Remember I mentioned a while back that things have been nuts and that I would update you? Well, here's the update: the very, very long update.
We haven't talked about Scotland for a while because, well, there were a few confusing things going on I was trying to work out and because the wedding was dominating my time and thoughts. Now that things have been mostly rectified, I thought it would be time to fill you in.
First thing is first. We leave less than two months from now. Our flight leaves the United States on August 18th and we arrive in London England on the 19th. When Mr. K booked the tickets I was over the moon. It made things seem so much more real. We've been slowly preparing for the flight and our transfer from London to Edinburgh. Because of having the guide dogs, Glacier and Roscoe, we have to land in London. There are only certain airline carriers that are allowed to enter the UK carrying animals, working or not, and they are only allowed to land in London. That meant a lot of researching to find out which flights we could take and then determining which ones were cheaper. We could have flown for 750 American, one way into Scotland, but could not take that flight because of the dogs. We did find a decently priced flight and booked the tickets right away to ensure that we got seats on the "bulk head."
Mr. K is six foot five inches tall and Glacier and Roscoe are both large Labradors, so the bulkhead is where we need to be since it has more leg room. Not to mention, the dogs have to wear seat belt/harness thingies during take off and landing. Say what?
Service dogs in North America do not have to wear seat belts during flights, so I was surprised when I saw this in the airline's rules. It's also mentioned in the document explaining how to get your service dog into the UK. Thankfully, the head of training at LDB is originally from Scotland and has put me in contact with the guide dog school there. I have asked them what type of harness we will need and if they could provide us with the names of quality, local vets. I figure if the vets are good enough for their dogs, they will be good enough for ours. On top of all of this, we have to make a vet appointment with our current vet to have the dogs "flea dipped" (make sure they don't have fleas) no less than 48 hours before we leave. That is on my "to do" list for today. We also have to visit them and get the documents showing the results for the dogs' Rabies Tider tests that came back so that the USDA can charge us an arm and a leg just to stamp them. Each stamp is going to cost us 114 dollars. Don't you love governmental systems?
Also, because we are arriving in London, we have to figure out how we're getting to Edinburgh. So far, the loose plan is to stay over night in London Friday and then take a train, guided by Tenie who will come in on Friday via train, back to Scotland. That may change though as she is on a "dig" and does not have Saturdays off. Did I mention Tenie and Carmen are archaeologists? Perhaps Carmen will come get us? But this is after we arrive; back to what we must do before we leave.
I have to make an appointment with the SC USDA officer dude to put his expensive stamp of approval on the dogs' documents, which will happen in the next few weeks. I guess the USDA is responsible for ensuring that the procedure was performed correctly and also that the results are satisfactory.
At some point we have to fax off the dogs' Identification cards, showing that they are trained by a regulated facility, and their USDA stamped papers, vet records Etc to another government run organisation, this time based in the UK. They make sure we have all of the documents we need, the correct tests and that our dogs are actually service dogs. I don't think there is a fee for that, but when we land in London, they will check our dogs again and re-vaccinate for Rabies. The one thing that I would like to point out to these people is that that nice tunnel they built connecting them to the main land is a run way for rats. These rats are not USDA approved nor do they have Rabies tider tests done on them. Don't they think the rats could potentially spread the infection that they are so obsessed with charging the pants off of service dog users for? Of course I'll keep my mouth shut as I would like to enter the country.
Besides the dog stuff we have human things to work on. I've been slowly plugging away at the Portuguese passport stuff and will have to go back to Toronto for a third time to get my Identity card, which basically says I am a Portuguese citizen and then apply for the passport. Thankfully the passport does not need to be picked up in person and will be mailed. This keeps us from having to travel nine hours one way a fourth time. This means I can return to Mr. K in SC. I've been staying with my parents the last three months to get this process done. This will allow us to enter the UK without a student or work Visa. There is another aspect of this though. Once I have my Portuguese citizenship, which I have now, I have to register mine and Mr. K's marriage with Portugal. If I don't do this, Mr. K would have to get a Visa to stay in the UK and it would cost us a lot of money. What is complicating the matter is that Mr. K and I were married in the state of Michigan so when I went to register our marriage with the Embassy in Toronto, I was told they couldn't do it because it was from a different country. I have been playing phone tag with people in the embassies in the United States to figure out how to register our marriage and with which embassy. We were married in Michigan but live in South Carolina, so the embassy that I originally was told handled our marriage does not. Did you catch all that?
Other things we've had to deal with is me having to renew my Canadian passport. Even though I will carry a Portuguese passport, it is highly recommended that I keep my Canadian one. It will make entering Canada or the United States much easier when we come back to visit. On top of that we need to apply for a permit that basically states that I have the intention of maintaining my American Permanent Residency, just in case we decide to come back to the United States. If we had known that we were moving to Scotland a year ago, we never would have bothered with paying for an immigration lawyer or anything like that, but what is done is done and I am now a Permanent Resident of the United States of America. I think I may have an identity crisis one day.
If that weren't enough, I had emailed Queen Margaret University about a week ago to find out the status of my application. Since I am planning to go to school over in the UK I can apply for "Extended Absence" for the Disability cheque I receive every month. In order to do that, I need to have confirmation from the university in writing to put my application through. I also want to apply for a Student Loan, which thankfully until now I have not needed to do, but again in order to do that I need confirmation from the university saying I have been accepted. Well, I got a reply telling me that my application had been closed in March due to lack of supporting documents. Whoa! Slow down! What?!
I was very confused as I had received an email on May 19th from the Senior Officer in Admissions asking me to resend my Personal Statement as they could not find it. The very first line in the email read:
"We are currently considering your application..."
So, how could it be that my application was closed? I sent off a very confused reply and began searching through my lengthy correspondence emails I had saved between myself, Queen Margaret University and my References. I found the email from May 19th and copied and pasted it into a polite email requesting that my case be investigated further. Then I phoned the next day when I didn't hear from them and was told, quite rudely I might add, that the person I needed to talk to-the same woman who emailed me on May 19th-would not be in the office until this past Monday. So, I just had to wait.
When I woke up Monday morning and there was still no email-Scotland is five hours ahead-I phoned again and left a voice mail message for her. I had found her name and extension and decided that leaving a communication with her directly would be my best bet. Then I waited and prayed. My mom and I went out that morning to runs some errands-AKA open a new bank account where I wasn't getting charged twenty dollars a month just to have my cheque directly deposited-and by the time I got home there was an email waiting. I was so relieved when I read that my application was "very much alive" and that I would "hear from them by the end of the week with a decision." Cutting it a bit close with my going back to SC next Wednesday and needing to apply for "extended absence," but at least I am getting an answer and my application is still under consideration.
With all of this there is still the packing-putting clothes and linens into "space saver" bags-selling our stuff-brand new washer and dryer and all of our little things like bread maker and dishes-and sending things off to Good Will-unwanted clothes and small household items we can't sell. There is so much in the details and yet a lot of this we cannot do until closer to our moving date. We need the washer and dryer until at least the 15th of August. Mr. K's car needs to be sold, but we need it so people can drive us to various appointments. We need to get rid of our dishes, but we still need them so that we can eat for two months. It's all a careful balancing act, but we will get it done and the end result will be one of the most amazing experiences a person could ever have. I think the process is a part of the learning experience and it will teach us a lot. I just know once we move to the UK there won't be any more moving for a while. We'll have to look for a place once we arrive, but we have help in Tenie and Carmen and the Guide Dog organisation has offered to show us around. In essence, the next three months will be a bit chaotic, but again it will be absolutely amazing.