Sunday, August 22, 2010

Me and My Possessions Reunited!

I have been in Muscat for about a month now. I'm thrilled to report that I have internet at home. Yeahhhh! Today sometime the men from the cable company will be here to install my cable, which means my evenings in front of the television will improve.

I received my HHE (Household Effects) Wednesday night. That's the big shipment that came by boat from Honduras. My UAB (Unaccompanied Air Baggage) is still a no-show, but they do know where it is. When it will get here is anyone's guess. I'm hoping this week. I've taken the past 2 days off as Administrative Days (you are all entitled to 3 days when your HHE arrives so you can set up your house) and could really use one more. But 2 days is enough and I really need to get back to work so I can get some rest! (j/k)

If you are a member of the Foreign Service, please heed this advice. Before you even leave your home for training in Washington, get your camera (video or still) and start making a photographic inventory of all your belongings. Don't forget to photograph jewelry and electronics and don't forget the things you will put in permanent storage. Open cupboards and closets and document everything because I'm here to tell you that during your move from post to post, you will probably lose something. When I left Texas for Washington, I wasn't aware that the movers should have taken the boxes from my house and put them in large wooden containers on the truck and then put a metal strap around them so they were secure with me watching. The movers just kept wheeling boxes out and putting them in a big truck. BIG mistake! Before the movers arrive at your home to do your pack out, you should make sure they will be securing your belongings in the large wooden crates on site. When I got to Honduras, I was missing a ton of things. My claim to Clements Insurance was almost $4000. And that's only the things I realized I was missing. Months later I would think of something else. During your training in DC you will probably be told to take responsibility for this sort of thing. Take their advice to heart. If you can have help at your house during pack out, try to make sure the boxes are marked which room they came from, not just "linens" or "misc. items" like mine were. It will make it easier for you to direct the workers to the appropriate room once they arrive. I pre-packed some things (we are told not to but I had them look in the boxes to make sure I wasn't transporting anything illegal) in clear plastic containers and taped them shut. If possible, be at the curb when the truck arrives at your new home so you can watch then cut the metal strap from the containers. I didn't even know they were at my house until they rang my doorbell. There were about 9 or 10 men, all with a box in their hand. I'm missing a box of kitchen items...sauce pans, frying pans, my good knives, dish drainer, my 2 favorite pasta bowls...and who knows what else. I'm also missing a ceramic casserole that was in my dining room hutch. I know the crates were sealed in Honduras so how does someone just take a box and put it in their car without others seeing it? I had 117 boxes brought in and they are all accounted for and opened by me. All the empty boxes are outside so I guess I will wait for some cooler time (oh Oman?) and make sure I didn't take an unopened box out, thinking it was trash. Highly unlikely, but I will do it before I turn in a claim. You can understand why I think this is the best advice I can give anyone new to this career.

Speaking of claims, without a doubt, you need to take out insurance on your personal effects. I have mine with Clements International and they didn't quibble one bit when I turned in my claim. They didn't demand receipts or anything. I also have my car insured by them (while in a foreign country only), which means I get a discount on the personal policy. Bottom line...if something happens to your things in transit, State is not responsible. Get the insurance! One small reminder...when you come back to the states for R&R make sure you have some kind of insurance. Pay for a rental car with your credit card only after you make sure you have basic coverage on the car.

I love my career. Moving every 2 years has many benefits. You may acquire lots of things as you travel the world but you get to purge yourself of many unnecessary items every 2-3 years when you go to your next assignment. Find a charitable organization near where you live and give them what you can. You will never again be possessed by your possessions!

At the beginning of this post is a picture of my very large kitchen, empty, before any of my stuff arrived. Below is a picture of what the kitchen looked like during the unpacking. Check back with me in a couple of weeks when all my other things arrive from Texas and hopefully, you will see a very nicely decorated kitchen...look for lots of red!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Muscat, Oman...A Real Gem!

I've now been in Muscat, Oman for almost 3 weeks. Muscat is a beautiful city. The scenery is spectacular, with the white buildings with gorgeous architecture and the dark mountains in the background. You turn around and you see the Gulf of Oman. The other day we went walking on the beach and there are so many shells, you have to watch where you walk! I already have a huge collection of Omani shells. I love walking on the beach looking for shells, so I guess for the next 2 years, I'll have to try to control myself when it comes to which shells I want to take home with me.

Right now it's the hottest time of the year, so I'm told. When you walk out of a building, your skin goes through condensation! It takes about 5 minutes for your body to adjust to the heat but during that 5 minutes, all your exposed skin becomes moist from condensation...sort of like the outside of your glass of ice water but not like sweat. Very strange! In a little over a month it will begin to cool off and for about 5 months, the weather will be perfect. Until then, I am learning to love cool, sheer fabrics and good air conditioning!

I still don't have internet at home and I am anxiously awaiting the shipment of all my worldly possessions from Honduras. I am living in a beautiful home but it's so sterile, so plain and so not me. I need color. I need my 'stuph' surrounding me to feel at home. Bare walls are not pretty. When I arrived in Honduras, both the front and back yards were just grass. I transformed them into a tropical paradise. Fortunately, the same thing exists here. There are plants around the house but the back yard is a fairly large patch of grass. There are also flower beds surrounding the patio that are just about empty (or will be soon). Another gardening project!! It's too hot now, but in a month or so when it cools off, I will begin to cut down on grass and add flower beds for plants that will attract birds and give me some color. A birdbath will look good too. As soon as I get internet at home, I'll add some 'before' pictures to this post. I can't wait to get started!

The State Department tries to be fair in where the Foreign Service people are assigned. If you get assigned to a great place, like Paris or Madrid, you can pretty much figure you're going to get a hardship assignment next. They try to alternate cool place/not so cool place. I think I've been fortunate to have gotten 2 great assignments in a row!

More later...stay tuned for pictures!!