Monday, April 25, 2016

Visas? We got 'em.

It's official! Argentina approved our visas. There's no stopping us now, you know, once we buy flights and get our cat's paperwork squared away... (Yes, I know this is a picture of passports... but the visas are... our passports... to entering the country. Besides, the actual visas are pretty plain looking.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of a Pet Owner

This isn't my cat, but I think mine would hate this just as much.
Just a quick reminder, if you've been thinking about getting a pet while in the Foreign Service. Go ahead and don't do that. We love our cat, but... she won't be replaced when she eventually passes. Transferring our cat between posts has been a challenge.

Vet in Chennai: $40
Quarantine office expediter in Chennai: $200
Pet in cabin fee for flight to US: $150
Vet in US for vaccine + health certificate (two visits): $150
Pet in cabin fee for flight to BA: $125

That's $665 to move the pet, which isn't so bad. The real pain came from the side consequences.

Since I was travelling with the cat, we didn't want to take Consultations at the beginning or end of home leave (cat-hotel-fees are often vary expensive and would be a hassle), so we agreed to cost construct our flights to take my consultation days in the middle of home leave. What we didn't realize (at the time) was that choise locked us in to flying to post from DC (or cost-constructing our flight based on that value). We've since learned that it costs half as much for the government to fly us from DC to Buenos Aires as it does from our home leave location in Florida. Cost construct flights would have cost us almost $550 extra per person, on top of the $55 fee for doing so. Looking at $1700 to split the fare from Florida to Buenos Aires... we decided to book our own flights. I mean heck, for $2000 we could fly direct on Areolineas Argentinas (which we couldn't do using government tickets, due to the Fly America Act). It sucks to shell out for our own flights, but maybe in some twisted way it'd be worth it to cut our flight time from 15 hours to 9.5. Or so we thought. Unfortunately, that airline (and almost every airline) doesn't allow pets in cabin to travel to Argentina. Cargo travel is notoriously bad for animals, so we're back to looking at 15 hour connecting flights. The only saving grace was that we were able to use credit card points to book our flights (90,000 Chase Sapphire points, transferred to United + $250 for taxes). That's slightly cheaper ($1150 dollar value, since the Sapphire points could have been redeemed for one cent each of cash).

Running total: $1800

Now, some of that cost is obviously due to my mistake and lack of understanding how my flights would work if I split my home leave... Still, it never would have come up, if I hadn't had the cat, because we would have scheduled our consultations at the end of our home leave, thus negating the problem all together. As I said, we love our cat... and although transferring and home leave have been stressful for all of us, she's the only one that has no understanding of what's happening or why. (Not that our three year old fully grasps the concept either.)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Disasters in the Foreign Service

Floods, Earthquakes, and House Fires. Since joining the Foreign Service, I've known people who have had to deal with each of these disasters. It's an interesting thought, but "what types of disasters happen" may be as good a reason to bid or not bid on a post as any other. I mean, if you're terrified of Tornadoes (let's be honest, who isn't?), maybe living in Kansas isn't for you. The same applies for every other type of disaster, because... you name the disaster, there's a Post where that's the primary danger. I guess it makes sense why so many people in this job have insurance on their household goods (and others are sorry they don't, when something happens.)

This post is just my round-about (and much delayed) way of telling my friend, "I'm sorry your house burned down."  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Two Years in India, Week 92: Farewell Early.

Six hundred forty four days ago, my wife, son, two cats, and I landed in Chennai, in the middle of the night, after 20+ hours of travel, to begin a new chapter of our lives. Everything had changed, new house, new job, new country, heck, new hemisphere. We've had a wonderful time in India and are sorry to leave early. My tour was 24 months long and I originally thought I'd be pushing it to 25. However, my next Post needed me early, so I'm leaving after a mere 21 months. I can't help but feel like I'm "leaving the party early" since most of my friends have 6 or more months left in Chennai.

I've heard India described as "Incredible India" and as "(I)'ll (N)ever (D)o (I)t (A)gain." However, we've recently taken to saying, "India: it's different every time." We'll miss the endless source of entertainment that everyday events here offer through their seemingly random way of getting done. Most of all, we'll miss how friendly everyone has been. As a(n obvious) foreigner, the people in Chennai treated us as honored guests to their country, and we've felt truly welcomed.

Onward to home leave and Buenos Aires, may it be half as much fun as India was!

(PS: The picture isn't actually of me.)