The Longest Day Continued…

Jiver simmered down once we got off the plane in Newark.  Ok, I thought, we’re almost halfway there.  Our bags were checked all the way to Porto so, now we could check in for the flight and relax.  The check in agent looked over our dog papers and issued us boarding passes.  No problem!  As we waited to get through security a fire alarm started going off and it was LOUD!  Jiver did not like it at all!  He started to growl and was threatening to start barking when, after about ten minutes it finally stopped.  False alarm, thank God.  We made it through security without incident and went to find our gate.  We had about three hours to kill and we found a Vino Volo near our gate.  Perfect!  We stopped to have a drink and a nosh.  Vino Volo is a great concept that serves good healthyish food and good wines to go with them.   A great place to hang out at the airport, a dreadful place to work.  Yes, I worked for Vino Volo at DIA in Denver for about a year.  It’s ok if you are willing to cook food, serve wine, bus tables, and wash dishes by yourself for up to 40-50 people at a time.  Right! 

Jiver sacked out by the table and after some food and drink we made our way to the gate hoping that this plane ride would be better than the first.  I had overheard a gate agent say that the plane was not full and that there were about 40 empty seats.  That should help.  We got on the plane and the row in front of us was almost empty so, we agreed that after takeoff Joe would move up to that row and we would let Jiver have the seat next to me.  He whined and panted for the first 45 minutes but, once we were at cruising altitude, we put his blanket on the seat and he sat there through the flight.  Finally, he was ok.  We figured that he did not like the vibrations of the plane when he had to stay on the floor.

It is amazing how different the attitudes are between US and Euro airlines.  Everyone is so uptight and stressed out on the US flights and so much more relaxed on the European flights.  The TAP Portugal flight crew was great.  They loved Jiver and were fine with him sitting next to me.  Also, the food is so much better on the Euro flights.  Oh, and no charge for wine either.  We had a delicious baked cod in cream sauce with spinach with mashed potatoes and a nice white wine to accompany it.  We weren’t even there yet and already I preferred my new country of choice to my country of origin!

When the plane started its descent, Jiver got nervous again.  This time, he only whined and panted for about the last half hour.  Whew!  We made it to the ground and arrived in Porto.  Now, we just had to get through customs, passport and vet check.

I took Jiver to find a doggie rest area but couldn’t find one.  There was an area with some planters, and he christened the Porto airport right there.  After cleaning up after him, I found the veterinary office.  The doctor was waiting for us there and it only took about ten minutes for her to sign off on us bringing Jiver into Portugal.  Now customs.  We presented our box of spirits and wine from Colorado and they opened it.  The officer examined our stash and asked, to drink with friends?  And, I said yes!  He said, ok and we were off.  It took about 30 minutes to get into the country, through customs and have Jiver checked in by the vet.  Portugal, what a country!  It might have something to do with the fact that we arrived at 5:30am.  There was a cab driver waiting outside arrivals and he transported us to our Airbnb.  After a year of planning and waiting, we finally arrived in Porto!  Ha-le-freakin’-lu-jah!

View from our table at Adega Sao Nicolo, Porto! (A fantastic seafood restaurante.)

We should get a prize for all we’ve been through!  Oh yeah, being here IS the prize! 😉

The Longest Day

The movers came and packed what was left of our things (which was still too much stuff) and we sorted out the rest of the last-minute things, cars, dog papers and last visits to the vet.  Not to mention various things we forgot to have the movers take that had to be shipped separately.  Gawd, we suck at moving!

Luckily, I got us the most direct flight possible: Denver to Newark and Newark to Porto, with a four-hour layover in Newark.  Our plane departed from DIA at 8:30am so we booked a room at the airport Westin for the night before, in order to make our 5:30am appearance at the terminal.  Spendy, but so worth it.  Our friend/landlord for the past eight months, Dennis took us to the Westin DIA in his vintage Rolls.  (That’s about how far we traveled in style, suffice it to say!)  We should have known it was going to be a bumpy ride when Jiver whined and panted and shivered half way to the airport.

