Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pack(ed) Out


As of 4:30 PM yesterday, all of my possessions aside from those that fit in my car were loaded in a truck in the freezing cold, and I had a passel of carbon copied paper to show for it.  I am remarkably untroubled by this fact, which just goes to show you that I'm ready to be a bureaucrat.

In the meantime, I have a car full of stuff, a touchy little dog, and a very excited wife to cart around the country for a week before post starts.

If I could go back in time a week and do it all over again, I would.  While that's usually a sign that I've done something improperly, in this case it simply means that I learned a lot about how one packs in order to not have to pack.  (Incidentally, I am thankful every day that I don't have to go back in time and take the OA again, and doubly thankful I don't have to go back to Turkish immersion school.  Those were brutal.)

Things to change (and advice for future pack-out participants):

1) Start living out of a suitcase a day or two before, if possible.  I found dishes in the dishwasher and shoes under the bed after my bedroom and kitchen were already packed -- a problem I could have avoided by not using my dishes the day before and only wearing shoes I had packed in a suitcase. 

2) Group items by either room OR function -- not both.  This got confusing, as Mrs. Valdysses prefers one method over the other, and I feel differently.  In the end it wasn't a huge issue, but it might have saved some headache.

3) Don't forget how many clothes you have.  Because it is a lot.  I have clothes in the car, in the UAB, and in the HHE, and I have maybe 40% the clothes my beautiful wife does.  Clothes are unique to you in a way that appliances are not, so you're invariably going to bring them.

4) Prioritize by possibility, not productivity.  If I don't bring my computer, I can't operate.  If I don't bring a Kitchenaid, I have to knead dough by hand.  The absence of one makes a task impossible, the absence of the other simply makes it inefficient.  I'll take possible every time.

5) Bring your Kitchenaid.  Forget all that stuff I just wrote, with a kitchenaid you can make pretzels, and everyone loves pretzels.  Someday soon these wonderful people I will join in the 164th A-100 will decide whether they want to serve in some tropical paradise with me or with some other guy from A-100.  How do you not choose the guy who makes pretzels from scratch?!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pack Out

So oh my gosh, the time is nigh.

Packout is this Wednesday, and as much as I've read I still feel underprepared.  Maybe that owes to my spending my time reading blogs instead of actually packing.

I've taken the initiative and listed tons of stuff on ebay and Amazon, which was great because it allowed me to sit and read while my wife worked hard packing.  I even built a nifty little picture-taking soft box, which ostensibly allowed me to get top dollar for the odds and ends I don't want to haul across an ocean, but also allowed me to (gasp!) read about how to build one on the internet then run to Hobby Lobby to pick stuff up while (gasp!) my wife continued packing.

That's not to say that I do nothing, however.  I've booked pre-departure hotels, sorted out a route to D.C, filled out a truly prodigious amount of paperwork, and made a mess of the kitchen.

Correct, that is a kitchen counter covered with computer parts, photography gear, Rosetta Stone discs and burnable CDs.  Yes, also, all of it is mine.  Yes, everything else looks pretty good.  That is because my wife cleaned it.

Honestly, I have no idea how you single FSOs do it.  Wives are the best.

Even with all the work done to get to this point, there's plenty more to be done before the Packers/Movers come on Wednesday (in two days omg).  Everything is here in one place, and much of it is sorted into HHE or UAB piles (and a small pile that will travel in the car with us to D.C., but I'm convinced that like items should be grouped with like items, in the interest of keeping an accurate inventory.  As it stands, things are pretty well strewn.  Should I sort them by room?  By type?  (i.e. electronics, cutlery, things for my tiny dog...)?  I'm a little in the dark here.  A full inventory seems unfathomable, and yet that is exactly what most folks evidently have.  Baffling.  

Meanwhile, this is my sorting system: 

Yep.  "Put things on chairs (that also need to be moved)".  it is, in a word, inspired.  Since all my chairs are covered in furry hats and spatulas, however, I am typing this post perched atop an ottoman (procrastinating cleaning the kitchen).  This very Ottoman, in fact.

So, if any of you vets have advice, I'm up for it.  I'd love to keep this all together like a pro, but for the moment it's about all I can do to file my receipts, write some blog posts, and say goodbye to everyone for the time being.  Well, everyone except for this tiny dog, who your tax dollars have allowed me to bring around the world.

Also on the list?  Pick up suits from the tailor, get some proper grown up sunglasses, sell a car (omg) and cut my hair.

Cutting my hair will be the worst of all, I suspect, as I've grown rather fond of hair that might be unbecoming of a diplomat.  But, in the interest of commemorating my delightful youth on the eve of adulthood (and to encourage me to be a little less anonymous) I give you:  The various Hairstyles of Valdysses.

And, finally, Present Day:

So here's looking at you, readers.  Thanks for sticking it out with me, and keep those packout tips coming!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Three "P"s of A-100 Readiness. Pack Out, Patience, and Parties.

So this weekend I have blocked out some time to inventory my belongings by room, decide whether I'll want them in Oakwood, and ready them for their eventual final destination. This process is made more difficult by the fact that I've no idea where I will be going, and only a sliver of an idea as to get there. I have however been told that cataloguing my things and sorting them by room is a gainful way to spend my time until I know more, so I oblige.

Speaking of knowing more, we've come to the second P -- Patience. I have elsewhere opined that joining the FS, being itself a 2 year affair, is not unlike your first assignment. Instead of diplomacy, however, I practiced answering certain questions in new and unique ways, filling out forms to the best of my ability, and waiting patiently for information that may or may not arrive. That's useful practice, that.

I'm convinced that, between there are two poles of personal investment where waiting is concerned. At one end, blithely waiting for vital information like salary information, pack out details, wardrobe, and travel arrangements can make you seem patient and sagacious, but it can also leave you unprepared to act when the moment you've been waiting for arrives too late. Conversely, aggressively wheedling information out of registrars, travel officials, et al can prepare you at the risk of wearing out your welcome before it has even arrived. The politics start now, then, and the battleground is this box of CD cases and "Masters of the Universe" action figures.

As to the third P, it is both bitter and sweet. We are fast approaching the point at which everything is the "last" of its ilk. Today was the last "first snow" I'll see in Colorado for awhile, and I enjoyed it. We are fast approaching the last day I can have a mohawk, the last time I can grab two slices from Joey's NY pizza over lunch, and the last time I walk into work at Apple. Other lasts? Well, the last time I read the A-100 board with any sense of trepidation has long passed, and that's something I did every day for a while there. I'm no doubt coming up on the last day I could wear jeans to work as well, which feels kind of like growing up and kind of like terrible. Ah bother, I am prone to nostalgia to a fault, so I'll not dwell on lasts but rather on firsts.

See, the first and last picture of the last first snow I've posted is right here!