Tag Archives: Moscow

My empire of dirt

After weeks of impatiently waiting for our household effects (HHE) to arrive, we got to the point of patiently waiting, and then we started to think the shipment would never come and we told ourselves to just be okay with that. Best to temper expectations as you never know how quickly things will clear customs, right? Well, it actually did arrive. Our HHE crossed an ocean and part of a continent and arrived at our door on the other side of the world. And after all that, rather than celebrate having all our stuff, the only thing I could think is, “Why do we have so much junk?! How did we accumulate all of this??” We weren’t even close to our 7,200 pound allowance and it still seemed that a ludicrous amount of stuff had arrived. With the exception of a few things I needed for the kids, I hadn’t even missed any of it. I had forgotten about most of it. It was the opposite of our reaction to the UAB (700 lb air shipment). I don’t wish to sound ungrateful- we are so grateful that we are able to make a house feel like a home on the other side of this planet, but it was a point of realization for me. If my little family of four is together, we really don’t need all of the excess stuff. The past few months have been like going back to Danny and my first few years of marriage when we lived out of just a couple of backpacks. Everything we owned could be carted around on our backs. It’s always a good reminder- this life isn’t about stuff. It’s about people. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cut this short- there’s a sale at IKEA that I simply can’t miss.

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Christmas wish granted- our UAB arrived!

I’ve read a lot of other Foreign Service blogs and it’s quite apparent that the UAB (unaccompanied air baggage) is not only a treasured delivery but an event in and of itself. We experienced our very first UAB event just before Christmas and it was every bit as exciting as we’d heard. For those not familiar with living abroad with the US Gov, each family receives the bulk of their stuff a few months after arrival in a new country. This comes in the form of the Household Effects (HHE) shipment which travels via slow boat. But about 3 weeks after arrival, you get an air shipment (700lbs for a family of four) and it is awesome. Living in a place furnished like a rather plain hotel (orange-ish couches and granny-style tables), bleak white walls, and using dull “welcome kit” kitchen knives like ice picks to try and chip away pieces of beets, carrots, and potatoes is great and all….but you can see how a few of your own belongings would be welcome. Our own towels that don’t exfoliate the better portion of your skin, sheets that don’t scrape you awake every time you roll over….luxuries. I’m being overly dramatic (except about the knives), but the arrival of the UAB really was great. I learned a few things for next time:

  • Calculate out 3 months from your arrival and ask yourself what you’ll need before that. It sounds obvious and it should be but when you’ve just had a baby and are trying to organize life to move overseas, obvious things aren’t always so obvious. I packed enough diapers for like a week. A WEEK. That made no sense. Also, our sled, long underwear, door mat, and shoe rack will all arrive after the snow starts to subside…. oops.
  • Bring a knife and cutting board in your checked luggage. Seriously. Ice picking your way through root vegetables is not only frustrating, it’s dangerous.
  • Just because you can bring 8 checked bags and 8 carry on items doesn’t mean you should. When 50% of your family is too small to carry their own stuff through the airport, it’s better to reprioritize what you need. I didn’t write about it but we were a real gong show in the airports.
  • One towel per person is probably enough in the UAB. I packed about 20. And hardly any diapers. Ugh- or deodorant. I bought some here to get by but I currently smell like a teenage boy who doused himself in too much aftershave.

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