Sunday, August 24, 2014

Packed out!

Whew! We are done! We have packed all of our stuff and it is sitting somewhere in a warehouse in Delhi waiting for the paperwork to be done before it goes to the U.S. and Ethiopia.

It should have taken three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) to pack us but it took four. Why, you ask. Well, there were a couple of glitches. We had our pre-pack-out survey two weeks ago and the guy from the packing company said we were going to be OK (meaning we will fit within the 7,200 lb we have for house hold effects also known as HHE). We were not so sure because we have been there before and we didn’t want to have to worry about it in the last minute like last time, so we came up with a plan. We had four large and heavy items (two sofa sleepers, our bed and a kitchen island), which we requested be packed last, so that if we are over the limit, we can quickly move them to our storage shipment instead. Good plan, right? Simple. Well, it didn’t quite work that way.

We did repeat to the packing supervisor at least five times on the first day of our pack-out that we want the four large items set aside and packed last. He wasn’t worried. He didn’t think we had much stuff and said again and again that we would be under the weight limit.

On day two of our pack-out, when the packers started loading things in the shipping crates I saw them loading parts of the sofas and the bed. Those crates were nailed shut, sealed and sent to a warehouse that night. At the end of the day, I told the supervisor again that there was a reason we wanted those four items set aside and that I am nervous about fitting in the weight limit. He said we would be OK.

In the afternoon of day three it became obvious that we were not OK. We were at 7, 200 already and the kitchen, the bathrooms and the storage room hadn’t been packed yet.

I hated to be all, “We told you so!” but we did tell him and he didn’t listen, so we weren’t going to pay for whatever was over the 7,200 lb, when it could very easily have been avoided. We told the packing company supervisor that we weren’t paying for what was over the HHE limit and that we wanted the four large items pulled from the already sealed crates and added to the storage shipment. He wasn’t thrilled but it was kinda their fault, so they had to come back on Saturday (day four) and fix it.

The problem was that when they told us we would be done in three days, we went ahead and scheduled vet appointments for our cats and dentist appointments on Saturday for everyone to get our teeth cleaned before we leave India. This being our last Saturday in India, there was no way to move those appointments. So the movers had to come in the afternoon and finish the pack-out. They had some more packing to do too, so it took them about eight hours on Saturday to get it all done. It did work out in the end but it could have been smoother.

What did I learn for next time? That we have to insist to the point of obnoxiousness if want something done a certain way – otherwise everyone ends up wasting their time. Oh, and for the second time in a row that pre-pack-out estimates can be way off, so don’t put too much weight in them (no pun intended), ha!

But otherwise the packers seemed good at their job. It looked like they were careful about packing our things. We’ll really know when we unpack those things, whenever that may be (especially for the things going in storage). Last time the packers hadn’t packed our bed well and we got it with some unsightly dings. Here’s hoping that won’t be the case this time.

A few pictures from the pack-out:

IMG_1174 Our UAB (unaccompanied air baggage). We tried not to put too much in it even though we had 900 lbs (two FSOs with one child each [250 lb+ 200 lb] x 2=900 lbs) to U.S. We will get substantially less to Ethiopia because Paul’s next assignment is D.C. based, so he probably won’t get UAB at all. We didn’t want to ship stuff to the U.S. and then not be able to take to Ethiopia.

IMG_1182 Loading our HHE into the crates.

IMG_1193 Nailing the HHE crates shut.

IMG_1197Putting the Embassy seals on our HHE crates. Buh-Bye, stuff! See you in a few months in Ethiopia!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wrapping Things Up

First, an update on our tandem bidding situation. Paul recently got a Washington, D.C.–based job, which we are told he would be able to do out of Addis Ababa, my next post. We don’t have all the details about his job yet but are majorly relieved that we may actually be together!

Otherwise, our summer has been as hectic as ever. Before we knew it, we found ourselves with less than a month left in India. Someone definitely hit the fast-forward button on us. I am not ready to go. I haven’t seen enough of India, I haven’t experienced enough, I haven’t tasted enough, and I certainly haven’t shopped enough (and there’s not enough time left to rectify that.) So thinking about leaving is hard for me. Though I have to say some of us are readier than others.

