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.

Arrival in Guatemala City

We arrived in Guatemala City on Wednesday and are thrilled to finally be here. We were greeted by DiploMom’s office sponsor at the gate and we were then escorted through the airport to a waiting area where we could sit down while all our luggage was retrieved and loaded and our passports processed.

From there we were able to get right into a van and were driven to our hotel. After getting into our room, we hit the ground running and were able to go visit several properties with a realtor that DiploMom had been corresponding with prior to our arrival, as our plan is to get into a house as soon as possible.

It made for a hectic, yet very productive day. DiploTot was an absolute champ throughout all of this, especially considering that she didn’t get much nap time in. She snoozed before we took off for about 45 minutes and then was able to grab a cat nap in her car seat on our way to see the first property. She is taking the changes in stride and is enjoying crawling all over our room.

We were exhausted by the end of the day and quite hungry by the time we got DiploTot down. It wasn’t very cultural, but we were starving and it was already dark, so we simply ordered a Domino’s pizza for delivery, along with 6 bottles of water to get us through until we get to the store later today. Pizza never tasted so good.

An Early Birthday

DiploTot will be turning one next month, but since we came through Houston, we had her birthday party a bit early. Thanks to everyone who was able to make it out to Gymboree to help us celebrate. We’ll be ready with a piñata for the official one year mark in Guatemala. 🙂

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Packing

The process of packing out from The Oakwood was hectic, but at least a lot less stressful than when we packed out to move up. When heading out to post, we have two types of shipments. One is our unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) that is limited to 600 lbs and should arrive to Guatemala City in 1-2 weeks.

The second shipment is our household effects (HHE), which will take 1-2 months to arrive. This is essentially everything else in our apartment, along with what we are having sent from the storage facility. A big part of the planning process for the pack out was deciding what we wanted for each shipment and then dividing them into separate areas in the apartment to minimize the chances of items getting mixed up when the packers arrived.

We were up pretty late the night before. I finally cratered out at midnight, and DiploMom was up until around 3 a.m., but we got everything set and were in good shape for the packers. DiploDog got to go hang out in the morning at another apartment with friends from DiploMom’s A100 training class who have two lab puppies.

DiploTot had to miss out on her morning nap, but she was a champ and was able to catch up later in the afternoon.

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Leading up to the pack out, we were quite busy getting items for the HHE shipment, that were large, that could not be shipped via air, or that would be more expensive to buy in Guatemala City. Some of the items included a queen mattress and box springs, a Christmas tree, a toy kitchen set and tricycle for DiploTot and several surge protectors/uninterruptible power supplies for the inevitable power issues that could fry computers and TVs. Target should also be quite appreciative for the toiletries that we loaded up with.

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We managed to do a really good job of estimating what would fit for our UAB and we ended up with 521 lbs. The rest of our HHE weighed in at 1,385 lbs. These are our four UAB boxes lined up in the hallway.

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Now we have the fun of living out of our duffels and luggage until we get to Guatemala City and our UAB arrives. We’re hoping that given the timing of our pack out, that we might not have to wait all that long before they arrive.

Now where is DiploDog in the midst of all of this now that we are en route from D.C.? Well, she’s out at summer camp in the Virginia countryside and will arrive a couple of weeks after we do. She should be enjoying all the outdoor time and the pond swimming. We miss her and will be excited for her to arrive.

Airport Adventures

We are finally on our way. I’ll have a post later with some photos from our pack out, but in the meantime, it’s time to comment on a very obvious reality – it’s pretty hard to travel with lots of bags, especially when a baby is involved.

We are passing through Houston for some consultations that DiploMom has before heading to Guatemala City. After our apartment was packed out, we had 3 large duffel bags, 3 large rolling suitcases, 2 backpacks and a car seat. We arranged for taxi service the night before we left, specifically requesting a van due to the large amount of luggage.

We were set and waiting at 9:00 a.m. sharp for the taxi. At 9:10, still no taxi. Long story short – after several angry phone calls to the company and much confusion over where the cab was, we ended up in another taxi that came to the Oakwood for someone else and that person cancelled, so we ended up with him and were finally on our way by 9:40.

Needless to say this made for a stressful start to the process, not to mention a very sweaty one, given loading bags and installing the car seat. We had a great driver and everything fit great in the van. After cooling down on the ride to the airport, it was time to get sweaty again unloading everything and getting it inside the terminal.

I was quite pleased to finally get all six bags checked in so we could make our way to security.

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Yep, that’s the car seat on my back.

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After the hecticness of getting to the airport and getting checked in, we were grateful for small blessings. The line at security wasn’t too bad, but we were kindly moved up to the expedited line by a worker who I imagine took sympathy on us given DiploTot and her Quasimodo father.

We finally got to the gate with just enough time to grab some lunch before the plane started boarding. We weren’t quite sure how DiploTot would manage on the flight, but she was a champ, even sleeping for about 45 minutes.

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We were very grateful that the flight was only about 3 hours and that the flight to Guatemala City will essentially be the same. We became friends with another couple at the Oakwood who have a child the same age as DiploTot and they just moved to Cambodia. That meant a 15 hour flight from D.C. to Seoul, where they stayed the night and then flew 5.5 hours to Phnom Penh. Whew!