Facebook is sneaky. Sneaky like a wave at the beach that you underestimated. Overconfident in your assessment of the danger. Old loss that comes right up and swamps you.
This is an email I sent a few weeks ago chronicling the latest hurdle in getting Picasso (my cat) to India. I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Jesus Christ and Ganesha too. It’s half past midnight, so I only have time to tell you the most ridiculous airline obstacle course I have just navigated, but I think that you will enjoy it, and oh my God do I need to tell someone who will appreciate it.
So, trying to get Picasso to Mumbai Round 17.
A week and a half ago I start looking in to booking my tickets. Figuring out which airlines take pets in cabin, etc. My flight in July was with United and Lufthansa, so confirm on their websites, all is well. Also find awesome flight on United/Swiss with a 6.5 hour layover in Zurich. Can you imagine how much I might enjoy 4 hours of wandering around pre-Christmas Zurich? A LOT. Indescribable amounts of A LOT. So great. I check Swiss website, confirm pets allowed in cabin except to specific countries listed, India is not one of them.
So now I start the calling to confirm. I call United about space for cat in cabin on flight. #1 Lady is amazing, very practical, efficient, helpful, and we get disconnected. Fuck. Call back. #2 Lady sounds new and is convinced that cats are not allowed on flights headed for India. I know for a fact that this is not true of United since they were about to let me on a flight in July, with a cat, headed to India. I politely thank her and hang up. Not about to deal with that. Call back. #3 Dude is not sure about the cat regulations, but kindly looks up the correct information and confirms that yes I can bring a cat (thank you, I am aware) and that yes there is space on the flights I want to book. Great.
Onto Swiss. #4 Dude has a great accent (bonus!) and confirms cat is allowed in cabin and yes there is space. Yay! Four skype calls later, and I am on a roll! Now to book the flight.
Since I am currently in India, my Kayak has defaulted to Kayak India with prices in rupees. I change the prices, but not the country. Cause why should I? I’m in India, why no use Kayak India? So I click the link, it takes me to United to enter passenger details and payment details. I get through all of it when I realize that my layover on the way back in Newark is only 40 minutes… so get to the international terminal with a cat and through passport control and security. No way in hell. Back to Kayak. Find earlier flight to Newark. Call United again to confirm space for a cat from Minneapolis to Newark. Yes. Great. Back to Kayak, link to United, passenger details, payment details, “Oh hey! We’ve noticed your billing address is in the USA, let us reroute you to our USA site to complete this.” Oh wait, taken to general USA site to RE-FIND flight. Impossible. Back to Kayak. Change Kayak India to Kayak USA. Find flight. Link to United, passenger details, payment details, DONE! Now it’s a million o’clock in the morning, and I need to get some sleep and cannot fathom the idea of calling United or Swiss again. Will book cat on flights later.
Call United. —- 9:54 (12m 18s)
#1 Lady: Ummmm, no, no cats in cabin to India.
Me: Not true, definitely called MANY times to confirm this with United and Swiss.
#1 Lady: Well, since it’s a Swiss flight from Zurich into Mumbai, we have no restrictions on our flights, but you need to be sure that they will allow your pet otherwise they will just keep in Zurich… and they don’t really keep them.
Me: Yes, thank you. I have confirmed both on the Swiss website and with a nice man on the phone that cats are allowed in cabin.
#1 Lady: Okayyyyy, I will book the cat on our end, but then you need to call them to book the cat on that flight.
Me: Yes okay, I know, thank you.
Call Swiss in US. — 10:07 (16m 56s)
#2 Lady: No, there’s no space.
Me: I’m sorry, can you double check? I just called a week ago, and the nice man told me there were no other pets booked and the limit is 4 or 5.
#2 Lady: Alright, I’ll check. …………. Actually ma’am, cats are not allowed in cabin on flights to India.
Me: I’m sorry, what? The guy I talked to last time specifically said they were.
