The First Pack-out!

The First Pack-out!

Yesterday was my first pack-out for the foreign service. I was lucky: instead of a whole apartment to box up, I had a relatively small number of items. A bike, a birdcage, a desk, dressers, and chair, lots of books, lots of clothing, a few kitchen knick-knacks, and that’s about it. The rest of the furnishing belongs to Peter, and will be going to New York with him. 

I’d already packed up all my personal luggage and hid it in the car/coat closet. My movers arrived towards the end of their two hour window. It was a father/son crew which has fantastic comedic potential jsyk. 

While the son got to work on my books, his dad helped me with my UAB. He had a scale and we weighed things as we went. 

A few things I learned: 1. Liquids can’t go in air baggage, even domestically; 2. No lighters anywhere; 3. Candles and storage don’t mix. 

These were all questionable items, I knew, but I decided to try and get my questions answered. So now I know, and now so do you!

Four hours later and my apartment was empty. I was happy to learn that 250 lbs goes much further than I thought. I was able to fit all my clothing and shoes, two pillows, a dozen books, board games, organizing supplies, nice kitchen knives, some (carefully packaged) electronics, and some other random things I of course now can’t remember into them. I even had 15 lbs left over at the end!

All in all, the stress about the move was way worse than the actual process, and now I can enjoy my last few days in Boston in a hotel without having to try and live without everything I’ve packed!

Thank you!

It’s a classic for a reason. Hand-turkeys with my special education class. Here’s my turkey, because photos of students online is a cardinal taboo.

 

The beach, after Vongfong

Last weekend, typhoon Vongfong parked itself over Okinawa. The wind howled through the cracks in my windows like a person crying out in pain. Every now and then I’d hear a metallic thud as something left unsecured was flung into something unmovable, like a trashcan into a tree or a car into a building. Water flooded the streets and seeped into my apartment every way it could: the vent in my bathroom, the vent in my air conditioner, the crack in a bathroom window, door jambs and window ledges. Power on the island flickered on and off; I made it through Saturday, but sometime in the night it died, and I spent the next 24 hours eating canned soup and thanking my lucky stars that at least I still had water and gas.

Normally, the first trip to the beach after a typhoon is a bit depressing. The pristine sands are covered in trash and debris thrown up on shore–old washing machines and worn out jeans wrapped around downed branches. A few days ago I took my book and went out to survey the damage. I can only imagine that with the season drawing to an end, the currents have begun to shift, because this time, instead of rubbish, the beach was covered with bleached white coral, pristine shells, and sea urchins. I spread my mat on the sand, and played with the hermit crabs pinching at my toes as the sun set.

Vietnam – Saigon

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My time in Vietnam ended in Ho Chi Minh City, or as the locals prefer, Saigon. It was hot and sticky, and I was for once glad to have packed shorts. The city felt more modern then the rest of the country, more metropolitan, and more like the rest of SE Asia. The traffic was indescribable, the shops were bustling, and western companies were around every corner. The country’s first McDonald’s was under construction when I visited. Beautiful monuments and official buildings cluster in upscale districts, wedged between designer malls for wealthy tourists. In the less pristine areas, taxi drivers harassed tourists for fares, something unheard of in the rest of the country. In some ways, even this was refreshing. In the northern parts of Vietnam, there is a stiffness. In Saigon, it feels like the city has collectively decided to breathe.

4th of July in Okinawa

Living abroad has a lot of upsides. You get to grow familiar with a new culture, learn a new language, see the world. It’s an amazing experience, and if you have the opportunity, definitely go for it.

That being said, it can also be very isolating, and while social media has done a lot to shrink the world and make it easier to stay in touch with loved ones oceans away, it can also make things harder by barraging you every day of images of what you’re missing.

When I lived in the States, the 4th of July was always one of my favorite holidays. Barbecue, music, dancing, fireworks, and an amazing sense of community–what’s not to like? It’s also, obviously, a distinctly American holiday. It just isn’t celebrated anywhere else.

That’s why I was so happy this year to be invited to America for a 4th of July celebration. The U.S. Consulate in Naha, Okinawa, had a huge garden party, and because of my volunteer work, I was lucky enough to get an invitation!

A marine band kicked off the event, followed by the posting of the colors. Then the fun started, with a jazz trio, dancing, barbecue, dunking booth, and lawn games. It felt just like home, and was everything that my expat heart could have hoped for. Happy Birthday America!

 

Vietnam – Mekong Delta

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After a long trip down to the south part of the country, during which the weather magically became warm and tropical, we spent a day touring the Mekong Delta. This area was absolutely beautiful–villages on the river, ships zipping across the wide triangular bay, and small boats hand-paddled up narrow tributaries. While there we saw how rice paper and coconut candies were made, but that’s a story for another day!
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Weekend Views

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Japanese schools overflowing with greenery.