3 flights from Newark and here we are! We just got done unpacking everything at our extended stay place and thought I'd jot down a little something while my partner works on the application form for the Foreign Resident Registration Office (FRRO). He's jet-lagged and exhausted, which isn't making the insanity that is the FRRO process any better. We have an appointment with them on Monday afternoon.
The flights were brutal. We were edgy because of the time difference and neither of us sleep well on planes. The early morning layover from 6am - 12:30pm in Frankfurt was a tortuous game of Who Can Stay Awake the Longest?, and a 1:28am arrival in Mumbai followed by a mid-morning departure to Pune meant we got a whopping 5 hours at the hotel, just enough to shower and take a quick nap. If I had to do this again, I'd stay overnight in Frankfurt, and take a later flight to Pune from Mumbai.
Also, I'd do a little research on tipping. I have absolutely no idea who I'm supposed to tip or how much is expected for certain services. Like the porter who took our motherlode of stuff to the hotel van from the baggage claim. I had heard that 250 Rs. was sufficient for this, but when my partner gave that to him he balked and recounted with exclaimed passion just how heavy they were and what a "great strong services" he provided. Of course we're aware of the Rs. to USD exchange rate and felt bad about haggling over a few lost dollars, especially with such a theatrical rebuttal, so he walked away with 500 Rs, and we walked away wondering if we needed to reevaluate our gratuity game-plan.
Flying with Stella was smooth, and getting her checked out at the Mumbai airport was absolutely seamless. The quarantine officer met us at the baggage claim, was friendly, and quickly processed Stella through. It couldn't have taken more than ten minutes. We handed him our original copies of the Annexure I Form, the Declaration Form, and the "Undertaking & Export" Certificate (read about the required dog importation documentation here) and off we went. We were told she needs to have a final examination by a local vet, but I think I was delirious at that point so am waiting for confirmation on that.
Both the Blue Buffalo Basics Salmon and Potato Recipe dog food (the link is here) and a package of Greenies got through customs, which we were super psyched about. I was certainly not looking forward to crafting a hotel room snack bar dinner for her as an alternative.
So, my partner is going to work starting Monday, and hopefully around that time I will start looking for apartments. It will be nice to establish a routine, make some new friends, and start getting comfortable in our new hometown.
Today's the big day, our flight is this afternoon and everything is ready to go. We're spending our final hours hanging out and blogging in the hotel we've called home for the past three weeks. The car is gone, the farewell fanfare is over, there are almost no more "last's" left, and our time here is done.
We had a few last minute upsets. An early-morning trip to the doctor for antibiotics yesterday (turns out I have an ear and sinus infection), missing the chance to say goodbye to my parents (mom's recovering from surgery and didn't want to get sick), not making it to Florida to see my sister and her family, our wild dash to scour dog food ingredient lists at PetSmart after finding out yesterday that Stella's couldn't be imported (some customs info re: food items here if you're interested), and having to leave behind the beautiful, sharp, one-pound block of Vermont Cheddar from my friend Katie, which I'm sure I'll be craving in a few months.
I'm nervous, excited, a little sad, a lotta anxious, and beginning to feel the fullness of the pregnant pause that will fill the gaps between here and Pune. This is an adventure that some people dream about for years, maybe even their entire lives, and I'm incredibly humbled and grateful to be able to live it.
Over the past six months of preparing for this move, I have found that the most important thing in my life are the relationships I've made. I could have never done this without the love and support of family, friends, and an incredible, brilliant partner who is just as psyched to be taking on this challenge as I am. It's an amazing thing to feel cared for, and it's something I have felt that in all of the good-bye dinners, the sweet cards, emails, well wishes, wall posts on Facebook, offers of help, promises to visit, and conversations.
I know that, in addition to all the excitement and glittery newness, the first few months in India will, at times, be isolating, unfair, disorienting, confusing, and scary to me. It puts me at ease to know that a familiar voice is only a phone call or video chat away.
My parting thought: India, we're on our way, whether we're ready or not. Please go easy on us :-)
Last week we received the Bill of Lading from the shipping company for the pet relocation agent (we are using Furry Flyers) to get the No Objection Certificate (NOC), and after a few days I can happily say she's ready to fly.
We've outfitted her crate with the aid of another blog I found. I taped a ziploc bag to the top that has an info sheet containing our flight details, a photo, copies of her vaccination record, the NOC, International Health Certificate (Form 7001), Annexure I form, and Declaration Form. I was told that we would not need an acclimatization form by Lufthansa (the USDA seconded this), and that the required "LIVE ANIMAL" stickers would be provided at check in.
I secured 2 bowls on the inside of the front door for food and water, and will freeze the water bowl to avoid making a mess. An absorbant mat is on the bottom. Outside the crate I've attached a pouch that has baggies of food and her leash and collar so that she can be taken care of in Frankfurt at the Pet Hotel. Before we leave, I'll be sure that her last meal is at least 4 hours from takeoff, and to NOT give her any type of tranquilizer.
I'm not looking forward to the stress level of moving day with Stella. The temperature is supposed to be frigid, just 16˚F (-9˚C) as a high and 2˚F (-17˚C) as a low, which has me worried, even though I was told that the only time she will be exposed to those temps is when she's being transported from the holding area to the plane. It will be a looooooooong wait for me until I hear that she's made it on safely and is comfortable in the plane.
I don't want to admit the hours I have spent worrying about getting Stella into India with us. She is a source of great joy in our lives and to not have her with us would be devastatingly heart-breaking.
