Saturday, May 31, 2014

packing adventures


It took a crew of eight men, three full days to box and crate all of our personal belongings.  I was impressed with the way they carefully wrapped every item.  Our small air freight shipment was 660 lbs.  We are sending 5900 lbs of HHE (Household effects) to Indonesia.  That's a big drop from what we brought from Manila!  Which means I can definitely have a dining room table made in Jakarta!  Maybe even another piece of furniture!  But seriously, I can't believe I'm already thinking of the next pack-out as the crew is still nailing up the final crate here in Ethiopia.  
This hoarder looking pile was a portion of our UAB.  

I will spare you the sordid details, but I've been very grumpy for these three days.  It's not fun having people traipse all over your home, rummage through your belongings and ultimately take it all away.  And at the same time, in a paradox I can't explain, it's a huge relief to be without all our things right now.  There aren't toys to clean up, dishes to wash, clothing to fold.  All the stuff in my life is packed away and it's sort of nice to be rid of it for awhile.


For the next 5 month or so we are living out of seven suitcases.  For the next week while we are in Addis Ababa we have a hospitality kit with household basics and a few things we've decided will stay in Ethiopia, like old towels, our garbage can and some of our clothes which are especially holey.  I'm just too old to live out of a hospitality kit.  Pouring red wine in a cheap tumbler or coffee cup is just not my speed anymore.  The cooking pans USED to be non-stick surfaced.  I recognize my disdain sounds snobbish.  It's true, I guess I am when it comes to my kitchen.  I really like my own stuff!  I think it's my grumpiness shining through because deep down I am grateful that the embassy issues us a hospitality kit. It's only a week which is silly!

Our home has gone through a number of transitions over our time here in Ethiopia.  Upon our arrival it was big and empty and it felt very different than our past home experience in Manila. Our house in Ethiopia is big, concrete and felt very strange at first. It took a long time for us to spread out in the space after being used to our cramped living quarters in Arlington, VA. But slowly, we moved in and  it really didn't feel like home until our shipment arrived.  Then our home became our sanctuary in Addis.  One could forget what was on the other side of our walled compound when we were in our home.  I had a really fun time setting up the home and decorating.  It's the biggest home we've ever lived in, that's for sure.
Our growth chart.  Which is sad for me to think about how it will be painted over when we leave.

That isn't to say we didn't have issues with the house.  We are the first US embassy residents in the home. Which means we had maintenance crews in and out for issues throughout the 2.5 years we lived here.  We had a hive of African bees form a nest in a downspout that opened into our master bathroom.  The same area of the roof experienced major leaks during rainy seasons and our master bathroom and bedroom experienced flooding over and over, the flooring in our bedroom is buckled and moldy.  While we were on R&R the hot water heater in the girls bathroom burst and the water flowed down our stairs and flooded the entire main level of the home ruining the hard wood floors.  We've lived with them buckled and gaping now for almost a year.  The funny thing about both the homes we've lived in in developing countries is that on the surface, everything looks good at the beginning.  The "make-ready" process of a home paints over mold, polishes up the rough parts of a home, but the lifespan of this surface work only lasts for a short period of time.  So within the last year we've seen the moldings fall off the walls, plaster slough away from the walls, toilets break, counter tops pull away from the sink, electrical issues become a problem.  The wiring of our house is not correct so that every time you turn off the kitchen light the breaker on the upstairs box flips.  It took us a long time to figure out this was why there was never hot water for the girls bathtub.  But you get used to quirks, safety issue or not, we just learned to turn the breaker on every time we pass by in the hall.
Ashlynn is going through a naked phase.

Even with all the maintenance issues; water shortages (we have to run a hose from our outdoor faucet to our water tank to keep it full), power outages (our generator blew when the maintenance crew forgot to change the oil regularly) and all the little things in between (broken washing machine, water pump calibrations, door handles and locks falling off); we've enjoyed this house.  It functioned well for our family purpose.  I enjoyed having the master bedroom on the third floor while the children's rooms were on the second.  The open main level was perfect for entertaining and overall we were happy with the house!  I can feel myself around this house in the dark.  There are no shadows that alarm me, everything had a place and it really felt like home.

During pack-out that all changes.  The home that you've built for your family gets torn down layer by layer.  First the organizing, then the moving, packing, boxing and watching it all drive away on big trucks.  Then your house is big and empty again and your stuck making eggs in a 6 inch Teflon skillet that looks like someone scrubbed with steel wool.  We don't feel any ownership in the home and it doesn't hurt that things are really starting to fall apart.  But for these 2.5 years, this was our home. It's hard to let go of some of our memories in the house.  It's where our children grew and we sighed with relief after we walked through the door after an exhausting trip out of the city.  It's where I built my baking business and hosted parties. It's the front door Daddy came through every evening to squeals of delight and hugs from his girls.  It's where we slept and ate and played and laughed.  As the last boxes leave our compound on that big truck, the house goes from ours to not ours and it's a quick transition.

Now is the waiting game.  One more week in the big empty what-used-to-be our house.

4 comments:

Bernie said...

Hi Sara,
You can't imagine how much your blog helped me a lot from the first time I came across it. (And laughing because I find myself sometimes in your entries, esp.the part when trying to finish all opened alcohol bottles before the movers come..And trying to make some normality in living in an empty house). I'm just sorry that I won't have the chance to meet you and tell you this in person. By the time we arrive in Addis in August, you will probably have left already. You see when my husband told me that we'd be moving again and this time to Ethiopia, I had mixed feelings. We just moved back here in France last year after living 9yrs in South America (7yrs in Brazil with 2yrs in Ecuador in between). With 3children (2 of them adolescents), I was afraid that this might not be a good idea. I didn't know anything about Ethiopia, but the way you talked about the people, their culture and their customs,not to mention, the beautiful pictures you took, I can't wait to get to know Ethiopia myself. I'm preparing myself now and my children mentally that this time,life will be simpler but full of adventures. So thank you and wish you the best of luck in your next posting. Cheers, Bernadette

salliannev said...

Hello Sara, Although we've never met it really does feel like a friend is leaving Addis. Thank you so much for all your posts and beautiful photography - like so many families moving to Ethiopia, I avidly read your blog and found it incredibly helpful. We're settling into our new life here now and about to go on a few little trips out of the city which will be wonderful. I wanted to wish you the very best in your next move and say a very big Thank You for sharing your journey with us all. Salli and family x

Everett Tyler said...

It's hard to leave the place you called home for so long, but even though that is a great sea change you are leading to, I know it is all for the better. Just pack your stuff real well and account for everything, so you know the things you brought and the things you left without any confusion. Wishing you all the best!

Everett Tyler @ General Store All

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