Arrival in Guadalajara

We arrived in Guadalajara on Tuesday after a wonderfully short flight time of about an hour-and-fifty minutes, which is particularly great with two small kiddos in tow.

The terminal at IAH was not crowded at all, which made getting everyone and everything checked in a bit less hectic. DiploMom handled getting all the bags checked while I handled getting DiploDog squared away.

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We were very pleased that we were able to bring DiploDog along as checked baggage since it meant she would not have to be processed through cargo in Guadalajara and we would not need a customs broker to get her out, which apparently could cost around $1,000.  Insane!

Smooth flight. Check. Smooth entrance through immigration. Check. All the bags arrived. Check. Here comes DiploDog with the other bags. Check.

The only other item I was holding my breath a bit on was getting through customs and out of the airport with DiploDog. We had all of our paperwork, but one never knows with such a bureaucratic process. Thankfully the process was fairly quick and everyone was very nice.

Time to unload for your exam, DiploDog.

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With DiploDog squared away, we had the paperwork we needed to provide to customs and we were then out of the airport to meet our sponsors and get loaded into a motor pool van to head to our housing assignment.

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The traveling circus was on its way.

We are very pleased with our housing assignment. There are about eight other consulate families in the neighborhood and we have already managed to meet a few of them. Everyone has been quite helpful. Our sponsors that picked us up took great care of us by setting us up with some meals in our refrigerator that just needed to be heated up. They also took me to Walmart for an initial grocery run.

On Wednesday night we had one of the most insane thunderstorms I have ever experienced. We had just gone to bed when things really ramped up with driving rain and hail. I commented that I was surprised that we had not lost power yet and a few minutes later, my surprise was over.

What I wasn’t expecting was how long the power would be out. It went out at around 10:00 pm on Wednesday and was not back on until 4:30 pm on Thursday. Our neighbors who have been at post for a year told us that the power had never been out like that before. When it had gone out, it was usually for around 5 minutes or so. We later found out that a tree had fallen into a transformer so that helped explain things a bit more.

All in all, so far, so good. Internet is hopefully getting installed on Monday or Tuesday and we’ve been able to look at a couple of school options that are very close by for DiploTot. There is WiFi at the neighborhood club house so we can be a bit more connected in the mean time. Our UAB was delivered to us on Wednesday and our car may arrive by the middle of next week.

The Final Pack Out

Since we were still in our house for about 8 days after our pack out, we still needed to have a few things around, such as food, cleaning supplies, bed for DiploDog etc. We told Francisca she could have whatever we left behind.

We got a photo from Dulce today of that final pack out. Francisca’s son Luis borrowed a truck to help and here is what it looked like. Toyota trucks are the work horses of Guatemala.

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They have a couple of dogs. Here is Sisi on DiploDog’s old bed. She definitely has room to spread out.

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Traveling Home

The final leg of the trip home is always the most hectic. Loading up and getting to the airport with so many bags always makes things interesting. I’m trying to figure out how we can travel to Guadalajara with fewer bags, but I’m not seeing how that is going to be possible.

Here is everything waiting to get get loaded onto the van from the embassy motor pool, minus the water jugs, of course.

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The crate for DiploDog went in first, then everything else.

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DiploTot was able to enjoy a special morning cupcake. On the way to the airport, we made a quick stop at her school to drop them off for her class and to say goodbye to her teacher.

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After that is was onto the airport. After rounding up two porters, we got everything loaded and into the airport, making a concerted effort in the chaos of the loading process to make sure any small backpacks didn’t get snatched. So close to being on our way, the last thing we wanted was for anything to get stolen.

The great thing about the airport is that it isn’t totally packed, which made the process of getting all the bags checked in, not to mention getting DiploDog checked in as well, much less crazy.

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Bags checked and we are ready to roll.

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The Kindle Fire tablet kept DiploTot occupied for the entire flight. I know she would normally have fallen asleep, but there was no way she was letting herself do that with shows to watch. DiploBoy finally managed to snooze for about an hour-and-a-half. We really appreciate the short flight to get to Houston and the short flight we will have to get to Guadalajara. I can’t imagine having some 10 or longer flight with connections.

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When we arrived at baggage claim in Houston, the first thing we saw was DiploDog. She was just kind of randomly sitting there. It didn’t appear to any kind of official pick up location, nor was there anyone official in the vicinity. She was very excited when she saw us, so I let her out and put her leash on. That lasted for about five or ten minutes until an agent with customs exited a nearby door with a beagle and told me I had to have DiploDog back in the crate.

