Packout: Salvadoran Edition


foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveSix suitcases and 105 boxes contain almost all the possessions Kail and I own (a few things are in permanent storage in DC). The six suitcases and 20 boxes (about 330 pounds of UAB and 300 pounds of HHE) will be coming with us to Afghanistan, while the remaining 85 boxes (some 2,800 pounds) will be heading to temporary storage for a year.Twenty boxes sounds like a lot, but it’s mostly winter clothes, shoes, blankets, pillows, a few kitchen items and some other Very Important Things like our coffee maker and my scrapbooking supplies (they say it’s important to try to have some hobbies over there!).foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveKail’s current boss, who spent three years and one month in Afghanistan, gave us some good advice on what to pack (beyond the CLO-provided checklist of suggested items): Bring what makes you happy. Whether it’s scrapbooking, a Kindle, a comfy blanket, your favorite movies on DVD, whatever. Bring things that will make you comfortable/that will make living in a confined environment in a war zone for a year tolerable.Our packout went very smoothly and was completed in two days. The first day was spent wrapping and packing everything and the second day was spent finishing packing a few stray items, taking inventory and loading everything into the truck. Of course it started to rain RIGHT when the movers were bringing everything outside.foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international move, mister donutDonuts for the movers.We really just had two piles of clearly-labeled things — UAB and HHE — and everything else was designated for storage. We sequestered our luggage and other not-to-be-packed things in the master bathroom, and with the exception of a couple cabinets in the kitchen (also clearly labeled “No empaque”) containing food items, we left everything else in its place as is.I’d heard too many horror stories of packouts gone wrong to take a chance, so I made good use of my multicolored Post It collection! (As a person who likes scrapbooking, are you surprised that I would be excited about things like Post Its and organization?) For example: movers packing trash bags (with trash in them), a toaster with bread in it and — this one is so extreme I’m not sure it’s true — packing a turkey from the oven.We did arrive to El Salvador with a bag of trash from Arlington, but luckily it was just a bag of trash that had packing- and cleaning-related items in it (paper towels, pieces of tape, scraps of paper, etc.) and nothing that rotted or smelled.foreign service packout, HHE, UAB, moving overseas, moving abroad, packing for international moveAll we have left are our suitcases and some bottles of booze.One nice thing about the Foreign Service (in addition to living abroad in free housing, cool travel opportunities, cool experiences generally, not having to actually pack and move oneself from place to place — I could go on but I don’t want you to get jealous) is that the Embassy provides a Welcome Kit upon arrival to post so you have sheets, plates, cooking implements, etc. before your stuff arrives. When you leave, you can request a Welcome Kit to use during the week or so between packout and departure. Since we don’t have our nice highball glasses anymore we’ve had to resort to drinking cocktails out of mugs. Life is hard.Our stuff is packed. Our car is sold. Our flights booked. It’s happening: We’re leaving El Salvador …

Published by La Vie Overseas

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

9 thoughts on “Packout: Salvadoran Edition

  1. Congrats!P.S. Now that I’m moderately proficient in Spanish I’ve been enjoying the archives of your Spanish posts. What a great idea!


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