It has only been just over 72 hours since we made the journey from Southern California to Norway to complete our most recent PCS (aka permanent change of station). For those unfamiliar with military jargon, it’s a fancier way to say moving. We had known for months that this move was going to happen – and we were more prepared than our previous overseas moves. This turned out to be a blessing as the Marine Corps sends one person to fill this position. Asking people questions about the process to get here was met mostly with blank stares and heavy sighs. Nobody knew what to tell us or where to send us. Luckily for us, our first overseas move was very much the same, so we knew what we had to do and when we needed to do it by.
About two weeks ago, I said to my husband, “don’t you feel like everything is going too smoothly? Something is bound to go wrong.” These words would haunt me on the journey to Norway. It was a series of small things along the way that is fairly typical of any kind of travel that eventually snowballed into a bit of a nightmare. Checking into LAX, or any airport, when you do an overseas move is never fun. The amount of suitcases you have is insanity. This isn’t intentional on our part, but you have to plan everything you think you will need for the next 60 days. In our case, we had 5 in total. There are never any luggage carts large enough to fit all of this on in one trip. So there we were – the two of us, me five months pregnant, 2 carry on bags and a cat trying to crawl to the counter.
We checked in, made it through security and to the airport lounge (thank you, American Express Platinum Card) and plopped down like a ton of bricks. We were both too exhausted to be excited, but we tried our best. Checking into the first leg of our flight, we were pleasantly surprised when Delta upgraded our seats because of military service. We didn’t ask for it and our attempt to figure it out, they did it on their own. This was a game-changer and meant the difference between being sandwiched into coach for over 10 hours or getting to move your legs and recline your seat further. We were well fed, entertained, and comfortable. Until hour 6 – then things started to unravel.
Turns out, flying when you’re pregnant is not comfortable. No matter how much I walked around, did yoga in my seat (yes, that’s a thing), and stayed hydrated, I could not get comfortable. My back hurt, my hips hurt, and I just felt like an elephant packed into a Volkswagon. To make matters slightly worse, the hubs had what was the beginnings of a cold come to fruition somewhere over Canada. We were both counting the minutes to getting off the airplane. Getting off the plane is where the trouble would begin.
When you fly on military orders out of the country, the first leg of your flight must be with a United States flagship carrier. Think United, American Airlines, or in our case, Delta. The rule exists so that the Department of Defense can be supporting American businesses. Once you leave America, all bets are off. In our case, we floated between Delta to Air France to Scandanavian Airlines. Despite the amount of time at each airport, the switching of airlines with so many bags and a cat caused a ton of confusion.
Something we knew from the beginning was that importing pets into Norway is not hard, but it is a process. As it turns out, Norway, in general, is quirky when you enter if you are connecting to another city within the country. When we arrived in Oslo, we knew that we would have to collect our cat and clear her with the veterinarian through customs. The same is true of our luggage (this is what everyone must do regardless of nationality)- all bags would need to be rechecked in for your final flight. However, the cat and the luggage were missing.
When the airline could not get out items transferred in time, they automatically rerouted them to Amsterdam and then to our final destination, Stavanger. We didn’t find this out until we arrived in Oslo. The bags were an inconvenience, but we would survive. The cat, however, was another issue entirely. Aside from wondering how she was holding up, legally, she had to enter through Oslo. The airline attempted to make this be our problem – telling us we would have to figure out a way to get the cat back to Oslo. Luckily, the veterinarian who works at customs was sensible.
At the end of it all, we were able to get our cat back in one piece and went a few days in the same clothes but, we survived. Part of the thrill of the military for us is the ability to live overseas. It’s something we enjoy with every fiber of our beings – but trips like this make us tired. Luckily, there are no airplane trips planned in our immediate future.