Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Moving Overseas, Part 3

The representative from the moving company is coming tomorrow evening to look over the things I plan to move so he can write an estimate for how much the move will cost and help me get the paperwork taken care of. Needless to say, I’ve been busy doing other things, so the place is as messy as it was one week ago, although the mess is distributed much differently than it was then.

I checked my apartment mailbox yesterday and was surprised to find a letter from USFWS regarding my application for CITES permits for the birds (don’t they read their own instructions regarding mailing addresses versus the address where the birds reside?). This letter assigned me a “PRT” case number that I am supposed to use for all communications with them from now on.

I was appalled to see that my application took ten days to register on their hive-mind, even though I overpaid the postage by one-third and even though the USFWS letter took only three days to reach me. I was also annoyed that this letter was sent to my apartment mailbox, even though I explicitly told them to send it to my PO box (because it’s secure and the staff at that post office actually know what they are doing). Needless to say, the USFWS already look like a bunch of bumbling overpaid dumbshits. Why bother asking for a separate mailing address if they don’t use it?

The USFWS letter said that I have at least 30 days from time of receipt of my application (nevermind that it took eleven days before USFWS noticed my application and another ten days to mail their computer-generated response to me), and more likely 60-90 days to wait for the permits. If I get the permits at all. The USFWS letter went on to whine about how there are oh, so many thousands of applications to process and for that reason, the USFWS is going to treat me like shit, and I just have to wait my turn like everyone else and boohoo, woe is they.

I then emailed my veterinarian friend about the process necessary to get the USDA health certificates and medical testing for my birds underway, so I could get that done while I wait so I can cut down on the wait time, but was informed that no, I cannot start that process until the USFWS decides to give me my damned permits because I must have the CITES permits in my hand to move on to the next step of the process. How inefficient is that? Worse, I have to go in person to the nearest USDA office to start the next step of the process. Obviously, the USDA is comprised of cretins who haven’t heard of email, photocopiers, FAXes, telephones or snailmail. So where is that office located? Despite the fact that NYC is THE major port of entry into the United States, the nearest USDA office is located in New Jersey! YAY! Getting there and back using public transit will likely be one whole day of yet more headaches and frustration and expense! I am totally looking forward to this!

Oh, and one more thing. My friend told me that this process is going to take me at least six months.

Yeah, you read that correctly.

No where — NO fucking WHERE — does it say anything like that! But she’s done this numerous times, so if anyone should know how long everything really takes, she would.

So instead of sitting around for three months at the most, I learn that I have to sit around for at least six months, twiddling my thumbs, with no job or income of any kind (all my pet care clients have mysteriously evaporated because I might not be at their beck and call at some point in the future as I’ve been for six years), waiting for USFWS, the USDA and the German authorities to get their collective asses in gear, while I try to figure out how to pay the money-grubbing landlord hundreds of dollars each month in penalties in addition to rent because I didn’t renew my lease. Because I thought I’d be moving in November. Or December. I hadn’t planned on moving in April next year.

And that’s if I did everything correctly. If I screwed up any one tiny little thing, then I get to start everything over again. Or I have to give up my birds. But I won’t know this for 90 days. Probably. (And the more time and money that I invest into this asinine and ridiculously complex process, the less likely I am to give up the birds and the more likely I am going to write numerous blog essays about it. I mean, I offered to give up all my birds several times, in fact, and had already started looking for vaguely suitable homes for them — but my spouse wouldn’t hear of it.)

At this rate of speed, my spouse and I will be celebrating our first anniversary on separate continents after spending a grand total of eight days together after getting married. Sounds like a great anniversary, doesn’t it?

Worse, it looks like my holidays are guaranteed to suck as badly as they have every other year of my life. I am really looking forward to spending another holiday season absolutely alone, again, eating vegetarian chili from the can, again (because that’s better than oatmeal or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) while I listen to WNYC play their 36 hours of pre-recorded Christmas music. AGAIN.

Comments

  1. #1 ER Doc
    October 9, 2009

    I’m terribly sorry to hear this news… Is there anyone who can watch the birds for you while you wait? Probably not; I hope you can work this out!

  2. #2 Jeff Knapp
    October 9, 2009

    Yeah. I don’t blame you for being pissed. It seems these rules are designed to discourage people from moving pet birds to foreign countries. Institutions, importer/exporters, etc. are used to and generally know their way around these regs and are used to dealing with them but, private individuals are not.

