After experiencing astonishing frustration levels, I decided that relocating overseas is just like finishing the PhD, except it's far more confusing and there's no clear authority figure (like an adviser, a departmental chair or a dean) to appeal to when everything goes to hell. But I have to do what I did in grad school: I have to (somehow) control the USFWS and the USDA instead of allowing them to control me.
In this situation, this requires that I spend a lot of time researching every possible angle involved with the export and import process and become as expert as all the agents and their supervisors. I then discussed this situation and my resolution at length with my spouse and also with a very kind stranger, Jim, at the pub, and have developed a plan for how I am going to do this.
- First, I am reworking my timeline so that "Day Zero" is the day that the birds and I are on the flight to Germany. "Minus Days" are those spent in the USA, working towards exporting the birds, and "Plus Days" are those after we've all arrived in Germany. This sounds incredibly simple but believe me, this one change from "Day Zero" being the day when I dropped my CITES application into the mailbox to the day when we are on the plane makes a huge difference in how I think about this process.
- Second, in view of the fact that USFWS does not provide information that is consistent from one agent to the next, nor from one department to the next, nor even between different levels of authority in the same department, I will be ready to talk with my agent, Katherine, tomorrow morning to learn precisely which steps of the CITES permit process can be sped up and which cannot. Then I will focus my energies on those steps that can be expedited by providing Katherine with whatever it takes for her to speed the process. I will also connect with Katherine's supervisor(s) to learn which parts of this process s/he has the power to expedite that Katherine cannot. And then I am going to be ready to drop everything on a moment's notice if I have to visit the office in Washington DC, freshly baked cookies and coffee in-hand.
- Third, I can only assume that the USDA will be similarly confusing to deal with, so I am going to start by finding out precisely where I need to go to get the USDA health certificate process completed (astonishingly, I've even gotten conflicting information for this!). Once I've learned this, I will schedule an informational interview for as soon as possible -- this week, hopefully. While there, I will make detailed notes about the process required and have the agent go over my notes to make sure I've got every tiny little miniscule detail written down in the correct order on my timeline, and I will make sure that I know exactly which paperwork I need to give them, what information this paperwork absolutely must include, who I am giving this paperwork to, and which steps in this process can be sped up. Then I will get the contact information for exactly who I need to contact to make sure the process is expedited and of course, I will be ready to apply the cookies-and-coffee bribe .. er, option .. to ensure this process happens as it should.
- Fourth, my spouse is in contact with the German CITES officials and will also contact a German veterinarian (as soon as I get the contact information). Then with the help of several German volunteers (whom I've not yet contacted, but those emails will arrive soon!), he will learn about the import process at his end and I will provide him with all the necessary paperwork so he can get that end of the process going and all the papers filed correctly.
- Fifth, since I received another email estimate for moving costs this weekend, and it was nearly twice what the mysterious Wayne quoted, I am going to have to contact Wayne again to find out why he didn't show up last Friday evening, as scheduled, to make a written estimate. At that point, I can decide whether his company is as flaky as he apparently is (I do recognize the fact that the entire NYC subway and bus system is seriously borked from last Friday afternoon until tomorrow at 5am, so there is room for forgiveness here).
And that's all for now, folks.
FIVE?? I do not envy you. Are you taking them in the cabin with you?
... freshly baked cookies and coffee in-hand.
A friend of mine brings a platter of home-made cookies with her every time she has to have her car worked on.
So far, it's always gotten her excellent service (despite my fretting that some mechanic will like them so much he finds a way to get her back in the garage sooner).