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We got her crate on a luggage cart and managed to get the rest of our bags. Thankfully a couple of helpful staff helped push all of our stuff out through customs and outside of the airport where we loaded everything into the in-laws’ cars. It is good to be back!

Carless

Our car was picked up this afternoon.  In the past, one could not bring a car into Mexico that was older than five years. We are glad that has changed since we have been really pleased with this car that we bought from an officer that was leaving Guatemala shortly before we arrived.

It was wonderful to have the car waiting for us when we arrived.  We’ll have to wait a bit longer this time around, but we are hoping we’ll be able to receive the car in Guadalajara about 6 weeks after arriving.  We’re also hoping we get to keep the blackout window tinting. I’ve really grown accustomed to the fact that no one can see us inside when we are out and about.

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Pack Out II

It is a big relief once everything is packed. Then we’re ready to get things cleared out of the house and loaded. First up was our HHE, which came in at 7,102 lbs and filled 8 crates.

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As boxes were loaded in, I checked off the numbers. This was then compared to the checks on the movers list to ensure that everything was accounted for.

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After the first 6 crates were loaded, the truck departed for the warehouse and then returned with more to finish our HHE and to start on our storage shipment.

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Our storage shipment wrapped up fairly quickly the next morning and came in at 3,746 lbs and 7 crates.

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A huge weight was lifted once the truck departed with the last of the freight and we were finally finished. We have a small bit of loaner furniture from the embassy to get us through until we leave post.

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The morning that the movers arrive is always stressful. We’ve tried to do as much in advance as we can and we are hoping that our UAB will not exceed 700 lbs and that the what we are planning to ship to Guadalajara won’t exceed 7,200 lbs. We did a good bit of sorting and arranging in advance, which paid off in a smoother moving experience once the controlled chaos of the men arriving began.

Our UAB was sorted in guest room and out in the foyer area. We were able to ship everything that we had planned, as our total weight came in at around 640 lbs.

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It’s fairly crazy watching the packers get after it. They were very quick, yet very meticulous in how they packed boxes and in how they wrapped and protected furniture.

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It took two days to get everything packed and ready to load onto the truck. Then it was time to load our HHE going to Guadalajara and everything else that was going back to storage in Maryland.

 

Reunited And It Feels So Good

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DiploDog finally made it to Guatemala City yesterday after a week-long delay thanks to the incompetence of the shipper we were using, Club Pet International. I’ll have more to say about them later, but to any Department of State employees who need to get their pet overseas, I most definitely cannot recommend them.

DiploDog flew out from Dulles on Wednesday afternoon and had to spend the night at the pet hotel at Intercontinental in Houston so she could board the first morning flight on Thursday down to Guatemala City. With DiploDog’s delay, she had now been away from us for an entire month, so needless to say, we were quite anxious to get her back. We headed to the airport about an hour before her flight was scheduled to land in order to meet up with the local customs broker we had to hire who was helping to get DiploDog out of customs as quickly as possible.

After meeting up with the broker, DiploMom handed over her passport to him (which feels very awkward to do, by the way) and he headed into the airport to await the plane’s arrival. At this point, the anxious waiting began. DiploMom commented that she felt more nervous during this waiting period than when she was heading in for her c-section for DiploTot. After all the snafus with Club Pet, we half expected the wrong dog to arrive or for something to have happened to DiploDog along the way.

After what felt like an eternity, but was actually a pretty short amount of time after the plane landed, the broker came wheeling out DiploDog’s crate and we ran out to greet her. DiploDog was very excited and was attempting her usual excited “squeaking” but not much came out as she was hoarse, I suppose after having squeaked her head off over the course of the past several days. At this point we had quite a crowd of locals gathering around trying to see the dog in the big crate. I had forgotten that the crate would be zip-tied and I had left my pocket knife back at the house. DiploDog was getting quite anxious to get out (for multiple reasons as we will learn later) and we were trying to figure out how we were going to get the ties cut.

Fortunately a taxi driver that had come over to check things out had a pocket knife that he handed over for me to use. With DiploDog freed, I attached her leash and we got ready to get back to our car. DiploDog was pretty excited to be out and was pulling a good bit. We navigated across to the other side of the arrivals area with the broker behind pushing the crate. Not long after reaching the other side, DiploDog stopped to take the longest pee I have ever seen, right there on the pavement. It must have gone on for over 30 seconds. No wonder she was extra excited to get out of the crate! We felt bad just continuing on, but there wasn’t any way to really tend to the mess.

