Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I decided to take the day off of work so I could ship all of my garbage to the United States of America. I’m ready to say that moving to another country is the most terrible thing a person can choose to do with their life. If anyone is currently considering this, please give me a call so I can encourage you to instead open a daycare center for cats because that would be less annoying than shipping everything you own to the other side of the planet.

I knew it was going to be bad because I did this just one year ago. And when I say “I,” I mean “Daniel.” And when I say “did this,” I mean “shipped 14 things of partially-used tin foil, Harry Potter IV in Spanish, seven blankets, and 30 pounds of long-sleeved shirts. To the tropics.”

Daniel bore the brunt of the shipping duties last year because I was trying to finish up my last job until basically the day we left. As if engaging in some form of retribution, Daniel abandoned the Land of Coconuts a few weeks before my departure date. He shipped a few boxes of his clothes and things but left the rest of it in the apartment to haunt me.

I decided to get it all done in one day. I don’t do well when these kinds of tasks are spread out over the course of several days or weeks because it starts to feel like it’s taking over my life. If I built houses for a living, I would start digging the foundation and then you would find my sleep-deprived self 147 hours later running through the desert in my grandma’s underwear screaming “YOU are the weakest link! YOU are!”

I got up this morning and immediately started going at it. Within four hours I had packed most of it up. My apartment looked like a war zone, with packing peanuts, tape, pieces of card-board, and a surprising amount of sand EVERYWHERE. But I was pleased with my efforts.

I loaded the spacious Stormtrooper to maximum capacity. Among the packages was one incredibly large box that I had created out of several boxes in the apartment and had packed with a few bulky items. This thing was heavier than me in March of this year (trust me. Heavy.). It took me ten minutes to get it from my apartment into the car because I had to stop and take a break every few seconds.

When I dragged it into the post office, the post office lady broke the news.

Post Office Lady: Mmmm. That package is too big.

She said this as though she was telling me something mostly innocuous but slightly embarrassing, like my zipper was down.


She came around the counter and measured it, and sure enough, it was too big to ship.

I wanted to drop to my back and throw a temper tantrum but last weekend my friend Mark told me that whenever you have an interaction with another person you can either make them feel better or worse about life. I’m trying to only make the former happen this week so instead I just smiled and complimented her hair, as the vein in my forehead bulged.

I got the package back to my apartment at great personal sacrifice and re-crafted it into something smaller, which appeared to be within the shipping-size allowance according to my very scientific measurements (holding my hands out like *this* and comparing it to how I thought it was before).

By the time I got the package back into the post office, I felt like I had given birth to triplets without an epidural.

Six inches too big, still.

Guys. Nightmare.

There was an office supply store next door that I had gone into to buy tape and boxes about twelve times over the last 24 hours. These people were becoming like family to me. So rather than haul the box all the way back home and go through giving birth to triplets, again. I dragged my giant box into the office supply store and then sat on it with that look in my eyes like anyone who was about to get involved with me in any way was going to have a headache by the end of the hour.

A few of them backed away, probably mostly because I had sweat pouring down my face like Niagara Falls. But one man came over, said hello, and then spent the next five minutes listening to me talk faster than any person has ever talked.

Eli: I’m just trying to ship my things and this box is too big and they said it was too big earlier and I tried to make it smaller and it’s so heavy and my things are in it and I can’t make it smaller and I can’t take it back home because I’m losing the will to live and there’s some kitchen stuff in it and a rug and the rug won’t fold anymore and I got this rug from a friend and I really don’t want to just leave it plus there’s a guitar and I am sweating so much and I just can’t stop, etc.

I’m certain everyone there thought I was a meth-head because in addition to the fast-paced TMI sharing, I was rapidly scratching my arms and neck since I now CONSTANTLY feel like I have ants crawling all over me.

Not that I know what that is, Cathie.

Most of the people began taking pity on me and the next thing I knew, four men were ripping the giant box open, digging through it, and crafting new boxes to fit around the items, using whatever supplies they had sitting around.

There were packing peanuts EVERYWHERE. 

People were standing inside of boxes, digging through them. My stuff was spread out all over the floor. And every time a new customer came through the door, they would stop and join the crowd of spectators who were curious to see how this was all going to play out.

