Today is Saturday, and we are scheduled to depart on Wednesday, woo hoo!! There are still no direct flights from DC to Geneva, so we were booked on a United/Air Canada codeshare connecting through Montreal. It was a decent route with a two-hour layover and was only that much longer than our original direct flight. Plus they only charged 100 Canadian Dollars (about $75 USD) for our cat to go in the cabin.
BUT Air Canada kept cancelling the transatlantic portion of the route. And every time they did, I had to spend an hour on the phone with customer service transferring the cat from flight to flight. One day we were departing on the 5th, after it cancelled I requested we move to the 4th…then I realized that we COULDN’T do the 4th because our Swiss visas have us arriving on the 6th. (Our Swiss visas did come through in about a month with no problems, yay!) I believe it’s okay to arrive after your visa starts, just not before. So we moved to depart on the 6th, and that one cancelled, so I figured it was best to change routes.
We are now back to departing on the 5th and scheduled to transfer through Brussels on a United/Brussels Airlines codeshare. I called Brussels Airlines to book the cat, and they told me that the first leg is being operated by United, so I had to book the cat on United FIRST. I did that for $125 USD, then I called Bruss Air back…and they said that booking a cat on the Brussels-Geneva leg wasn’t possible. And why hadn’t I called first to confirm. I politely pointed out that I had called, and they told me to book United first. He looked again and said, “Oh, okay, no problem. I can do that for you.” Then he charged my credit card an additional $70 USD.
So fingers crossed that all works out. The dog, of course, is another story. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m using a pet shipper for him since he’s so big, and I’m sooooooooooooo glad that I did. Pet travel outside the cabin is crazy right now. There are a ton of flight restrictions, and many airlines aren’t transporting pets in the hold at all.
At the moment no pets are flying out of DC airports (again, unless they’re in the cabin), so my pet shipper is actually sending my dog on a truck up to JFK in New York, flying him in cargo from JFK to Zurich, where he will be processed through customs by a Swiss expeditor, and then put on another truck and delivered to our home in Geneva. This has pretty much doubled their original estimate. Part of me feels absolutely ridiculous for spending that much money on a dog, but as a friend pointed out…what are our options? Not take my son’s dog? I think he’s been through enough loss already. So I try to tell myself that it’s only a couple of months’ rent in DC, which we will no longer be paying!!
Now all I need is for their health certificates to come back from the USDA/APHIS office in New York. Some countries only require a health certificate for your pet to enter the country. Others require that the health certificate be officially approved and stamped by the USDA. We have an office in Richmond, VA, which is about two hours away, so in the past, I’ve simply made an appointment, driven down to Richmond, had them stamped, and went on our way. But due to coronavirus, the office is not taking appointments. So you either have to express mail your application to the office in New York or find a vet that can submit them electronically through the Veterinary Export Health Certification System (VEHCS). You still have to wait for them to print, stamp, and send the physical copy back to you. And it can be fairly nerve wracking when your health certificates must be done “within 10 days of arrival.”
Other than that, everything seems to be going smoothly (knock on wood). The packers came on Monday and packed out our two-bedroom apartment in a day. Then they picked up the car yesterday. I thought about having the interior cleaned beforehand, but I’ve heard of people receiving moldy vehicles and figured it would be a good idea to keep the humidity down before it spends a month in a container. I did try to buy some winter snow tires for it since they will probably be twice as expensive in Switzerland.
I called NTB two weeks ago Monday, and they said no problem, they could order them, have them that same day, and would call me when they came in. Well, they never called, so I called on Wednesday. They said they’d check the noon shipment and call me back. They never called. I called on Thursday and said if I couldn’t get them by Saturday, then I couldn’t pack them out on Monday. I never heard from them again. SOOOOOOOOOOO I guess I’ll be buying them in Switzerland!
Anyway, enough of the boring logistical stuff. Saying good-bye to people is always hard, and coronavirus is certainly making this departure a strange one. But I have managed to have two socially distant lunches in actual restaurants this last week…one with an OMS friend on home leave from Kabul and one with a friend that I worked with in London who has been my best DC lunch buddy! We have two more visits planned with transiting friends this weekend, a couple farewell phone calls, and two playdates for my kiddo.
Speaking of farewells, my fabulous co-OMS at work set up a lovely virtual farewell happy hour and a cool virtual card on kudoboards for me, which was super sweet and made me feel all warm and fuzzy and appreciated. I have really, really enjoyed working at FSI. The people are fantastic, and it was such a unique experience. I was definitely sad to say good-bye!
But we are still looking forward to Geneva! Since the cases in the US are blowing up, Switzerland has started to impose a strict 10-day quarantine on official US arrivals (US tourists are not yet allowed to enter the country)…no dog walking, no grocery shopping. And the US mission has asked us to remain in a looser quarantine for an additional four days. I am now extra happy that we have a yard and grocery delivery is available
So that’s where we are at the moment! With any luck, my next post will be from Switzerland!! Stay safe out there!!