After all of my worry and research I've learned the bottom line is this: there are airline- and country-specific regulations and they are subject to change. Furthermore, using the internet to search for clarity is like using Google to self-diagnose symptoms in the middle of the night: the common cold easily turns into CERTAIN DEATH SYNDROME. Cue panic. Which is exactly what happened to me a few nights ago when I thought we had missed a deadline to get Stella's NOC. I don't wish that kind of dread on anyone so here's some info that I hope will be helpful if you're in a similar situation.
The best sources for information for us ended up being: the USDA office and website, our airline websites and customer service centers, and a pet relocation company in India.
Here is a list of steps we took and the documents we obtained for import along with some notes on each. I want to point out that this is only our experience and as I mentioned before, regulations change. Your case may be different depending on how old this post is when you read it, where you're coming from, what airline you're flying, what kind of dog you have, and a slew of other variables.
I've listed them by the order in which we completed them because we needed some of them in order to get the others:
-- Annexure I form
-- Vaccination records
-- A copy of every page in the primary owner's passport, (very important to
scan the Indian visa)
-- A copy of primary owner's job offer letter to support that we are transferring
-- Copy of Airway Bill (air shipment) and Bill of Lading (sea shipment) from our
household goods shipments to support transfer of residency
-- Copies of our plane tickets
-- Recent picture of Stella
-- There are also additional forms and letters we needed to fill out, but they
supplied us with the templates so that it was relatively easy to just put our
Right now we are waiting for the Bill of Lading from our household goods shipment, which we can't get until our liaison in India clears it for transit. After that, our pet relocation agent will get our No Objection Certificate and we should be cleared to fly. It is my understanding that we will not receive the NOC, but rather it will be kept on file for retrieval upon our arrival by the quarantine officer.
We're flying Lufthansa from Newark (EWR) to Frankfurt (FRA) to Mumbai (BOM), and Jet Airways to Pune (PNQ) over a two day span. We chose Lufthansa and Jet Airways because they were recommended to us by several people. They only allow a small number of pets on their planes, and dealing with them has been smooth so far.
Frankfurt has a Pet Hotel where the airline will feed, water, and take Stella to the bathroom during our 5-hour layover. We need to fly into Mumbai before heading to Pune because only certain airports have quarantine centers that can process animals. They are: Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Kolkata.
We used our airline's websites to guide us through setting up her crate, and I'll post pictures when it's all set up.
Check out what happened at our place last week...
Yup, it's all gone!
Over two days I watched everything in our home get padded, boxed, and loaded into a truck. Five guys moved from room to room like a high speed train with no brakes in a dizzying blur of brown paper, bubble wrap, and squeaky packing tape, leaving us with an eerily cleared out home and a few rejected items that they couldn't put in the shipment for customs reasons. Mostly opened food stuff in the kitchen, my partner's recurve bow and practice arrows (falls under the prohibited section as "weapons"), our plants (obviously), and aerosol cans.
We were given two household goods (HHG) shipments: a sea shipment (est. arrival in Mumbai is 6-8 wks and 4-5 business days to clear customs), and an air shipment (est. arrival 2-3 wks + 2-3 business days at customs) which I only found out about the day before the movers came. I've heard varying experiences and opinions about how long it'll be before we see our things again so am interested to see where ours will fit in. Honestly, I think I really didn't make the best use of the air shipment and I have a feeling that we'll be living in an empty apartment for a while. We'll see about all that.
With our stuff gone, we're spending the last 2.5 weeks in a hotel near my partner's office. Seeing our empty place as we cleaned it for the last time was a little sad, but I'm happy that all the obsessive organizing and hyper-planned packing for 8-10 weeks of necessities is done.
And, my favorite thing about all this is I can finally say goodbye to the UGLIEST KITCHEN EVER! Bye bye hideous fake marble linoleum floor, overhead fluorescent light, and ancient always-sticky kitchen cabinets!!!! WON'T be missing you!
Happy New Year!
My partner and I just got back from our vacation on St. John, USVI where we spent Christmas snorkeling and relaxing on the beach. It was a much needed break from work and moving to-do's, but it's nice to be home and getting things done for the move, like FINALLY booking our ONE WAY TICKETS this morning!
Turns out we are being delayed a week due to impending projects for Marc's work, but I'm not complaining about that because it gives me more time to spend with friends and family before we leave on the 28th. :-)
My last day at work was yesterday. I submitted my final expense report, disconnected my business phone and data accounts, sent farewell emails, and said goodbye to my company car, laptop, and iPad all in a few hours. It was a surreal experience. I will miss my job and my colleagues, but I am excited to see where this new adventure takes me.
Marc's employment (E) visa and my entry (X) visa were finally sent to us after being in processing since November 21st, which means we can get the ball rolling on our household goods shipment. On Monday surveyors are coming to our house from the shipping company to assess the amount of our household goods shipment and hopefully we can get it all packed and in transit by the end of the week or the beginning of the following week.
Our liaison in India confirmed that we can pack toiletries and unopened food items; jars/cans of familiar foods and Stella's big bag of dog food will be a welcomed sight for sure! I wish I knew how long it will take our shipment to get to Mumbai, and how long after that it will take to clear customs, but I think there are several factors that could affect this.
Speaking of Stella, we went to the vet last week and she got a microchip (around $75.00), a rabies shot (around $35.00), and a general wellness exam. We had to be sure that the rabies vaccination was given more than 30 days prior to our flight but not older than a year, and that it was a killed vaccine. I bought her a year of heartworm meds and flea and tick prevention as well so that we are prepared for the immediate future. All said and done the visit was around $275.00. The microchip is a 15-digit international chip, and though it is not required for import, we liked the added security of being able to register her online in case she is lost, heaven forbid. I registered the chip online as soon as I got home. She didn't need anesthesia for it, and it was a very quick procedure, less than 2 minutes.
It will be a busy week next week, and I'm thankful that I can devote 100% of my time to making sure we're all set to go.