For one thing, a lot of clothes. One result of my thrifty (read--cheap) habits is that I don't have many clothes that will work for a mission. My "nice" pair of shoes is coming apart in a couple of places, so I needed two new pairs of those, plus boots for rain and mud. For the last few years I have used a sports coat I got at Goodwill for under ten dollars, so I needed a couple of new suits. Add to that a bunch of white shirts, socks specially made for tracting (who knew there was such a thing?), some ties, odds and ends like shoe-shine kits and outlet converters, and a giant sham-wow for a towel, and that price tag is looking a little bit frightening.
For another thing, I'm getting in shape. This really started at the beginning of Spring Term, when I started playing racquetball 4 times a week (for a class) and basketball, volleyball, or running about as often (just for fun). This routine has morphed into hiking all around the state of Utah--Arches National Park, Zions Canyon, Bryce Canyon. Encouragingly, none of the hikes we have gone on have worn me out, I feel in pretty good shape for stuff like this. Which is very, very good, as evidenced by one guy's description of Valparaiso, one of the bigger cities in my mission: "It's like they dropped houses everywhere they could, which is incredible considering the hills. I mean, big hills, all over the places. I do not want to be in that city during an earthquake. By the way, how are your knees?"
I am also spending a lot of time with my family--while hiking, while in the car, while visiting extended family all over Utah. I am going to miss them. I don't think the kids have quite realized that I will be gone, completely and totally gone, for two whole years, with no communication but letters. Not even Skype. Also, my dad's mission stories have suddenly gained clear and perfect relevancy. Whereas before they were entertaining, now they are vital information I need before I make the same sort of journey myself.
This Friday I am going through the temple. I still remember the day that one of my roommates went through during Spring Term. There was a light in his eyes afterwards, a brightness, a gleam, that was not there before. I cannot wait.
Every year of my life before this one, I have looked towards a mission like I would a far-away mountain. Definitely there, but too distant to worry about much. Now, however, it occupies much of my thoughts. What will it be like to live in Chile? To teach the gospel to people who have not grown up in the church like I have, in a language I don't yet know? To spend every minute with some random guy--no, not random, nothing about this is random--with some specific-but-not-yet-known guy? To retract myself from the world I have lived in for the last 18 years so that I can devote myself completely to God's work?
To feel the spirit confirm what I say in this language I don't yet know, perhaps every day for the next two years? To see people give up their lives to follow Christ? To see miracles happen, even to be a part of them?
The time seems to be slipping by faster and faster all the time--this mountain is no longer far off in the distance, it will soon fill my entire view--but still, I cannot wait.