The trip is drawing near, yet I don't think it has hit me that I'm leaving yet.
The day after my last post I got my currency to travel to Brazil and Chile. I was able to get Brazilian reales and Chilean pesos for the exact exchange rate at AAA, and I didn't have to pay any fees. It's interesting looking at the colors and figures featured on the currencies of different countries as well as the conversion rate. US $200 is the equivalent of about 88,000 Chilean pesos, for example.
I decided to stop just putting my things to pack into piles in the other room and to actually try packing it. I was dreading this since the weight restrictions have dropped from about 72 lbs per bag from my year in Germany ten years ago to 50 lbs per bag now, but it looks like I will actually be ok. After vacuum bagging a bunch of my clothes and packing some other stuff into one of my luggage pieces, it didn't even weigh 19 pounds. When I saw that, I added in some of my books. My other luggage piece will have heavier items like shoes, toiletries, and some books, so hopefully it will be under the 50 lb limit as well.
Friday night I went to Barnes and Noble and decided to do some more reading up for Brazil. I found out that in addition to the samba schools and parade (I tried to get a ticket but wasn't successful), there are also bandas (which appear to be groups of people that dress up, sing, and dance) that also celebrate Carneval. From what I understand the bandas are free-roaming and will anyone join as long as you are wearing their colors. What's even better is that some of them sell t-shirts on the spot for $15 reales (about US$8) and you can join in with them in the revelry. This seems like a lot more fun for me as opposed to having to pay a few hundred dollars to simply watch the samba schools.
I am slowly having to start to say my farewells. In order to celebrate the 4 February birthdays in our family, (including mine) my dad is throwing a big party at a local restaurant. I'll get to see some extended family I haven't seen in a while, and it will be my last time seeing them before I leave. Tuesday night a friend and I are having dinner with some friends, and there I will get to say some more farewells. One farewell, however, that I will not miss: this damn cold weather and the snow.
Countdown to departure: 11 days