#2 Lady: Maybe he was looking at the flight from Mumbai to Zurich.
Me: No, I gave him the flight number, and he checked about space available. Is this a new regulation?
#2 Lady: No, I’m sorry ma’am. It’s not possible.
… much more politely insistent conversation about this, the fact that I was given wrong information, and that now I would not be able to take this flight and could they change my ticket, no only United can, so call them, but you made the mistake, so they will make me pay for your mistake, I’m sorry, can you take the cat as cargo? so I would check her in as cargo in Zurich? No, you would have to do that in Newark or maybe even Minneapolis? So I would have to pay for cargo on two separate airlines and trust she’ll make the connections and then be fine arriving in Mumbai? No thank you, fine, I’ll call United.
Call United. —- 10:37 (3m 39s)
#2….. Literally cannot remember this call. Did I give up while on hold? Did I call to ask about the possibility of a free change of flight? I think so, but I have no idea.
Call Swiss in Switzerland. 10:31 (10m 42s)
#4 Lady tells me the same story about cats not being allowed, blah blah, more blah, horrible.
Call Swiss in US…. just to confirm the “no cats story” AGAIN — 10:52pm (13m 27s)
#5 Dude – no ma’am, there’s no space for a cat on that flight. ….. (no space? but now they are allowed?)
Me: Well, can you check a different day? I called just last week and there was space, can’t believe so many people bringing their pets to India.
#5 Dude: *chuckles* Of course. …. Not until the 13th. Maybe before? Oh no, there is no space at all.
Me: Well thank you very much for your time. (WTF? How are cats now allowed? Apparently I am out of luck either way… fuck, better call Lufthansa to confirm pets are allowed and then United to see about changing ticket to Lufthansa codeshare.)
Call Lufthansa in US. —- 10:43 (7m 33s)
#6 Lady confirms pets allowed in cabin, double-checks at my request.
Call United in US. — 11:10 (35m 29s)
#7 Lady is very helpful, but not telling me what I want to hear. Can change flight from Minnesota to Mumbai, but it will have to be a Lufthansa flight since they are the only airline allowing cats in cabin to India, and am I SURE they will let me??, because I need to be SURE…. (yes, thank you, I am VERY aware) And $400 fare difference and $200 change fee, and I’ll have to make sure I call Lufthansa right away to book the cat cause if that doesn’t work out then I’ll just be calling her back to change the flight again, and maybe I should just check with PetSafe the United pet cargo shipping, and more info, and how much would it cost me to just cancel my ticket? Euro 190 = $213, but just check with PetSafe, here I’ll transfer you…
#8 Dude has what sounds like a grumbly Eastern European accent, and I like him already. Ask about shipping cat to India, oh boy the paperwork, you need to go through a broker (yes thank you I am aware) but here let me find you this guy’s number in Mumbai (what? really? sweet!), grumble grumble, oh they will charge you 40,000 rupees if you don’t have the paperwork, that’s just ridiculous, can’t believe that, still looking for number. Okay, Dr. Vijay at the Animal Quarantine office in Mumbai, here’s his number. Oh wait, let me give you his cell number too. (ARE YOU SERIOUS HOW COME NO ONE ELSE HAS EVER BEEN ABLE TO GIVE ME THIS DUDE’S NUMBER BACK IN JULY????) Prices for cargo, oh boy, they are going to charge you a lot, and keep in mind that if the container is slightly too big they’ll bump you into the next category and that $200 more. Crazy. (I joke that I should just adopt a street kitten cause there are plenty. He finds this hilarious. I love him.)
Call Swiss in US —- 11:46 (16m 41s)
Me: Hi, I’ve had a rather complicated evening, …. briefly explain problem…. what are the chances that I can get Swiss to reimburse me the cancellation fee because I was given incorrect information?
#9 Dude: I can give you the email address to send that question to.
Me: Great, when can I expect a reply?
