Foreign Service moves are a way of life and there are certain aspects that go get easier each time. Our very first pack out, the one that took us from Idaho to Washington DC was basically a blind-leading-the-blind situation. We had no idea what we were doing and the acronyms were coming fast and furious. (Much like the movie franchise, they seem endless.) UAB? HHE? PCS? I had no idea what any of it meant, but luckily I had a handy-dandy million and a half page “help manual” sent by State to read through time and time again. By the time the movers came (who also knew nothing about State Department regulations when it comes to moving, as Idaho has a very small representation in the Foreign Service) I had highlighted and dog-eared so many sections of that tome that I felt like I was back to square one. (Somehow we ended up with most of the things we wanted in Chengdu and Kuala Lumpur, but I must admit to some low-level terror coursing through my veins and I contemplate what exactly I put in those boxes that went to permanent storage. Did I really keep my lawn rakes and shovels? What exactly will I do with those in downtown Washington DC? How many sweaters/shoes/shorts did I put into storage that I am 100% sure I have no intention of ever wearing again? Why didn’t I just send them directly to the DI from our place in Nampa? Do I have seventy mugs in storage? Fifty dishtowels? And let’s not even contemplate the number of boxes of books that will be headed my way soon…)
With a few moves under our belt, I’ve gotten pretty good at sorting both the acronyms and the UAB from the HHE. I know what is going to go in my 450 pounds of air shipment (more like 400 pounds of stuff and then 50 of crazy packing material!), leaving just a few larger items to go by ship. The physical packing up and moving part has become doable (although not totally stress-free), but the packing up of friendships and saying goodbye to a place is always a bit tougher.
Two years goes by in the blink of an eye. Maybe a really slow blink, like when you are sitting in your 8AM freshman year physical science 101 course, trying desperately to keep your eyes open while the professor lectures about Occam’s Razor, but a blink nonetheless. Over the last 100+ weeks, we’ve put a lot of miles on our baggage and added some pretty, shiny new stamps in our passports. We’ve been to New Zealand, Australia (twice), Thailand (too many to count…maybe five in the last two years??), Vietnam, Singapore (again, a ridiculous number), and all over both peninsular and island Malaysia. And yet, I still feel a bit of anxiety about where we haven’t been. Next weekend we’re heading to Mulu (Malaysia) to do some caving and hopefully see a spectacular bat exodus and then weekend following we are headed to Langkawi for one last resort-y type stay before heading back to the States for at least the next year.
It’s always amazing how when we touch down somewhere new, the calendar seems wide-open and sidewalks are endless, but soon that calendar is filled with dates and outings and sidewalks get shorter and shorter. We have zero full weekends left in Kuala Lumpur. With just three weeks left (we head to the airport three weeks from today), I am not entirely sure how we are going to fit in all of our goodbyes, but in the end, it always seems to work out fine.
Our last three weeks in Kuala Lumpur are going to fly by (the fact that two of them will be short work weeks will make that time go even faster- by my count, I have nine days left in the office) and then our five weeks in Idaho will push right into the middle of August when we both start new jobs in Washington DC. (Thad will be on the INR Watch and I will be working in FLO- both at Main State.) Apartment hunting will commence and before we know it, bidding season will be upon us (so much to think about- a new travel radius!) and then another move will pencil itself onto the calendar.
A rolling stone may gather no moss, but it does gather friends and experiences and memories that go with it wherever it heads. We’ve been lucky to have an abundance of all of these in Malaysia and while our stone is nowhere near coming to a halt, we’re thankful for our time here and are excited to see what lies ahead!
(Photo overload alert: the slideshow is 100+ photos of friends/adventures from the last two years.)