In any case, we have been down-sizing. We sold our car, which is great because we won’t have to worry about having someone else sell it for us after we leave but now we don’t have a car, which is a pain in the hiney and is really getting in the way of my shopping.

We had a sale last weekend and it was nuts. I have been pretty good of getting rid of things throughout our tour – especially kids clothes, shoes, toys and books. I gave tons of stuff to our household help as well as other people’s help, and friends and neighbors, with kids younger than ours. We also made a donation of clothes and books to a school in Uttar Pradesh.

What we hadn’t been good about  was getting rid of my and Paul’s older clothes and some housey-things that we had been lugging around since before we left Florida. We  decided to do a sale a couple of months ago and spent the time since combing through our stuff deciding what we truly need. There were a lot of things that we brought to India but never used. I realized that I had clothes, which sat unworn in space bags under our beds since we came here. Those were clothes that I love but had unfortunately “outgrown.” India has not been good for my waistline and I need to do something about it but there was no point in sitting on a bunch of those clothes for leaner times, which should come but may not.

Then there were a bunch of tools – drills and saws, sanders, and all kinds of other crazy stuff you accumulate when you own a home, which we didn’t use any longer, since we are really not supposed to do house maintenance on the government housing we get to live in.

Last but not least, there were boxes and bags of paper – documents about things we no longer own, tax records, school records, bills paid and all kinds of other stuff that we didn’t need to keep anymore.

All of that stuff was dead weight, which is not ideal to keep under any circumstances but when you have a home and some storage, you get lazy and don’t worry about hanging on to stuff like that. Now, however, we are getting ready to leave post. We have two shipments out of Delhi but only one into Addis Ababa because Paul’s job is D.C.-based and he won’t get a weight allowance for Addis. So we had a monster shred weekend (and we are still shredding) and we sold a bunch of stuff last weekend. And it feels good – cathartic and liberating in a way but also a little sad to go through all your old things, reminisce about the good (and not so good) old times but find a way let go and move on…

For our sale we worked with a lady, who had helped some of our friends lighten their loads before. She has a list of folks outside the embassy community, who I guess are very interested in things embassy folks have because let me tell you when the sale started, it was out of control. It was supposed to be an auction but for the first hour or so it was utter chaos. We had an issue with folks getting in on the Embassy Enclave and the lady who helped us with the sale was trying to work it out with the security guards, while I was trying to keep customers at bay. It was impossible. Everyone wanted everything all at once and it was insane to try to do it in an orderly fashion. The electronics went very fast – we had a bunch of things we weren’t using any more – a surround sound system, a laptop, a tablet, several cameras, a GPS and a few other things. People snapped those up in no time. Then went the books. A couple of people were all over the books and bought them all in two big lots. The toys, kids clothes and bedding were also hot and so were the tools. We had a couple of older tents  and a few lawn chairs that went fairly quickly too. I had to bargain really hard for some things but others totally surprised me. We got $12 for a zip-lock bag of old nail polish! People also bid like crazy on lots of odds and ends that I thought we’d have a hard time getting rid of. Men’s clothes were popular too – I am guessing that’s because most of our buyers were men. Women’s clothes, not so much. I did sell most of my “outgrown” clothes but I practically gave them away because people were just not that interested. I guess they didn’t like my style. We weren’t able to sell most of our old shoes though. I think it was the timing. By the time we got to them, it was late and most of the buyers had left. We are also left with a few 110 V appliances but that’s OK. Those didn’t absolutely have to go. All in all, we are very happy with the sale – we lightened our weight considerably and made a few rupees in the process.

Now, we can focus on the rest of the pre-departure stuff. Our tickets have been purchased (we are told). Our furniture inspection is today. Our pre-packout survey and the pack-out itself have been scheduled. Everyone except me is up-to-date on their vaccinations. I have one more shot to go. Housing in Virginia is reserved. Nia is signed up for school in Falls Church for the first semester. We still need to sign her up for school in Ethiopia for the second semester. We still have our check-out lists to fight with but we’ll get there.

Just thinking about all that makes me tired but we have one last trip in India ahead of us. We are going to Ladakh (up in the Himalayas) in mid-August and we are beyond excited.

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