The night at the hotel was short, with a 4am wakeup call but a bell man took us across to the terminal.  “First class? “ He asked…um no, I said, we’re lucky to have economy plus! After waiting in line to check our bags, we got to the check in kiosk which told us that we would need special handing.  (Due to travelling with a service dog, we found out.)  We got to the desk and our large bag was 30 pounds overweight.  No paying for it either; 50 pounds max or no go!  Ok, drag our act out of check in territory and go buy an extra bag, or throw out half of our belongings!  Ugh!  So, I had to run downstairs and put down $80 for the cheapest bag I could find that looked like it would hold 30 pounds.

Tent City, DIA

Back to check in, at least we didn’t have to wait in line again.  With a little more finagling we brought the big bag down to 49.5 pounds.  Thank God! 

We present our IDs and the folder full of dog travel paperwork to the agent and after ten minutes she tells us that there is something wrong, our boarding passes won’t print out and it looks like it’s because we don’t have clearance for the dog from TAP Air Portugal for the Newark to Porto portion of our trip.  After an hour of her talking to various superiors and others, I put a call into TAP myself. After waiting on hold for nearly half an hour it is starting to look like we won’t make the flight.  Finally, I get an agent on the phone and he says we are clear for takeoff with them.  At this point, I am guessing that United realized that it wasn’t TAP that was the hold up, it was United having technical difficulties.  Now we have five minutes to make the flight and the “security” line is about five miles long.

The United agent took us personally around security and we made a mad dash for the gate.  When we got there, the gate agents saw and called out to us.  They were holding the plane for us!  Thank you gate agents at United Airlines!

Can you say, holy mother of sweating it out?!  Our new bag cost $80 and the cost for an extra checked bag was $120.  We paid extra for seat assignments but now, due to the delay in getting to the plane, we were stuck with inside seats in the middle of the aircraft.  Jiver had to sit on the floor over the engine and landing gear.  He whined, shook and panted all the way from Denver to Newark! Poor guy was probably terrified. And this after the woman across the aisle from us threatened to pitch a fit about us having a dog.  “He’s a service dog,” I said.  (I left out …bitch!)  Let’s just say, if looks could kill, she’d be dead!  At least, we made the flight.

Logistics

Once we got word that the Portuguese government had deemed us worthy to live in their fair country, it was time to spring into action.  So many things to consider: plane tickets, movers, getting ready for the movers.

Oh, and transport for our “fur child,” Jiver.  I had purchased one-way plane tickets for us to leave at the end of October which had to be cancelled but, I got a credit for those and now had to rebook.  Let’s just say it:  travelling with an animal is a pain in the ass!  I had read that dogs could not travel on the plane with you internationally at all.  Wrong again!  After speaking with an airline employee, it was suggested to me that if I could get him certified as an emotional support animal, he could ride in the cabin with us.  I got online (sometimes the internet is your friend) and promptly found an outfit in Louisiana that did such animal certifications, US Service Animals.  For about $200 a therapist calls you and asks you a few questions and then decides if you are certifiable…!  Happily, I am.  (None of my friends were surprised by this).  I mean, they certified Jiver as my emotional support animal.  And issued me papers to that effect.  In reality, I will be his emotional support human for the trip!

Given airline animal shipping regulations, it’s a good thing this worked.  It costs about the same amount to ship an animal as cargo ($200) but, the weather must be 45 degrees or warmer and getting out of Denver and Newark in February, there is no way it’s going to be warm enough for that to happen.

There has been more paperwork to bring the dog with us than there was for us to get into the country!  The vet must issue him a doggie passport and the airlines require forms to be filled out as well.  Then there’s the eight-page Portuguese form that the vet must fill out to bring him into the country.  It is a relief that he can travel with us and that there is no dog quarantine in Portugal.  He spent the better part of his life as a diabetic alert service dog for his person until he died almost three years ago.  We inherited Jiver when that happened so, he has paid his dues, so to speak.  He also has the wardrobe for it, he came to us with a service dog vest, which we will use.  And, all the service dog papers are good for a year so, our little buddy is about to become a world traveler!

Jiver is dressed and ready to go!

The sorting out of what to take and what to leave continues.  The movers will come on February 11th and we ship out on the 21st.  And, this just in…our passports came back from the consulate in the mail today with shiny new residence visas inside!  Coming soon to Portugal…us!

It’ a Miracle!

