Wednesday, May 21, 2014

home stretch

We have 16 days until we depart Ethiopia. Eight days until pack-out.  Eight days is not a number that means I can comfortably sit around and tell myself I have plenty of time to get things packed up.  And yet, it's also not a number where I need to be running around putting my kitchen in a pile for the movers or putting my girls shoes in suitcases.  We're in the in between days where our minds are on the move constantly but we still need to use all the things that need to be packed!

For weeks and weeks we've taken the time to go through our home and trash the things that are not worth donating or selling.  It's been a blissful process.  De-cluttering my life has to be one of my favorite uplifting activities.  As we get closer to our "pack-out" dates, (essentially the days that the moving company comes in and packs both of our shipments.  UAB-a small shipment we will get about 6 weeks into our arrival at our next post and HHE-all the rest of our belongings that will arrive anywhere between 2-4 months after our arrival at our next post), the more serious our organizing and sorting has been. We have a room that has been taken over by our suitcases and UAB pile.  When I think of something else that can go in either shipment, I just walk it up the stairs.

There are lots of theories and methods of how best to get through pack-out.  This is our fourth pack-out and in some ways it gets easier, but in a lot of ways the same things are challenging just as they were the first time around.  There are two things making this pack-out easier on us.  One is that we aren't moving with an infant this time around.  Having babies or kids still in diapers with special requirements of stuff, makes pack-out tougher.  Two is that our next post is not as difficult in terms of the availability of things.  So if we want to toss our old trash bins in Ethiopia we will be able to buy more when we arrive in our new country.

Many people say or think, "How hard can it be? A moving company comes and wraps and packs everything for you.  What are you whining about?

We are very lucky to have moving companies to help with our moves.  The whining comes with the stress.  It takes careful planning to get it right.  Let me try to explain.

The timing of having access to our personal belongings is very interesting.  All of our worldly goods will be packed in HHE and shipped to a storage location in Antwerp.  Our UAB will fly to our next post and wait in the airport for our arrival.  When we arrive at our new post (in August) we will obtain our appropriate resident paperwork which will allow our UAB to be issued to us.  This takes about 6 weeks after our arrival at post.  HHE comes months later.  So the big problem is having to think ahead about what we need to pack in our suitcases that we will need not only for our home leave in America this summer, but also for the first six weeks at our next post in August.  I have to set aside the items that we would like to receive first in our UAB.  If I forget something we need right away at our next post, we won't see it for 5-6 months.
Not your average suitcase full.  This one has our beach bag and arm floaties, important move documents, boxes of unused checks, dog leashes, my bridesmaids dress for my sisters wedding and all our chargers.  

For example, I am bringing my daughter's school backpacks, lunch bags and ice packs with us in our suitcases back to America because these are things we will need to have access to right away at our next post since we arrive only one week before the school year starts.  All of our original documents like our birth certificates, marriage certificates, medical records, school records and tax information all have to go in our carry-on luggage!  Can you imagine loosing such things in a lost bag? My carry-on will also hold our external hard drive, camera and my best jewelry.  We've also decided that since we aren't loading an entire suitcase full of diapers and baby items we are bringing our bottle opener, spherical ice cube tray, milk frother and French press in our suitcase.  These are must-haves.

Most of the every day kitchen supplies I use are going in our UAB.  I hate not having a well stocked kitchen and waiting even 6 weeks for all those items to arrive will be hard for me. The mixer, food processor, coffee maker, emulsion blender and waffle maker are all making the UAB cut this time around as well as our personally owned voltage transformers so we can run all these gadgets right away.  A formal ball gown and my husband's tuxedo will go in our UAB as well so we will have something to wear to the Marine Ball next November.
The current UAB list.  Note the "Adult" work clothes and "Frozen" dolls next to toys.  Both crucial!

I keep detailed lists of all our shipments to try to avoid forgetting everything.  I keep them in a notebook I've used for all our pack-outs so I can refer to the items that went into each shipment years ago.  Lots of the basics like towels and sheets stay the same but our first UAB shipment contained Addie's excersaucer and high chair!

Even with all my lists and all our organizing, preparing for pack-out is challenging mostly because all this prep is simultaneously happening along with every day life.  The kids are still playing and making messes.  Every meal still needs to be prepared and cleaned up.  School routines are still happening. Justin is still working. I was still completing orders (up until last weekend). Friends still want to play.  We're still getting invited to BBQs where we should bring something.  Life is happening like normal around us.  But in 16 days our life gets turned upside down.

We have not been home to the US in two and a half years.  We are thrilled to fly home and spend time with our family and friends.  During this "home leave" we will stay a portion of the time on the East coast and a portion of the time on the West coast.  We're so excited to be home but it's hard to forget that for the duration we are essentially homeless.  Bunking with friends and family, living out of our suitcases.  It's not ideal but it's all we've got.  Sometimes being in America but without a home to call our own makes me even more homesick.  Does that make any sense?  Maybe it's the desire to settle and be settled.

I've decided to post some photos of the silly things that have made it into our suitcases and UAB this time around.  I do believe the hoarders mentality I've picked up since living in Ethiopia, will take a while to dissipate.  But there are some things I simply cannot toss away.  For these two and half years, we've carefully rationed things like sunscreen, shampoo and even ziploc bags.  I can't help but stash a few things like this in our suitcases since we cannot have any liquids or gels in our shipments to our next post.
What?  You don't bring parchment paper with you on home leave?

Yes, I am bringing Halloween decorations in my UAB.  Yes, my cupcake liners and frosting tips are going in my suitcase!
TP, Halloween decor and our espresso maker.  Those blue striped towels Justin has had since college.


Melinda Renee said...

*eep!* I am SOOOO excited to see you guys!!!! And I have a little box of goodies put together for your hubby.... nothing much, but from one carrot cake lover to anohter... *wink*grin* SAFE TRAVELS!

Bfiles said...

I hear you! It is such an exercise in organization but you are the queen of that! Good luck getting it all done. This is such a bittersweet time.