This weekend, I am traveling to Ecuador. It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to use my passport since it was issued, other than to attend a business meeting on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. When my friend asked if I’d like to travel with her to South America, I jumped at the chance to finally get my passport stamped.

This weekend, I am traveling to Ecuador. It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to use my passport since it was issued, other than to attend a business meeting on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. When my friend asked if I’d like to travel with her to South America, I jumped at the chance to finally get my passport stamped.


There were lots of things I had to do to prepare for the trip. One of those things, of course, was to write several columns in advance and submit them early. This task, while seemingly daunting, was actually a lot easier than I initially expected.


Skipping around from document to document writing about different topics kept me focused on writing for a surprisingly long time. I didn’t have to check my Facebook status or blog stats nearly as often. And I accomplished a lot more writing in a much shorter time span.


Getting my columns submitted early was merely the tip of the prep iceburg. I also needed to go through my clothes. Ecuador enjoys sunny days with temperatures in the mid 70s and cool nights that dip into the 40s. My entire wardrobe needed to be inventoried.


My beautiful friend, who will also be graciously serving as my tour guide and interpreter, suggested I bring a coat. I was also directed to bring a few changes of layered clothing to accommodate the varying temperatures. We could always both do laundry and buy more clothes; therefore, I was urged not to overpack.


Successful packing could only be accomplished if I picked through my entire wardrobe and evaluated each piece. That led to a giant discard pile of things I don’t wear, can’t wear, and shouldn’t wear. Once my closets were thinned out, I had to embark on replacement shopping. A few sales later I was ready to pack.


Prepping my family for my absence began years ago. I’ve traveled before, though not for quite this long at one stretch. They will have to make do, which means they’ll have to feed themselves without asking me what is for supper. They will have to make decisions like where to go to eat when they don’t want to microwave prepackaged food. They will have to determine which tie matches a particular shirt. They will have to run the dishwasher.


When I return from our trip, the house will be relatively neat and as clean as guys can get a home in the thirty minutes before the mom returns. The moldy food wrappers and half empty fast food sweet tea cups will be moved from various locations around the house and inside the cars out to the trash bin. They will wait ten minutes or so before asking, "What did you bring me from Ecuador?"


All of my past work travel has prepared my family for surviving while my friend and I are away. They’ll be fine. That’s what I keep telling myself. But I will still stock the freezer in our basement with microwaveable junk food. I will leave extra cash behind for when they accidentally run out. I will fill our pantry with enough toilet paper, paper plates, and napkins to last until 2014.


In between the writing, shopping and preparing my household for my departure, I’ve been trying to learn Spanish. Have you ever tried to coax a 40-plus-year-old brain into learning another language? It’s not as difficult as it sounds. It’s even harder than that.


As a high school student, I selected German as my foreign language. When I began college, I believed my suite mate who suggested taking German would be too difficult. She convinced me to sign up for Spanish. I suffered through three semesters of trying to memorize Spanish while German words kept popping into my head at inopportune times.


My brain was so traumatized by trying to learn Spanish on top of German that it took both languages, crumpled them up, and then tossed them into a cauldron of fire. The burnt pieces that flitted out of the fire and drifted back onto the floor of my consciousness included numbers and a few miscellaneous words that are useless on their own.


For the past couple of months, I’ve been struggling to resurrect what I once knew of Spanish and add to it. I strived, with the help of Duolingo, Spark Charts, a reference guide and a translator app, to become fluent. I headed to the airport armed with the ability to count to 30 and announce that I eat fish and drink wine. I can also explain the monkey drinks wine, but I doubt a situation in which I will need that phrase will present itself.


I’ve heard language submersion is a great way to pick up a second language. I’ll let you know how that worked in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you see someone on the news offering a South American monkey a glass of wine, please don’t judge.


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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibare@gmail.com.