There was singing and dancing in the streets of San Pedro Sula today! Ok, maybe not so much. But I was doing a jig — in my head. It’s been 8 weeks. Eight long weeks of waiting for THE box to arrive. The box of STUFF. People kept asking me what was in this box and all I could really reply was — STUFF. My STUFF.
What box, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, probably something with a little caffeine in it, because this may take some staying power.
Somewhere in a galaxy far, far away … ok, no. Not really. I exaggerate … just a bit. Don’t go getting all bent out of shape, it was a few thousand miles and an entire language away. And you know, that whole language thing, it’s like the great divide to someone that can’t figure out how to conjugate a verb in a foreign language, for crying out loud.
Anyway, back in November when I got the call that I got this great new job and would need to move quickly — 2.5 weeks kind of quickly, I knew there would be a difference in how I approached this international relocation. After 3 moves I’d learned to scale back what I would move with me.
My first trip out I moved my ENTIRE house! Nah, it wasn’t a house. It was a small apartment, but there was a lot of stuff jammed into that little place and I thought I needed it ALL! My relo package included climate-controlled storage for as long as I needed it, but I felt like I couldn’t live without every picture, piece of furniture, dish, cup, fork, spoon, knife, article of clothing, sewing machine, books, pots, pans, linens, photo albums, tzochkies, jewelry … well, you get the picture. I moved it all. It was shipping container of stuff.
Things happened and after a year in the Philippines, it was necessary to pack it all up and almost all of that stuff was put back into a container and headed back to Virginia — without me. I kept the comfy leather chair and a few other “can’t live without” items and managed to live for another year and a half without the rest of the stuff. I did just fine, thank you very much.
As a matter of fact, it didn’t take long for me to realize that there is stuff out there in the world. Stuff I found I liked so much more than my original stuff and that had more meaning and I came home from the Philippines not only with a container of treasured stuff, but with friendships and memories — all of it to last a lifetime and more. Sometimes I just have to look at pictures of my stuff and I’m content. I know it’s all there waiting for me. I might need someone to go visit it once in a while though.
The next move was to India, a year later. I moved the leather chair, a small love seat, clothes and a few books, dishes, a radio and a few photos. Once again I came home with almost none of the original stuff, and along with the memories I packed up another treasure trove of stuff — this time Indian stuff.
Another year and a half went by and a relocation to Argentina was knocking on my door. This time I packed my suitcases, a few boxes and headed out the door. The boxes arrived just after I landed and I was set. After a year and a half in Argentina, I landed back in the US with my suitcases and a box or two of the same stuff I’d moved to South America with and a few items that fit in 3 boxes.
So where does that leave us? This leaves us with a move to Honduras. This time I packed two suitcases and a large laptop bag. A big, fat, 64×64 box was packed and waiting in my house for DHL to pick up a few days after I landed in Honduras thanks to the help of friends that schlepped it into their car to the UPS/DHL store for me after I landed. I didn’t inventory my stuff this time. I valued it fairly high so that in the event of loss, theft or damage I would have some money to replace my stuff, and that’s where I learned a new expat relo lesson. DO NOT put a high value on your stuff! It took 2 days for the box to arrive and 8 weeks to get it out of Customs! Let’s compare how this near-shore move stacks up against a 10,000 mile move, shall we? It took 8 weeks for my stuff to arrive on a boat from the US to the Philippines and it had a canal with locks to go through. It took 8 weeks for my stuff to get to India and it had a canal that had a couple of wars raghing on its shores.
This infamous box of stuff headed to Central America by plane had just a couple of airports to get through and it took the same amount of time to get here. At one point I stopped thinking I was going to see it or that if I did see my stuff, it would be damp and moldy with all the rain we’ve experienced here, and that’s where the happy dance, the jig, comes into this story.
In this box, this box of stuff that was larger when I last saw it, were three small framed photos of my boys, a stack of clothes, three books, a few pillows, a laptop bag, a purse, clothes, shoes, and my favorite small kitchen items.
It’s all stuff I can live without. I’ve made it eight weeks without this stuff, but it’s a bit of home with me in San Pedro Sula. I’m making a new life here, but during those moments when I wish family and friends were closer, when I’m having one of those “expat days,” my stuff helps me feel like I’m home.
Tonight I prepped my dinner with my favorite pair of tongs and my cherished red silicone spoon, and dried dishes and my hands with an absorbent towel. A sprinkle of hickory smoked sea salt on the chicken was the finishing touch that made it perfect and as I sat down to have dinner, I felt like I was home.
My local kitchen is complete and I can make whatever I want for dinner without grousing about the utensils and lack of smoked sea salt and Zahtar for my favorite salad — fattoush.
Now, can someone please pass the English to Spanish dictionary, I need to learn how to say, “Would you like to join me for dinner? I’m cooking!”