for 10 months abroad? Well, considering I went on an impulsive trip to Washington DC days before departure, my answer is: quickly. Granted, I had already been considering what to pack before then, so I had a basic idea. So, for those of you who are curious or who may be planning similar outings overseas, I hope this will be of some aid.
Checking Bags: The typical airline allows one free checked bag. Determined to save myself some money and some pain of hauling around my suitcases, I decided to check only one bag. I am content with my decision, but I will make a couple remarks. First of all, clothing in the Czech Republic is expensive. Generally costs here are much lower than in the States, but clothing costs about the same and often seems of less quality. I was committed to purchase few things, which I held to, but as for variety and sanity's sake, it may have been wiser for me to pack an extra checked bag with clothing.
Clothing: This was the most difficult thing to pack. I knew the temperature range would be similar to that of the Midwest, so that worked in my favor. Because my winter coat was getting a little old, I decided to save some room and purchase one here. One of my motivations was that I was determined to check only one bag. As you can see in the previous entry, this may or may not have worked to my favor, but I did find a coat, and I did survive the winter. I made a word document of the items I packed:
tanks (3), camisoles (2), tshirts (1), casual shirts (1), colored ts (5 or 6), cardigans (5), "sweaters" (7), sweater vests (2), button-up shirts (2), nice slacks (3), jeans (2), capris (2), shorts (2), skirts (6), dresses (7), full-length dresses (2), leggings (2), work-out shirts (1), work-out pants (2), work-out shorts (4), jackets (2).
This being done, I fared pretty well, and I actually gave away some of the clothing items. Why? Because you shouldn't pack anything you don't already wear in the States. Why do you think you're magically going to start wearing that blouse that you hate wearing? You won't. Trust me. Moreover, some of the skirts I packed were more recent procurements and I didn't like how some of them fit, so they fell into less popular use. This list seems like a lot of clothing to me, and there's some of it that lies dormant because I just don't prefer it. I did end up buying some clothing items here, which included: 1 winter coat, gloves, mittens, a hat, 1 pair of skinny corduroys, 1 dress, 1 layerable blouse, tights galore, 1 skirt, and 1 pair of shorts. (The latter two were irresistible secondhand finds.) So really, I didn't lack anything. So, I suppose I'd pass on the same advise everyone gives: pack layerable things. But, more than that, pack what you know you'll wear (as well as what is appropriate to wear, but Czechs aren't as picky as Americans in that regard).
Shoes: For footwear, I packed: black wedges, brown wedges, running shoes, black knee-high boots, canvas shoes, and one pair of sandles. This was trickier. The Czech Republic is a very pedestrian place. You walk everywhere--and on cobblestone. This place can rip your shoes to shreds. Luckily, Czechs also have a habit of changing into house shoes--even in the workplace. My student come into the school, immediately go to something like a locker room, change their shoes, and then come to class. Teachers do it to. From where I'm sitting, I can see a line of fake birkenstocks that the teachers change into to teach in. I did buy some more walking/winter-friendly knee highs, some other tennis shoes (after I shredded my canvas flats), and another pair of shoes that wasn't the most practical buy. I sometimes wish I had some of my stilettos here because the are worn frequently here and because theatre events and concerts are quite the to-do here when it comes to wardrobe.
Books: Basically, every world-traveller or expat should be required to own a Kindle. Yes, a Kindle. It's better, trust me (especially for international use). I did however bring a few books with me, including: Czech textbooks I already had, a couple books I wanted to force myself through (I still haven't), a Central Europe travel guide (which I made little use of), a favourite cookbook (I'm working on that one), and my Bible (always necessary in physical form). Depending on your location, there can be English libraries or your colleagues/contacts may have English books to lend to you. In my case, the Fulbright office also had some cast-off books that could be borrowed.
Misc.: I brought some office-supply type things. Though practical, it wasn't necessary. There are office stores all over the place, you can buy things as you need then when abroad. I also packed some knitting things. This I was thankful for, but I regretted not bringing some of my go-to patterns. Ravelry.com was a big help, but I would have picked up my needles sooner if I'd had my books. For any knitters thinking of travelling, the Czech Republic isn't the greatest for yarn selection; knitting went out with Communism, and I think it'll be a while before it picks up again--though I'm trying! One packing success was a bunch of extra-long-life batteries specifically for cameras. I came with a big pack and haven't had to buy any here. I did bring some converter plugs, but I came with more than I needed. I only use 2 regularly, and I often charge my kindle or mp3 player with my computer, making more converters superfluous.
What was Sent . . .
At various points I had visitors or opportunities for packages to be easily conveyed. People asked if I wanted anything. I ended up requesting a favourite summer dress, some items for gifts for colleagues, and a sweater (my "sweaters" are really thin little things). One thing I also requested was a hook-up for my laptop to a projector. Two other items that I should have anticipated wanting were some photos of family/friends in physical form to show colleagues/students and a DVD case of films for either personal use or to share with colleagues (such as when I shared It's a Wonderful Life with students and Elf with some friends).
What I Bought . . .
As I mentioned above, there were some clothing items and some shoes that I bought. A friend here had some sturdy winter boots that she also passed my way, which were a big blessing. Remember, this is a pedestrian society, and having wet feet while traipsing along to trams or buses is quite uncomfortable in the snow or rain. I also bought a couple bags--a backpack for hiking/weekend trips and a large over-the-shoulder bag that fit my laptop, which I could take to work. Other big purchases ended up being things for the home, like some extra cooking things, towels, weights for working out, and some bedding. There are no regrets there. A friend gave me some advice before I came. She basically said to not pack simply what is practical, but what will make you feel at home. Maybe that's your favourite travel mug, a particular book, a certain blanket. I packed some of my favourite spices (garam masala, tumeric, curry) and I've also been happy to have my favourite work-out video. It's also important to know what products are inaccessible in the given country. Here, some cooking items that are either unheard of or overpriced are: measuring cups/spoons, vanilla, brown sugar, peanut butter, maple syrup, pre-made frosting, baking chips. (On a personal note, the only thing that I maybe would have added to my luggage would be measuring cups and vanilla. I know some expats here that really crave maple syrup.)
So, though you didn't ask for it, here is the outline of my packing logic and how it has suited me since. If you are particularly curious, leave a question and I can give more details about that area.