I heard that line recently while listening to The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht on CD with my mom, as we drove back from taking Elise back to Ohio State. The speaker was talking about the young lusty aristocrats who, holding onto their birthright, hire someone to take them out bear hunting; they rarely succeed at shooting anything, much less bears, but the speaker comments that they are always changed by that experience. I immediately latched onto it, of all the many many lines in that book, because it made me think of... myself.
I have all this stuff. Stuff which I will be bringing with me to Cameroon, stuff to comfort me when I miss home, stuff to keep me entertained on down days, stuff to protect me from a difficult life for which I simply have no way to mentally prepare. So, rather than mentally preparing, I prepare by buying all this stuff that makes me feel more prepared, more comforted now.
At least my books tell me I'm not the only one. In The Poisonwood Bible, the Price family packs up to go to the Congo:
"...our mother went about laying out in the spare bedroom all the worldly things she thought we'd need in the Congo just to scrape by. 'The bare minimum, for my children,' she'd declare under her breath, all the livelong day. In addition to the cake mixes, she piled up a dozen cans of Underwood deviled ham; Rachel's ivory plastic hand mirror with powdered-wig ladies on the back; a stainless-steel thimble; a good pair of scissors; a dozen number-2 pencils; a world of Band-Aids, Anacin, Absorbine Jr.; and a fever thermometer." It wasn't until they got there that they realized they brought all the wrong things.
Of course, I'm not going to the Congo during Ike's presidency, I'm going to Cameroon during Obama's. And I won't be able to tell you what I packed all wrong until later. So what, you might wonder, does one American need (read: think she needs) to survive in Cameroon?