On Monday, May 11 and Tuesday, May 12 our apartment was packed out in preparation for my transfer to Uzbekistan. Currently, almost all of my belongings (except what can fit into two carry-on bags and two suitcases) are en route to Tashkent either by air or sea.
Since my husband will join me at post in the future, he also stored a bunch of things for himself in one closet that I labeled a “no-packing zone”. I am happy to say that nothing was inadvertently packed from that closet like in so many horror stories I have heard.
Since many American-style groceries, household products and medicines are not available in Uzbekistan, my husband and I took an epic trip to Costco on Saturday, May 2…
…Loaded it all into my car…
…and then my husband organized it inside our guest room…
…and finally all of the purchases were integrated into the piles of our other STUFF: toiletries, clothes, shoes, coats, furniture, dishes and glassware, crystal, flatware, electronics, appliances, groceries, family pictures and heirlooms, household cleaners and laundry items, fitness equipment, books, auto parts, decor, art, linens and towels, candles, cosmetics, letters, jewelry, medicine, and seemingly a million other things.
I divided these items into five categories: (1) unaccompanied air baggage [UAB]; (2) household effects by air [HHE air]; (3) household effects by sea [HHE sea]; (4) storage; and (5) things that were not to be packed.
I had quite a generous shipment allowance: 250 lbs of UAB and 750 lbs of HHE air. Per my travel orders, if my husband were traveling with me I could have added an additional 200 lbs of air freight for him. Normally all household effects travel by sea; however, sea freight takes so long to arrive in Uzbekistan (one of only two doubly-landlocked countries in the world) that additional HHE is authorized via air for our needs. Winning!
In addition, my HHE sea freight allowance was several thousand lbs and I didn’t even come close to maxing it out. Tashkent is also a consumables post; we will get a 2,500 lb allowance for ordering consumables (things that can be “used up, not worn out”) during our first year at post.
I preserved all of that for now by putting everything we bought stateside into our regular UAB and HHE shipments, in which I had plenty of room. Another win! I took advantage of my storage allowance for certain furniture and appliances that just would have not been convenient for us to have overseas in a home that is already fully furnished, and where the electrical currency is different.
The movers showed up early on the first day of the packout and were ready to roll. I had gone through the apartment at first light by myself, double-checking my categories. I did a photographic household inventory to supplement my written inventory, scanned receipts and property transit insurance policy. I figured it would help months hence when my crates started to arrive and I wondered what the heck was inside.
I walked them through the apartment and showed the guys my piles, complete with color-coded guides in each major room:
The moving crew said that they were amazed by how much work we had done to organize things. However, it seemed chaotic to me. I have a very strong sense of order, and both my husband and I have always kept a very clean and organized house – with a place for everything, and everything in its place. I am not even going to post pictures of the piles, because it just seems too stressful to look at. It never seems like you have too many things…until you drag it all out of place in preparation for a move. I do have to say, though, that relatively speaking, it looked pretty organized. Anyone could have walked in and ascertained the status of each pile without having to check with me, and that was my goal.
The first day they did all of my air freight, and more than half of my sea freight. My good friend TL was also on hand to help me supervise the movers, as my husband had to work. I ordered Chinese to celebrate and keep everyone happy. The second day they finished sea freight, and took away the storage items.
Throughout the process, each item was painstakingly cataloged and wrapped with packing paper. I had to sit patiently and wasn’t able to wrap, pack or move. That was maddening, because I know it could have been quicker with a fourth person.
Here is a photo from when it was almost done:
I ordered them Philly cheesesteaks, shook their hands and sent them away happy. Ahhh. How relaxing!
Two funny things happened.
(1) A leaf from the tree above the truck blew into one of the crates just as they were caulking and nailing it shut. I supposed there will be a small piece of northern VA along for the sea voyage.
(2) The movers couldn’t help but make fun of my pink tool set. However, the hammer and Phillips screwdriver I had tucked into my suitcase for use during my first weekend in my new home came in pretty handy when they forgot some of their own tools the second day. Then it was my turn to laugh! I promised I wouldn’t take pictures of them using said pink tools, but it would have served them right. In all seriousness, they were great. Big props to Able Moving and Storage from Manassas, VA.
After they left, I re-packed my suitcases and looked around the empty apartment where we have lived together for the last five and a half years. It seemed that all the life had drained out of it, and that everything we had created had been dismantled by our own hands, and by the hands of strangers. An apartment that was bright and colorful and alive had been transformed back into a blank, nondescript space awaiting new tenants.
It seemed there was no need to linger, so I checked into our hotel where we will be in the five days before my departure. I had just enough time to take a hot shower and dress up to attend a Balkan-style birthday dinner that evening in DC. Despite my exhaustion and the prospect of an early meeting this morning followed by three afternoon meetings, I put on a happy face, and it wasn’t too difficult – I felt several thousand lbs lighter sitting there in the dim light with a glass of sparkling wine in my hand!
I can say that despite my nerves and all of the stress, our first FS packout was a success, at least on the front end. I am sure that a month hence I will be in Tashkent anxiously and excitedly awaiting the arrival of my 1,000 lbs of air freight! I am also sure that I will be very low on contact lens solution, shampoo, and a few other things, so it will be like Christmas, Easter and winning the lottery all in one. The only thing that would be better to magically find in one of those crates would be my husband, no worse for wear.