Monday, July 23, 2012

Post-Pack Out Reflections

If you've been following my incessant Facebook posts over the last few days, you'll already know how pack out went.  Because, really, during the pack out itself there is little to do except sit on the compute and write Facebook status updates.  Or at least that's been my experience thus far.  I did manage to write and post two overdue blogs too!  Only one travel post left :-).

All in all this pack out went well.  It was far less frustrating and overwhelming and confusing than either of my two previous ones (which were both overall  positives but with a few hiccups), partly because of my preparations and partly because it does get easier with experience.

They movers arrived an hour early (amazing!) and had my UAB and storage packed within two hours.  When they first arrived they tried to spread out and go to different rooms.  I told the crew chief there was only one of me and we needed to be systematic, and he seemed to get it right away.  I didn't ship very much UAB on purpose.  I want to add things into it in DC in the event that my additional HHE shipment is not authorized.  It was either 64 lbs or 64 kgs - I think kg but am not sure.  My storage shipment needed to be at least 500 lbs to qualify (or is it 250? I can never remember), and it was 541.  Amazing!

Then the HHE started.  I let them fan out into different rooms after giving instructions on what not to pack.  I had previously carved out four safe areas - one closet for my baggage and one for my welcome kit; under the kitchen sink for partly-used cleaning supplies and a few paper products; and the bathroom for cats and their gear.  Signs on the appropriate doors worked very well.  The cats were NOT pleased about being locked in the bathroom for the better part of two days, but it was better than having them underfoot. 

After about three hours the crew chief told me they'd only be working till 2pm.  I expected a shortened day for Ramadan, but that was even shorter than I anticipated.  They ran out of packing cartons about 1:30 and spent the remaining time wrapping dishes and valuables in bubble wrap and paper.  By the time they left I felt pretty confident things were going to proceed smoothly the next day.

I let the cats out once they left, who relished the opportunity to conquer every box pile and proclaim themselves kings of the towers.  They also were a bit clingy, insisting on sitting on my chest whenever I sat down.  I had a makeshift dinner of microwave popcorn, which absolutely hit the spot, and tried to get some sleep.

This morning the crew arrived right on time and set right in to work.  Yesterday I'd estimated they had packed about 2/3 of the house, so I anticipated the rest going quickly.  That was not to be.  Maybe there was more than I realized of what was left, but it took a long time.  I made periodic rounds to see how things were going and to clear areas.  At one point I realized I could not find any large box-like structures that looked like my IKEA bookcases.  I did see several little box-like structures that might contain former IKEA bookcases.  When I inquired, my fears were confirmed.  I don't quite know why they decided to take apart four large bookcases (former movers had kept them intact), but they did.  Frankly, the thought of trying to reassemble these in Kampala made me a little queasy.  Luckily they read my horrified face and immediately began reassembling.  I would say the whole process set us back at least an hour.

About 1pm I started resigning myself to the reality of another day of packing out.  There were still a few things to be packed, and no boxes had been moved out.  But then things got moving pretty quickly.  The crew chief had spent the morning labeling boxes, inventorying them, and weighing them, so that was pretty much already done.  One guy finished the last of the packing while the other two started hauling boxes.  I got hold of the weights page and input them into a spreadsheet to see the damage.  I estimated 100 boxes at an average of 50 lbs per box for a total of 5,000 lbs before I started.  All told, it was 105 boxes at an average of 44 lbs for a total of just under 4,600 lbs.  Not bad!  Granted it's a lot of stuff, but for a while I was afraid I'd go over the allotment (7,200 lbs).

It took until about 3:30, but they got all the boxes out.  They had forgotten one shelf of games, but that was easily remedied and sent on its way.  I have to hand it to this crew - they did a great job.  Especially considering it's Ramadan.  And HOT outside.  They were the same ones who delivered my HHE almost two years ago.  Once again, though, I think some incoming FSOs to Saudi should get Tagalog training.  It would have helped me immensely over the two days!

The boxes are gone, the cats are free once again, and I am unpacking my suitcases so I can live for the next week.  It feels empty in here, but in a nice way.  It's really real that I'm leaving.  A friend said yesterday on Facebook that a strange phenomenon is knowing you're going to miss a place you can't wait to leave.  And that really sums up how I feel.  I am looking forward to leaving Saudi in many ways, but I'll miss my comfortable life here, my great colleagues and friends, and my job.  Very bittersweet.  Saudi's an odd place.  While you're here you know you're living with very different rules and customs, but it doesn't really hit you until you leave how much that impacts you.  I understand how and why people stay here for decades. 

I will surely reflect more on finishing my first tour in the week to come, but right now I need to get ready to party, Ramadan style!  Iftar, here I come!

No comments: