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.
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.
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.