You have got to be kidding me. What great cosmic karma fault did I commit to have what seems like multiple lifetimes of sheer chaos dumped on me all at once? For over two months I waited patiently. For over two months I identified insects and flora in the backyard while lazily tiptoeing around with teacup in hand. Two entire months of carefree living in the sun and rainbow rain when suddenly the great wave hit.
After the latest round of ‘where in the world is the container’ fun, my Frenchman got to high hoofin’ it. The French, in my opinion, are extremely well versed in high hoofin’ and this particular skill comes in quite handy for certain situations. Many phone conversations later and we had a tracking ID number with a website that we could use to track our lovely metal box. Ah ha! They do track these things. No one was fooling me on that one.
Checking in to see what was going on, I discovered that our container arrived at the New York port on May 23rd. Our movers hauled everything out of our condo on May 15th. It took the shipping company over a week to locate a container that was empty and traveling to this part of the world because, and here’s a shocker, not many containers move from America to Mauritius.
It was loaded onto the MSC Aurora (ahoy matey) and set sail on May 28th. Apparently, it takes quite a while to fully load one of these ships. Sailing the high seas, my life in a box arrived in Durban, South Africa on June 30th. It was unloaded and then reloaded back onto the MSC Aurora. Some containers on this ship from America were staying in Durban and additional ones were going to be re-loaded to head to other ports. The ship left the port on July 19th. Whao. Why did it sit in Durban for so long?
Perhaps, the long delay was due to the recent crisis in the area that had finally started to settle. On May 21st the South African president approved the deployment of troops to assist in stopping the violence in the region. Apparently, there were quite a few riots going down in Johannesburg and the violence eventually spilled over into Durban. This may be why things were held up for such a long time.
The container, after two and a half months of exciting sea voyages, finally landed upon our tiny island shores on July 26th, the exact day that my Frenchman’s parents turned up for a scheduled visit. Now, I’m pretty good at multi-tasking and completing numerous tasks at hand; however, what commenced during the next few days was just a tad too much even for me.
We had known the French folks were coming and were fully anticipating that we would have everything unloaded and unpacked based on the previously communicated estimated times for delivery. In fact, the Monday before the 26th I had the proprietor of the house and her entire family remove all of the transitional dishes and furniture. The ship was scheduled to hit the port on either that Tuesday or Wednesday.
I thought I was being quite clever and efficient. I mean, why have all that extra stuff sitting around just taking up space – the seashell and bamboo lamp was quite ‘hey-I-live-on-an-island!’ and all, but still, not exactly my style. And to ensure that things were moved out quickly, I pleaded a most desperate case. I insisted that the container would most definitely, certainly be coming and rush-rush we’ve got to get it done. Yes, yes. I told them, I know that I told you previously that it would be here then and then and then, but NOW…Oh, yes. Now, I am certain.
Looking back, I should have known better. I should have used my previous Mauritian scheduling experiences as a guide. There was the time we scheduled to have our internet installed, “Yes, madam. No problem. You will have your internet in one to two weeks.” Four and a half weeks later, it was hooked up. Or the instance when the hot water heater fuse needed to be repaired, “Oh, yes, madam, you will have it by the end of the week.” Almost three weeks later, it was, indeed, repaired.
But, I’m such a believer. Sucker. Believer. I really am.
Tuesday and Wednesday came and went. Thursday also gave a quick wave farewell and the ship still had not arrived into the port. We could tell from the tracking site that the ship would definitely not arrive anytime before the 26th. On Friday the 25th, I slinked back over to the proprietor’s house and begged for one bed to be re-delivered. Luckily, this was not an issue and her son, after flashing a quick smirk, came over that afternoon to set it up.
The French folks arrived on the 26th and we all lived peacefully in a very empty house for the next few days. On Tuesday around 1:00 in the afternoon following their arrival, I received a call from my Frenchman informing me that the container would be delivered at 4:30 that afternoon. This was it! Customs had cleared everything and the container was on a truck ready to be dispatched to our house. It was like the one thousand Christmas mornings all packed into one. I was about to receive a boatload (eh hem) of stuff and I was very excited.
I dashed over to the proprietor’s house to ask if they could once again remove the bed and move some other furniture to its final intended resting point, but, alas, no one was home. I called her son and was told that certain family members would be coming home around 4:00 p.m. Great. Things were looking good. My Frenchman told me that there would be eight or nine guys unloading the container and moving everything into the house. Great. A whole crew to do the move. He also said that he would be leaving the office early and would try to arrive the same time as the truck. Great. Added team members.
My Frenchman’s mother was the first to see the truck and also the first to see it disappear, “I think that was your container! It’s yellow.” Just a few minutes after this visual ID, my Frenchman called to tell me that the driver of the truck was lost – oh really? – and that I needed to walk out to the main road and direct them to the right spot. I ran down our tiny lane, stopped at the intersection, spotted the, yes, yellow container and began to frantically wave my arms in the direction of our house.
