On Tuesday, our stuff finally arrived from Tashkent. I'm not quite sure how it took five weeks to travel 1000 miles, which averages out to 28 miles a day, but I think that probably the travel was not what took so long. Our air shipment, which is supposed to be the fast shipment full of the most important things, showed up two days after our ground shipment, but I guess that's government for you.
Regardless of how long and by what method it took to get here, our things finally did arrive. Despite the fact that the boxes had been packed up only five weeks ago, and the children had theoretically labeled all of the boxes themselves, the process of directing boxes to the correct rooms involved a lot of shoulder shrugging and head scratching. Ninety percent of the boxes were labeled one of the three things - books, toys, or stationary, despite us possessing a lot more than just books, toys, and stationary.
After the boxes were lugged to their appointed rooms, I had the movers open and unpack every box and furniture item in the house. There is a hot debate in the Foreign Service community between complete un-boxers and people who like to go box by box themselves, but I prefer to have piles of stuff laying all over the house rather than spending days and days opening and unwrapping everything on my own. I did that once while six months pregnant in Cairo, and swore I'd never do it again.
I've been slowly putting the house to rights since Tuesday, working room by room. The first task in unpacking is sorting out all the stuff that doesn't belong in the room that you're working on. Our house in Tashkent was arranged differently than our house here, so stuff that all lived together in one room there now is getting split up into multiple rooms here, and the opposite is also true. If unpacking only meant actually putting things away, it wouldn't be that bad.
But of course, it never happens that way, and that's without the efficiency of movers making things worse. Their job is to squeeze everything into the smallest space possible, so they pack empty bins full of random stuff, fill the tops of half-empty bins with more random stuff, and empty out mostly empty bins to put more random stuff in. That's how we managed to have two Christmas decoration bins filled with empty canning jars, and one of the hand-me-down clothes bins filled with girls' clothes and snow boots.
But unpacking is mostly a happy activity because it means the end of the tunnel that we entered back in May when preparations for the move got serious. As each room is cleaned out and put to rights and our lovely things get settled into their new places, the cycle of uprooting is completed, and we settle a little bit more into our new home. Unpacking is a bit of a ritual where an empty shell that could belong to anybody is transformed into a home that will be ours for the next three years. I'm always reminded of a dog arranging its bed just so before contentedly settling in for a good nap as I arrange and rearrange things until I get them just right and I can settle in to my life again. Home is mostly where the heart is, but it's also where the stuff is too. And it's good to be home again.