You know the day is coming, and yet it still manages to catch you a little by surprise when it finally arrives.
Though our exact departure date was up in the air for some time, we knew that September would bring the end of our Moldova tour. Reluctantly at first, and with increasing urgency as the summer wore on, we started readying the house — and ourselves — for our packout and departure.
There are two philosophies when it comes to Foreign Service moves. There are people who do virtually no prep at all and just let the movers pack everything for them when the day comes. On the other side of the spectrum are those who organize and strategize, making packing lists and sorting loose items into bins. Left to his own devices D would likely gravitate towards the former approach.
S, however, is cut from a different cloth. As a result, we pre-pack a lot of our own stuff. It’s not just a matter of dividing our belongings into three piles: the essential things we’ll take in our suitcases, the ones we’d like to have during the nine months we’ll be in Washington, and the rest, which will be shipped directly to Africa. We also try our best to keep an inventory and to note what goes into which box.
This may seem like overkill, but our recent experience left us thankful that we had put in the extra effort to organize our things rather than simply letting the movers indiscriminately shove everything into boxes. We spent the first 4.5 months of our Chisinau tour living in a temporary apartment. Knowing that we would have to move a few months after our belongings arrived made us loath to unpack everything. Because we had kept a detailed inventory, we were able to open only the boxes we needed, leaving more than half of our things in storage until the transition to our permanent house.
Moving from post to post is always a melancholy exercise. You take down the pictures and decorations that made your house a home. You box up all of your favorite books and cooking implements, and as you put away one thing after another, you also mentally bid adieu to the friends you made and the places you have come to love in your temporary residence. Knowing that this chapter of our lives is coming to an end, we dawdled at first, shuffling things around rather than really packing.
Not only is sorting all the odds and ends of one’s life a daunting exercise, but also there were plenty of things we wanted to use until the very end, which obviously complicates the packout. This is especially true for the many baby items that now inundate our life. Our last day before the movers came we finally disassembled Munchkin’s crib and high chair. Putting away his books and toys — some for shipment to DC and others into long-term storage — we couldn’t help but feel a wave of sadness, as we left the little guy with just a couple of cars and small knick-knacks that we’ll take in our luggage.
Of course, packing is only half of the moving equation. The hardest part is saying goodbye to the people with whom we have grown close during the years we lived in Moldova. Last week we threw a small party for our closest friends at our favorite restaurant. It was not a goodbye — we purposefully scheduled the party a couple of weeks ahead of our departure so that we would have a chance to see everyone again, and to give the gathering a festive rather than a farewell atmosphere. Instead, we viewed it as an opportunity to personally thank everyone for their warmth and friendship over the last two years.
First photo credit to J+Z