This year, for the first time, we are shipping a container of belongings back to Djibouti. Primarily, this is because we bought a car here and it won’t fit in Tom’s suitcase (mine will be full of clothes and books).

The problem with shipping a container for the husband is that he has to pack it. The problem with shipping a container for the wife is that she gets to fill it.

In the middle of studying and preparing for his written prelim, Tom will (probably) drive to Chicago, load the vehicle and household items into a container and fly back. This is Tom’s problem and sounds like a lot of work, but I am reminded of friends who drove from Kenya, through Ethiopia, into northern Somalia. And of other friends who drove from South Africa to Burundi. Seven hours on American freeways and loading things into a container doesn’t sound so bad.

The problem I am facing is that now I have the opportunity, probably the only one of my Djibouti-life, to bring large, heavy items back. That means free weights and beach chairs and jugs of peanut butter, 8 at one time (thanks to a thoughtful friend).

This is a good sort of problem except that I am starting to get the shopping-mall-headache. The kind of headache that comes on when I realize how much money all of this costs, even though I won’t shop for another year or two and we really don’t have a fridge or a stove or bookshelves in Africa anymore. The kind of headache that comes on when I try to figure out how long to plan for and start crying in Kohls. The kind of headache that comes on from spending too much time in artificial indoor light on beautiful, sunny summer days.

Our container will arrive on a ship like this if the pirates can keep their hands off it.

At this point in our Minnesota stays, I tend to start returning things. Anything, just to stop the bleed of money and to stop feeling like a pig. To do this, I have to return to the dreaded stores, so it is a kind of punishment for my over-indulgence. Unfortunately, it also means my mom might have to return to the store six months later, purchase the same item, and mail it to us in an exorbitantly-priced package which will (hopefully) arrive.

I wish I had this packing thing all figured out and you’d think that after ten years, I would. But it changes as fast as the kids grow and as fast as we eat food and as fast as Djibouti water destroys waist bands and appliances.

Any packing tips? For container or suitcases?