How do you move overseas?
Before I went to Abu Dhabi, a teacher I worked with was telling his wife how I had gotten a job there and she asked him how I would pack for a move like that. He, in turn, asked me. My initial reaction was “two checked bags and 2 carry ons.” Overly simplistic? I guess so, but it really does boil down to two checked bags and two carry ons.
As an ESL teacher, I’m a little limited on what I can take. I only planned to be there for 2 years so I didn’t take things like my grandmother’s dresser. Nor did I take my library. It was already in boxes anyway. Does it suck to have to leave all that stuff behind that I’ve spent years collecting? Yeah, but I’ve learned that I can live with a lot less than I though I could. And, honestly, if I’d pursued the position in New Orleans, I wouldn’t have wanted to take along a lot of that stuff anyway. Books and hurricanes do not mix. Out of print books that I searched for for years and hurricanes? The weeping would go on for days. Days.
I would need household items. Lucky for me the people who already live there also need household items. Pots, pans, plates, etc, that stuff is already there. I know it sounds a little obvious, but then again maybe it isn’t. It’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed when moving, and when moving this far? Overwhelm increases exponentially. When I was first getting ready to go to Korea, I read on the ESL Cafe Korea forum that you needed to bring enough deodorant to last a year. In fact, you needed to bring extra because it got really hot and sticky there in the summer. One poster recommended bringing 12 deodorants for the year! I estimated how many I would use in a year (2), added an extra for insurance (1), went to Korea and found that there was deodorant easily available in every corner store. The new rule is: take a 2 month supply. After I’ve been there a month, I should know if I need someone back home to ship me more. My one exception is toothpaste because I’ve learned that exotic foreign toothpaste flavors freak me out. Of course, a year’s supply of toothpaste works out to about 2 tubes and in a pinch baking soda works fine.
Clothes for Abu Dhabi were easy. For Korea, I had to pack for 4 seasons. For Chile, I had to have heavy layers for the winter. Sweaters take up a lot of space. Abu Dhabi is warm year round. I took long sleeves and light layering sweaters, but nothing like the bulky wool I needed previously. There are clothes available too, but couldn’t pack a week’s worth of clothes and go shopping straight off the plane. Please, I’m a girl. Plus jet lag kicks my butt for about 2 weeks after a journey of that distance. I spent an afternoon going through everything to make sure each piece worked with every other piece and was in good condition. Because I went to a Muslim country I made sure that everything was properly modest. No skirts shorter than knee length, no sleeveless blouses, no plunging necklines. Honestly, I was teaching kindergarten so chances of me taking a miniskirt (or even owning a miniskirt) were slim and I’m not a big plunging neckline girl. Sleeveless blouses were going to be a problem because I love tank tops. In the end, I took a couple because I could wear them inside and under things. Nothing like going out in August when it’s 115 in the shade wearing a tank top under a sweater so your arms are covered, but when in Rome…
And then there’s those few special items. The first year in Korea I would have sold my soul for a can of refried beans. It took a year to find a good Mexican restaurant. In Chile it was peanut butter. There was none to be found and manjar was not a reasonable facsimile. According to my research Mexican was then hard to find so I stuffed a couple of cans of refried beans in my suitcase which I turned out not to need. And for comforts, I took along some pictures to hang on the walls.
All in all, that’s the way you pack for an ESL post overseas. Clothes enough for a few weeks of whatever seasons you’re going to encounter, a few important personal items and cash enough to fill in the holes.