Well, it only took four months from the application date, but we finally got word that our resident visa to live in Portugal has been approved.  Holy mother of the wait from Hell!  I am in shock and it seems so surreal that we will actually be leaving in about three weeks!  So much to do it is staggering because so many things hinged on getting visa approval.  A little over a year from the date that we set out on our first trip to Portugal last February.  I still can’t believe how long and trying a journey it has been, and we are just getting started!  We are still on the road to Portugal but soon we can rename the blog Adventures in Portugal.  Hal-le-freakin-lu-jah! 

It is strange how some things have come so easily: selling the harp, getting NIF numbers and a nice place to live in the Porto area.  And how long and painful a wait it was for visa approval.  I was so desperate that I was about to agree to pay two grand to an immigration attorney in Lisbon to try and help us speed up the process.  (ha, ha, never use the word speed when talking about government of any kind!)  I had just texted Joe about the cost when he got the email from the consulate that our visas had been approved. (Whew, that was close!)  This the day after the consulate received the letter I sent with a cashier’s check for the visa application fee which was not collected from us at the time of application, I can only assume because their systems were down.  Hmmm.  Coincidence?  You decide.  And anyone who tells you it’s easy to move to ANY other country is full of it and/or selling something!

Yup, with no plan B failure is not an option!
We are all in. Vamos!

Stay tuned, there’s more to come.  Tally ho, and away we go!

Give Me Visa Approval or Give me Death!

( I’m pretty sure that death would be quicker and less painful!)

Well, it’s the end of December and as everyone says to me lately: you’re still here… yup, we are still here in beautiful BFE, USA.  Ok, not so beautiful when the high probably won’t crack 20 degrees tomorrow.  Not to mention the government shutdown due to mango unchained and his hare-brained ideas.  I was hoping to be gone by October and here we are staring down the barrel of January 2019.

Let’s recap, shall we?  We started the process of moving to Portugal last March 2018.  Ten months later it feels like we are no closer to achieving that goal than we were then.  Now, a lot has happened since then and here is my advice to anyone contemplating a move to another country:  do not believe what you read on the internet.  There, I was told that a resident visa could take anywhere from two to four weeks for approval and that Portugal was one of the easier countries to emigrate to.  A friend who resided in Lisbon for a year said it shouldn’t take more than a month.  On December 24th (X-mas eve, bummer!) it was 90 days since we made our visa application and we are still waiting.  (Granted, the Portuguese visa website says to apply 90 days out and hey, it’s the Portuguese government, after all.  Could be worse, I guess; could be Spain or Italy.)  It may take more than twice as long as you think to get that resident visa approval and will certainly cost you at least twice as much as you might think.

Once again, I am reminded of Kafka’s The Trial and have started to suspect that our government idiocy isn’t helping our cause any. If only I could have done this two years ago.  That is when I decided that I wanted to relocate to another country and it is now over two years in the making.  I never could have guessed that it would take so long.  I thought, six months, tops.  Boy was I unclear! 

Since first submitting our online visa application in July, which got us an in-person visa application appointment in San Francisco in September, it has been almost six months.  The time disconnect between the online application and the in-person appointment (Not to mention the stress levels involved!) caused me to forget that in the email I got acknowledging my online application, at the bottom it listed a site where I could check the status of my visa application.  Which I completely disregarded since we weren’t there yet and wouldn’t be for a couple more months.

I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago and thought, wait a minute, wasn’t there something about checking visa status somewhere?  After going through months of emails, I found it and the password to access the site.  Hallelujah!  Now finally, maybe I could find out something about our progress.  Here’s what it said… there are four stages in the visa application process:   Application acceptance, consideration, analyzation and finish.  Our applications have been analyzed.  Or, as I like to say:  we’ve been done, duly analyzed!  So, now we know that we are one step from our visa application process being finished.  What does that mean, exactly?  Diddly squat from where I’m sitting.  We are thisclose, apparently, although what that might mean in real time, I have no idea.  Just as in The Trial, is seems to have no end.

My assessment of the whole process?  I think that resident visa approval to move to another country is a moving target (like trying to nail jello to a tree) that depends on timing and political climates.  Five years ago, I’m sure it would’ve been A LOT easier.

As a result, we are looking forward to a bleak and dismal New Years and we are still waiting.  Ugh.  Darkness before the dawn?  I can only hope as we go on month number four of paying for two places to live, one unoccupied and where we want to be.  (Having an address in Portugal was one of the resident visa application requirements.) Let’s hope that the new year will bring good news ASAP.  In the meantime, happy new year and I hope that we will have a happy one next year.

