Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sorting Stuff - 60 Days to Departure

It's 60 days to departure. The move is becoming more of a reality instead of a vague concept of the future. I received my Travel Authorization (TMFOUR) a little less than 90 days before departure. That document is the key to setting everything into motion since it says money is allocated for the move. Nothing much happens on this planet without money and moving is no exception.

Now I've booked my flight to the US for home leave, scheduled the pack out, and arranged an apartment through the PCS Lodging Program for a month of training in DC. That's about it. Move people, move stuff, and a place to stay while in training. That sounds pretty easy, right? There's nothing left to do but get on the plane... except of course it can't possibly be that easy!

The problem always appears to be with the stuff. Once again there's 4 categories of things to sort out. I'm moving from an unfurnished post to my first furnished post. The difference there is I can't send as much stuff which makes having stuff a problem. My new place will already be full of stuff when I arrive. The categories are the same as other moves but the breakdown will be different.

Foreign Service moves require every single item to be categorized like this:


This is 2 suitcases of stuff and a carry on of mostly electronics for me. As long as the airlines don't lose them then this is the essential stuff for living. Living out of a suitcase starts 2 weeks prior to departure and ends whenever the UAB and HHE show up. If it doesn't fit in the suitcase then it can go in...

Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB)

One person is allowed 250 lbs of stuff sent by air freight. Each additional person gets a little less. UAB is for the essentials that don't fit in a suitcase. You can take pillows, towels, some kitchen items, and any other stuff you might want to put in about 5 more suitcases if you could have them. The movers pack it all in a big box or two, but the weight is equivalent to 5 more suitcases so I'm thinking of it that way.

UAB travels faster by air and should get where I'm going in just a couple of weeks. I have one Foreign Service move under my belt and I've already experienced a glitch with this. My UAB went to Singapore before coming to Stockholm for reasons unknown. The funny shipping guy tracking it down suggested the UAB needed a vacation. This meant it took 4 weeks to get from the US to Sweden by air since it went the wrong way around the world.

This is my first "Post to Post" move so I'm trying the UAB "follow me" route instead of shipping it to my next post. First, I'll send it from Stockholm to my home leave location and hope it arrives while I'm there. Then, I could ship it from home leave to DC, but I'm driving to DC so I'll just take it with me. Finally, I'll ship it from DC to post after adding some new essentials to the pile specific for Caracas. I'll see how well that plan works out because UAB is important to have while waiting on...

Household Effects (HHE)

This is the rest of the stuff I want but it slowly floats across the ocean so I may have to do without it for a long time. It can sit around waiting to be moved at various ports or held up in customs for who knows how long. People sometimes go several months before they get their HHE.

The total HHE and storage weight allowance is 18,000 lbs regardless of family size. Stockholm is one of the few unfurnished posts so I could have shipped that entire amount of stuff if I had it. Caracas and most other posts are furnished so the HHE shipped to post is limited to 7,200 lbs. The delta between that and 18,000 lbs can be stored until I request some or all of it for another post or return to the US for an assignment and have to take it all back. It's a great benefit.

This category will be the tricky one to figure out. I don't want to bring too much stuff I won't use in the next 2 years. Why deal with unpacking stuff I never use? One thing I will bring is my bed. I've heard that beds or good mattresses are one of the most common pieces of furniture people bring to furnished posts. The whole idea of furnished housing is so we don't ship entire households all over the world with every move, but I hear having your own bed is a perceived necessity for a lot of people. The rest of the stuff I won't need goes to the next category...


This is leftover stuff I want to keep for the future but just don't need for the next 2 years. Furniture, winter clothes, 220V appliances, and who knows what else I find when I start looking. I'll hold onto it because it may be needed at another post or some other time and place in the distant future. You know that power adapter for that one thing I don't have anymore might come in handy some day. The coat I never wear in the far back of the closet is apparently a keeper. Hmm, perhaps there's a category missing from the moving guide.

Getting the right mix of these 4 categories will take some work. I may even wait until the weekend before pack out to finalize the sorting. It's not procrastination. Who can live with all of their stuff physically sorted out into these categories? I'll just tag the big items but who wants little sticky notes all over their stuff for several weeks? It's a good reason to wait until it's absolutely necessary, right? There should be one more category added which must be taken care of before the movers arrive...


