The Devil is in the Details

Today is my last official day for completing local business before departure. I’ve balanced my checkbook and paid all of my bills except the ones that are automatically paid (which is about the same as being paid, when the checking account from which they are drawn has been balanced).

I’ve taken out cash for travel with the knowledge that using ATMs abroad is always a great way to get the best rates. Yep that’s right. The U.S. always considers its own currency to have slightly greater value than the local money changers and banks. They consider their own currency to have the greater value. So I lived in Indonesia for a year and a half without ever getting a local bank account. At this point the ubiquitous ATM is one way to access your own resources in the local currency. I love that.

The only drawback is the international transaction fee. It was five dollars when I was in Indonesia, so I had to hit the ATM machines that offered the maximum withdrawal amounts. Keep in mind a family of five could survive on less than 300 USD per month, so some of the machines would dispense as little as 50 dollars US maximum, and from that I still paid the five dollar transaction fee. Better to go to the places where the ATM machines dispensed something closer to my U.S. limit.

I’m sorry, but in almost 40 years of travel to 40 countries, I have only once used travelers checks. They are supposed to be better protected. You can get them 100% replaced if lost or stolen, but only if you first write down each and every serial number. Then you have to keep this information somewhere that’s not the same somewhere you keep the checks. But then they really do NOT spend just like cash—especially abroad where we meet and mix with people in their own places. Such places are not subject to our being guests there.

So I do tend toward keeping travel cash in an odd place. (No, I’m not gonna share with you where such an odd place it, that would take away from the little sense of protection this gives me!)

Anyway, the point is, I have to settle my affairs before departure. A person cannot use their mortgage money to pay for hajj, but your mortgage does NOT have to be paid off in order to go. People get confused by this, because one of the pre-conditions is that one must be debt-free. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an amount due against my credit card (or my mortgage, if I still had one), but it means I have keep my payments up in accordance to my agreements. No overdue amounts.

I’ve done my mock packing. What is mock packing, you ask? Well, for this trip I have almost all new clothes, and I need to make sure they are sufficient for what I am about to undertake. So I tried on everything, including gifts from others. I’ve had to discard one pair of pants a gift from a friend in Indonesia, cause they are just too short on the waist and the leg (I am like a giant compared to the average Indonesian). Also those nifty dresses (or sacks) I bought there have a lining which is not cotton, and I looked closely at this yesterday because with temperatures over one hundred degrees, I might just cut the lining out at some point. All of the others are 100% cotton—and some lovely cotton too. I’ll be okay with these. Then, I divide these reasonably between the suitcase that goes under the plane and my carry-on luggage. Remember I have to be in ihram before I reach Jeddah.

Then there are the things that need to go in a suitcase but you use them every day. Fortunately, I have all those nifty scent-free products; as far as most of the cosmetics go, I don’t use those on a daily basis. But other things, like toothpaste, I’m not really planning on using a travel size since mine is pretty small anyway. The other things are my medications—the ones I take every day I have to take every day and then pack so I have access to them while in transit but enough supply for three weeks.

Things like this make packing not quite final until the last day, and then I’ll be off. I even start wearing clothes I know I won’t be taking, so I don’t have to worry that my last laundry is missing something I need there, because I’m still wearing it over here.

The other thing is making amends with my children. All week I’ve been trying to keep my notes generated about this that and the other. It’s kinda hard when you are also excited about this trip and when you continue to interact with them—even to the point where they can get annoying! But my goal is to have the notes done today and start speaking to them by tomorrow. That will be my last day, and I don’t want anything hanging over my head about local logistics, because I can’t take them with me and I don’t want to have any overdue amounts on that account either.

Meanwhile, I am still collecting prayer requests and that means praying now and still remembering to call their names at Arafat. Yesterday I learned that a dear, dear friend has just gotten a cancer diagnosis. I’ll be really blessed to make a du’a for her speedy and complete recovery, but these are the things that make this time and this experience all the more meaningful.

May Allah accept my hajj and grant me my prayers.

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