With that out of the way we kept the train moving and worked our way up the ramp to get us back to the level we needed to exit and get to our car. Halfway up the ramp, DiploDog pauses again and squats to take a big dump. Well she’s two for two at this point! Fortunately we were better prepared for this and were able to get a poop bag out of DiploTot’s diaper bag to tend to the business. I imagine after all of this DiploDog felt much better. Poor thing, who knows how long she had been holding in. I’m not sure what the broker must have thought about all of this, bit I think he might have been a bit thrown by it all.

We finally got to our car and got everyone loaded up and got on our way back home. We breathed a huge sigh of relief as the entire process was a bit stressful. The airport wasn’t a totally sketchy place, but we felt a bit vulnerable since we had to bring more stuff with us and had extra cash and both of our passports. With all the activity surrounding DiploDog, it was easy to get distracted, which is what thieves are looking for.

DiploDog took the house quite well and got busy exploring every room. This is going to be a great setup for her and I am thrilled to have a yard again and to not have to ride an elevator down to get outside whenever she needs to do her business. With the awesome weather, she is going to get plenty of walks and there is also a great nature area in the neighborhood with some paths that meander down in a ravine-type area, so lots to sniff and explore.

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The tile floors are great for cooling down and she’ll likely get to take a dip in the pool this weekend. It is great to have the entire family back together after all of these weeks and DiploTot also seemed happy to have her friend back as well.

Settling In & Setting Records

[dropcap style=”font-size: 45px; color: #549eb9;”]T[/dropcap]hanks to the groundwork that DiploMom laid a couple of weeks before we moved out of The Oakwood and to a very capable, if somewhat pushy realtor who can REALLY get things done, we moved out of our temporary hotel and into our house this past Friday. To already be in our permanent housing after not even being here for two weeks is essentially unheard of. Everyone at the embassy was shocked that we already had housing squared away. No one has gotten out of the hotel as quickly as we have.

Moving in was an exercise in logistics. We felt as if we were planning a bank heist that would fall apart if the slightest thing went awry. I got a ride from the hotel to the embassy to pick up DiploMom (DiploTot was napping and with the housekeeper we hired) with about half of our luggage. From there, we were driven to our neighborhood to drop me off to wait for some local embassy staff to deliver temporary furniture around 10 a.m., while DiploMom then returned to the hotel.

All of our temporary furniture arrived on time, so while I directed where to put everything, DiploMom was back at the hotel tying up loose ends and then heading back around 12:15 with DiploTot and the rest of the luggage in the hotel van. Around 1:30 our UAB shipment arrived and then our lovely landlord came by around 3:00 with flowers in hand to review a few final details about the house.

Next up was delivery of our Santa Fe. The car arrived by around 4:30 and that was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place. We would really have been stuck if there had been problems with the car as we would be too far to walk to the places that were very close when we were at the hotel.

It was a very busy day, but an absolutely wonderful one. To say we are thrilled with the house would be an understatement. It feels so good to finally be back in a place that we aren’t moving out from in the next few months. We can now settle in and put down our roots for the next two years and enjoy this next stretch in our family’s life.

We are truly blessed and are thankful that this house was available. The neighborhood is beautiful and VERY safe and the house is more secure than anything one would find back home. We’ll be able to go on walks with DiploTot and DiploDog and there is a playground right across the street.

The house is perfect for guests and once we get our household effects shipment, (HHE), hopefully in the next month, we’ll be fully set and ready and the house will then truly feel like our home.

I’ll have a bit to say later about getting out and driving around for the first time and making our way to a Walmart and a PriceSmart, which is just like CostCo, the only difference being the name.

DiploDog At Summer Camp Update

[dropcap style=”font-size: 45px; color: #549eb9;”]L[/dropcap]ooks like DiploDog is having quite the time out at Country Dogs. We somehow missed this photo of her on their Facebook page from a few days back, but a text update I got about her matches the photo quite well:

“She’s filthy. That usually means a dog’s having a good time. She’s eating well. My farmhand just said she’s lying in the shade down by the pond, chewing on a stick.”

This was the commentary on the Country Dogs Facebook page:

“DC/NoVa: When she’s not fetching sticks from the pond, Maggie is perfecting her yodeling.”

We’re really looking forward to getting her down here and are so pleased that we found this option for her while we are getting settled in.