By Kate Romero
With all of the new arrivals at the embassy over the past few months, I thought I’d be a Helpful Newsletter Editor and move to a new house, just for you guys, so I could tell you what it will be like when you get your HHE delivered. Or, if you are preparing to depart post, I can give you a glimpse of what to expect when moving out of Brasilia. GSO and FAC totally were on board with moving me, lock, stock, and barrel, just so I could write this column. I kid. We moved because our old house needs renovation and we got tired of watching tv under umbrellas.
The movers arrived on a Wednesday morning with promises of the entire move being over by Friday, boxes unpacked and removed from the premises. I had helpfully set out all my appliance boxes IN FRONT OF THE APPLIANCES they belonged to, so they could be packed accordingly. The movers did a fantastic job of gingerly packing the appliance boxes. And then they packed the appliances in a separate box. My first tip for you would be to put all your appliances in the boxes you want them to go in before the movers arrive. I had a lot going on during our move, so I wasn’t the best at pre-move prep, but that’s a column for another day. Anyway, the movers were going along pretty quickly until around 11:30, when they disappeared for two hours. I found them on my lawn, napping on flattened boxes. This is standard in Brasilia, I quickly found out. “It’s the Brazilian way!”, the moving company chefe explained, smiling. After naptime, things slowed to a crawl, and they were gone by 3:45 pm. Only about 20% of the house was packed.
At this point, I was feeling a fair amount of stress. Only two packers came the next day, and believe me, they were in no hurry at all. I called my sidekick, Katie, who just happens to work in the GSO, a million times…. ”They’re not going to be done by Friday! What can I do?” She was very patient with me, but the truth is, there’s nothing you can do. Once I figured that out and just accepted it, I was finally able to relax, telling myself that eventually my stuff would get packed and moved. Hopefully. The chefe came by the house in the middle of the second day. “How’s it going?” She said, looking around at my mostly-still-unpacked house.
“Not well. Is there any chance we can get a few more packers in here?”
“Of course. I will send three or four this afternoon.”
She said that so quickly that I instantly became suspicious that she was doing that charming Brazilian thing where they want to make you happy, so they tell you what you want to hear. To test her out, I said, “I was told the truck would be completely loaded by the end of today.” I knew there was NO WAY that was going to happen, judging by the state of things inside the house.
“You want the truck loaded by the end of the day?” she repeated after me.
“Okay, it will be loaded by the end of the day.” That was when I knew there would be no ‘three or four’ extra packers that afternoon. All I could do was laugh about it, but it was really more of a grimace than a laugh. Obviously, the move didn’t happen on Friday, but they would “finish first thing on Saturday, okay? Okay!” No one showed up on Saturday. Fast forward to Monday, when we were finally all moved in, if not unpacked. I was told they would take everything out of the boxes and remove all packing material, but they didn’t have time that day, what with all the napping, and I couldn’t bear to have them say, “Of course, we will be here tomorrow to unpack your boxes. (Is that what you want to hear?)” Which is fine. I had my diarista come and help. She knows where everything goes and we got most of it done in a few days’ time.
In the end, it was really all just fine, because at least I didn’t have to move all by myself like my friend Liz did in Nairobi. I did try and move a few things, and this was the result:
Remember a few weeks ago how I was telling you how my husband thinks I buy too many kitchen gadgets? Clearly, he is delusional, because these are the only boxes with my kitchen stuff in them:
Wait a minute. What’s that? Whew, it’s my donut pans! One of these days I’m really going to try those out…
The movers complained that they had to use more packing material than they had bid on. Here is an example of things they packed with their packing material:
Yes, that is a piece of cardboard, carefully wrapped in packing paper. One time, back in the States, we unpacked our HHE in Virginia five months after it had been packed in Seattle. Those movers had packed potatoes. But hey, vodka! Silver linings.
Here are a few more tips for you that I picked up from managing to not die through my last five moves.
Be kind. Even when they are taking naps on your lawn. Remember, they are handling your most prized possessions, and they are moving you according to their customs, not yours. Don’t take your frustrations out on them. Take it out on your spouse! Sort of kidding.
Wear cargo pants. That way, when the movers bring you anything they think might be too valuable to pack (like the broken 12 year-old Nintendo Gameboy and melted cell phone they brought me), you have a place to stash stuff if you’re in the middle of doing something like trying to figure out how to unhook the modem from the computer and cursing your husband for not being there. At the end of each move day, my cargo pants were filled with guitar picks, broken electronics, and hairbands I had picked up from all over the floor. Sure, cargo pants are ugly, but moving is no beauty contest, you know?
Make sure there is plenty of water and you have a supply of disposable cups for the movers. Point this out to them when they arrive, because we had one guy who refused to get his own water. He continually was asking me to fetch him a drink, even though I was packing right alongside him.
Pack a few days’ worth of clothes and toiletries for each family member before the movers arrive, and stash them in your car so they don’t get boxed up. I forgot deodorant this time, so I had to borrow my 12 year-old son’s. You guys, it was Axe. I smelled like teen spirit, and not in a good way.
Learning the words to the rooms in your house is helpful. Here is a handy little cheat sheet, which might not be 100% accurate, but my movers at least knew which items went in which rooms:
Now, once you have all your stuff, you get to set up your cable and internet which is brutally painful, and I even had my husband’s admin assistant, the lovely Regina, doing all the negotiating for me. Eventually, after a million phone calls, we agreed to be billed since they refused to take an American credit card. They rescheduled about four times, and finally, joyfully, they made it to the house. The first thing they said when they arrived was, “You don’t have good internet here. We’ll order a [brazilian word for electronic signal booster thingie] from Sao Paulo and it will come right away”. “Like, in a week?” I say, hopefully. “Yes, in a week. (Is that what you want to hear?)” After about four hours, they got the cable set up and one of the guys brought me in front of our 55 inch screen to show me how to block certain channels. To do this, he put a porn channel on. So, there I am, standing two feet away from a bigger than life sex scene while he is showing me the controller. I’m shifting uncomfortably and trying to grab the remote without seeming too juvenile, but have you guys seen porn? Like, really close and with a stranger? Don’t answer that. Anyway, they finally left, and I am 100% sure they were laughing all the way to their next job.
All’s well that ends well, and we are finally moved in. And now that all of our boxes are unpacked, I can enjoy my new house. This has got to be the most dog friendly place I’ve ever lived. It even has special shelving for dogs!
And imagine my surprise when I discovered a drinking fountain for my dog in the master bathroom! So cool!
For more moving tips, see my previous column on moving.