The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough
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Photo credit: T. Ross
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Moving is always an adventure. Always. Sometimes that adventure is fun and exciting. Sometimes that adventure is nerve-wracking or lonely. And sometimes that adventure is exhausting.
Exhaustion has been the overriding feeling for the past few days.
Last week, I was thrilled to hear that our UAB and HHE and consumables had all arrived at post. This is a bit of an anomaly for a couple of reasons. First, UAB is shipped via airplane, so is usually the first thing to arrive at post, often well-before any other shipments. In a “normal” world, it is followed by HHE and consumables, both of which come by ship, sometimes weeks or months after the UAB. Needless to say, when I heard that it was ALL here, I was skeptical, but also super excited. Getting your stuff is what really helps a new country start to feel like home. Your apartment goes from a beige-on-tan-on-white motif to one that you have created through your random collection of goodies from around the world. For us, that means bright pink sitting pillows, blue rugs, a floral armchair/ottoman combo, and lots and lots of framed photos.
With the delivery scheduled and the movers’ arrival time drawing near, my excitement at getting all our stuff turned into trepidation at getting ALL our stuff. Usually, UAB is a couple of large boxes and gets put away in a few hours. Then, we have time to organize and arrange those items while we await the next shipment, but with it all coming at once, the timeline gets shrunk down like Wayne Szalinski’s kids. The plan was to get UAB at 9AM and then HHE/consumables at 2PM. That’s a great window for putting away the first boxes of stuff (mostly clothing and bedding), but in past moves, that has been the end of the day. This time, instead of a few hours of work and then time to take a little catnap or finish off a book, it was going to be straight from the unpacking frying pan to the unpacking fire.
It wasn’t intentional, but it did turn out that the day of all this movement ended up being a day I could not take off work. I had a series of meetings that would have been a real pain to reschedule, but Thad was free! (Okay, not totally free. I did come home mid-afternoon to relieve him so he could put in a couple of hours as well and not feel totally swamped the following morning.) This meant, for the first time in our Foreign Service adventure, he was the one to receive the shipments- solo. It also meant he was the one who got to scramble around in that unpacking frying pan before the fire arrived.
UAB all placed in its rightful locations (or at least out of the boxes and off the floor), it was time for HHE and consumables to make an appearance. I lost count of the number of boxes that rolled in the door Monday afternoon (due to a heavy rainstorm, delivery got delayed until after I had swapped work shifts with Thad), but it felt never-ending. At least the brown of the boxes blended right in with our neutral-to-an-extreme apartment vibe. I am not entirely sure they all made it here, but I’m assuming what did not show up here (my tall bookshelf in particular) is in storage in Hagerstown, WV.
This is where the real work begins.
Opened boxes reveal an occasionally odd organization on the part of the D.C. movers, but more often just display another set of things that need to find a new place to live for the next two years. (Imagine what your junk drawer looks like dumped into a cardboard box and covered in packing paper. Now have several of those.)
I feel like we’ve been good about trying to whittle down what we have, but there are some things that just make me happy to have in the house. I love my antique typewriter (and want another one!), but it needs a nice place to sit on display. I love my teal cabinet that I got at Eastern Market in Washington D.C., but sometimes it is hard to find a spot for another piece of furniture. And I love my throw pillows and blankets in the living room, but maybe I don’t need six of each?
The arrival of HHE is all about sorting and organizing and then finding hiding places for the things you really want, but don’t need to have handy. It’s more of an art than a science. Every time this happens I think of things I will do better next time. Then, next time rolls around and I find another set of carefully laid plans switched and tossed and upended willy-nilly. In the end, it’s best to just go with the flow or you’ll drive yourself nuts with the process.
As tiring as the process has been, we are down to just wall hangings left to organize, as I am a firm believer that if you don’t get things out of boxes and put away within the first month, you’ll never do it. After that, you may as well leave them in the boxes to make the next move a tad bit easier!
Pinks and blues and teals and purples are splashed across the apartment, and Caracas is finally starting to feel like home. Until we do it all again in two years!
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