This is the bonus category of stuff that I shouldn't even have anymore. Why is this thing here? Why do I keep shipping that coat to the next place and throw it in a closet? I really should finally donate it or throw it out... or do I just let it go to storage and deal with it later? Much later. Even the trash category isn't entirely clear but it must be done.

Every single item must be sorted or the packers will decide it for me. It's a good thing they don't come for another 6 weeks so I have some time to decide for myself. In one of my military moves they packed the kitchen trash can with trash still in it. It had such a lovely smell when it was finally unpacked a couple of months later. Yep, at the very least I want to sort out every bit of trash before the movers arrive!

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Prince was more fun than poetic but here's some lyrics just for fun from some great songs...

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life
Let's Go Crazy - Purple Rain

Open your heart, open your mind
A train is leaving all day
A wonderful trip through our time
And laughter is all U pay
Around The World in a Day - Around The World in a Day

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad
Sometimes, sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last
Sometimes It Snows in April - Parade

Cynthia had a happy face, just like the one she'd draw
On every wall in every school
But it's all right, it's 4 a worthy cause
Go on, Cynthia, keep singin'
Starfish and Coffee - Sign O' the Times

We could live 4 a little while
If U could just learn 2 smile
U and I could fly away, fly away
Anna Stesia - Lovesexy

It's just around the corner, it's just around the block
This love that I've been waiting for, a Love solid as rock
A Love that reaffirms that we R not alone
A Love so bright inside U it glows
And night and day would run together, and all things would b fine
Still would stand all hate around us
Still would stand all time
Still Would Stand All Time - Graffiti Bridge

Happy is the way 2 meet your burdens
No matter how heavy or dark the day
Pity on those with no hope 4 2morrow
It's never as bad as it seems until we say
The only love there is, is the love we make
The Love We Make - Emancipation

Listen to me closely as the story unfolds
This could be the saddest story even been told
I used to want the house with the biggest pool
I've been missing out I just feel like a fool
Keep breaking me down, down, down (x4)
I used to throw the party at the New Year's Eve
First one intoxicated, last one to leave
Waking up in places that you would never believe
Give me back the time, you can keep the memories
Keep breaking me down, down, down (x4)
Breakdown - Art Official Cage

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you laughing
I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain
Purple Rain - Purple Rain

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Barcelona Spain

80 days to departure from Sweden and one last big European vacation trip is done. Barcelona Spain was a wonderful choice to spend an entire week in one place. There's still stuff there I haven't seen after trying to hit the major tourist spots. It was a cheap 3 hour flight on Vueling Airlines. Sometimes the Swedish airlines are cheapest and sometimes it's best to take whatever budget airline they have at the destination.

There's way too many photos from a week to put in a post so I'll try to pick just a few of the best and keep this post relatively short. Lots of tapas had to be eaten and lots of art and artistic architecture had to be seen. This is another city where the hop-on-hop-off buses give you a good method to get around to interesting places outside the main city area. The Gothic Quarter near Las Ramblas was a good place to be in the middle of it all with hotels, restaurants, and plenty of walking streets.

Gaudi and his many creations are the thing to see and do. My favorites were Palau Guell and La Sagrada Familia. There's just too many pictures to post of these so here's just a few of Palau Guell:

And the rightfully famous La Sagrada Familia:

There are many fountains but one possibly little known gem is the Cascada Monumental:


Another little gem was the Museu Europeu d'Art Modern. The 18th century building is wonderful and not too big to add into a day of other Gothic Quarter wanderings. Some of the contemporary figurative art consists of paintings that look so real they're almost like photographs. It's not a place for kids if you don't want them to see contemporary nudes but here's a few samples of the regular stuff:

Poble Espanyol can take an entire day if you want to see it all inside the open air museum of architecture from across all of Spain. This one little village is complete with shops, restaurants, and a contemporary art museum that is fine for a quick tour.


These were just some of things done in a week. I'll stop here with just these highlights in the interest of not making this post too massive. Barcelona is definitely worth a visit and if/when I get back to Europe it'll definitely be a place to revisit since there's still many things I didn't see!