Packout Prep: Salvadoran Edition


foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveOur packout is this week. Kail and I have spent a couple hours a day over the last two weeks sorting and organizing and labeling and donating and yes, tossing. This is our first post, which means we just went through this whole rigamarole of paring down before moving here. We haven’t even lived in El Salvador for two years — not a ton of time to accumulate new things — but we have so. Much. Stuff.foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveUAB pile.Since we are moving to a small, one-bedroom apartment in Afghanistan, we already knew that the majority of our things are going into temporary storage for the duration of our tour. We are entitled to 450 pounds of UAB (unaccompanied air baggage, the shipment that is sent via airplane and arrives sooner), 2,000 pounds of HHE (household effects, the shipment that is sent via boat and takes longer) and 1,000 pounds of consumables (nonperishable food, some toiletries/personal hygiene items, etc.)There is no way you can fit that amount of stuff into a small apartment. We’ll fill our UAB quota and probably most of our consumables quote, but only a fraction of our HHE. Everything else will go into storage until we arrive at our (as yet unknown) post-Afghanistan destination.foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveUnderbed storage.I thought I reached a point in my life where I’d graduated from plastic furniture and storage containers, but not quite yet. Downgrading to smaller living quarters will certainly be an adjustment from our nice digs here in San Salvador, but it actually won’t be much different than the Arlington apartment in which we lived before moving to El Salvador. (Minus the whole living-in-a-war-zone thing.) That apartment was around 575 square feet, so I think our Kabul apartment will actually be bigger.foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveGoodbye, fancy plates.We won’t be cooking much (it’s difficult to find fresh ingredients/you work so much and don’t have time to cook, so most people eat at the dining facility) so we packed really bare-bones kitchen and dining supplies: a pot, a pan, a couple baking sheets, some plastic cups, cheap plates, etc. We’ll still be able to “entertain” at home (even if it means just getting take-out from the cafeteria), which I think is important for one’s mental health. Our china, my KitchenAid mixer, all my nice kitchen stuff is being left behind!foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveThe other important part of packout is getting rid of one’s booze stash since it can’t be shipped. We’ve always maintained a nice bourbon collection (something else we will not have in Afghanistan) so it’s a little sad to say goodbye to that.So for our last week or so in El Salvador, one month of home leave, roughly one month of training and our first month or so in Afghanistan, we’ll each be living out of two 50-pound checked bags, a carry-on suitcase and a carry-on personal item (purse/laptop bag). It’s not really the amount of stuff that made it difficult to pack — that’s plenty of room — but the variety of situations we’ll be in: a final buceo/beach trip, work clothes (El Salvador), work clothes (DC), work clothes (Afghanistan), casual clothes for home leave, workout clothes, etc. I feel like I’m going to arrive in Kabul and realize I packed all the wrong things.We had 71 HHE boxes when the movers unpacked us here in El Salvador, so I’m curious to see how many more boxes we have for this packout. We’ve definitely picked up some furniture, some artwork and lots of other odds and ends during our tour here!Have you moved recently/are you getting ready to move soon? Any tips to share? Be sure to check out packout prep tips from our former CLO.

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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