We've been in our house for a year now and we are still unpacking boxes and hanging pictures. Husband hung some today while I was at work and he's hanging more right now. We have, um, quite a number of pictures. But that's OK because we have a house with an awful lot of empty wall space. But don't worry (because I know how concerned you must be.) We will find things to fill the space with, as soon as we finish digging through those boxes.
The problem with moving in the Foreign Service is that we do it a lot and it's really complicated and every time, the people in the State Department who are supposed to be logistics expert act like no one has ever moved overseas before and it is like you are doing it for the very first time. They ask you things like do you want your things packed in boxes. Um as opposed to what? Bags? Just throwing it all together in the crate? Or they do fabulously stupid things like send your things to Ghana when you are actually moving to Guangzhou. You would think that since this is the Foreign Service that they would make it a point to hire people who at least have heard of geography and know that Colombia and British Colombia aren't on the same continent. But you would be wrong because this is what happens almost every time. And even if you do manage to get someone to help you who not only knows that London is in the United Kingdom which is near Europe and is also called England, then you still have the movers to contend with.
(Do not pack your children in the boxes. It might be tempting, but you will get into a lot of trouble with customs.)
Every set of movers we've had have been perfectly nice and none of them really understand what the heck they are supposed to do with our stuff. You see, there are three options: 1. leave in storage in the U.S. 2. Ship via ground transportation to the new post, and 3. send via air freight. The air shipment is theoretically supposed to arrive well before the ground shipment and you put into it all the things you want right away like your pillows, mattress pads because remember you will be sleeping on rocks that the locals think are mattresses but really are torture devices, and of course, extra shoes and purses because you can only fit so many in your luggage. Oh, and don't forget to pack your suitcase before the movers arrive and hide it from them because if they pack it and ship it, you will be very unhappy. Although then you could go shopping, so maybe that's not a bad strategy after all.
You can see how this can get complicated very quickly. Add in a baby and a ruptured Achilles tendon or two, and it can go bad really fast. The year that we moved when I really had ruptured my Achilles tendon, I had to leave Husband in charge of the packing. It should have gone well because he spoke the local language (I didn't) and I had carefully separated everything and wrote notes about what was to go where. I tried hopping around the house on one foot and directing things, but everyone quickly grew weary of this scenario of me hopping and saying wait, what was it you just put in that box and did you write that on the packing list and no one understanding because they didn't speak English and I was directed to sit down, hold the toddler, and watch Finding Nemo. So I did. When we got to the next place, the air freight arrived early like it was supposed to for once and I watched the movers unpack the boxes which were full of Husband's suits. Yes. I said suits. And shirts. And shoes. And ties. I waited in vain for the linens and cooking utensils, and pans, and pillows I had carefully set aside to be unpacked but they didn't make it. I should mention that Husband was going into language training and didn't even need to wear a suit for a whole year! We did end up with two pots, a cheese grater and a whisk, but no plates, bowls, spoons, cups, etc. So we bought some and now we have three sets of dishes, none of which match each other. But we can date memories by thinking about which set of dishes we were eating off at the time. It's a little more accurate than carbon dating, I think.
At one post, we ended up with the vacuums that were supposed to go to storage and since the post supplied a vacuum, we had three. At another post, a long lost box from storage inexplicably showed up with my parents' electric blanket from 1964 in it. Sorry, Mom, we left that old blanket in China. And then there are the things that go missing or get broken. Just a word of advice, silk plants do not move well in the summer. They arrive with all the leaves dropped off because the glue melts in the heat. Also candles that aren't in jars do not move well, unless you happen to like crooked, dented candles. If you do, come on over because I have a bunch to sell you.
The problem with moving back to the US is that all your stuff comes back to you and you open a box and wonder if those things are really yours and why did you think that sweater was a good idea 10 years ago and was your dresser really that ugly shade of brown? And why oh why does Husband still have philosophy textbooks when he changed that major 25 years ago? But there are your own political geography textbooks that describe life in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, so Husband is not the only one who has lost track of what he owns.
Wish me luck with all the unpacking. I only have about 8 boxes to go. I might just get it all done before we move again--which I assure you will be nowhere near Afghanistan.
Today, Donald Trump is having a worse day than me. I know I promised no politics unless they are funny and I find Mr. Trump hilarious. First, there is the name. Did he make it up so he could Trump everyone? And second, the hair, which even if it is real is really ugly. And third, he so thinks he is such an important figure and here he was all ready to reveal some big surprise which probably had something to do with his horrible reality show, and now he can't do it. And I'm sure he is having a lot of trouble understanding why he can't just give his speech instead of Romney, but he will never ever get it. So thank you, Mr. Trump, for reminding me that money cannot buy everything and to be very grateful that I have things in abundance that cannot be bought. Now I have to go unpack some boxes and find some of them.