Returning: THE SHIPMENT!



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The shipment disappeared down Buffalo Thorn Rd in Johannesburg on June 5. That orange container sailed the Atlantic, arrived in a Charleston SC shipyard, placed on a train to Charlotte, NC, loaded on a truck to Asheville, and finally arriving at 7 Digges Rd on August 12.

Image may contain: plant and outdoorHaving successfully emptied our storage units, packed/unpacked our UHaul, strategically placed stuff around the house, the challenge now was to figure out where all of our overseas stuff would fit.

It’s a collision of worlds. Overseas stuff……..America storage unit stuff. In 1985 we went to India with just suitcases and a small box of air freight trailing behind. I remember going to the old-old Delhi airport to pick up that air freight a few weeks after arriving in India. It was, no surprise, a hot and humid August monsoon morning. Mr Swami (our business manager shepherded me through the throngs to some behind the scenes office. He bought me a Campa Cola (no Pepsi or Coke in India at the time). He taught me to drink out of the bottle without your mouth touching the bottle, adapting in India at the time required attention to hygiene he explained. I remember the moment, the heat, the flies, the throngs, the ubiquitous vibe of busyness that is the vibe of India, and the half-ripped cardboard box we had naively packed up and sent via UPS from our Vermont home 5 weeks earlier. Anyway, that’s what we had in 1985, a small box of what newly overseas educators considered “essentials”.

We’ve departed (“packed out”) and arrived (“unpacked in”) several times and in various size shipments but now, 34 years later, it feels like a more permanent collision of worlds is about to unfold. I am certain that never again will we be shipping belongings across oceans. There is a finality to this collision and symbolic moment of integration.

When moving about overseas, your shipment is something you live around. Whether stuff is arriving at your new home overseas or you’re packing out to your next destination, the shipment is the ultimate reminder of the itinerant lifestyle of an overseas dweller. When it arrives, it’s the comfort of familiarity, whether a piece of furniture, a tchotchke, a favorite piece of art, a book, or (as in my case) a favorite mug; these are symbols and memories, and important reminders. I have this habit of tossing notes from people of my past into the mix of boxes, allowing them to blend with the stuff, and then enjoying the moment as they re-surface during the unpacking. Allowing me to have a sentimental moment wash over me while reminiscing about people/places/feelings. It’s been such a rich and interesting path over the years and finally having the stuff of our lives under one roof somehow provides meaningful packaging for the memories.

But back to the stuff……It’s not like we have heaps of stuff. We don’t even have a couch! The Couch Shopping Experience is entirely different potential piece of writing, believe me! Honestly, we have some furniture from overseas – I mean, anyone who lived in Jakarta for multiple years understands the spectacular furniture created in Java. And, of course, the ease of finding great bargains on Ciputat Raya, or in the back streets of Cilandak Intan. But, really 4 glass cabinets/bookcases to our name? Why? I wonder today. Well, the time has come for some introductions of multi-cultural origins: Javanese day bed, meet Granville, NY patio furniture, meet unique ceramic vase from South Africa, meet classic Tibetan carpet from Nepal, meet well-crafted Ghanaian Jambeh (drum), meet photos upon photos upon photos (and even slides – remember those?!) in boxes with half-filled, discolored over time albums and, above all… my favorite mugs!!

So, with excitement the shipment arrives. Its arrival and the subsequent unpacking, rearranging, and settling mark an iconic moment of our Return.

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