PAUL BENJAMIN: Writer, Editor, Supermodel


t seems I posted that Mega Post about the end of our time in Washington DC a bit too soon. We were supposed to fly to Uzbekistan on Tuesday, August 2nd. Today is Sunday, August 7th and we’re still in DC with no set  departure date.

So, what happened? I wish we knew. Our visas for entry into Uzbekistan have not yet been released by the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Folks at the U.S. State Deparment and U.S. Embassy in Tashkent have been working to get them but at this point we don’t know why they haven’t been processed or when we’ll get them. Hopefully the fine folks at the MFA will get them ready for us soon.

Over the course of last week, we woke up every day hoping for news that we could get on a plane. In the meantime, we took advantage of our extended, if impromptu, stay in DC by having a “last meal” at Restaurant Nora. Then another delicious “last meal” at Eventide in Clarendon. After that we gave up on the whole concept of savoring a special last meal and have just been enjoying DC’s cuisine as if we’ll be here for a while.

Logistics have been a problem, of course. We weren’t living in the Oakwood apartments so we were outside of the goverment’s system and had to deal with housing on our own. That meant we had to move out of our apartment on Thursday because our landlord came to town to supervise the workers who had been scheduled to come and repair all of the water damage we sustained in the great kitchen flood. The matter of housing was further complicated because we’re at the tail end of our per diem allowance which left us only around $40 per day to put towards housing. That’s not enough for a hotel room in Oklahoma City, much less DC! Fortunately, we were able to stay with our good friends Erin and Rob. They were very generous to share their home with us.

On Friday, Lisa’s boss in the UZ encouraged her to plan for being here an extra week rather than hope that every day will bring us magical travel visas. As a result, Lisa is scheduled to go to work at the State Department on Monday, working with her colleagues-to-be on the Uzbekistan desk. Now at least your tax dollars won’t be paying for Lisa to take a stay-cation!

As for the dogs, that’s a whole other mess of logistical problems. The pet shipping company came and got them on Tuesday, planning to hold onto them until their Sunday flight to Tashkent (the only flight that will take pets in the heat of the summer). The dogs can’t arrive in Tashkent before we do, so now they’re waiting on our visas as well. The only problem is that there’s only one flight per week that works for them. That means that when we’re held up beyond a Monday arrival, they automatically get pushed back one week. As a result, we have to pay for an extra week of boarding. We also have to pay for a new vet examination and USDA certification since they have to have a health examination within ten days of their arrival in Uzbekistan. The bottom line is that the pups have to spend more time away from us and it’s costing a whole lot of cash that can’t be reimbursed as a cost of the move.

There is some good news, however. Thanks to folks at the State Dept., Lisa’s per diem has been bumped back up to 100%. That means that we can get a hotel room. We’ve found a nice hotel in the Arlington area that will take the dogs if we choose to get them out of boarding until we go. Doing that will be problematic since it means renting a van to drive to the Dulles area so that we can pick up the dogs and their big airplane crates to take them to the hotel. That wouldn’t be a big deal, except we could be on a flight any day and will then have to return them to boarding on the way to the airport. Taking them out of boarding for a week will save us money, but if it turns out we can leave in a few days, we’ll have gone through all that trouble for nothing. Also, I’m not sure what’s more traumatic for the dogs: staying in boarding without us or moving into a strange hotel room for a few days then going back to boarding before flying halfway around the world. At this point, we’re holding off on making a decision until we learn about the status of our visas on Monday morning.

To be continued…

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