I’ve started sorting out my stuff for packing. I have six sets of dishes, four sets of silverware, half a dozen thermos, 50 cocktail plates, countless glasses, etc. etc. I can’t remember now how I accumulated these things. I’ve discovered a poetry book given to me by an old friend, I cried. Oh, I needed a haircut … got to get rid of platters, books, old shoes, old clothes …. I need to run to the grocery store. I have a long list to go. I’m repacking herstory in little boxes so I can go home. Somehow I find comfort reading Judie Pruett’s blog.
“adventures of a nurse practitioner in the U.S. Foreign Service” is a blog by Foreign Service specialist, Judie Pruett.
In Unpacking history
, she talks about something keenly familiar to everyone in the Foreign Service, of unpacking history in little boxes, reliving memories …
Unexpectedly, I was offered a move to Kabul, Afghanistan for the spring of 2003, more than a year before I was supposed to leave Guinea. I jumped at the opportunity and began the preparation of moving. But there was a catch. Housing in Kabul consisted of a 17-foot by 8-foot metal shipping container, and I was only allowed to ship 500 pounds of goods and bring two suitcases. So everything I had in Guinea that was non-perishable was put into storage for me by the Department of State.
My plan was to do the one-year tour in Kabul and then go to another regular post, but again I was offered my dream job—worldwide rover. My things stayed in storage for the second and third year while I worked temporarily in nine different locations, filling in staffing gaps. In fact, the things I had shipped to Kabul were now in storage, too, as I was down to two suitcases—period!
I have been opening boxes all day, discarding things I wondered why I packed at all, trying to find a place in my limited storage space for other things I know I don’t need. I’m even getting nostalgic over a few items. When I opened a box filled with dinnerware my son gave me years ago, I choked up. And when I came across a couple of items that had belonged to my daughter, I sat down for a good cry. Perhaps nearly seven years of not having my real life with me was too long. I need reminders of my history to reassure me and help me remember who I really am and where I came from, not just things that chronicle where I’ve been.
In her post, Small miracle
, she writes: “I always considered myself a knowledgeable person, but it wasn’t until I joined the Foreign Service and traveled to the, shall we say, more unusual parts of the world, that I realized how little I really knew about life outside of my sphere. I understood American poverty and I understood the chasm that existed between those who have and those who don’t—in North America. After all, I grew up in south Texas and had visited our neighbors to the south many times. I thought I knew. What I know now is that the events currently taking place in Haiti are occurring all over the world, on a smaller scale, daily. I don’t just mean earthquakes. I’m talking about desperate circumstances, poor nutrition, unsafe water, lack of shelter, and poor medical care.”
In Culture shock, she writes about one part and parcel of international relocation:
“Life in Pakistan was life on the edge, especially the last two years. Somehow, being in the middle of it conferred a sense of control. Now that I have moved on, I am beset by concern for those I left behind, especially my Pakistani friends who are less protected than the diplomatic residents. I feel helpless to do anything but worry, so I worry. I watch the news. I fret when a new incident happens. Recently, the Navy Yard gate in Islamabad was attacked and people were killed. The Navy Yard was one of my favorite places to shop and I felt safe there. In Prague, I feel safe everywhere. That is a very good thing, but now I also feel guilty for enjoying this safety and freedom in Prague when my former colleagues don’t share it.”