Reflections on packing out and after

As I get ready for my last weekend in Cotonou, some things I have noticed about that time between packing out and leaving.

Recommendations for “welcome” kits:

  • Cookie sheets – not because you will be baking cookies, but lots of the things you cook in an oven need something to put them on (like chicken, ribs, fish, frozen pizza, etc).  I’ve been getting by with layers of heavy duty aluminum foil.
  • Patch cords for TV sufficient to connect all the stuff – there was only one, so I had to pick whether to connect the DVD/VCR, satellite TV or AFN.  All mine were packed out.
  • Storage containers – yes, you still will have leftovers
  • Steak knives – not every piece of meat overseas can be cut with a fork, or a butter knife

This is not to say there aren’t lots of good things in welcome kits, just noting a couple of useful additions.

I held a “commissary day” to get rid of my leftover consumables.  A few observations;

  • The most popular items were not food, but power conditioners and transformers.
  • Also popular – the shelves the food was on (built from my grand-predecessor’s packing crates).
  • I still have stuff.
  • Some of that stuff is past its expiration date.  Take that into account when you purchase a case of something before leaving for post… like breakfast cereal.
  • Just because you tape off a shelf and label it “stuff I’m keeping” doesn’t mean people won’t shop from that shelf.
  • Accept checks on U.S. banks, you’re going home.

As Harry Chapin wrote,  “All my life’s a circle”.  When I arrived, the Ambassador wasn’t here. As I leave, the Ambassador isn’t here.

As I have commented before, one of the nice things about Benin has been all the holidays.  My last day here – a holiday (last day of Ramadan).

I’ll post my final thoughts on first posts, West Africa, what I’ve learned and what I haven’t and what State needs to learn about older first tour officers (and just needs to learn) in a later blog.  It will be somewhat subdued.  I’m still part of the system.  For the unvarnished comments, you’ll just have to track me down in person.


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