The Packing Challenge

Numerous times we’ve had people say to us “We appreciate the sacrifices you make!” While we acknowledge the sentiment, we don’t feel like we are sacrificing by living on the mission field.

I have a corner full of luggage that can attest to this lack of sacrifice. :-/

It’s difficult to condense one’s life into a series of 50 pound pieces of luggage, but we must do this every time we make a trip back to the US and return to Uganda. We have to take items we will need but can’t get there. This includes:

  • Sheets for the next couple years. Cloth wears out faster in a tropical climate. We go through about one set of sheets per bed, per year. Growing up, I had a set of sheets given to me that lasted me until I got married. The rate at which sheets fall apart in Uganda came as a huge surprise to me.
  • Clothing is much the same. We line dry everything and we’re careful not to leave it out too long, but it just wears out faster, especially socks and underwear. We have to pack clothes for 6 adult sized people and 2 child sized people for the next term, planning for the growth of the kids in the family. There are clothing markets in Uganda, but the clothes they sell no longer fit my older boys. It’s difficult to find quality clothing in the market. (I’ll come back to this in another post.)
  • School books for all six kids for the next school years. And school supplies. Just before we left on our last furlough, I started to see higher quality crayons and markers available there. But we still can’t get good colored pencils or mechanical pencils of any kind.
  • Shoes for all of us. Half of us can’t buy shoes in our size in Africa. So if we need them, we have to take them with us. You can buy higher quality shoes there, but you pay for it. It’s cheaper for us to watch for sales here and take the shoes with us, even if it takes luggage space.
  • Chocolate chips – or any baking chip we might want. You can’t buy chocolate chips where we live. The available chocolate is poor quality. I stock up on chips here (and dried blueberries and cranberries) so we have them for baking when we get back there.
  • High quality kitchen implements. I cook a LOT in Africa. It takes hours every day to prepare food there, even meals that are “easy” in the US. We’ve invested in a number of items that will make this take less time.
  • Mexican spices. We can get Chinese and Indian spices but not Mexican. Indian chili is NOT the same as chili seasoning. Found that one out the hard way. If we want something to have a Mexican flavor, we have to take the spices to flavor it.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I had the packing well in hand in preparation for leaving for Uganda.

I was wrong.

Or delusional.

Probably delusional.

Remember how I said that every piece must weigh exactly 50 pounds and be securely packed? Yeah, well that’s easier said than done.

It’s rather like putting together a 15,000 piece 3D puzzle with pieces in a variety of shapes, sizes, weights, and volumes and in total weighs over 1,000 pounds.

I had most of the packing already “finished.” Friday, I had the kids sort all the things they needed to have packed and make a pile. Saturday, I worked to get one piece that was full but did not weigh 50 pounds up to weight. I worked on that for an hour. No matter what I did, the container could not hold 50 pounds with those contents. I finally had to stop and move on to another container. Then that container could not reach 50 pounds no matter what I did. By this time, I’d been working for several hours. I was hungry, hot, and tired. And I was crying.

I think I’m just bad at packing.

Saturday night I barely slept. Remember the puzzle analogy? I laid awake thinking of ways I could get those pieces up to the right weight and still have room for everything.

Conclusion? I opened every piece of luggage with any flexibility on contents and pulled out the heaviest items. Then I took the lightweight items out of the containers and distributed them among the luggage. My nice, neat, orderly row of packed luggage was ruined.

But it worked. I filled the containers. They weighed 50 pounds. I fixed the suitcases and made those weigh 50 pounds. I cheered every time the scale hit the desired weight.

It’s a process. 🙂

It also ought to be a challenge or a reality show: Packing Xtreme. Pick up your life and make it fit in as few 50 pound pieces of luggage as you can using only a bathroom scale to check the weight.

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