… and the Ocean Shipment Arrives

I’ve been falling off the blog wagon the past week because our ocean shipment arrived last Tuesday.  (Yeah!)

Ironically it got here only five days after our “expedited” air shipment.  That’s good luck for us though and we’ve been knee deep in boxes ever since.

I’ve got a lot of good things to post though, so I’m going to try to get back to the routine this week.

The Air Shipment Finally Arrived

The long-awaited air shipment arrived last Thursday evening.  It was like Christmas.  The kids had a moment of panic when they thought that I had not packed the new games for the Wii in the shipment.  But we found them at the bottom of the second to last box and peace was restored.

Ironically, the ocean shipment may arrive this Tuesday, less than a week after the air shipment.  It’s lucky for us that the ocean shipment is coming so quickly but it does make the paperwork that delayed the air shipment all the more frustrating.

“It’s in the Air Shipment”

One of the nice things about moving overseas on an expat package is that the contract takes care of a lot of the logistics around moving your stuff.  When the movers came in, we split up our things in four groups: stuff to store, stuff to ship by sea, stuff to carry on the plane, and stuff to air ship.

The idea behind the air shipment is that you set aside a smallish portion of your stuff that will be sent by plane (about 700 pounds in our case).  It takes about a week or so for the air shipment to arrive after you schedule it.  In contrast, the stuff going by sea takes three months or longer.  So you put the things you need immediately in your airplane luggage and you air ship the stuff that you don’t need for a two week trip but do need for a two month trip.  Especially that stuff you need to keep the kids busy until they start school.

The problem comes when you assume, as I did, that getting the necessary entry visas and papers should be fairly quick.  I mean, the US Agency for International Development wants to give the people of Tanzania $5 million to help improve the lives of people in the health care system.  Should be a no brainer, right?

Not in Tanzany, my friend.  Even though Colleen has been here for two-and-a-half months now, her paperwork has only made it through two of the four ministries that need to sign off on it: US AID, and the Tanzanian ministry health & social welfare.  There’s no guarantee of how much longer it will take to get through the Tanzany ministries of public sector management and immigration. 

I know what you’re thinking.  Just send it and deal with any expedite fees later.  But if we have the stuff sent before the paperwork is complete we will either have to pay an import tax on it or storage fees for the amount of time it spends in customs until they complete the paper work.

So, something I’ve been saying a lot these days is: “It’s in the air shipment.”  Kids toys, games, and books that you can’t fit in your airplane bag?  In the air shipment.  Dog toys, leash, bowls, etc. for the new puppy?  In the air shipment.  Kids toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, and other toiletries that you can’t find here?  Fun stuff like tennis racquets, life preservers for boating, mask and fins for snorkeling?  Kitchen utensils, towels, sheets, and household stuff?  All in the air shipment. 

It’s not all bad, though.  By this point I can’t even remember everything that is in the air shipment.  So if someone is riding me about something I didn’t pack or should have brought, I just say “I’m sorry, Honey.  I put that in the air shipment.”

Right now, with the rate the paperwork is progressing, it’s an even money bet as to whether the air shipment will get her before or after our ocean shipment.

Help! I’m Trapped on a Desert Island and the Internet is NOT WORKING!!!

Day 7 of my captivity.  After a week without an Internet connection this week, I left the kids with the COPOTUS and headed over to the bar at the Colosseum Hotel.  (The décor of the Colosseum merits it’s own post which I will work on later.)

Two guys have been working on the Internet at our temporary quarters for most of the first week.  Even though I was pretty sure that wasn’t the problem, I had to let that play itself out before the front desk people would believe me that something else was going on.  They called in their IT vendor which turns out to be a guy of Indian descent on a motor cycle.  The first step in the repair process  was blaming my new laptop for being an Apple, blaming the Ethernet cable, and blaming my router for being a router.  After I pointed out that the issue was more likely related to the fact that nothing in our apartment could get an IP address regardless of what cable, OS or type of machine it was, he admitted that it may be something else.  So we waited a day to see if it would “clear” and when he came back, we all agreed that we could blame the hotel’s switch.  Thus far, I’d have to say that the experience was not dissimilar from phone based trouble shooting in the US, except I had the guy face-to-face.  So we’ll call that a slight net-positive.

