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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We Can All Use a Little Change

The difference between a world traveler and someone who is interested in different places can be determined by what is considered normal.

When I was a kid I would excitedly collect the Canadian pennies that would sometimes get mixed up with the American. I still have a box of them that has grown to include dinars, marks, shillings, pesos, Maluti, RMB, and Zimbabwean million dollar notes. There are coins from the Netherlands, Belgium, and others. Bills from Algiers, Gibralter, Brazil, and some other countries, but I can't read the language and can't remember where they came from. Even a couple of bills from countries that no longer exist, such as the Confederate States of America. Where did all this money come from? What to do with it?

The cans of Iraqi Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite were tossed when we opened the HHE packing boxes this time around. Once novel, these things are just a spill risk not worth taking. The easy decision was made as we were drinking our Chinese cans of Coke Zero.

The other day I went to lunch and was excited because I had the exact amount for the bill in my wallet. How often does that happen? This would have been true if my lunch companion hadn't noticed that one of the green RMB bills in my hand was a slightly different green. I tried to buy lunch in Shanghai with a Jordanian Dinar. So much for exact change.

Ted has lamented his allowance more than once as Spencer tried to pay him in Maluti when USD and RMD were unavailable. Of course we always factor in the current exchange rates, or at least try to. Who can keep up with so many?

My American credit cards, money, keys, and pocket litter are in a little Ziplock bag. Put away for the next trip home or more likely, the next internet impulse buy. At least some money is now separated from the rest of this mess.

I heard someone in the Foreign Service created a decoupage table using foreign bills. That might be a good project. But then I have to factor the table weight into the shipping allotment. Better stick to the jar in the guest bathroom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

HHE arrives!

Our stuff has arrived! It is like Christmas in our house. UAB and HHE arrived on the same day, exactly two weeks after we arrived in Shanghai.

Much of this stuff we haven't seen in more than a year. How exciting to get items I forgot I loved. Found my black, lace-up boots. I do love them so. How exciting to get items I totally forgot I owned. Wine! The most exciting items are unexpected. The discovery of a Sharpie caused me to run screaming through the house. I have not found the equivalent marker in Shanghai and thus not able to do important things like label the kid's school clothes. There is so much I can now do with my trusty black Sharpie!

Our last post took much longer. The UAB arrived after 5 weeks and the HHE was another 3. The difference may be in management or the strategic location. One is a port city, and the other was an inland country that required customs at multiple ports of entry. Not believing that our shipments were really coming, I had shopped for essentials just days before. My lack of faith cost an untold sum and provided us with unneeded additional pens, folders, towels, Tupperware, and hats to name a few items.

Just like Christmas, roughly a ¼ of the items unwrapped are shit. What were we thinking saving some of this: torn sheets, the bedroom set that was left in Lesotho, but the bed skirt shipped; shoes; bags; extra clothes; all those broken items I said that I would one day fix, and chipped dishes now fill a “give away” box in the hallway. I would like to purge so much more, especially all the paper, paper, paper! The boxes of art conservation supplies are again packed and stored in the shed. I never need those at post, but did need them in the DC, the one place I didn’t have them.

We could open a stationery store with all the pads of paper and envelopes we have. What possessed us to buy so much? Boxes are piled next to the desk; the shelves can’t hold it all. The staggering quantity of stuff makes me sad. We don’t need much of this; we want it. Seven throws, a plethora of knickknacks, and every kitchen device possible, all stand as reminders of our privileged, middle class household. It is particularly hard to look at our excesses laid out on the floor when the Ayi cleaning that floor has so little.

I celebrate an early Boxing Day as I repack the items that need to be returned to the house in the States, and box up the items that await the next post. On this day I am thankful not to make my returns to a busy store, but feel the same family guilt.  Just like Christmas, HHE makes me ecstatic and depressed (and a bit drunk!) all at the same time.