Sunday, August 09, 2015

Përshëndetje nga Kosova

View of Pristina from our Balcony

I made it to Kosovo. I had expected to arrive tomorrow with Oskar, one of our cats, and Noostie, our dog. Instead, I arrived Thursday with Oskar and Cayenne, our bird.

Let me back up.

The whole language training fiasco threw a monkey wrench into all of our departure plans. So instead of leaving with my wife on July 22 as planned, I completed another four weeks of language training and retested on July 31.

Oh, and I got my waiver, on July 29. But I opted to test anyway, because I really believed I was at a 3/3 or better.

And I passed! Yay!

Looking on the bright side, I know that the extra time in one on one training really solidified my language. I actually felt pretty darn close to a 3+ on the day of the test. And brighter side, I made some lifelong friends among the teachers. So I am profoundly grateful for that.

Still, getting here was an ordeal (in fact, worst PCS ever), and it isn't over yet. My beloved dog is still in Virginia, and I will be worried sick until she gets here.

So my original plan (original as of the initial language test failure anyway) was to pack out our stuff for storage on Monday and Tuesday (August 3 and 4) and to depart on Wednesday, August 5 with the cat, dog and parrot. I did all the pet appointments on July 27th and overnighted the paperwork to the USDA for their health certificates that night. But mix ups regarding what exactly they needed from my vet ended up meaning that I had to pay a courier to drive the paperwork to me from Richmond on Tuesday.

Then I discovered that the airlines only allowed one pet in cargo (but four in cabin...I am not sure which planet that makes sense on). And Cayenne, my bird, was not cleared to transit Copenhagen, even though I had jumped through all of the hoops to get an EU health certificate (trust me, she does NOT have bird flu) and her CITES permit. So then I had to I send my bird to the pet shipper in hopes he can get her to me, or to my wife's cousin, who could keep her for two years? I am sure the movers were perplexed about why I was bawling on the front porch. I finally got through to a supervisor at Scandinavian who told me the decision to allow Cayenne to transit had to be made by a ministry in Denmark, which of course was closed. She offered to call me at 2 am when they opened with an update.

In the meantime, I had other reservations on a flight for Sunday. I would have my dog and cat with me on that one. And I assumed that was what I would be taking. So I relaxed a bit in my preparations, even planning for dinners with friends.

The call came at 2:30 am....still no approval for Cayenne on the flight. So I got up at about 8 and started cleaning a bit around the house.

And then the call came at 9:30...she is approved.

So now I am having to fast forward...I have to leave for the airport at 3 to be there by 3:55 for the 5:55 flight. That gave me five and a half hours to finish packing, mail a box of stuff that I had no room for in my suitcase, take Cayenne to the vet for her last checkup (seriously man, EU rules are strict!), and make arrangements for the dog to go to the boarding facility that will hopefully be able to ship her (if not, I will be flying back this weekend to bring her here as excess baggage).

It was seriously down to the wire, in fact, even more so than I thought. My taxi arrived a bit late because of traffic and we got to the airport a little later than I had hoped. The line for security was about five miles long, and they were letting some folks ahead because they needed to make their flights. But I had no worries, right? Plenty of time!

Except when I got to my gate, and was at the little store getting some water, I hear the LAST CALL for my flight. At like 4:40. So I saunter across to the gate and ask why they boarded so early. They said they got started early. So I board, find my seat. Everyone else is seated. And we pull away from the gate at 5:15. It was only then that I looked at my ticket again (I didn't have a printed copy, just a link on my phone) and saw that my flight was at 5:15, not 5:55! It was the Sunday flight that was at 5:55! In hindsight, I am glad I didn't know.

So we are here. Noostie should get her new health certificate Tuesday and be eligible to fly until the 19th. Please pray. if you are the praying sort, that she gets here safely sooner rather than later. There is a doggie-sized hole in my heart right now and I need her home and to have my family together.

I do think once Noostie is here, I will be really happy here. It is great to be back with my wife so we can explore together. Our apartment is ginormous and really nice and is about a block and a half from the embassy. Even with my bad knees, I can walk it easily. The embassy compound is nice and I seem to have an awesome staff. I am excited to work with them.

The city so far seems nice, with a great restaurant scene and some decent grocery stores. And of course we have the commissary at work and the PX at the KFOR Base for the must-have American goods, including diet Mt. Dew (which my amazing wife actually had waiting for me in the fridge when I got here!).

Also great, our UAB had already arrived and was even mostly unpacked! So we have stuff!

Life is good.

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