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!


The First FS Challenge: Packing

With 19 days until I move to Arlington for my A-100, I’m preparing for my first challenge as a Foreign Service Officer (obviously not counting the application process): packing for my move.

So here’s the deal. Most of the time when I move I’ll get four categories of luggage 1) the stuff I bring on the plane with me, 2) the stuff that gets put on a plane to follow me ASAP (250 lbs, arriving ~2 weeks after I do), 3) the stuff that gets put on a boat to follow me (up to 7,200 lbs (WOW), arriving 1-3 months after I do), and 4) the stuff that stays in storage (whatever brings my personal possessions up to 18,000 lbs…the official cap on my consumerism). I’ll also have a good idea of how long I’m going to be wherever I’m going.

This first move is the one big exception from this rule. Continue reading

Vietnam – Saigon



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.

Vietnam – making rice paper

Hidden in the dense foliage surrounding a Mekong tributary, was a small factory for making rice paper and coconut candies. The area itself was beautiful. The factory floor was open air and breezy, looking out over this small stream.

The process involved in making the rice paper was fascinating. It was a lot like what you would do to make a crepe. First the batter was prepared. Then it was spread in a thing, round layer on a hot plate. After it was cooked on both sides, the thin pancake was left out in the sun until it was dry and crispy.

I got the chance to taste test a bunch of different varieties. Some were sweet, like a thinner fortune cookie; others were more like tortilla chips. I was surprised by how universally delicious they were!

Vietnam – Mekong Delta


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!


Vietnam – Surrounding Hoi An

Hoi An is not just a beautiful city, it’s also set in a stunning location on the delta of a river leading out to the ocean. On my second day in the city I woke up early and took a scenic 20 minute walk through rice paddies.
Cows wandered between fields and birds scrounged among the puddles. The rice had just been harvested and the paddies lay fallow, covered in water.

20140612-153137-55897161.jpgJust as I was beginning to get thirsty, the road passed over a little bridge, and stores began to appear again. I had reached the beach part of the city.


I stopped by a small roadside stand to buy a small sandwich of cheese on a baguette, a lasting dietary sign of French colonization, and a bottle of water and headed down to the perfect ocean.

Vietnam – Scenes from Hoi An




Hoi An is a spectacularly beautiful city. Here area few more images. I hope you’ll find the town as photogenic as I did!