At one point they had me helping tape the boxes. This was a disaster because packing tape should require its own college degree before a person can use it. I’m totally convinced that anti-anxiety drugs were created right after people had to start trying to find the end on packing tape.

The tape kept ending up in long twisted strands, which caused me to pull at it and make it worse. Several of the Palauans standing around kept encouraging me, “Calm. Down.”

And that, right there, pretty much sums up my entire one-year Palauan experience: standing in the middle of a public place with sweat pouring from every crevice of my body while Palauans tell me to calm down.

When they finished successfully dividing my one package into three, I almost started crying. And despite every personal space issue I have, I immediately ran around the store and began hugging every person who had helped me, including a few people who hadn’t helped me but seemed like they also wanted a hug.

The guys who made new boxes for me? A couple of them were just customers passing through.

The woman behind the register pointed at the clock and told me I should get back to the post office before it closed. I did just that.

My items were shipped. There’s a trail of packing peanuts left everywhere I went. And I have a new resolve to intervene and help the next person I see who seems stressed out.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. “Kindness refreshes and restores the tired and broken.” ~Gerard Thomas Straub~

    Not only that but those who helped you will have a happier day - it's one of those things where giving often is a gift you give yourself...

  2. International moving is THE worst. After a 3 month mission trip to Nepal, I decided to ship 2 bags home, because that was significantly cheaper than checking them. After an unbelievable amount of work, stress, and hassle, the things were on their way. Or so I though. Turns out that Nepalese customs officers does not like it when you try to take edibles out if country. My bags did eventually make it, sans candy and spices. Sad.

  3. So let's start with the positive - love the descriptions - can totally relate.... in other news, you don't have a "vain" in your forehead, you have a "vein".... just sayin...

    1. Maybe it's a pun... you know, being vain about a vein in one's forehead? :-)

  4. When we were leaving Germany, we shipped a bunch of stuff home. It was expensive, but it's amazing what you gather when you live in a place!

    To this day, I swear my husband wrapped one of our packages in a brown paper bag. I can't remember why, though-- maybe the box already had something on it? Anyway, the label fell off, and our package with my very favorite book of all time, plus some more books, plus some German board games, plus some German Harry Potter books, are sitting in Florida somewhere. At least, that is where I think they are. It was four years ago.


    And now I want to move back, so, so, so badly! Just with all our stuff instead of only what we can fit in four suitcases.

    I almost cried when you finished the story. I have never been immersed in a culture like that, but I've known enough people like it to be very grateful and very humbled by them. Some people are just awesome.

  5. I'm picturing packing peanuts sticking to your arms and face because of all the sweat and I'm shuddering at the thought of all the heat-soaked anxiety. This is a great story, though. People are just awesome.

  6. Gahhhh, I don't know what's worse, trying to move all your stuff or trying to move without any of it! I'm in the middle of the kind of move where you just pack your suitcases and go and temporarily consider setting your house on fire because it's easier than coping with the sheer amount of STUFF you've gathered over the course of a decade. It's awful.

    I definitely had my post office moment with the box I shipped my duvet in. Freaking size limits/specialized customs forms.

  7. It seems like help until you realize what they did to your guitar to make it fit in a box. :)

    I'm sure soon this will all be a memory and a series of hilarious blog posts. However, after reading this I'm never moving again. Ever.

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  9. Haha hilarious. Just moving around the corner would give me a complete breakdown!

  10. When I moved back to the States from New Zealand, I only brought back what I could stuff into my suitcase and my guitar case. I tried to get rid of a lot of it, but the rest ended up staying in my friend's garage. Luckily, Kiwis are the most easygoing people on Earth, and they were cool with it because they also got to drive my car. Which makes me wonder what you're going to do with your car?

  11. What about the Stormtrooper :)

  12. I thought this story was going to end with the post office being closed. I'm so glad you made it back in time!

  13. Ugh, so stressful. Glad you made it through.

  14. It seems like in our biggest times of stress, there are unseen "angels" that look like people standing around. I remember at work a week ago being so stressed I wanted to cry, and blurting out my stress to a coworker I barely know and have maybe said 5 sentences to in the 5 years I have been there. She came and gave me a hug and told me to just breathe. Those people could see you were at your end and needed help, they were your angels for a day.

  15. I feel kind of bad that I'm laughing at your expense, but that's so damn funny.

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    1. All I was thinking while reading this was this song from Flight of the Conchords: