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crate full of blessings

When we shipped off our household effects from Chicago, Bangor, and DC, we could not be sure how long it would take or in what order the crates would arrive. We were told it could take anywhere from 2-4 months, and once it arrived in country, our HHE would still have to clear customs. While we waited longer than average to get our UAB, we lucked out and got our HHE almost immediately thereafter. The first Friday in August – the same day we left for Kampala – the Maine shipment, with a grand total of 6 boxes arrived. It did not contain the most practical of items, but at least it allowed us to start filling our bookshelves and glass cabinet, and provided a modest supply of Costco goods.

The Chicago and DC shipments, to our surprise, arrived together this week. The crates were either consolidated in ELSO (European Logistics Support Office – a State Department HHE consolidation warehouse located in Belgium) or were shipped together from the port of Baltimore. Actually, the shipment had arrived the previous week, but our GSO technician dilly-dallied in clearing it, so rather than arriving at our house on Friday as originally promised, the HHE was delivered on Monday. This meant that S had to unpack all of our belongings without D’s help.

The plywood crates arrived on an flatbed truck, and at the pace the two movers worked, it took them 45 minutes to pry open the two crates. Of course they failed to bring anything other than a crowbar, so once they had pried open the crates, they simply stood around while S pulled out a pair of scissors and got to work opening boxes and unpacking. It quickly became clear that it would take all day to unpack the boxes if the two men did not start helping. As it was, even with their lackadaisical help, it took from 11am until 4pm to unpack, unwrap, and lay out all our worldly possessions. To our utter astonishment, not a single thing had broken during the cross-Atlantic transit. A few items, such as D’s slippers and a few mugs and bowls from our new dish set, did go mysteriously missing, but those are minor details.

Our neighbors had told us how in Bangladesh the movers reused not just the boxes, but also the packing paper. They would flatten out every last sheet and carry it off to be made into notebooks. The contrast with Nairobi could not be starker. Not only were the movers here uninterested in the packing paper, but they did not even want to take away the empty boxes. They piled the boxes up in our driveway and told S that they could not possibly transport them on a flatbed truck for fear that they would blow away. Thankfully, S put her foot down and politely suggested that the movers use the heavy tarp that conveniently came with the truck to tie down the boxes.

What we did want them to leave behind were the plywood crates. We had heard that plywood was expensive and hard to come by, so we offered the crates to our gardener, who will use the wood to make furniture. He came on his day off to break down the crates, but it would have cost him three days’ wages to pay for the truck to transport the wood back to his house. He was so happy when we offered to pay for the truck that he sent S an effusive text telling us that Jesus would bless us.

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