Leaving the Nest

Since we found out just over two weeks ago that Ciudad Juárez moved to phase one and our Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move could go forward, we have begun preparing to leave the United States in earnest. Finally knowing our departure date has allowed us to do so many things that have been tangled in knots since the shelter-in-place orders started in mid-March. We are now less than two weeks away from departing for Mexico, and although there is still a lot to do, I feel like we have it pretty well in hand.

This summer transfer season is like nothing anyone in the Foreign Service has ever seen. While some officers and their families prepare to fly commercially across the globe, we will be heading south by car from Virginia through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and finally across the border in El Paso into Mexico. It will take us almost six days.

Australian shelduck ducklings – Ready, set… go!

It feels like people are saying goodbye and heading out of the DC area left, right, and center this month. And as we know, the southern United States looks like this right now:

Not that I am complaining, though; I would much, much rather do this journey by car than by plane in this era. I love driving, and it will also allow us to bring many more of our things than we could take flying. This is important in the event shipment inspections and deliveries get delayed at the border due to the pandemic. But regardless, the entire thing is a giant leap of faith.

Since my last post, we have checked the following things off our to-do lists:

– Reconfirmed our packout date for 450 lbs of unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) and a couple hundred lbs of household effects (HHE).

– Started making an inventory of our belongings here in Arlington and divided things into four categories: pack in cars, pack in shipments, consume or donate before departure, and furnished apartment property to leave behind.

– Completed a virtual packout survey with the moving company.

– Gave notice at our apartment building and worked on check-out and loading dock reservation details.

– Test driven two cars, picked one, and put a deposit down.

– Added future second car to insurance, activated satellite radio subscription, and obtained apartment building parking pass.

– Planned our entire route between here and Juárez and booked all our hotels.

– Had a video chat with our awesome social sponsors in Ciudad Juárez and attended a separate welcome call with consulate folks to get questions answered. During the latter call we found out the HHE we packed out in Canberra 50 weeks ago is already sitting at the border waiting to clear Mexican customs.

– Logged into more than four dozen accounts with banks, companies, subscriptions, and associations to change address. Have a giant spreadsheet to track which accounts use our Texas address and which use our diplomatic pouch address in Virginia.

– Filed an official Change of Address form with USPS so any mail that slips through to the apartment gets forwarded to us in Mexico.

– Filed Virginia absentee voter registration for the 2020 presidential election.

– Scheduled several virtual consultations with Washington folks I should talk to before I get to post.

– Went for several 5-6 mile summer morning walks with V and enjoyed chipmunks, bunnies, and birds.

– Went to the doctor one more time and filled remaining prescriptions.

– Settled my long-standing insurance claim on the Volkswagen after about eight months of fighting.

– Made sure we have the right cell phone plan for the border.

– Requested an internet upgrade in our Mexican house so we can telework on arrival.

– Found out that our breeder’s dog is pregnant with a litter due in late July, and we will be able to welcome a puppy to our home in September.

– And probably some other things I have forgotten, like backing up my laptop, giving away extra books, dealing with email and virtual meetings, and shredding as much paper as possible.

The first – and only – socially distanced dinner we have had since March

We are getting ready to leave the nest. As long as I can keep my humor and focus these next few weeks, all will be well. As always before a move to a new country, I am filled with hope and enthusiasm for the possibilities that lie ahead. In just a couple of months from now, almost everything about our lives and surroundings will be different. I am crossing my fingers for safety, for a vaccine, and for us to stay well.

But regardless, the time to test our wings will soon be upon us. We get so busy with our lists and our tasks that we have to be intentional about creating space for the things that matter – the goodbyes, the beauty, and the memories.

Arlington, VA ~ July 2020

  5 comments for “Leaving the Nest

  1. Nick Vaughn
    July 27, 2020 at 11:41

    Thank you so much for this blog. I am looking at joining the Foreign Service as a Medical Provider, and have been consuming as much info as possible. I basically spent half of yesterday and this morning reading every single one of your posts, and it is by far the most informative and comprehensive blogs about foreign service living out there, so thanks for that!

    Good luck on your trip to CDJ, I’m actually just across the border in El Paso, TX. I’m not sure what the dining scene in Juarez is like right now with COVID, but there are some well loved places we El Pasoan’s frequent regularly. Los Arcos and Villa Del Mar offer great and fresh seafood (flown in several times a week) if you need a fix. Portales 802 is a modern and large outdoor mall area with tons of great bars/restaurants to choose from and is pretty close to where consular staff live if I’m not mistaken. The Kentucky Club near the downtown bridge is supposedly where margarita’s were invented, and they are excellent (as are the nachos). The consulate itself is right across from a large mall complex Las Misiones, that has everything you would likely need (including a Starbucks in the parking lot). Lastly, there’s a great steak restaurant called El Tragadero, that is a hole in the wall decorated like a bull fighting museum. It has incredible steaks at great prices, that you typically will cut and put into the freshest corn tortillas you will ever taste. It doesn’t look like much but it is great, and a favorite of former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke.

    If you like soccer, Juarez has a team in the Liga MX that hopefully you can actually enjoy if things open up a bit.

    Best of luck and feel free to PM me if you ever want suggestions about El Paso, Las Cruces, or Juarez.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 27, 2020 at 15:11

      This is one of the best comments in the history of the blog! Thank you so much for all this feedback and especially the tips on our new home area. I appreciate it and may reach out to you in the future with Qs. I am sure PC would be lucky to have you when they are ready to place PCVs in the field again. It still blows my mind that all several thousand were brought home in March. Unbelievable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nick Vaughn
        July 27, 2020 at 15:39

        I’m actually applying to the Foreign Service as a Nurse Practitioner to work in one of the embassy health units abroad, not the Peace Core. I would be joining as a FSS. Either way, I know it’s a long road, but might as well get as much info as I can.

        Please do reach out if necessary. I’m sure you know some of the stigma that comes with the area, but it really is a great bi-national community, and there is so much to enjoy. I’m sure the consular staff will have decent tips, but I doubt many are from the area. If you can, apply for a SENTRI card for your car that allows you to use the fast lane on two of the bridges going back to the US. I guess maybe as a diplomat you might have access already, but it makes what can be a 3 hour line into the US turn into a 10 minute line. Apply ASAP as it usually take a few months for an interview (if they’re even doing them). Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. August 1, 2020 at 20:18

    Ah yes, you clearly said the FS and not PC, and I clearly had PC on the brain! 🙂 We have been waiting months for our Global Entry interviews due to the pandemic; hopefully it won’t be much longer.


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