Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reflections on a 'Zen PCS'

It's eight days until I leave Kampala. It seems like just yesterday I was brushing off remarks about leaving soon saying I still had eight months. It's harder to do that when you can count the days on your hands.

I'm sitting in my living room surrounded by cats and boxes. The movers did an amazing job yesterday on my storage shipment, and they've been similarly great today. In an hour they'll be back with the scale and crates, and it will all be on its way. The cats are, per their usual, going with the flow, though they have been pretty freaked out by the noises the movers make. The cats have been spending the days in the comfort of a locked room with their litter box, food, water, and a dwindling number of toys. No toys left now, though the boxes seem to suffice. They slept last night on the tower of flat, empty boxes lined up waiting for today.

A few months ago, while watching several friends and their frantic PCS preparation, I decided I didn't want that this year. PCSing sucks enough as it is without the extra anxiety, and I decided then to try for a 'Zen PCS'. What this would look like/entail wasn't entirely clear even when I first envisioned it, but I decided to do as much as I could to control what I could control and not fret over things I couldn't. Eight days away from the end I can't say I've been entirely successful with this approach, but this conscious decision has definitely helped my attitude overall. As has the occasional Nyquil on the nights I can't fall asleep thanks to a racing mind and seemingly endless to-do lists.

I just paused to let GSO in to deliver the welcome kit. I am actually excited because it includes an AFN box, and I haven't had AFN or DSTV in almost a year. So television will be fun this week! Plus the whole kit is brand new, and I saved a few things from my bed that I'll donate when I leave, so I hope to get some decent sleep this week even with the welcome kit stuff.

There have been definitely been some panicky moments along the way, most to do with travel orders and flights. I reserved my flights (and space for the cats) in July, but my orders weren't cut until mid-September. In the middle of this GSA awarded AA/BA the contract for the city-pair fare between Entebbe and Washington, DC. If I was going on home leave first it wouldn't matter. I'm not. So I had to shell out an additional $600 just to be able to fly KLM. That hurt. It doesn't count the $900 it will cost for them to fly (thanks to a long layover in Amsterdam I need to pay for the use of the pet hotel). Pets are oh so costly to move, but it's so incredibly worth it.

I didn't get any bites on selling my car until very recently. Luckily I think I have a buyer; just need to sign the contract, take payment, and give over the keys. This could have been a super anxiety-causing process (especially after I watched D struggle with this until the day she left, finally selling at a loss to a non-diplomat, which meant the buyer had to pay mega taxes; I did NOT want to have to repeat this), but it looks to be working out.

My driver has several jobs lined up that should amount to full time, and I have a lead on a job for my housekeeper. So that's one less thing to stress about.

I spent much of June and July prepping for packout and doing lots of purging. I'm so glad I did, because it meant I didn't have to worry about it while my mom was here or stress about it in September when I was acting section chief and had many, many fires to put out. This was where the zen approach really came into play - I decided to do as much sorting/purging as I could but to ultimately let things happen as they might. This took a lot of pressure off, mentally, and let me enjoy the process. Well, enjoy as much as one can enjoy such a thing. But I did have a good afternoon taking apart my television and electronics and boxing it up. That made me feel like I was accomplishing something! Several local and U.S. holidays helped me not stress out in the final weeks - extra time to get ready without losing my weekends entirely.

My big fail was with consumables. I brought/ordered way too much and couldn't use it all, even with several weeks of 'creative' cooking. I have learned a lot for next time, when I'll stick to liquids and know I can order dry goods as needed. Luckily my neighbors were willing to take all of the extras off my hands and redistribute.

This brings me to the hardest part of leaving. The people. I was very sad this summer to say goodbye to good friends and colleagues. And, as always, some awesome new people moved in, including into my building. The new neighbors have been kind enough to include me in weekly game nights, which has been amazing. I am so sad we've had such a short time together. This is almost always the case, but it sucks nonetheless. Such is FS life, and I know our paths will cross again.

I'm very sad to leave my section and my colleagues, even though I'm mentally ready to move on. The past few months have been quite stressful at work, for many reasons. If you've read news about Uganda in the past month or so you may know some of this. Disengaging is always hard, but it has to be done. I'm getting there. I have a full week of work next week to check out (mentally as well as actual paperwork!) and finish any last-minute things I forgot to tell people about. It's always fascinating to see that - while your own world is completely upended by a PCS - things just keep chugging along at the Embassy. Perspective, folks.

Anyway, the movers will be back in a few minutes, and I need to herd the cats back into a locked room. For the last time. Lots more last times to come this week. I'll try to keep channeling zen. And, overall, this PCS has been fairly smooth. Things always fall into place. How much effort I put into worrying about how/when they'll get there doesn't affect the end result. And I feel like I've done a decent job minimizing said effort, racing mind at bedtime notwithstanding. And that, dear readers, may be the key to a Zen PCS.