#9 Dude: Usually within a couple of hours.
Me: Cool, so would you humor me and just triple check this for me because I feel like I am getting a slightly different story every time I call, and maybe your computer will have the story that says I can bring my cat.
#9 Dude: Sure, no problem, just give me a minute……. Okay, looks like you can’t bring cats in the cabin on flights to India.
Me: Okay, thanks for checking. Now, I know you are not the website guy, but someone needs to fix that because on your website it lists the countries that you are not allowed to bring pets in cabin to, and India definitely is not on the list.
#9 Dude – Hmmmm, let me just check some more…….. I see that it’s restricted. If you are changing residency…
Me: YES! YES! I AM! I just moved here to Mumbai, so I am changing residency.
#9 Dude – Okay, so it looks like you need xyz documents, blah blah blah blah, yes, you can bring your cat because of the exception. You will need to submit the documents at least 3 days in advance of your flight.
Me: Okay…. confirm understanding of information and timeline. confirm again. Make him check AGAIN….. Okay, so since probably I will not get you next time I call, what can I tell the person to look at to find this information?
#9 Dude: You can just tell them to check the manual.
Me: Yay! Thank you!
Call Swiss in Switzerland —– 12:10am (3m 16s)
Me: Hi, I just spoke to an agent in the US and wanted to confirm what I was told about bringing a cat in cabin to Mumbai.
#10 Dude: No ma’am, not possible. We get updates regularly and to my knowledge it is not allowed.
Me: Yes thank you, but could you just check please?
#10 Dude: Ma’am, we get the most up to date information, and cats are not allowed in the cabin to India.
Me: Yes, but I am changing residency, so is there no exception? Could you please check?
#10 Dude: Ma’am, if you don’t want to take my word for it you can call back and speak to another agent.
Me: Okay, thank you. (FUCK YOU.)
Call Back Swiss in Switzerland —– 12:14am (7m 5s)
Me: Hi there, I have a rather strange question. I am calling to confirm the information on your website and that I was given by another employee. I’m just triple-checking my information because I have gotten a few different stories. Can you confirm that it is possible to bring a cat in cabin on a flight to India if I am changing residency and moving the cat to India?
#11 Dude: Yes of course, just a moment…. Yes, you’ll need xyz paperwork, blah blah blah….. Here let me read you the regulation….. Here is the email address you’ll need to email the paperwork to and the timeline, etc.
Me: Amazing!!! Thank you so much. And can you just tell me where you found this information so that I can best direct the next person?
#11 Dude: Of course, you can tell them it is in the Passenger Regulation Manual, chapter 2.5.1
Me: I love you. Run away with me.
Call Mom in Minnesota to tell her the story. She asks if it’s possible to get my hands on a copy of this passenger regulation manual because SHE IS A GENIUS.
Quick google search. Nothing.
Swiss website search. Nothing.
Better worded google search. BINGO Russian website with url.
Change out numbers in url for 2.5.1. No luck.
Use just https://manuals.swiss.eom. No.
Realize that “.eom” is probably just a typo and not a real ending. Fix it. —-> YESSSSSSS, welcome to Swiss intranet site….. username and password???
Copy and paste random things from Russian site…… I AM IN!
And there, in all of it’s glory, is chapter 2.5.1 which CLEARLY STATES:
TO INDIA (update 21AUG13)
The Indian Government has restricted the import of PETC/AVIH. Import as PETC/AVIH is permitted
if a pet is imported for the first time by an owner who is transferring residence to India after a minimum 2 years of continuous stay abroad or if the pet is being re-imported into India .(Timatic: 21AUG13)
In addition following documents must be presented:
- health certificates from country of origin and
- a No Objection Certificate *NOC* from the Animal Quarantine and Certification Services (AQCS) (arranged at least 15 days prior to import in India)
Since the SSRs AVIH/PETC remains closed on flights to BOM/DEL, check the import restrictions in the TIMATIC and follow the process below if conditions are fulfilled. Since several departments are involved, the email to Ground Services must be sent at least 3 working days prior departure and would be declined otherwise.
