It’s hard to say what’s more unsettling: arriving at a new post and moving into an empty house that remains barren for weeks, or even months, while one’s belongings are in transit, or packing up one’s possessions and sending them away with a moving company and then living in the empty house that seems all the more bare because for years it had been filled with the things that make a house a home.
A colleague of D’s who departs Nairobi a day after we do had her pack-out more than a month before her departure, returning to the minimalist living of the Embassy welcome kit. That is because she did not want to wait long for her belongings at her onward post. Because we have a three-month gap between leaving Nairobi and arriving in Chisinau, we waited until the last possible moment to schedule our pack-out.
Even though the movers would do most of the heavy work, S had us pre-packing for almost a month prior to the actual pack-out date. The State Department allows for multiple shipments – a limited amount of goods can be transported as air freight, while the bulk of our possessions are shipped by boat. Moreover, while most of our belongings are headed straight to Europe, we were also entitled to a small air shipment of goods to Washington, D.C., where we will be for two months for D’s training. Though pre-packing consumed a substantial amount of time, it was deciding what items went into which shipment that proved the hardest.
The Department allows several leave days for packing out, which is great because we definitely needed two sets of eyes to keep track of the small army of movers that descended on our house. Unlike the pack-out in Chicago, which S had to supervise on her own and which featured the least professional moving crew with which we have dealt, the movers here were well-organized, competent, and respectful. In two days, they transformed our pile of belongings into 65 neatly packed boxes of various sizes. On the third day they returned to build plywood crates and cart our stuff away.
Somehow, despite acquiring several heavy items, including a carved Swahili mirror frame, our total weight was just a fraction of the maximum allowed by the State Department. The only downside is that S thinks this gives her license for a massive furniture shopping spree when we return to the United States.