Thanks to Mark Baylor for reminding me to keep at it!

Hold Please continued…

Well, we survived Thanksgiving (three alarm hangover notwithstanding).  What is it about the holidays that makes us think it’s ok to drink EVERYTHING in one night?!  (Oh yeah, friends and relatives.) The turkey was even good thanks to Marczyk’s Willie bird and a prosciutto and chili rub treatment.  Thanks for an excellent meal guys!

So, we’re going on eight weeks since our visa application and zero word from the Portuguese consulate.  If we don’t hear something SOON, and we are stuck here through X-mas, I may have a complete meltdown.  I’m not going to lie; the waiting is killing me.  Not to mention, paying for two places to live, one in Gaia that is vacant.  I won’t even go into how much I hate “the holidays,” especially X-mas.  After harping for dollars for ten years, if I never hear another X-mas tune again, it will be too soon!

I hear that X-mas is big in Portugal,  and I can’t wait to try the fresh roasted chestnuts that are sold everywhere.  Oh, and did I mention the Bananeiro festival in Braga?  When I first started researching Portugal over a year ago, I came across the banana and moscatel fest that happens on Christmas eve in the city of Braga, which is about an hour north of Porto.  Banana and moscatel festival, you say?  How wacky, let’s go!  So, I started fantasizing about going to Portugal for X-mas last year already.

X-mas banana
Merry X-mas banana. (Only in Portugal!)

Apparently, the tropical fruit and wine fest is the outcome of some mad marketing by a guy who owned a banana warehouse and wanted to attract customers.  On Christmas eve a few decades ago, he offered a glass of sweet moscatel wine to anyone who bought some bananas and it became a thing, as they say.  And now, every year thousands of folks descend upon the banana warehouse in Braga on Christmas eve.  Just the thought of it makes me laugh, and want to try it, banana and moscatel, that is.  Could be a great pairing!

Meanwhile, still in government limbo hell, I realize that it’s too late to be early and even if our visa approval comes through this week, we are already in the middle of holiday travel season hell and finding a decent one-way airfare will be nearly impossible.  So, if anyone, anyone (of my three readers) knows someone with a private jet that can move us from N.Y to Lisbon once we get that pesky visa, I will throw in free accommodations with us in Portugal for life.  Keep your ears open and, let me know, will ya’?  Thanks a bunch, and I will keep you posted of events as the occur!  (Here’s to hoping that events will occur SOON!  Hope with me, won’t you?!) We need all the help we can get.

Jiver is all decked out and ready to go with his happy santa tail! (You can see Happy Santa Tail on You Tube or Instragram!)
Jiver is all decked out and ready to go with his happy santa tail!

Hold, please.

After our visa appointment in San Francisco and some breakfast, we headed back to the airport.  Joe flew back to Denver and I went on to L.A. to see family there.

I texted our realtor in Portugal and asked if he would be willing to be our reference and he responded that he would be glad to.  It’s a good thing that he agreed to help us, once again, since we don’t know anyone else over there!  Thank you, Rui Castro!  You are our hero!

It was fun to catch up with friends and family and be reminded of why I wouldn’t want to live in L.A. again.  An hour to get from the west side to the valley during rush hour.  Really, it takes an hour to get just about anywhere in a car in L.A.   Pass on that action.  At least, the weather was nice.  The wining and dining were great, and it was a nice distraction from knowing that we would be stuck in the US for at least another probably eight weeks.

I was warned about the snail’s pace of government bureaucracy in Portugal but when I returned to Denver and Fedexed the last documents to the consulate, I tried to email them as well.  All emails have been returned as undeliverable.  There is a phone number on the website that states that the Portuguese consulate is currently not taking phone calls or returning messages.  There was an “sos” email to which I sent a note saying that I had fedexed documents to them and would they please confirm receipt of said documents.  I received a reply that my email was received and nothing else.  Ugh!  They did warn us, but the complete lack of communication is disconcerting, to say the least!

On the heels of all this, a hurricane hit Portugal on October 13th.  The first one of this magnitude to hit in 176 years!  Awesome.  Luckily, by the time it hit landfall, hurricane Leslie was downgraded to a tropical depression and did the most damage to Lisbon with a beach side restaurant destroyed and the roof of a stadium blown off.  I texted our fairy Godfather, Rui and he replied that Porto was OK, just a lot of wind and rain.  So, our place is vacant but still standing.  Hallelujah.  Thank God for small favors!

