Monday, October 04, 2010

Live and Learn and Learn and Learn

Living overseas has its challenges. But the rewards far outnumber the inconveniences and regional difficulties. For the most part, you enjoy the new and different things you encounter and hope that what you can't get where you're posted will just be small potatoes. I happen to love this lifestyle, but occasionally that little hiccup or hurdle presents itself and you have to deal with it. Right now, I am DEALING with it! If you are one of my followers who are with the State Department and are living overseas, learn from my experience.

Roll back the calendar to mid August. My Toshiba laptop arrived with my household effects and wouldn't you know it...the darned thing refused to boot up. No matter what I did, nothing. Nada. Zilch. I took it to the embassy and had the IT people look at it and they shook their heads and crossed themselves. Big sigh.

I went online and searched for a replacement. I searched everywhere, read reviews, analyzed what my computer needs were and made my choice...a Sony VAIO. When you order things while overseas, you have 2 choices of where it is shipped. (Well, most people have 2 choices.) If your embassy has an APO, you can order things to be shipped there. Lots of stores won't ship to an APO so you have to go to Plan B, which is your personal pouch. The pouch goes to a US address in Dulles, Virginia and takes a bit more time to arrive. As it turned out, Sony insisted on a signature upon delivery so I had to use the pouch.

OK, we're back to today. Two weeks ago, I went to the Sony site and could see where someone in Virginia had signed for the FedEx delivery of my laptop, which was shipped there from California. Good..that was progress! They accepted delivery on September 20th. Usually, in a week to 10 days after it gets to Dulles, it arrives at the embassy. I started getting a funny feeling about my laptop a few days ago. You know the one...the feeling that something is wrong, not right or just screwed up. It was just taking too long. So, today I asked my IT person if he could contact Dulles and see what the delay was.

Now comes the bad news...and the lesson you can all learn. Mike, my IT guy, was told my laptop was in the prohibited items area. Yep...prohibited. And just what part of my laptop was prohibited, you ask? The lithium battery. As a matter of fact, State (of someone at State) is drafting an ALDAC (much like a formal memo) prohibiting shipping lithium batteries in the pouch. I said...But Mike, my laptop was ordered before all this came about. He said it didn't was going to be returned to Sony. NOOOOOOOOOOOoo.....

I thought about my options:
  1. Have the laptop returned to Sony, which could have meant waiting for a refund and then re-ordering it and having it shipped to my father in Fort Worth and then have him ship it to my APO address (which doesn't have that restriction...yet). Double shipping costs. Ugh.
  2. Have the laptop returned to Sony and then try to contact them and see if they could re-ship it to my dad without having to re-order it.
  3. Ask the guy in Dulles if he would personally take possession of it and ship it to my dad in Fort Worth. (not a chance of that happening.)
  4. Stand on my desk and scream and holler at this new ruling. Naww....
  5. Find someone in the DC area who was willing to go and take delivery of my laptop and send it to my APO address. YES!
As it turns out, someone who was recently posted here in Oman is now in DC. Eric, the ARSO in my office sent him an email, telling me he felt sure Khamp wouldn't mind getting the laptop and sending it on to me. Hopefully, problem solved. Mike told me he felt sure that they would release the laptop with some authorization from me.

Now, let's talk about what you should take away from all this. If you're with State and living overseas, make sure you know what you can and can't ship in the pouch. Every time I shop online now and the site doesn't offer the option to ship to my APO, I send them an email and ask them to look in to making that an option. It probably won't do any good, but it makes me feel better. Make sure you review what items are not allowed in the pouch. Things you might not think about, like pop-top cans of fruits and vegetables. The tops can burst off, damaging other items in the pouch. I'm sure there are more so tomorrow, I'm going to pull up the regs and find out what can't go through the pouch.

Be thankful if you're at a post that has an APO. I can now understand the frustration of my friends who are at a post with only pouch delivery options. I'm sooo sorry!