Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meditations on Packing

Last week we undertook our biannual ritual of packing the necessities and treasures acquired in the US over the summer in preparation for our return to Jordan. While there is always some anxiety accompanying this process, this years' packing was the easiest ever, and that even after finding out that we had less baggage allowance than we had thought (international baggage allowance has been reduced to one free check on bag). I ruminated on the reasons for this:
  • We are are packing for just three people and so we need less things.
  • We have reduced our consumption of sweets and processed foods, so we don't bring back as many "treats"--just a few bags of chocolate chips.
  • More things are now available in Jordan
  • I am creating/crafting from recycled materials, so there is no need to bring back fabric, etc.
  • We have two college students plus medical bills, which translates into less money to fritter away on "stuff". (I'd like to think that I've never frittered away money, but alas, I'm afraid I have.)
  • Kindles. Don't tell Amazon, but I would purchase one at double the price.
The night before we traveled, a dear friend and fellow overseas dweller for 18 years and I reminisced, and laughed loudly, about our many packing and transporting-of-goods adventures--and misadventures. Especially trying were the days of raising small children overseas. Imported clothes, shoes, toys, and books, if they were even available, were exorbitantly expensive, so we packed all our garage sale finds of Fisher Price toys, Duplos then Legos, shoes and clothes, which the children grew out of so quickly at that age.

I'm glad we can look back and laugh at those then anxiety producing moments, which are now part of our family lore:

Dear husband, of UPS training, has worked for two days to pack twelve (or more--what was I thinking?!) 70 pound boxes/pieces of luggage back in the days of more generous baggage allowances, occasionally calling out to me in exasperation, "Do we really need this??" I learned not to launch into a logical defense of why each suspect item was needed, but to simply and meekly reply, "yes, we do," and leave the room.  On this point, my dear friend's recollection of the packing process is identical.

It is sometimes embarrassing, not to mention expensive, buying a two-year supply of personal hygiene products. A grocery store checker once asked me if I ran a shelter for women.

My children learned to pull carry-ons holding half their weight at a very young age. They were drilled with the procedure for getting through check-in and boarding the plane: "Don't ever complain about your carry-on being too heavy. Just smile confidently and keep going."

Some of the more unusual items we've packed back to Jordan: a large bouquet of silk flowers (undamaged, I might add, despite dire predictions by Dear Husband), pots and pans, Italian pottery, drum cymbals, a microwave, smoked salmon, live plants, china tea cups, picture frames, and specimens for biology class. This year Dear Husband didn't so much as raise an eyebrow when I informed him of my plan to bring back a number of lavender plants in my carry-on. He's seen it all. I know it is his dream to travel light someday--just his passport, wallet, notebook/computer and Kindle, all in one small case, which makes his willingness to juggle two carry-ons through four airports all the more appreciated by me.

We've now unpacked all our tangible goods; the suitcases are empty and put away. My heart, however remains full of summer memories, memories of God's gracious and generous provisions for our family and of good times with our children, who are now residing in three different time zones--four, if you count Tayta here with us. Retro-blogging, here I come.


Lauren said...

Mom, this made me LOL. I remember the time we brought back a bunch of computers (I think it was probably only 3 or something but it seemed like a lot) and how they were all distributed between our carry-ons. I think there was one piece of luggage that didn't have some sort of new electronic equipment in it and that's the one Dad let them scan at customs.

(p.s. you have THREE college students, not two ;)

Quotidian Life said...

True, about having three college students but somehow, graduate student seem like another, somehow more adult category to me. Yes, I do remember all those electronics. And, amazing that I am still working on that Dell desktop that we brought back 10 years ago! I know I'm computing on borrowed time...

Peter Gerhardt said...

How nice it is to "hear" from you.Sounds like a refreshing summer. I will look forward to hearing of your further adventures in Jordan. :) Blessings, Pam

Laura A said...

Welcome back! Sounds like you've got the routine down. Good job getting all those computers on! You have a choice in scanning? We're just learning.

The latest manoeuver on our part is that Sarie is learning to position herself on the starting block for Delta's "Zone 3," so she can get her violin into a carry-on bin the moment they call the zone and so no one will ask her to gate check it (she almost had to do this once). Italians don't line up; they mass, and cutting is a cheerful sport. Last month, though, she did so well that she was actually the very first Zone 3er on the plane, and Bob and I were laughing from the back of the crowd.

Quotidian Life said...

Thanks, Pam.

Laura, the electronic haul was about 10 years ago and at that time they were still charging steep customs on electronics. The checked bags would go through a scanner on the way into the terminal--we figured that out because some boxes/suitcases had small pieces of yellow tape on them, and those are the ones the officials opened. Carried on luggage, since it stayed with us, didn't go through the same screening. I think that is what Lauren is remembering--all the electronics being packed into carry-ons.

Andrew has done the same thing as Sarie, but with his cymbals. They do fit in an overhead most of the time but a couple of stewards have offered to store them in the front closet where there is room. Lauren has never had trouble with her violin though. I do believe Lauren would refuse to fly if they insisted on gate checking her instrument! Yes, first in line is key with the carry-ons! That and boarding with confidence. Jordanians mass too.

Jessica said...

Great blog post Melissa!! I loved thinking back about trips overseas and packing. Your beautiful house always inspired me.

Karen Diaz said...

Hello Melissa and Kristen (Tayta!)

So glad to read your story and to see how well she did with her surgery! She looks great and will continue to improve! I'm glad you were happy with the RMH (we loved it there too!) and you're right that the American Family Children's Hospital was also a great place.

You should see a HUGE improvement in Tayta's swelling over the next couple of months. My Kristina improved LOTS in the 2nd month following her surgery - both in terms of swelling and bruising. We are almost at the 3 month mark now, and while she's still swollen with a tiny bit of of discoloration, she looks so much better than she did before.

We just booked her revision surgery for Dec. 26th! Can't wait to get that behind us! We'll be flying to Wisconsin on Christmas night and will hope to stay at the RMH again. Dr. S. promises that the 2nd surgery will be a piece of cake compared to the first, so for this we are grateful!

I'll write you another note offline, Melissa, and will send you a few pictures of Kristina.

Tayta, you're very brave and you did great, and you will continue to feel and look better every day!

Good luck!

Karen Diaz