Packing Up

If you have a house, cars, a dog and a modern American life, how hard would it be to leave it all behind?

It would be hard. Really hard. Trust me.

The hardest thing Champa and I will be leaving to serve in the Peace Corps is our two sons and their families, especially our grandchildren. We expect to stay in regular contact but will miss them terribly.

During the past several weeks, though, we’ve been so busy taking care of everything else that we’ve barely had time to think about this.
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This photo shows the stuff we’ve begun moving into a storage room in our Durham house, which we’re renting while we’re gone. We hired a local property manager a few weeks ago and just heard yesterday he might have found renters for the first year.

Tomorrow we’re driving to Winston-Salem to meet again with a family that may adopt our beloved dog, Bailey. A friend is buying Champa’s car and I’m giving my car to my son.

I still need to cancel everything from my library card to our gym memberships, forward our mail and shut off our electricity, gas and other utilities. I have to call our bank and credit card companies to alert them to our travel plans. I already ordered an additional card from a company that pays for foreign ATM withdrawls.

Absentee ballots? You bet, since North Carolina is likely to be a swing state in the election. Medical insurance? I’m suspending our current coverage while we’re covered through Peace Corps. I can’t forget the EZ-Pass device in my car, which bills me every month. So does Netflix, so I’ll need to cancel both of those. I’ve also been scouring our bills to make sure I don’t miss anything else.

On Tuesday, I’m visiting our bank to add my sister to our checking account and give her power of attorney while we’re gone. I still need to check our wills, buy souvenirs for our host families and create electronic copies of important documents in my file cabinet.

We just bought Champa her own laptop and spent several hours loading it with apps and documents. We bought shoes to walk on Moldova’s muddy roads and boots to survive its winters. I now have a new winter coat, too. We still need new suitcases. In fact, as I look through the “suggested packing list” we got from Peace Corps Moldova, we need a lot of things.

Simultaneously, and ironically, we’ve been downsizing and purging 36 years of stuff from our house. We’ve donated hundreds of books to the Durham library and dozens of bags of clothing and household goods to local charities.

Back when I joined Peace Corps the first time, as a 24-year-old in 1979, I threw some stuff in a couple of suitcases, said goodbye to my parents and headed for the airport. Now I feel like we’ve already proven the old Peace Corps slogan that serving as a volunteer is the “toughest job you’ll ever love.” Who knew it would be so tough even before we left?

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5 thoughts on “Packing Up”

  1. Teddy Roosevelt said something along the lines that nothing is worth having or doing unless it involves pain, effort and difficulty. Both of you tackling this effort together is an inspiration to others!

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  2. Proud of you 2 for doing this. I want to “book-end” my life with another Peace Corps stint if I can. I served in the Eastern Caribbean) …Grenada/Barbados from 1972-74. Please continue to list all obstacles…especially financial (bills) as you rent house, etc before you leave for overseas. Thanks

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  3. As two Morocco volunteers on the cusp of 70 years old, (second tour for one of us) I can say the considerable pain of disentangling is WORTH it! Now as we approach the “home stretch” of our current service (and we extended), it’s almost scarier to consider reentrenching in America. I now know that half of that stuff sitting in the storage unit there is going strait to Salvation Army. We may just have to head into another round of service somewhere in the world.

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