Five days to go (is four too many)

Packing out 2 weeks (or more) before departure can make you crazy. You have packed up all of your personal belongings and yet you hang around. You hang around because you are shipping your stuff from one country to another and you need to wait around for customs shipments and the like. You need to hang around “just in case.”

Yet, I would think that most people when moving do not move all the personal things out of their home, leaving only impersonal borrowed furniture, watch all their things drive away in a truck and then sit around the rather empty house for two more weeks. Not ever having a “normal” move I am not really sure. But if I were to have a move that was not orchestrated by the government, I think I would leave the very next day if not that night. I daydream about such a move.

The first day or two after the pack out, I felt exhilarated. The pack out meant departure was near. And regardless of whether you are happy to leave or not, leaving brings about a sense of excitement about the next move. For me it meant I was soon to embark on my wild and crazy nomadic home leave plan. It meant nine weeks traveling with my daughter (and 2 with my cats – hush, I’m sure it will be GREAT). But then the excitement rather wore off. I just don’t want to be here anymore – coming home to the soon-to-be-someone-else’s home that is full of the same generic furniture found in all your colleague’s homes all over the world. I had much of the same furniture in Jakarta and I am sure I will have it again. With our own wall art and decorative pieces, we can make this furniture our own. Yet, when our personal pieces are stripped from the home, it feels empty even with furniture still inside.

At the beginning when you arrive at post the home is similarly empty. However at that time you are busy settling in. You are getting to know your neighborhood, your new city, your new job and colleagues. You figure out the way to the supermarket and the department store and you stock up. Maybe you buy plants or flowers, a few new local pieces to add a touch of local flavor to the new home? But now, I am not buying anything. Well, I should not be. Though I went to the supermarket last night and bought a block of cheese, a dozen eggs, a stick of butter, a head of lettuce, a bag of tortilla chips, 2 avocados, and a packet of bolis (icees) for my daughter. I have 5 days left and I am spending the weekend in El Paso. I already had 7 eggs at home…. I’m not sure what came over me.

On Monday night, the night before my home and furniture inspection, my daughter took my black eyeliner and drew all over one of the white bathroom walls. She has never drawn on the wall before and I could only think it was part of some terrible cosmic pack out too early joke that she would choose to do so that night. Friends on Facebook suggested I use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I am sure it works great in most circumstances. My circumstances unfortunately were it was 9:30 pm at night, I live in Mexico, and I am packed out. I found I still had some first aid kit alcohol wipes, tiny sized, about an inch square. So I painstakingly rubbed my daughter’s first abstract art piece in charcoal off the bathroom wall. Some of the paint came off as well. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone, I did pass the house inspection the next day.

On Tuesday I went to pay my final phone bill. The Consulate staff at the General Services Office (GSO) recommended I did not pay my final bill at the bank but rather at the TelMex kiosk in the store located in the mall across the street from the Consulate. Unfortunately the ATM in the lobby of the Consulate was not functioning (a somewhat regular occurrence) so I went to the mall to use an ATM there first. Except there, the first ATM would not accept my card, despite three tries. So I thought I would go to the TelMex store and see if I could pay with credit card. I was informed that was impossible as it was “not compatible with their systems.” Sure, I could understand that given it is 2014 and credit cards are used by only a handful of people in the world. (heavy sarcasm here) So I went to another ATM on the other side of the mall only to find it charged $3.50 for the privilege of withdrawing my own money (compared to the usual $2.40 charge at my usual ATM). I circled back to the first ATM to find someone using it successfully! However, three tries later, I still could not withdraw money. One more ATM left in the mall and it charged $6.30 to withdraw money! I returned to the Consulate without pesos and without paying my bill, exhausted and dejected.

I was able to pay the phone bill today (hooray!) but came home to find my daughter had an unexplained rash. The nanny showed it to me as soon as I walked in the door but explained it was only on her upper back. Except it wasn’t. It was also on her lower back, and chest, and tummy, and shoulders…and within 45 minutes it was also on her arms and on her cheeks. As I write this she is happily watching her Cat in the Hat DVD and seems to be in good, though itchy, spirits. A plus of being posted to a US-Mexico border post is I can take her to a doctor in Mexico or drive across to a pediatrician in the US. I’m in a wait and see mode right now.

Tomorrow is the Consulate farewell party for me and two other departing officers. After which I will have four days left in country. It will likely be three too many.

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