After ice-cream time, I went to the other REI in Austin: right smack dab in the middle of downtown. (kinda). So I walk in and am immediately overwhelmed, but play it off quite well. I walk up to the tent area, and I seek help right away. I asked this guy, who's name is Hap, if he works there, and he began to guide me through tents. His friend actually just came back from the Peace Corps - she served in Togo!! I thought that was pretty exciting, but it seemed like he was more like an acquaintance than someone really close, because he didn't seem to know much or want to talk much about her trip. So he walked me through some tents, some, mind you, really expensive tents - that's when I had to remind him that I am a very poor graduate and don't have much money nor room to buy a lot of things to take over with me. Compactness is key. Then we started talking about biking...well - point is, he showed me the higher-end items: two person tent for $267, sleeping pad for $75, footprint for $44 and bike shorts for $55 PLUS an REI membership for $20. So that was a little overwhelming. I tried things on, and was searching for him to help after I thought about a few things. Well, Hap was gone. I thought he had left work - but he was just helping another customer...for shame!!! So I'm wandering around, looking lost...
That's when Dean asked me if I was alright and I said "uhh, no, not at all!" So I talk about tents some more since I knew I couldn't afford the ones Hap was suggesting...so I went through a booklet of ALL the tents REI carries, those that are and aren't offered in the store - and showed Dean my pick. I come to find out that he went lived in Africa for 6 months!! He lived in Ghana and taught art and (I'm assuming) took a butt-load of pictures because he's a Photography major! :] This was and is quite exciting. I am pretty much overjoyed right now, and just ask and joke and get to know his experience overseas. He gave me a lot of good advice and reminded me of a lot of things I need to think about before jumping right onto the plane. So - I ordered the tent I put on my wishlist, and bought a 1.5 sleeping pad, some biking shorts things...they were $15 and it was just padding pretty much...and of course....I'm now an REI member. Joy. But good news is that I'll be able to return anything that malfunctions or if I have any trouble they'll help me out - which is not a sarcastic joy, but a real one! Joy!
I'm so very excited about my soon-to-be adventure, and am still quite nervous, but I'm gaining contacts and friends I can ask all the questions I have...and have the support I need until and while I'm overseas.