It’s nearing the time to go back and it feels like being asked what would you like for your last meal before the beheading, does it really matter?, and are you really going to enjoy a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a tonne of coleslaw on the side when you know that this time next week, ham, coleslaw and enjoyment are taboo and possibly won’t be experienced again for another ten months. Can you really pig out in Supermac’s on demand, no, despite having no pigs or Supermac’s in Qatar, over indulgence during the last week does not satisfy the longing to have garlic and cheese fries, a breast of chicken and a milk available when you might fancy it but the lack thereof makes the longing. Bacon and cabbage, Chinese take-out Irish style (heavy on the msg, low on the veg) and anything cooked by your mother are all good options for The Last Supper anything will do, because you have bigger fish to fry, the packing, da da da.
It works differently in every house I’m sure, some I hear are even relaxed enough to let each person in the family do their own packing, they trust that everyone will ensure that their cases are bang on the acceptable weight, alas not me, I am neither bang on an acceptable weight (personally) nor relaxed about the packing. In fact, I cannot help but view each of my family as opportunities. Yes, I admit that when the kids turn 2 and become full fare, I immediately see is a bigger bagger allowance, giant Kilos signs walking around beside me, when hubby comes homes on a surprise visit I see an additional 40 kilos at my disposal, not to mention the additional hand luggage opportunity for each pair of hands. So there I’ve said it, and I’m only admitting what every other expat woman/mother is denying. The kids have 30kgs each and 7 carry-on, of course their small hands struggle with the cases but hey ho, nobody said expat life was easy.
I try not to include my own allowance in the packing calculation, as I always assign that to my essentials, clothes, shoes and personal items. A small portion of everyone else’s allowance goes on my non-essentials, additional toiletries, additional shoes, additional clothes. And a large portion of everyone else’s allowance goes on family consumables, that are difficult to pick up in Qatar, e.g. Hollandaise sauce, Carbonara sauce, nasi goreng mix, Chicken Supreme mix, Sausage Casserole mix, Jelly type chicken and beef stock pots, Jelly, Odlum’s scone mix and brown bread mix, pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, Robinsons squash shots, Tayto Cheese and Onion and Salt and Vinegar, Jelly, White Buttons, a decent ham, Carrigaline Cheese, Wholegrain Mustard, Ballymaloe Relish, battery operated fairy lights for Christmas, Halloween decorations for Halloween, toys from Smyth’s for Santy, Calpol, Wartner, Dioralyte, Uniflu, Bonjela, Paralink, KP Nuts, Sausages and black pudding if you’ve space in the case.
Of course this year, there’s an added consideration and in preparation for the new arrival in November I will return to Qatar laden down in babygros’s, infacol, vests, infacol, bibs, infacol, sleepsuits, blankets and did I mention, infacol. While baby clothes are available in Mothercare and Next in Qatar, they come at three times the price they are in Mothercare and Next here and 17 times the price of Penney’s or Dunnes. So it’s common sense to stock up on these items. The SuperValu calendar, fresh brown soda bread and Nicholas Mosse mugs are admittedly just additional touches.
Some might think that many of the items are unnecessary but when you’re leaving home and embarking on a 10 month lock-in in Qatar, you should take every single item possible in order to make it resemble home and even then, it won’t even come close, because the things that you really want to take, cannot be packed in any allowance, family, friends, fresh air, good food, a dynamic to life, a community, a ticket for the All-Ireland, can’t be shrink wrapped and placed in a case or shipped across and these are things that you really miss, everything else are aids to deflect from the harsh reality of missing home.