Request Documents From Passenger And Forward It Together With PNR Address To Ground Services (Do Not Pass On Email To Passenger, Internal Use Only)
Enter The SSR PETC Or AVIH With *MN*: E.G. 4/PETC NN1 S1 N1*1CAT 4KGS INCL PETPACK 55X40X23CM. IMPORTANT: The SSR Shall Be Entered Immediately After The Email To Ground Services Was Sent And Not Before. This Grants A Smooth Handling
Ground Services Will Verify The Documents
DQQ Will Afterwards Confirm KK / Decline NO SSR AVIH/PETC Accordingly
Ganesha… remover of obstacles.
This is a video from my ride home after open house.
If you’re up for it, play this quietly in the background as you read. This is what my evenings often sound like.
Silent is not a word used to describe Mumbai.
This is not a silent city. Nor is it still. However, as I mark my first month here, silence and stillness define my time.
Maybe it is because of the never ending sound and movement. I think it is me instead.
At night, sitting in the strange corner of my 3rd story kitchen counter, window open, I can watch the fruit bats awkwardly maneuvering on branches 20 feet away. It’s like watching turkeys try to fly. Below them is a small building. And old woman lives there with her husband. She sits outside on a plastic chair and watches the fruit bats too. We’ve only made eye contact once. She looked up and caught my eye. We both startled, awkward. Now we carefully watch the night and the fruit bats, instead of each other. I close my window quietly, so as not to disturb her.
Much of my non-school time is spent like this, in silent spaces within the noise of a city that never, ever stops. I take great pleasure in the balance. Yesterday I walked the streets in the evening, stopping to browse a bookstore called Title Waves, and buying 100 rupees of sunset coral gladiolas. I smiled at the stares and giggles of small children and ignored other, less friendly, looks. When I got home I poured a glass of wine, sorted the flowers into a water bottle, resolved to purchase a vase, and set about rearranging my living room. Alone with the faint honking of rickshaws on Hill Road.
These silent personal spaces are what I recall from moving to Kanazawa. Afternoons walking my new neighborhood, marveling at discoveries, getting lost, going days without real conversations. Evenings spent dripping with sweat as I stood watching ducks in the rice paddy out my window. I didn’t think about it as a choice, just accepted it as inevitable.
Now I notice that there is a choice to be made, to reach out and make plans and fill my time with people.
And I will. Eventually. But for now I am moving slowly, enjoying my silent period like a child thrown into a new language. I am watching. I am listening. I am enjoying the freedom of choosing silence. And though I am solitary, I am not alone. The grandfather on the balcony across from mine waved good morning today. I smiled, waved, and we went about our rituals. Later the grandson giggled at me as his grandmother brushed his teeth. We exchanged the smiles women share over the heads of children (and men).
I have the entire city for company.
Some have said “we have nice kids.”
As though that differentiates them from the other kids?
And it doesn’t.
Four days of school and I was floored.
Floored by how obviously phenomenal these kids’ educational experiences had been. By how quickly they trusted. By my full pencil basket at the end of the day.
Scarcity is not a problem here.
I feel foolish as I hoard school supplies. Habits of necessity are hard to break.
Someone mentioned the Galapagos.
THIS, I think.
They are Galapagos students.
Actively learning, harmoniously engaging because their educational experiences have been specifically and successfully designed for THIS.
And why not? When THIS is what you know… why not?
They are nice kids. And so are the ones who used to walk out the door with my pencils.
Forgive me. School officially starts tomorrow, and I spent Wednesday through Saturday in bed fighting for my life (102 degree fever ain’t nothin’ ta… well, you know) . The Stomach Demon has been vanquished. Please accept my photos in lieu of written work.
Not all photos are mine. Some credits go to Kyla.