At this point, there was still no proprietor and my Frenchman and his father were stuck in traffic. No problem. I could handle this. The truck came down our lane and stopped in front of our gate. Nine guys hopped out and we all stood there looking at each other. One of the guys asked me if I wanted to break the seal. “Excuse me? Break the seal?” I asked. Creole was then spoken and the words ‘the seal break’ were repeated. My anxiety shot up a notch and we all continued to look at each other.
Remaining confused and getting rather sweaty, I quickly rang the Frenchman. “What’s the deal about the seal? Do I break it?”, I practically squealed into the phone. He informed me that I should, indeed, have them break the seal. I hung up and told them to do it. My nervous, little brain, fuelled to the extreme by huge amounts of stress hormones, still thought that some horrible thing would come jumping out of that giant, yellow box. And to make matters that much more dramatic, the sun was starting to set.
I mean, what if we broke the seal and kilos of nasty drugs came tumbling out. Pile upon pile of plastic-coated bricks of God knows what just spilling into the street. The neighbors, hearing all the commotion from myself and the nine guys, would come running over and start screaming. Gunshots would ring out and then the cops would eventually show up. The Frenchman’s mother and I would be whisked away and thrown into some small island jail cell. No. I really did not like being the person in charge of this event.
Turns out that breaking the seal is not that big of a deal. The seal is actually a small, plastic coated lock no more than three inches long. Huh. When I heard the words ‘break the seal’, I imagined some sort of air-suction sealed doors that would need to be mechanically pried open. But, all it took was two guys and a crowbar. I was then asked if I would like to keep the seal. Each seal has a number imprinted on it that is entered and tracked by Custom departments. I accepted the seal and the doors were opened.
Nothing fell out. And pirates did not jump out. Peering into the back of the truck, I saw our brown, leather sofa wrapped neatly in bubble wrap. The proprietor and her son showed up. My Frenchman arrived with his father. It was time to get busy…American style.
The French decided to go into the backyard to have a cigarette. After all, it was the end of a work day. I instructed the proprietor and her son to start disassembling and moving out the bed from one of the back bedrooms. And then the guys started to carry stuff into the house. I placed myself firmly in the middle of the front room and with hands on hips began to bark out my orders, “Books? In the front bedroom. Table? Against that wall.”
But, my directions did not go very far. Only one or two of the nine guys could really understand a bit of English well. So, the books were actually going into the side bathroom and the table in the middle of the hallway. After I discovered this, I called in the French for assistance. There were just so many guys and so many boxes. It was all happening quite quickly and I was really the only one that knew where everything should go. The house started to fill up with boxes and tensions began to run high. My Frenchman was yelling. I was yelling. I think his father was on the phone with the mover guys’ boss yelling. I’m not really certain. It was all just a brown, bubble wrap blur.
All I know is that at some point the mover guys’ boss showed up and politely greeted me with two kisses on the cheeks. He then proceeded to try to have a conversation with me about the weather, my job, island life – this and that. I hated to be rude, but seriously, a teatime chit-chat, now? Can you not see my sweat-drenched brow, smell my sweat-drenched pits, and sense my incredibly anxious mood?! This conversation, needless to say, was cut short.
The boss showed up because they guys were refusing to take away the boxes and paper from the furniture. After he showed up, they started to load it into the empty truck. To add to my impatient annoyance with this ever-increasing stressful situation; the proprietor, who had changed into a semi-sheer black top with sequins (she looked good), was telling me over and over that the guys would not take the boxes and paper. I kept reassuring her that they would, but she kept doubting my assurances. After three or four of these conversations, anytime I saw a flash of black sparkle, I quickly removed myself from the room.
During the unwrapping stage, I began to detect a very distinct alcohol odor. There was one short man who stuck close to me who, I am quite certain, was completely and totally bombed. He was a gentle drunk who seemed a little overwhelmed much like myself with the entire situation. He would look at me and I would point to one of the smaller items for him to unwrap. Looking back, my silent interacting with him was one of the only calm moments I had during the entire night. We established a quiet rhythm amongst all the other chaos.
There were two other guys that I liked immediately, as well, one of which because he could read the English descriptions on the boxes and had picked up on my placement strategy and the other because he wore a Rastafarian hat and just had good energy. In the end I discovered that the reason for the extreme rush was because the guys were anxious to get home. Their daily shift usually ends around 4:30 p.m. and it was now nearing 7:30 p.m. I completely understood.
When all was finished, the truck with the empty container had to back out of our lane because the top of the container was touching the electrical and telephone lines. Thank the great Goddess that potential little problem never surfaced – unpacking a container with nine non-English speaking men, their chatty boss, three French nationals and a fancily dressed Mauritian woman who was more jacked up than me in the pitch darkness?? Not something I would want to experience.
But, everything seems to have made it in one piece and no one was injured or killed by me in a fit of blind rage during the process. My life in a box has arrived and now the real fun would begin.
Up next and within 36 hours of the container being unloaded, when there’s work to be done, head to dinner. I attend a concert, start my new job, and host a ten person dinner party.