Monthly Archives: August 2016

Packing for the Unknown

Much of our preparation for each move involves sorting and organizing our material things into piles marked ship, pack, storage, and give away. Before leaving Saudi, I spent much time separating items for storage and shipment. It was a similar process when we left New Jersey for Saudi two years ago, I separated our items into ship and storage and we packed our suitcases with what we would need immediately upon arrival. I even wrote a blog post about the process. It seemed pretty straight forward at the time. Sure, there were definitely things I would do differently after I realized I put too much emphasis on what I would need in air freight and what I ended up really needing those first two months, but it wasn’t too bad. So I’ve been trying to do it as good – if not better – this time around.

Ha! I should know otherwise.

Each time we move, we try to do it better. Yet, no matter the effort and thought, it doesn’t always work out that way. There are different obstacles, different Post policies, unforeseen paperwork, new lame brains on the shipping/receiving end who act like your shipment is somehow different from all the rest and don’t do their jobs correctly, and then there are the different circumstances surrounding the move. This time around, we packed out our home six months before heading to our new assignment, which meant that we would be carting around our air freight from hotel room to hotel room until it would be sent back to the Middle East. Not easy when you have one car and 500 lbs of cargo.

This air freight contains all the possessions that we will have in Baghdad for our year-long assignment – only eight boxes worth. I spent much time in Saudi thinking about and researching our move. How would the apartment be furnished, what clothes should I pack, what items would we want to feel comfortable and at home? The lifestyle will be stressful and the work will be demanding, we needed to pack as many comforts as possible.

Fast forward to present day. After shuffling items around, packing and re-packing as far back as February, I still find myself constantly reassessing our air freight. I have been emailing with contacts currently at Post who have perspective on such important matters of the heart when overseas, and I still cannot fathom what our lives will be like. There are too many unknowns still, too many variables, and such a small limit to what we can ship. I find most of my attention is drawn to the things that will bring us joy. Much of what I’ve packed has been practical, but lately I am thinking more sentimentally. I’ve printed pictures that I plan to display in my office and around the apartment, I’ve purchased new bedding and a few furnishings to bring character and life to the white walls and brown furniture, and I have been putting probably way too much thought into the food I want to ship so I can do a little cooking and baking despite the fact that there will be a cafeteria supplying us with free food around the clock.

The truth is, I am anxious for this move. This time there will be more separation than in the past. We will be separated from our beloved dog who has given us great comfort and stability with each move, and we will be separated from most of our earthly possessions which have given us consistency and familiarity in our new surroundings. If there is any reassurance in going to Baghdad, it’s that David and I will be together.

This move has been challenging and it’s still not over. I probably won’t consider it over until a year has gone by and we are once again in the U.S. reunited with Pigpen. For now, I will continue packing and sorting, putting things into boxes and then taking them out again, making lists and envisioning the unknown, anticipating another move and preparing myself emotionally for another life-altering experience. If I seem a little crazy, it’s because I’m packing for the unknown.

Home Leave

After a long transition back to the U.S. that required extensive planning and great perseverance, we are finally (relatively) settled in Virginia for three months of training.

We have been living out of suitcases for the last four months and are carting around several large boxes from Saudi Arabia which we will be shipping off to Baghdad in a couple months. The whole prospect of what we’ve been through and what we still have left to tackle sometimes feels overwhelming, but for the time being we are keeping calm and staying positive.

This blog post is called “Home Leave” because we just spent the whole month of July enjoying the beauty of this benefit that the Foreign Service enforces all employees to take between assignments. The idea is that after serving overseas for two years and before going back, your family needs to spend time in the U.S. to remember why this country is so great. We are serving the U.S. overseas after all. So we had mandatory vacation time. Yippee!

The decision to go to Maggie Valley, which is a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, was made very quickly after we thought about where we were coming from and where we were going. Desert – aaaand then back to – desert. We needed some color and depth in our lives and the Great Smokies provided just that. With green trees, mountain streams and rivers, a high elevation, and rainy weather that came and went in the afternoons, we couldn’t have asked for a better contrast to our life in the Middle East.

With no itinerary or schedule, we let ourselves relax and decide how we would spend our time each day as it came. Among our hikes into the mountains and walks around the lake, we white water rafted down the Ocoee River in Tennessee, rode horses, ate some amazing BBQ and southern comfort dishes, floated in inner tubes down Oconaluftee River in Cherokee, and spent time with family and friends.

It was hard to leave such a peaceful and charming vacation, but we are grateful we had such an opportunity to explore and have fun in the mountains.

Now, once again, it’s back to work!