Monthly Archives: August 2010

…Ordering Online

Recently I got a subscription to Amazon Prime (it was free for students). And… true to its intent, I have been ordering more of my necessary stuff online, since the shipping is free and easy. However, my last two deliveries have been misdirected! The first one only arrived a day after the estimated date after wandering around in central Virginia for an extra day or two. The second one, which was supposed to be delivered yesterday (and was even “on the delivery truck” in my neighborhood), somehow ended up in central Pennsylvania by late evening. It’s now on the way back to NoVa, but now it won’t get here until Monday! Three days late. *Shakes hand threateningly at UPS*

I guess I am just getting a taste of what life will be like in an APO system, no more online package tracking.

And, in case you’re wondering why I am following this particular package so closely, it’s my new 3rd generation 3G Kindle. I recently sold nearly ever book I own online through bookscouter.com and am really looking forward to downloading all the free titles available online (and a few paid ones).

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…Pre-pack Audits

The packing company representative visited our house yesterday to eyeball all our stuff and give us a time estimate for how long it will take to box up. After a few minutes of Q & A and some scribbling on a form, he announced: 3500 pounds and 2 days of moving. yikes. We are pretty sure he is overestimating our stuff, as a significant portion of our “pile” is empty boxes that we’ve been saving for the move (i.e. the TV box, the globe’s box, etc.).

His advice? Take everything that is breakable out of the boxes you might have it currently stored in so that it can be repacked, even if they are the original boxes. Thus, our myriad wedding glasses and dishes need to be repacked.

He also, as many have mentioned, reminded us to put our packed (for the trip) luggage into a closed closet, or even in the car, to keep it from going into the crate.  He also suggested putting the UAB (air shipment) into a different room, so that it could be packed by weight there, and not accidentally get mixed up with the HHE (boat shipment).

We have about 450 pounds for our air freight, and he said that the sturdy boxes they use to pack it in weigh about 12 pounds each.

This morning I saw another FS family getting packed out of our building, and saw the guys loading up the wooden crates. The crates were inside a large moving truck, and were about the size of a standard bathroom. They were lined with polyethylene and tightly packed. They were puzzling out the best way to arrange the remaining non-square bits (a bike, some skinny long things, and a weird spherical object, all of which were wrapped in 3″ of bubble and brown kraft paper) when I walked by.

For us, he estimated two crates for the boat shipment, which is not a full container. This company prefers to pack the crates on site here, and then wait until a container is available before bringing the crates to the dock to load into the container. Apparently, the usual method before was to bring a truck full of boxes to the dock to await a boat, but a lot of people were loosing their possessions to water damage and loss. At the docks, they just throw a tarp over stuff if it looks like rain.

I’ve read a couple of other blogs recently which describe moving losses, so I hope we’re not disappointed when our stuff arrives in Dhaka.

…Welcome Kits

The “Welcome Kit” is a set of basic kitchen and household items loaned to incoming residents at post that is supposed to tide us over until our HHE (i.e. major containerized shipment) arrives. At some posts, you only get to keep your welcome kit until your UAB (i.e. smaller airplane-routed shipment) arrives. Luckily, in Dhaka, we don’t have to worry about packing some lightweight plates, sheets and pans in our UAB. We did get a picnic set that weighs less than 5 pounds for just such a purpose, but we’re not going to need it this time around.
On several of the other FS (foreign service) blogs recently, there has been chatter about the contents of the Welcome Kit. Because it is the summer transition-time (most people move in the summer so as to coordinate school schedules and the like), many people are encountering the diversity of welcome kits at different posts. One FS spouse in Mexico was sorely tried when he discovered that they don’t include coffeemakers in the post welcome kit. Our Dhaka post has a coffeemaker, but of course, neither Mr. A nor I drink coffee.

What else is included that we won’t need? It seems like the Dhaka welcome kit would be great to provision a housewife in the 1960s. There are “chicken fryer” pans, meat roasters, several pie tins, loaf pans, flour sifters, egg beaters, sugar bowls and creamer pots. Thankfully, the kit appears to come in “(6) large plastic box(es), with lid,” so we’ll be able to store those items away until we need to return them.

What does it have that we use? Frying pans! The list suggests that we’ll have 4 frying pans, but only 2 saucepans. There is no indication of a pot big enough to boil pasta or make up a passel of soup, however. We’ll definitely use the sheets and towels, and the potholder. I anticipate the can opener and mosquito net will also get a lot of use. Not so sure about the serving fork, though.