    Is there any way you can board the birds ahead of time so that you can still get together with your spouse? Having to wait around for six months just isn’t right or fair. Do you know a vet or other avian professional who could house your birds during this period – somebody who can properly quarantine them and all that? It is clear you need to get out of that apartment and into your hubby’s embrace. For you own mental health.

  3. #3 Tabor
    October 9, 2009

    Whatever you decided to do to maintain your sanity make sure you take care of your health…mental and physical…in this long drawn out process. Remain calm and resolute with USDA people (I used to work for them!) and take long walks. This will be resolved and you will look back on this nightmare someday. The process you are undertaking is a major milestone in your life. These milestones do not come easy or cheap! Get the names of the folks you need to talk to and chat them up and make sure they remember you as this process unfolds.

  4. #4 Gini
    October 9, 2009

    What a horrible fucking day!!

  5. #5 Bob O'H
    October 9, 2009

    but my spouse wouldn’t hear of it

    That was before I knew it was going to take 6 months! I’m reconsidering rapidly.

  6. #6 mean rachel
    October 9, 2009

    The company I work for specializes in shipping pets worldwide, so I totally feel your pain. We move CITES parrots quite often and not only is expensive for the consumer, but it’s nearly impossible to deal with the USDA and USFWS bureaucracy.
    It likely will take about six months to get the permit, unless you are one of the lucky ones. And, yes, don’t expect them to actually pay attention to the mailing address. I filled out an application, along with a power of attorney, for the permit to be sent back to my offices and they sent it to the customer’s address on the permit, which they had already moved out of!
    The commenter above who used to work for them got it right: remain calm and resolute. It’s nearly impossible sometimes, but there’s really no other solution.
    And – when push comes to shove and you need them to get their jobs done – go into their offices in person with donuts. Good luck.

  7. #7 justawriter
    October 9, 2009

    If your congressman has a good constituent services person, it may be possible they know who to make the proper phone call to to get things expedited. I know out here in the sticks it is the CS people who get their boss’ reeelcted by helping people navigate everything from medicare and social security to Army Corps of Engineer permits.

  8. #8 "GrrlScientist"
    October 9, 2009

    i have contacted my congresscritter and plan to visit his office soon. as in, as soon as i can after i’ve called USFWS to have a little chat with the biologist on duty (monday, probably). but i have no hope that my congresscritter can help for two reasons: his staff have been completely ineffective in getting my landlord to remove those extra charges levied against me for replacing the front door to the building — my smarmy landlord did not follow the legal procedure for levying this charge and thus, his tenants should not be liable for it — but this is something that apparently must be resolved in court, and that takes money (which i don’t have), and a strong and respectable congresscritter (which i don’t have). which leads me to the second reason i don’t think my congresscritter and his staff can do anything: congressman charlie rangell is my congresscritter, and he is under investigation for criminal activities. he’s not exactly an example of an upstanding citizen.

  9. #9 Rob W
    October 10, 2009

    I’d look harder at the option of finding new loving homes for your parrots.

    Moving a dog to France was far easier, apparently, but even jumping through all the hoops ourselves (including a visit to what I remember as an USDA office at the JFK airport… dunno why they’re forcing you to go to NJ), it still cost us a couple thousand bucks, a lot of time & effort (though not 6 months… damn), and the poor dog was quite traumatized by the voyage. Sure, the flight itself was only 7 hours… but all told she was forced to remain in the crate, covered in her own feces & urine, for more like 20 hours because of early drop-off requirements in NY, then various complications at the airport in Paris… including waiting for the *@#$%ing official veterinarian to get back from his very long lunch, and while I literally *ran* to different parts of the airport to get all the forms signed and fees paid (okay, so you pay HERE, then bring the payment voucher back to THIS building to pick up THIS form and get it signed in this OTHER building then…).

  10. #10 Gunnar Engblom
    October 11, 2009

    Wow Grrl. That is a drag! I am sure your mind right now is elsewhere than contemplating a week in Manu, Peru at the end of the month. If you´ll have all that wait to do and as there is noone occupying the Nov 2009 blogger spot, maybe that would suit you better…and it would give us more time to get punters.
    We have a volunteer entering one of the lodges next week and we hope all will be fully operational by November.
    Send me a line.
    Gunnar

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.