Things are moving really quickly now, and of course, I also had several emergencies I had to take care of, plus I have several other things I must do, such as must notify my DonorsChoose prize winners, and finish rewrites on a Nature piece that are overdue. (I’ve never missed a deadline before, so this alone is extremely stressful). So basically, my stress levels are still extremely high, but I’ve just traded one source of stressors for another.
All last week was a nightmare, since I had been calling all the East Coast offices of USFWS — as many as a dozen phone calls per day, trying to find someone who could help me find my missing CITES permit. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be home at any of the offices, so I left numerous voicemails and emails — none of which have been answered yet. On the one occasion when I actually did talk to a live person, I found the experience to be more upsetting than if I was merely shunted into voicemail.
I actually spoke with an agent at the JFK FWS office. After I explained the situation to her, she immediately blamed the US Postal Service for losing my permit — which I said was doubtful — and then she scolded me for not having a “contingency plan.” I was so offended and confused that I asked her what she meant by that comment. She informed me that I should have made two airline reservations two weeks apart, “just in case.” Wha?? Does she actually think I am so rich that I can afford to purchase two round-trip airline tickets? Is that what people normally do?
I found that suggestion to be asinine, especially because I made my flight reservations after my USFWS agent promised that I’d have my CITES permit by 31 October — and after I notified her about my travel plans, so it wasn’t as if this was a surprise.
After reading about my situation, a friend with contacts in the Washington DC USFWS office emailed and said I needed to get a duplicate permit immediately, so I spent Thursday morning at the library, printing the USFWS duplicate CITES permit application forms, filling them out and then running around on the subways, getting them to the nearest FedEx office so I could send them overnight to Washington DC (a cost of $21.25) for processing (which cost me yet another $50). My friend volunteered to pick up the duplicate permit at USFWS and FedEx it to me overnight. Fortunately, this worked like a charm, and I ended up with my duplicate CITES permit in my hands on Saturday at 1110am.
In the meantime, the movers arrived on Friday as they were supposed to, but they arrived three hours later than expected. There were four men, all hispanic, who packed my things while I helped, practiced my Spanish and generally tried to stay out of their way. It took these miraculous men six hours to pack, inventory, carry down four floors and load 100 boxes of items (mostly books) onto their truck. I was so daunted by the process that I don’t know what I would have done without them, although I did entertain fantasies of throwing everything out the window and running away. (Incidentally, it seems I might have overestimated the number of books in my collection: it’s possible that I only have 9,000 books.)
Amazingly, the birds were not intimidated by all the activity in the apartment. Instead, they seem genuinely interested. The movers had gone by 10pm, leaving me so utterly exhausted (even though i did almost nothing compared to what they did) that I barely had enough energy to clean up before I fell asleep on the floor next to my birds.
Now that my apartment has been emptied of everything (except the dirt), I realize why I have such a persistent mouse problem: there dozens of mouse holes chewed in the floorboards where they meet the walls. Despite the fact that I have been nailing metal can lids over the holes I found, there are many dozens more mouse holes that have been chewed literally everywhere — behind where my bookcases and file cabinet stood, behind the refrigerator, the stove and everywhere else you can imagine.
Despite the lack of food in the apartment, the mice are still here. A few moments ago, I stopped writing this so I could chase two mice through my apartment. It appears that they are living in the insulation of my refrigerator. It’s really disgusting and discouraging that I still have mice, despite the fact that I have no food in the apartment, and I routinely remove all food from the birds’ cages, clean every evening and take the garbage out before I go to sleep. It’s outrageous that the landlord is such a scum that he doesn’t care that his tenants are forced to live in such deplorable circumstances, but that’s what happens when an investment corporation controls the housing options for so many low-income and poor people.
Saturday was a big day: in addition to my CITES export permit, the shipping crate for the birds also arrived on Saturday. It was delivered by FedEx, but a different truck brought it out later in the day than the one that brought the CITES permit. This seems wasteful to make two separate visits to the same apartment on the same day, but I assume this is because FedEx handles overnight mail separately than all their other mail and parcels.
The crate is beautifully made (see below), so I am hopeful that USFWS will not find a problem with it when they inspect it on the day of my departure.
Here’s a close-up of an individual compartment (you can see the perch, and just barely see the edges of the food cups in the very front. There also is a handle on each side of the crate. I added the pine shavings to a depth of several inches);
Now, I wait for the German CITES authorities to issue an import permit. I will have a PDF of the permit, which should be good enough to get me onto the plane, while my spouse, who will meet me at customs in Frankfurt, will have the original document to show the officials.
The birds have an appointment on Wednesday morning with a local veterinarian (not my usual vet), who will issue a health certificate. This certificate is necessary for the birds to board the plane, and also is essential for the USDA to issue an EU health certificate. Fortunately, the birds are visiting the veterinarian on a day when no birds are present in the office, so their quarantine will not be broken.
As soon as I have this health certificate, the plan is to drop the birds off at the apartment, then set out for the USDA office at JFK, so the officials there can inspect it and endorse my EU (“bilingual”) health certificate — essential to boarding an international flight.
I find myself constantly worried that I’ve forgotten something crucial because the paperwork required for exporting and importing the birds is really very small considering the amount of anxiety it has generated.