We’re on day three of what looks like it’s going to be a five-day packout. The State Department graciously gives you time off to oversee your packout, make sure your items are being cared for properly, nothing’s going missing, and it’s all going to the right location…storage, air freight, cargo container, handy-carry luggage. But they only give you three days…after that you have to take personal vacation time.

Things did not bode well from the first day for us. We were told to expect the packers between 8am and 8:30. They arrived at 11:00 after having tire trouble but never called to explain. Whenever you go to a U.S. embassy or housing compound, you have to submit an access request with the names of everyone in your party. They brought someone not on the list who then sat outside the gate for two hours while we tried to track down one of our approving security officers who was in meetings all morning. So we had three packers instead of four, and the first day was basically shot.

The next day they arrived on time and everyone was on the access list…and they even brought two more heavy lifters. But the new guys showed up around 10:00 and spent most of the day leering at our nanny who was inspired to take our son to the compound playground not once, but three times, just to get out of the house. And the whole process was painstakingly slow.

I wasn’t there for our last packout in Colorado and felt I had abandoned my hubby who mentioned it relatively regularly whenever the topic came up. So this time I made sure that I was present, tracking, labeling… whatever I needed to do.

The only problem was that I didn’t need to do that much. We were told not to prepack anything otherwise their insurance wouldn’t cover it. And they were going to do their own general cataloguing at the end when they loaded the crates. So all I could really do was sit and watch them and keep a somewhat-detailed list of everything in each room.

The company owner was a very nice guy, as was his second in command. They were very friendly, hardworking and efficient, and our son liked them, which is always a sign of good character. They showed us pictures of their families on their phones, told jokes, complimented my hubby on the music he played, and gave us a little history of their coworkers.

One of the guys that showed up the second day hadn’t made a good impression because he wore his sunglasses in the house all day. My hubby was raised in a military family and found this very disrespectful. Rather than confront him directly, he politely asked the owner if the glasses were prescription.

We found out in lurid detail that they were…and why. Apparently the man had been caught in the act of cheating on his wife. The woman was so enraged that she threw acid in his eyes. He is now slightly blind and bright light gives him a headache. (In retrospect you’d think he’d have learned his lesson and not be ogling the nanny.) So after that story, we didn’t even ask about the guy missing two fingers from his hand.

To their credit they were incredibly thorough. They made individual cardboard sleeves for all of my grandmother’s china and even put plastic covers on every piece of clothing hanging in the walk-in closet so that it wouldn’t mildew while sitting in a container in the tropics.

Regardless of deadlines, I guess the most important part of a packout is that everything gets from point A to point B in good condition. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed that it won’t get looted in Belize City or washed off the pier in a hurricane while waiting for transport.

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