Holy Air Freight, Batman!

Thursday, May 21, the night I arrived in Uzbekistan, I heard that my UAB (otherwise known as unaccompanied air baggage, or “air freight”) had beat me here. This was totally shocking for me (in a good way), as my air freight had only been packed out less than two weeks before.

I’ve heard dozens of times from officers in all different parts of the world that it generally takes UAB at least three weeks to arrive in Customs in the host country, sometimes longer.

And as I mentioned before, serving in Uzbekistan entitles me not only to 250 lbs of UAB, but also to an additional 750 lbs of sea freight to be delivered by air (HHE Air, for those in the know) due to the long travel time for sea freight to a doubly land-locked country.

A few days later, on the following Monday afternoon of a jet-lagged three day weekend, a familiar group of six boxes was delivered directly to my home, carried through the gate, across the yard, up the stone steps, and into my main hallway. The boxes were sliced open, and the delivery guys took their leave, allowing me to revel in the wisdom of my packing plan.

Food! Toiletries and cosmetics! My espresso machine! Bedding! Medicine! All of my office supplies and printer/scanner! All of my shoes! Almost all of my pillows!!!! Piles, and piles, and piles of professional and summer clothes! As I removed items from the boxes, I nearly shrieked with glee a couple of times.

One of the loveliest things I saw:

I’m not a narcissist, but my selection of items to send by air was pretty genius, if I do say so myself. Everything was grouped and organized so well stateside that I had a minimum of irritation and drama upon arrival.

Nothing was broken, just a dented can of soup, a smashed box of tampons with the contents undamaged, and an old plastic tote with a cracked lid. All in all, not bad.

I spent a glorious nine hours listening to music on my headphones while unpacking, or at least, distributing the items among the different rooms in which they will eventually reside. According to my fitness bracelet, I traveled more than three miles that afternoon, just walking in a three story house and in my front yard. (!!!)

Just a little unpacking music:

I’m not so attached to my things that I can’t live without them, but there was a comfort in seeing familiar things from our home here, sometimes in predictable places and sometimes reimagined in new ways. Especially in the absence of my husband, whose presence would make it feel totally like home, at least I have our stuff. It’s also a comfort to me to know that the PCS (permanent change of station) process works, and works well (so far).

I completely finished the laundry, bedding and bathrooms, but my office and closet still need plenty of work.

Over the last several nights, I have mostly fought off the jet lag. The first few nights I was here, I spent hellish periods trying to sleep, unsuccessfully. I have long battled insomnia, so sleepless nights are not new for me.

As many in the Foreign Service community have often complained, the sheets and blankets in the Welcome Kit when you first arrive at post are notoriously stiff and scratchy. While I was grateful to my sponsors for setting up my house for me, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed was hard. Of course you suck it up, you focus on the present, you go to work and do your job. But when you’re exhausted, dehydrated, and in a new place, at least sleeping comfortably makes any transition easier.

So while I was unpacking, and unearthed my sheets, blanket, pillows and comforter, I did three loads of laundry as I worked just so I could sleep in my “own” bed that night.

And man, did I sleep sweetly!! I started to listen to a podcast on speakerphone, and literally heard the first ten seconds of an episode before falling into my first semi-deep sleep..at least for five hours.

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Sarah W Gaer

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