Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)
I was in California for the first two weeks of June (I know, I've only been in Saudi Arabia for a few weeks, but that trip was pre-planned and part of the hiring agreement). I was able to obtain some perlite, vermiculite, long-fiber sphagnum, and some milled peat for my plants. They'll like the mixes I make much better than the dense, water-retaining potting soil, which is all that's available here. I also, somehow, ended up with a few cuttings from various campsites in California. Most of them are currently in a broken tupperware dish with moist vermiculite--some will die, but I hope most will root!
I'll share my new plants later. This post is more about transition. It has been rough for me and my plants to have lived in the temporary sharing unit on campus. I mean, it is a nice house, but I had roommates and wasn't really able to put the plants in a prime location. Then, they had to withstand my absense--and they actually look as if they're doing much better without me, thanks to one of those nice roommates who was willing to water them once while I was away.
These photos were taken and tweeted early in the morning on 14 June, the day I arrived back to Saudi Arabia. I went to the office and left early because I was exhausted and had an apartment to move into. Temporary housing, still, but at least it's my own, not shared housing! I packed everything up, and after some complicated conversations with facilities about getting a car to move my three boxes and couple of bags, I hired a cab to move in. The box with plants ended up getting wet, so the bottom started falling out. I didn't have packing tape to seal the bottoms of the boxes, so two glass kitchen jars (some of which I'll use to make real terraria) fell out of one of the boxes. Fortunately, my coworker/new neighbour was wandering by and helped me clean up. I was starting to get frazzled, but I didn't want the same thing to happen to my plants, so I decided to take another box up to the apartment, empty it, and fold it into a tray to carry the plants on. I folded the old plant box to reinforce the bottom of the kitchen box, too.
This plant tray worked just fine until I got to my apartment, opened the door with my butt, and three days without sleep preceded by an entire week of poor sleep and physical activity caught up with me. My arms literally collapsed under the continued effort of holding up
the not-inconsiderable weight of the majority of my surviving plant collection for several minutes. My plants were strewn about the hallway like a prostitute's clothing at 3 AM, little balls of hydroton rolling away from the wreckage as if trying to escape the fate suffered by my babies.
I stood there for a few seconds. I debated having a breakdown. I wanted to just throw myself on the ground in the dirt and plant parts and throw a tantrum. But, still kind of in shock and trying to deny what had happened after all the effort I went to to keep these plants alive and get them into this country with me, I went about cleaning up the mess, trying to save plants that could be saved. I didn't have time to repot them that night, so I made sure that ones that needed to be moist would be fine for a day or two, and the others were kind of left in piles or stuck unceremoniously on top of pots inside my apartment, just so I could get the hallway cleaned up and finish moving my possessions in. It took about an hour to clean, and dirt that I can't get off is still smudged up against the wall. Learning the lesson, I took two breaks while bringing up the box with the glass jars.
Another coworker tried to put a good spin on the event when I shared my tragedy: "It was an earthquake test! You're teaching your plants an important lesson--nature is chaos." That is so very true. But in the future, I am going to try to avoid introducing excess turbulence into an already troubled system!