PCS tips from someone who may or may not know what they’re doing

Dhaka pack-out: Just a few of the boxes 
 PCS, or permanent change of station, time is upon us! We are leaving in Oman in less than three months. Yikes. We are preparing for our third PCS and, while I am by no means an expert, I have some helpful advice for folks that are PCSing, especially for the first time. This is mostly in chronological order, and I hope it’s helpful!
Make a bucket list and strategize to get it all done. For me this meant that in January I made a list of all our remaining weekends in Oman and started planning what we were doing when. I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted to make sure we could fit it all in! Or maybe you have several big purchases to make, like art, furniture, or carpets. Make a budget and start finding the best places to procure what you’re looking for.

We made sure to find time to go back to Wadi Damm

Start sorting through your stuff several months ahead of time. This way you can sell things of value that you don’t want any more rather than frantically giving them away a few days before your pack-out.

Order the essentials and ship them several weeks before you are scheduled to arrive. Do an Amazon or jet.com box full of Tupperware containers, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, parchment paper, fluffy toilet paper, and whatever else you think you might need. Along these lines, change the address for your Amazon subscribe-and-save well in advance and then your subscribe-and-save items are there waiting for you.

Don’t spend too much time prepping for your pack-out. Yes, you should carefully consider what you want to put in UAB, but that’s about it. Put your UAB in a separate, easy-to-identify location and then let the movers do their thing. In normal circumstances, there’s no need for colored post-its, a careful labeling system, or any of that. Ultimately, all your shit will get packed and it will arrive where it’s supposed to. Unless the boat sinks or something.

Pack your suitcases and then shove them away in a bathroom with a sign on the door telling the movers not to enter. This way you know how much will fit in your luggage and you have all the necessities (for us this means passports, VPN router, my favorite kitchen knife, AppleTV, expensive jewelry, clothes, etc.) all in one place and you know they won’t get packed).

Watching all our stuff get packed up during our very first pack-out in Alexandria

Ship your mattress. I am so glad we did this. Nothing is worse than sleeping on a bad mattress for two years or more.

When you arrive, say “yes” to everything. Even if you’re tired or it seems like something you might not enjoy, do it anyways. Take advantage of every opportunity to meet the community members and learn more about life in your new location. It’ll be exhausting and sometimes challenging, but you never know when you’ll meet your new best friends.

Let the movers unpack the boxes. Put all the leaves in that dining room table and be prepared ahead of time! When things are strewn all around your house and everything is covered in stuff, you are much more likely to put everything away than you would be if it all stayed in the boxes. Also, it is so much easier when the movers take away the boxes and packing materials versus having to do it yourself. Maybe the idea of strangers touching all your stuff makes you uncomfortable, but at least have them unpack anything breakable. Otherwise you can’t document what arrived broken and you won’t be able to submit a claim.

Our kitchen in Dhaka after our HHE was delivered. Believe it or not, we were able to make dinner in our kitchen that night

Our kitchen in Muscat following HHE delivery. This is a great way to make sure everything gets put away as quickly as possible. As someone who likes an organized kitchen, this is hell.

Hi, my name is Kathryn and I have a china/glassware problem.

I hope this was helpful, and it’s time for me to start following my own advice!

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Our awesomely wonderful supplemental HHE shipment

There are some countries for which, if you are posted with the State Department, you get a consumables shipment.  A consumables shipment is an extra allotment of weight that you can use to buy things you will use up during your tour.  So it’s really great if you are already close to your weight limit and you’re going someplace where you can’t buy stuff like laundry detergent, wine, beer, liquor, peanut butter, and so forth.

You don’t get a consumables shipment for Bangladesh.  It’s not really the end of the world because you can get most things on the local market or at the commissary.

Even so, there are some things we wish we could get here more easily.  Like real maple syrup, chocolate chips, cheap sparkling water, good inexpensive jam, and scent and dye-free laundry detergent.

Luckily, State lets you do a supplemental HHE shipment if you are still within your first 12 months at post and you haven’t reached your HHE weight limit.  So when we were back in the U.S., we figured that since a moving company was already coming to do a layette shipment, why not have them do a supplemental HHE as well?  Plus, we’d already spent some time in Dhaka, so we had a good idea of what we needed.

We went to Trader Joe’s and it was, by far, the most fun I’ve ever had there in my life.  Anything and everything that I thought I might want to eat before May 2017 (and didn’t need to be refrigerated) went into the cart.  It was glorious. The limiting factor was the size of the cart; we stopped once we couldn’t fit anything else.

A cart full of amazingness!

A cart full of amazingness!

When Nate checked out, the cashier asked him if he was stocking a bomb shelter.  Because who doesn’t stock a bomb shelter with baking mixes, fancy crackers, whole wheat pasta, massive bars of chocolate, whole coffee beans, and cases of sparkling water?

Then we went another grocery store and stocked up on even more stuff.  Our cart was so heavy, I could barely push it.

The mini pack-out went well, other than a small incident in which Nate thought my dad’s cat Mango might have accidentally begun a global adventure in the shipping crate.  The movers left the crate open and Mango likes to explore new places, and Nate couldn’t find her after they left.  He called the moving company to ask if they had a stowaway cat, and they said they did not, but everyone still breathed a sigh of relief when Mango reappeared that evening.

Well, our supplemental HHE arrived a few weeks ago, and I’ll be damned if I did not actually squeal in delight as I opened some of the boxes.

It’s the things that I randomly tossed in the cart, like Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups, jars of fancy olives, scone baking mix, shelf-stable pepperoni, organic pumpkin pop tarts (why did I only grab one box?!) and dulce de leche that are the most exciting.

We also now have more maple syrup than we could possibly use over the next 15 months.  If you’re in Dhaka, and you want some real maple syrup, let me know!

The best part is that we no longer need to ration things.  We can pour as much syrup as we want on our pancakes, put salsa on everything, and not feel bad about pouring out the coffee at the bottom of the pot that we don’t drink.

And now it’s time to find some new pancake and maple syrup baking recipes to try, because I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I bought that much maple syrup.