Saturday, September 24, 2011


Subtitle: What to do before your HHE arrives

First, let me define my terms: HHE =  Household Effects, basically your stuff. This is the stuff that gets packed up and sent over land to the edge of the land, and then via boat to your new country. This process takes months. When it arrives in your new country, the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) has to allow customs to release it so that nice men in jumpsuits can bring it to your house in cardboard boxes the size and strength of which I'd never seen before. Really, you could live in one of these things. HHE is not to be confused with your UAB - Unaccompanied Air Baggage. Please don't be fooled by the "A" in the title and think that this stuff (weight restricted to 250 lbs for the employee and 200 lbs for the spouse) gets here at the speed of an airplane. Tim has been here four weeks now and apparently the airplane from Seattle with his UAB still hasn't made a blip on the Bogota radar screen. He has been living out of his suitcase since arriving.

So what does one do while waiting for your stuff? You get resourceful. I'd like to give you a few examples that Tim has come up with:

We have highly-polished State Department-provided wood tables and nightstands that we don't want to damage with cup and glass rings; we need coasters. Why look at this styrofoam meat packaging! Bit of soap and water, a pair of scissors and we now have chic black coasters on each table. Got houseplants? Use the entire meat tray and the lip will keep the water from dribbling onto the table. 

They sell roses for about $5 a dozen here, or $7 for three stems of lillies that will last two weeks and perfume the whole apartment. But what are you going to put them in? Empty wine bottles, of course.

Our bathroom is a well-organized shrine to dinners-past with the nail clippers, scissors and other little bathroom objects neatly corraled in a green plastic tub that our sliced mushrooms came in. The Q-Tips? Always tidy and within reach in a tomato paste jar. The sugar next to the coffee pot got the same treatment.

In the kitchen, we only have what the "welcome kit" provided us. This kit comes in a sturdy Rubbermaid footlocker and has 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 knives, forks, spoons, a few pots - you get the picture. Therefore although we have a lovely dishwasher, we can't use it for anything more than a drying rack as we simply don't have enough dishes to spare. Having company for dinner can be a challenge, and the other night we hosted two friends and warned them that it was a "BYOPM" affair (Bring Your Own Placemat). When it's just Tim and I, magazines serve us well under our dinnerplates, but for company... well, it would just have been a bit tacky. I'm not sure what we'll do if we ever invite more than two people: BYOPKFS?

By the time our stuff actually does arrive, it'll feel extraneous; we've got just about all we need now!

Okay, except for my tea kettle. I really miss my tea kettle.

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