And It's Done

Our little corners of crap turned into 60 boxes yesterday and off they went, headed for Arlington Virginia.  Our first pack-out - done.

I had a dream the night before that someone was chasing me around dreamland trying to murder me.  I woke up and said to Max.  "Murder!  Can you believe that?"  Just outraged at the gall some people have. I think was feeling a bit of moving stress, but realizing that on Friday night I don't have to stay up until 5 in the morning getting suitcases packed and weighed and re-packed has lifted the world off my shoulders.  So now it's just see all the people we love and move on out.  Woo.


What Makes a House a Home?

Thanks for all of the GREAT pack-out advice over the last few weeks.  There is nothing like getting real advice from people who have done this many times.  We have all of our stuff (all - taking up about two little nooks in my Mother's home) separated into two piles: UAB -Unaccompanied Air Baggage that they will bring straight to our apartment in D.C. in a couple of weeks and the HHE - House Hold Effects that will be stored in Virginia until we are shipped overseas to our first post.  Our piles are in two separate rooms, as per the great advice, and someone is coming to eyeball our stuff on Thursday to see how long they will need to plan for packing and how many boxes/men they will bring. 

"So, where's the rest of your stuff?"
"..ummm, this is it."
"...You can pretty much carry this on your back, you know"

We have been staying with Max's parents for a few days now and this puts us at 21 different places of residence since last July (including various hostel situations - some of which were indeed hostile).  21.  I have to say we've gotten pretty good at moving from place to place.  I once had a college roommate whose collegiate recipe for a good day was simply "Toothbrush, Eye drops, Bra".  She's not too far off.  I usually need my camera and/or computer, but after that a toothbrush and a bra will about do it. 

I've been thinking a lot about what makes a home. Surprisingly I haven't really felt any sense of displacement or homelessness, when in fact, I am in a most homeless of states.  Perhaps the reality that Max has been my only "home" constant for that past few years has set me free of conventional conceptions of home.  If I'm with Max, I'm home.  Even though I'm crap at them, I think family routines also help make a house a home also.  We have tried to eat sit down meals with our family a bit here to normalize our transition.  Eating is one routine Max and I are both pretty good at:)  There was a time in Jerusalem when I was working from 4-7 four days a week and even though I was only working 12 hours a week, missing mealtime, what I've come to think of as a sacred time of the day for restoration and communion, I felt out of control and all around crazy.  So meals have become "homey" to me - it's something that can be the same in Farmington, Utah or Maputo, Mozambique. 

Not to get too after school special, but I wonder what things have made your house a home for you as you have moved away, some of you to college or after you get married and others who have made a life of moving from one place to another?   

* I just told Max we'd lived in 21 different places this year and he said "Oh.  That's Why I'm So Tired." And it is.


Movin' on Up...

...to the East Side

We are about 30 days away from our very first State Department pack out and at first that felt like a long ole time, but when I started shuffling boxes around today it suddenly didn't.  We don't even own many things.  We sold all of our furniture and gave away a lot of our stuff before we moved to Jerusalem so our earthly belongings take up one tiny corner in what we refer to as "The Bomb Shelter" in my Mother's basement.  But all the same, there are still a lot of choices that go into a pack out.

A "pack out" is when movers hired by the State Department come to your home and pack up all of your belongings.  Some of them go to storage and some go to your immediate destination - an apartment in D.C. for us.  Some of the storage things go to your first post overseas at the end of training and some of them stay in D.C. - depending on how much crap you have.  Max and I, thankfully, don't have a lot of crap.  But I still need to start sorting through the stuff we do have and decide which thing will go where.  I'm thinking of a colored sticker system to keep things straight.  What a librarian I am.

FSOs and EFMs - Any tips of a successful first pack out?  


Abbazia di Fiastra di Tolentino

 Max and I did pretty well with our separate accommodations in Italy, but after two weeks apart and one almost breakdown at school we needed a little retreat.  It was actually a little embarrassing, because in order to get where we were going...we needed a ride.  So my host family drove us to Tolentino (about 45 minutes away) and I felt like my Mom had driven us to the bowling alley for our first date.  There were many things that made us feel like children, but this thing really took the cake.

Anyway, we decided to spend the weekend at Abbazia di Fiastra di Tolentino - the Monastery on the Fiastra River in Tolentino.  Across from the Monastery (above) they have a little guest house.  After yet another ginourmous dinner, this time at  Ristorante Da Rosa, and a good night's sleep, we toured the monastery in the morning.  It was constructed by the Cistercian Order, a shoot from the Benedictine Order, in the 13th century.  The Cistercians place a heavy emphasis on manual labor and self sufficiency - their distance from main centers of commerce and habitation make this somewhat necessary even today.  Evidently they are also known as "Why Monks" because of the white habit they wear though sometimes covered with a black apron.      

The Refractory above.   Below is a picture of the vast 
tunnel system underneath the monastery where
they store their wine.   

The Abbazia di Fiastra and its environs have become a nature reserve in recent years and in the afternoon Max's host family drove to meet us for a long walk and a picnic.  The views were just spectacular and for the first time I felt like I could understand the draw to a monastery - like this one anyway.  You work hard, make your own goods, read scripture, and take walks through gorgeous landscapes.  Other than the permanent single-ness it didn't sound too bad in that moment.  
When we emerged from the forest you see in the background, there was a long row of these little berry trees.  Little Fabio ran straight to one, pulled it down, and started eating the berries.  Red and purple stains covered his hands in minutes.  The rest of the family joined in and who were we to buck tradition?  It was like a little fairy tale where we walked through the trees and lived off of the land - at least for one afternoon.    (L-R, Franco, Fabio, Chinzia)
 The Abbazia was also a stronghold for the liberation forces of Italy during WWII.  As we supped on sausage and pasta we looked up and noticed this plaque.  Max, with his ridiculous ability to understand other languages, told me what it meant.  It says something about how the liberation forces fighting against Mussolini met in this very lodge to plan their attack against him in the regions of Chienti, Macerata, and Tolentino.  They were successful in taking back these regions.