Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Moving Overseas, Part 4

I was so upset about the likelihood that I would spend the next six months (or probably longer) trapped in a bureaucratic cesspool of confusion and conflicting information whilst spending thousands of dollars on rent, penalties and veterinary bills, that I was ready to do something drastic. So I called USFWS.

The USFWS computerized telephone voice warned me that they are experiencing “significant delays” in processing CITES permit applications for birds, so I expected I’d only be able to talk to a real person after appealing to my congresscritter, Charlie Rangell, who is under investigation for criminal activities. But astonishingly, after only five minutes or so of pushing buttons and navigating the USFWS computerized phone system, I found myself talking to a real, live person: the biologist on duty for the day.

I was so flabbergasted that I was momentarily unable to speak. But once I started, my whole story poured out .. four, five, sentences — one sentence per dilemma — and I ended up angry at this ridiculously complicated process that reduces a rational person to tears and angry at myself for being so weak in front of a total stranger.

When I stopped, there was dead silence on the other end of the phone. Had the mysterious stranger hung up on me? I held my breath, wondering if the phone had died on me yet again. Finally, I heard him exhale and he told me that I also have to get CITES import permits from the Germans — something I never knew — and I need to have a German veterinarian to work with (I am working on getting this set up) and then he told me my agent’s name — Katherine — and her phone number so I could call her directly and ask her to expedite the process.

So I called Katherine. I listened to her very long voicemail greeting that warned not to use profanity or threats and not to call ten dozen times per day and half a dozen other unacceptable behaviors. I ended up leaving my message, telling her my PRT case number, my name and my phone number, my situation and then begged her to please please please expedite this process, and I would tell her anything, I would do anything — I’d bake her cookies! — if she could just please speed up this process.

And that was all. After I hung up, I realized that even though it was only noon, the holiday weekend had started. I would have to wait at least three days before Katherine even hears my message, and I wondered how many other dozens of messages like mine she has to listen to and would she even care about my situation?

And then I waited for the most reliable part of this relocation to happen: the moving company representative, Wayne, was coming out this evening. But he never showed up, nor did he call or send email telling me what the problem was.

I am starting to think that unless I jump on a plane and leave with just the clothes on my back, I’ll never see my spouse again, and I’ll never escape my miserable dead-end existence in this country.

Comments

  1. #1 Elf Eye
    October 10, 2009

    I once read an article about companies that specialize in shepherding people’s pets and service animals through the steps necessary to take them overseas. I don’t recall how much such companies charge on average, but since you are looking at the possibility of paying thousands of dollars if the process is not completed in time, maybe it might be worth looking into. I wish I could remember where I read the article!

  2. #2 Pblamf
    October 10, 2009

    As a former military member, I’ve heard dozens of horror stories about overseas moves. Although I never had to undertake one myself, I picked up a few things from friends who did. First and foremost, anything essential should be either on your person or mailed to where you are going. Don’t plan on seeing anything the movers pick up for a few months (up to six). It won’t necessarily take that long, but it could. As far animals go, look into private carriers, particularly ones that cater to exotic animal owners and/or wealthy clientele. It’s definitely the expensive route (for example: $3800 to move two common house cats from California to Guam), but they always seem to know some people that know some people that can get animals through without any issues. Sorry to hear you’re having so many issues, and I hope my advice was helpful.

  3. #3 "GrrlScientist"
    October 10, 2009

    *gulp*

    $3800 to move two housecats to guam??

    the dollar signs are flying across my line of vision for what it will cost to move five parrots to germany .. and, as i’ve suspected (but haven’t yet checked out) the expense to move my birds will easily exceed that by a sum that makes my rent, penalties and veterinary bills look trivial. already, the cost for boarding my birds exceeds my own monthly rent + penalties by a princely sum, and that doesn’t take into account that one of my birds might be diabetic — a situation that raises the cost of boarding by quite a lot if she needs daily medications (i will learn more about her health next week).

  4. #4 Ian
    October 10, 2009

    With respect to moving cats to Guam, presumably Guam is rabies-free, so a big chunk of the cost may be related to that.

  5. #5 Barn Owl
    October 10, 2009

    I wish I could help you out, Grrl, by parrot-sitting your birds for a few months until their permits came through and they could be sent to you in Germany. I have a room in which the birds could stay safely, and I have no pet birds at the moment, though I’ve kept cockatiels and budgerigars in the past, and pet-sat Amazon parrots and African Grey parrots that belonged to friends. But sending your birds to Texas temporarily would add shipping expenses and possibly trauma, and I don’t know whether it would interfere with or slow the process of getting your international permits. Transporting birds within the US is not especially difficult or restricted, IIRC; requires a recent health certification from a vet, and that’s about it.

  6. #6 Daniel J. Andrews
    October 10, 2009

    Aye!! What a bureaucratic nightmare!!! Wish I had some solutions, but last time I moved overseas I was 5 years old.

    Ah, I do have some advice after all: Wash your stuffed toy leopard more than a week ahead of time because if you leave it till later it won’t dry out and you have to leave it behind–my heart just broke, I’m still traumatized :-).

    Please keep blogging about this…it’ll make the eventual happy ending all the sweeter for your readers, and especially for you! Best wishes, GrrlScientist!!

  7. #7 Jeff Knapp
    October 11, 2009

    Grrl, I know you hate to hear this. And it is not the answer you want but, it may very well be time to consider finding new homes for the parrots. It is very clear that the red tape that exists is there to discourage moving pets – especially “exotic” ones – overseas. It sucks big time but, that may be the unavoidable reality. For your own mental health and well being, think about this very carefully and, of course, talk to your husband about it. Get his input. Make a decision together as partners since that is now what you two are. I had to give up a cat I really loved a couple of years ago. It was hard and it hurt so I get the anguish you are dealing with here.

    Most important is to take care of yourself first, then your new marriage second, your birds come third.

    Gawd, I really sound like a dad here, don’t I?

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