So, now all we need to do is get the hotel to agree to replace the switch, find the new switch, and get it installed.  If all goes well, I’m expecting that we’ll be back in business sometime in Q4.

Nothing to Declare

In the week before leaving DC, one of the last pains in my ass was trying to get proper paper work for Hobbs the cat. 

Little did I know, that despite my best efforts to obey the law, I would soon participate in my most severe violation of import procedures since Sarah Fogarty dropped a big bottle of Kahlua all over the floor of the Houston Airport and pretended not to notice as we hightailed it through the customs line.

I expected some paperwork would be needed, and sure enough there is an International Pet Health Certificate that you need to have with you on the plane.  That wasn’t too bad, the friendly people at Friendship Animal Hospital were more than happy to take my $300 for the medical visit and filling out the form.  So far, so good.

Hobbs the cat -- scofflaw

Hobbs the cat — scofflaw

Then the vet pointed out that the certificate needed to be certified by a state veterinarian.  In the US, the Department of Agriculture handles that.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “No problem.  The USDA is headquartered in DC.  They have a huge 10,000 person office building down on the Mall just about 5 miles away from where Brent lives.”  Yes, that’s all correct.  However, the nearest person who can officially certify an International Pet Health Certificate?  That would be in Annapolis, MD, about an hour away.

OK, I’m not thrilled, but I’m a law-abiding citizen and that’s why I gave myself plenty of leeway.  In the middle of all the other crap that was going on, I fit in a trip to Annapolis, get the stamp, and check another item off the move list.

But of course that’s not all.  As the vet is telling me that I need to drive to Annapolis, I also read the Tanzania Pet Import Certificate for the first time.  Colleen did the legwork in Tanzany to get it.  That took weeks of processing and then to be hand carried back to me in the states.  You would think that in such a process, they’d have some kind of standard time period, say a month, for you to arrive.  Nope.  Turns out they issued it on January 28 and it expired on February 9. 

So I call Colleen and she get’s her guy on it and they get an extension issued in time for the flight.  She scans it and sends me a copy so that I can print it out and have it with me in case someone notices.  She brings the form with her to pick me up so that we can have her come in with it in case the print out isn’t enough.

Well, I try a couple of ways, but don’t manage to get it printed out before I get on the plane.  (As an interesting conceptual exercise, ask Bob Bachle sometime about the difference between “having a printer” and “having a printer that is connected and prints.”)  So as we get on the plane, I’m not worried but it is on my mind that we may have an issue when we hit customs in Tanzany.

En route, United asks us for the international health certificate and Swiss Air asks for it to.  They couldn’t care less about the State Certified Veterinarian stamp. 

When we landed in Tanzany, I get all of our bags piled up on one baggage cart, sling Hobbs across my shoulder in her carry on bag and then begin pushing toward the exit and customs.  We get to the customs area and there are three lines: two with about five inspectors hanging around with bored looks on their faces and one labeled “Nothing to Declare.”  I push my cart toward the lines.  The inspectors look at me.  I look at them.  I head left.  Hobbs keeps her mouth shut.  Nothing to declare.

The Plane Flight Over: Turns Out Hobbs the Cat is a Better Traveler than I am

So the the journey over to Tanzany went with no major mishaps.  I managed to get the kids an adult size chicken-nugget meal at the Dulles Wendy’s before we boarded the plane.  They both ate the whole thing, which surprised me because it’s double the size of the Happy Meals that we usually get.

As far as I can tell, Emerson made that meal last for the next 24 hours.  The only other things he consumed were a few sodas and packets of airplane snack mix.  Sawyer ate everything.

Our first time traveler, Hobbs the cat, traveled under the seat in front of us and was a real trooper the entire way.  She was quiet and didn’t really complain at all.  She hopped out of the bag on the other side more or less happy as ever, despite peeing on herself a few times.  And really, how many of us can say that we haven’t peed ourselves on an airplane?  No self-respecting LSJUMB member, I can tell you that.

I on the other hand managed to lose my coat.  I have no idea where.  Not that I need it here where it’s bloody hot, but it did have a nice pen in it that I don’t like to lose. 

So after a bath, Hobbs was fine and I was still down a nice pen.  Score one for the cat on that trip.