If I were going to make up a welcome kit, what would I include? I’d probably want to have a wok, a citrus reamer (I have an obsession with them!), a rice cooker, MICROWAVE, fan, chopsticks, wineglasses, more hangars, pillows and a hot water kettle. So… guess what’s going in the air shipment, well, except for the microwave and glass. So, now to think about what should go in the other 400 pounds.

What would you want in a welcome kit?

…inventories and stuff

Just some scattered “feelings” about the mountain of stuff that we’ve got piled up for pack-out. I know it’s the second time I’ve talked about it, but it’s a lot of stuff!

We were lucky enough to get married just before shipping out to our first post, so we planned our wedding registry around the move. The strange thing has been living here in Oakwood, with all these new gadgets and tools, but unable to use them because there’s either no room in the tiny kitchen, or we don’t want to take the thing out of its original packaging before we send it in the HHE. And, really the Oakwood has most of what we need, it’s just… of less than desirable quality.

Now, however, we’re on our last few weeks, and the stuff is starting to get more insistent. After all, we now own a two years supply of all sorts of toiletries, and some essential food items…. plus, a stock of all sorts of things that people at post have requested we bring for them (exercise equipment, laundry detergent, food, etc.).

We’re also planning our honeymoon trip, on which we’re limited to 40 lbs each, and will be on the way to post, so our initial days in post we’ll have only limited stuff. It’s kinda hard to decide what to bring. Do Mr. A’s suits really need to come on the honeymoon (in Egypt!), because he might need them in those first days at post? Should I bring some sheets and pillows? etc.

…mail forwarding

After some debate, we finally decided on the features of a mail-forwarding service that we like. Mail-forwarding? What? Well, since we don’t really have a permanent address (i.e. a house we own, or something similar), we need an address that can receive our more irregular mail and write on our tax forms and the like. Some FS-folk prefer a mail forwarding service that is close to Dulles, as that is where all the pouch and APO/DPO mail gets forwarded through. However, we really wanted a place that did scanning rather than forwarding everything on a set schedule, so we opted for a place in California….

With two added benefits:
1. California is our state of residence, so now it will be easier to demonstrate that with a local address. This benefit we considered in choosing a service.
2. Our new address is in sunny southern California, and once we’ve transferred our DMV address, we’ll get into Disneyland at the locals’ rate. This is an added bonus that we recognized only after we signed up. And, it’s not like we’re Disney-freaks or anything, but it made us smile nevertheless.

So, this particular mail forwarding service will scan all our envelopes as they arrive, and put them onto a web-based database and send us an email notification. Then, we can opt to have individual items opened and scanned, or forwarded to us abroad, or recycled. Some services forward everything, some scan the contents of everything (even junk mail!), and some scan only envelopes. There are also services that deal only in packages, not regular mail, and seem oriented toward the non-US consumer who wants to buy US goods over the internet. Some services will also deposit checks you receive, if you are a member at one of the big banks.

Our service did a little of everything, and offered a price point that matched how much mail we actually receive (most of our billing stuff is done online). If we want to send a domestic letter quickly, they’ll also take an emailed document and print it and send it to whomever we designate, which could be useful in dealing with some companies that insist on that.

In case you want to do mail forwarding, here’s a list of the places that do it for individual accounts: EarthClassMail (popular, various “local” addresses, established business but somewhat expensive), virtualpostmail.com (only one address, various price options), Maillink (cheapest, but seems somewhat shady), St. Brendan’s forwarding (predominantly serving the cruise and RV industry, but breaking into the ex-pat online community). There are also some services that have not yet arrived in the internet age, and do mail forwarding on-demand only via phone requests, like Nato Mail. MyUS.com does packages only. If you have a local US address and want your mail scanned and sent by email rather than receive it physically, you could consider zumbox, which does exactly that and offers to electronically pay your bills even to those companies that don’t do on-line payments.

…beach fun

Crabs by the dozen just off Rte 301.

Mr. A and I spent a few days in Ocean City, MD recently (up and back in 36 hours, really), and it was so fun! We stayed at a great family hotel that was right in the heart of things, about a block off the boardwalk. I’d highly recommend finding a place in “downtown” if you’re only going to be there for a short time, it was nice to be able to walk to everything. On the first day we walked to both ends of the boardwalk, and back to the beginning again. (We needed a tram ride for a bit of that!). We ate fries, funnelcake, ice cream, lemonade, crab, eggs, strawberries…. We played in the water and baked on teh sand. The second day we rented bikes for a morning ride, walked in the surf, then hitched a ride on a big high-speed boat to ride up and down the full shoreline and spotted some playful dolphins (ok, I didn’t spot them, but everyone else seemed to be able to see them….).

Yeah!