On Wednesday, we completed our first of hopefully many government pack-outs. (A "pack-out" in layman's terms is simply an international move). At 8:40am, two friendly British blokes turned up at our front door. They were fast, efficient, packing our entire flat in three hours.
Packing for an international move is no easy task. Mr. and Mrs. Crab have been preparing for this day for two months. We began the process the same day I received my invitation to A-100. Mrs. Crab, being a logistics genius, took the lead on this task. She created detailed inventory WORD documents, accompanied by photographs of nearly every single thing we own.
The hardest part was picking what to keep and what to sell/recycle. We held a huge yard sale last month and sold practically all our furniture and electronics (UK electronics won't work in the US and most other parts of the world). Next, the stuff we kept had to be divided into five categories: UAB and HHE (Like the military, the US Foreign Service is all about the acronyms!), check-in luggage, carry-on luggage and Goodwill. UAB stands for Unaccompanied Air Baggage. We were allotted 450 pounds worth of UAB stuff that we could bring to our temporary housing in Washington DC. This is stuff that we will need for the next 6 to 12 months whilst I'm in training; stuff like pots & pans, our good knives, Mrs. Crab's bicycle, clothing, our camping gear, plus our ski gear in case we're still in DC next winter. The majority of our stuff was HHE, or House-Hold Effects. This is stuff that will now be placed in government storage facility in an undisclosed European country; we won't see any of this stuff again for nearly a year when we arrive at our first overseas post. Stuff that went into HHE includes some furniture, extra clothes, photos, CDs, DVDs, knick-knacks, souvenirs, books and other stuff that we can live without, but don't want to part with forever.
The move itself went very well. Nothing broken and everything was well-packed with care. Our moving guys were great and had us laughing throughout the morning. For insurance purposes, we were not allowed to help pack or move anything, so we were pretty busy anyway. A big part of this process is keeping our own inventory. So we divided into teams; Mr. Crab followed the guy packing our UAB stuff and Mrs. Crab followed the HHE guy. The movers kept their own inventories but it was very basic. For example they would just write "Kitchen stuff" on a box and on their inventory sheet, but our own inventory list was much more detailed. Instead, we were writing every single thing going into every single box. Each box is numbered and labeled so we can easily pull individual boxes in the future without having to get all our junk. The guys worked in assembly-line fashion and packed and sealed so quickly it was almost a blur. Because we live in a 150-year-old Georgian building with tiny narrow stairwells, the movers ended up lowering all the
boxes from the 2nd floor window down to the sidewalk and onto the awaiting truck.
The guys finished in three hours flat, including coffee and smoke breaks. After they were finished, the supervisor asked me to review and sign his two separate inventories for UAB & HHE. The guys drove
away. Mission completed, went to the pub for a celebratory pint.
We're now sitting here in a mostly empty two-bedroom apartment, living out of our suitcases! Next Wednesday, I'll be on a plane for Washington DC. This finally feels real!