Sunday, January 15, 2012

Step by step: packing to go home

There. I wrote it out in a sentence: packing to go home. I have, however, been resisting the actual actions associated with that phrase for as long as humanly possible and now I am down to the last two days (not including today or my departure date) and it is time to stop worrying and learn to love packing. So, we are doing a form of triage here. Well, maybe triage is not the right word. We are practicing advanced sorting, and also putting off the inevitable. That is, I made a decision a while back that Guatemala is a long term commitment for me and although I will probably not be able to find another year anytime soon that I can spend here, I will be coming back for whatever time I can for the foreseeable future.

So this means that I am not selling my car. I am not selling most of my furniture. I had to buy a car (well, I had to buy two because one was stolen) and I had to furnish a house (a small one, but a house nonetheless). A friend has offered to take care of the care and store most of my furniture. I am giving away two tables; I sold my living room "suite" to the friends who are storing the car and the furniture, along with some appliances. I am leaving all of the bed linens, towels and blankets here (there's not that much, but it would fill a small suitcase). I will also leave some appliances, utensils and dishes. When I come back in March I won't be renting a place, but I hope to come back in the summer for two months and so I don't want to have to go through finding furnishings again. And I will need to cook and eat, so I don't want to have to buy kitchen items again. And there is still the long-term plan of buying some land and setting up a co-op, which would also mean having a place where we could stay when we needed to, or possibly live at some point in the future. So keeping the furniture and furnishings seemed a good idea.

But now I have been faced with deciding what I really need to keep. I accumulated several ceramic cooking pot of different sizes. They were all quite inexpensive, ranging from Q6 (under a dollar) to about Q18 (about $2.50) for the largest one.  I have given them all to friends. The enameled cookware I will keep, along with the blender and rice cooker ("keep" means that Caterino and Sandra are welcome to use them). I gave Jeanet and Nazario some plates, bowls and cups. I have been giving away dry food that I will not use (rice, oil, cornstarch, spices).

That leaves books and clothing. Oh yes, and papers. I haven't even gotten to those yet. I tried to figure out if there was an inexpensive way to ship books and there isn't. I don't trust the Guatemalan post office. So let me amend that: there is not an inexpensive SAFE way to ship books. When  I was at the embassy earlier this week, I said that I was looking for a way (I didn't exactly ask them but hinted). The cultural attaché said they would ship them if I paid the postage and got USPS labels to print out and affix. I spent over 15 minutes on hold and then about 20 minutes talking to different people at the post office customer service line to discover that they could not help me; the only international service they offer is an express service, not book rate, and therefore it would cost me nearly $400. The airline, Continental, charges $100 or more for the third checked bag (I will be checking two already). That is about the same price as the package services here in Guatemala that are used to send items to the U.S. (but I don't know how large a box I can ship for $100 from here). The advantage of the airline is that I can pay with a credit card, since I have very little money and no way of getting more (as my debit card was hacked and had to be canceled).

So, I am going to cram as many books into my carry on as I can, and then I have sorted out some to leave here for the time being. So far I've sorted out one box. Then I am trying to sort out clothing. Since I will be back in March, I only need to take back things that I am likely to use before March. So it is possible that I can get away with two checked bags and one carry on and still manage to get most of the books with me. It actually looks like they will mostly fit in my carry on.

So, I have packed one suitcase and one box -- both of these are items that are staying here in Guatemala. I think once I get one of the large suitcases packed I will feel more accomplished. And probably will start to feel some of the sadness I have been dreading.

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