Finally… Indonesia!!

Greetings from Indonesia, dear readers!  We made it!  After a 3-leg, nearly 40-hour journey, we arrived in Surabaya last Wednesday evening.  And, survey says… we love it!

Our journey was not without hiccups, mind you… Late on 31 May, we received an email from our pet shipper here in Indonesia that they needed the air waybill (AWB) amended in a certain way.  After a maelstrom of emails, pages, phone calls, etc. over the weekend, we still didn’t have it correct by the time we were wheels-up from DCA on 3 June @ 10 a.m.  Luckily, we had a 4-hour layover in NYC before the 16-hour leg to Hong Kong.  Once we landed, I frantically checked my email and thankfully found the AWB waiting for me.  I bounced it off our shippers here (who signed off on it by the time we hit Hong Kong), and thought we were good to go.  HA!!

The dogs were slated to fly out late afternoon from IAD on 5 June.  We had arranged for a handler to transport the dogs from their boarding facility to IAD, and for a friend to act as shipper for us (basically show up at IAD and sign a piece of paper).  They arrived at the airport at 1 p.m. for a 6 p.m. flight, and ran into trouble.  The counter agent for KLM decided that the crates we were using were “too small” for our dogs, and that we needed to get bigger ones.  Mind you, the dogs had flown TO and FROM the D.R. in these crates on Delta Cargo and Continental Cargo, respectively.  My agent and friend dashed to the nearest PetSmart and purchased a Series 700 “Giant” crate for my Lab (this crate is usually reserved for St. Bernards, Mastiffs, and Newfies, i.e. freakin’ huge dogs), and used the Series 500 (X-Large) for the Beagle (made for Labs, Golden Retrievers, Rotties, etc.) so the dogs could fly.

I was up late due to jet-lag (1 a.m. local time), and had a bad feeling about the dogs.  I quickly checked my email and Facebook for updates on the dogs, and saw the messages about the issues at the airport.  Lacking any method of communication other than my US cell phone, I frantically made a Skype call (seeing as I couldn’t dial internationally from either my home phone or my cell due to the codes changing 2 days prior to our arrival) to check in.  64 MB of international data later, I still had no solution as the call was quickly cut off by AT&T in order to “prevent high costs,” and I was forced to call my wife’s new boss (also duty officer) at 1:30 a.m. in order to use her internet for a Skype call.

Ugh.  Needless to say, the dogs did get on the plane, but the cost went up by over $1,000 due to the new dimensions of the crates.  Our potential import duty (if the Embassy couldn’t get the exemption letter in on time… which they hadn’t been able to do yet) was also set to go up by over $700, effectively doubling it.  With the dogs en route, we pushed hard on the Embassy and our handler here in Indonesia to get the duty exemption prepared in time, however, 6 June was a national holiday (Ascension of the Prophet Mohammed).  As of COB 7 June, we still had no letter and the dogs were on the ground in Jakarta.  Our handler had to front the import duty to GOI, and we had to hope for GOI to accept the letter on Monday, 8 June and refund the duty.

On Monday morning, we finally got some good news… GOI had accepted the exemption letter and refunded the duty.  The dogs were released in the afternoon, and arrived to us healthy and happy on Tuesday.  We’re now in the middle of filing a complaint with KLM/Air France Cargo w/r/t the decision of the counter agent and the necessity of changing crates.  I’m also looking into filing a formal complaint against the booking agent we used in the U.S. (OHL International—www.ohl.com—DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES use these guys… they SUCK), as over the course of the 10 weeks we were in contact, they waited until the last second (literally) to book the dogs despite constant promises that everything was all set, avoided and ignored emails and phone calls from me in the last week leading up to shipping, and basically made my life a f*cking nightmare of stress and anger for the last 2-plus weeks.

Yesterday, I got a notice for my final bill from AT&T (we did the military suspension thing… they required we fax our orders with PII and SBU info redacted, but it was almost instantly approved), and decided to take a look.  Imagine my horror when I saw an amount due of $1,475!!  64 MB of international data apparently costs $1,283 as pay-per-use, whereas, had I been able to see into the future and anticipate the shit-show that awaited us upon arrival in Indonesia, I could have paid $30 for 120 MB of global data, $60 for 250 MB, or $90 for 500 MB.  Note to fellow FS families… if your US provider provides this service, GET IT.  I will never again travel without it… $90 is well worth the ability to communicate in case of an emergency, and is a hell of a lot better than $1,300.  I’m working with AT&T to address this, and may have played the “serving our country” card, “loyal customers for over 8 years” card, as well as the “in order to avoid potential delays in the shipping of and possibility of harm to our beloved dogs” card in my email.  They seem receptive thus far… however, we’ll have to wait to see an updated bill to confirm just how big their hearts actually are.

So, there you have it… our “great adventure” in Indonesia thus far.  Our house is gorgeous, our street is quiet and pretty safe, and my son can walk to school, literally.  The entrance to the school campus is right across the street from our house.  We’re still waiting for our stuff (and will be for some time, from what I gather), but have been able to piece things together from the local market, the Welcome Kit, and Amazon.  Son misses his toys, but he made an instant friend in our neighbors’ son, who is also 5 and will be in his Kindergarten class come August.

Ahh, the life of a Foreign Service family abroad….  Mahalo.

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2 thoughts on “Finally… Indonesia!!

  1. Dave, I think you have settled the great “should we get a dog” debate. We have two chickens. Maybe that is all we need.

  2. Pet shipping is easily one of the most frustrating things to deal with in the FS. We have had the agent at the counter refuse to allow our crates with we bought from the stupid airline to be used, citing chaining regulations. The crates had flown to Jakarta and back no problem, but now 5 weeks later they were not good enough to fly to Frankfurt?? Sheez. Had to buy crates at the counter for about 5 times what it would have cost at Petco. Then this tour The airport in San Antonio wouldn’t ship our cat until after end of September due to heat, worked with a handler had it all worked out but then when we were on the ground in Malawi the price mysteriously quadrupled. Our animals have spent the last three years living in Texas with my mom. We (think) we have it all worked out for our cat to go with us to Oman this summer. Fingers crossed!

    On a happier note I am really looking forward to hearing how you like Surabaya. We did a Jakarta tour and loved it, would love to go back perhaps in a few years when the kids are in high school. There is so much we didn’t do with kids in diapers.

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