So, now we wait.  The Portuguese consulate has our passports and I guess that’s about all we can do.  That and cross our fingers and pray to God!  I’m also guessing that it will be December before we get our visas, at the rate we’re going.  And I wanted to be out of here before last summer!  Ha ha.  Now it looks like we will have to endure half the winter in BFE, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Here’s to hoping for a mild one courtesy of El Nino.

Our gracious host/landlord is hosting Thanksgiving and has invited us, which is so nice and, obviously we will attend, but have I mentioned how much I hate turkey?  Why do Americans think it is so great?  Oh, never mind.  Americans love a lot of things that I don’t care for,

which is one of the many reasons we have got to get out of here!  Holding.  And dreaming of Portuguese food!

Grilled cod dinner at Churrasqueira Kinay in Porto.

Buckle up and travel light!

After travelling for the better part of September, we are now about 75% of the way toward our goal of moving to Portugal.  I went solo since it was much cheaper that way, and someone had to hold down the fort and watch the Jiver, our precious soccer paws.

I spent ten days and about $1,800 for airfare, food and Airbnb to accomplish three goals: find a place to live in Porto, get an n.i.f. number, which is a Portuguese tax ID number, and open a bank account.  So, here’s the thing: getting the NIF number is not easy.  You must have a reference in Portugal and if you don’t know anyone there, good luck with that!  And when I say reference, I don’t mean someone who’ll say you are OK (though you will need that too), but someone who is willing to be financially responsible for you should you default on anything.  What you need is a procurador fiscal, or financial guarantor.  (I learned these details as I went.)

After two days of spinning my wheels, I started to freak out.  How in the hell was I going to do any of this?!  Finally, I found a couple of sites online for the sale and rental of apartments.  Idealista had plenty of offerings, most of which were out of our price range. But I found a few that might work, so I sent messages asking if I could see them.  While I waited for a response regarding seeing some apartments…

I went to Santander bank, which is recommended for expats, and they told me I would need the tax ID number and an address before I could open an account.  So, the next morning I went to the financial services office and they told me that I would need a reference in Portugal and an address there before they could issue me an NIF number.  Ugh.  Frustration is my business!  I had a reference in my friend who let me use her address in Lisbon to apply for a visa online, but that was not enough.  Add to that the fact that she is moving back to the States in October, and I am now seriously S.O.L.

The funny thing was that I got words of encouragement whenever I was dejected all along the way.  After striking out at the financial services office, I went to breakfast at a place called Mesa 325.  A great place to go if you are ever in the Bonfim neighborhood of Porto, which is where I was staying.  There was a sign on the wall that read:  Everything is going to be OK.  EGBOK, thanks, I needed that!  And the overnight oats served with yogurt and fruit is delicious!

The next few days I looked at three listings.  The first was in a neighborhood in Porto called Casa da Musica.  Ok, I thought, I like the sound of that!  I took the metro over and sadly; the place was a dump for $850 Euros per month.  (My friend was not wrong, Porto is expensive!)

Gaia.Porto
The view from Gaia to Porto

Then, I lined up a couple of showings in Vila Nova de Gaia.  Gaia is across the Douro river from Porto.  It is where they store the port wine for ageing.  It is about a fifteen minute walk from downtown Porto and is beautiful.  The first apartment was it!  Three bedrooms, 1200 square feet, and a km from the beach for $650 Euros per month in a nice quiet neighborhood.  Now we’re talking!  The entry has wall paper that looks like a bad 70s acid flashback, but that can easily be changed.  Otherwise it was a good deal compared to what I had seen in Porto proper.  The Remax agent that showed it to me has become our fairy Godfather.  Since we couldn’t even sign a lease agreement legally without the NIF number, he got on the phone until he found someone who could get it for us.  He took a picture of my passport and I got a picture of Joe’s for him and he said we’d talk the next day.

He texted me the next morning and said, “Great news, you both now have NIF numbers!   He got the Re-max company’s attorney to agree to be our fiscal guarantor and overnight we got our tax ID numbers.  Mind you, it will cost us 100 Euros per month until we get our permanent ID cards.  He assures me that it won’t take more than a couple of months and will help us when we get there.

The housing market is so tight in the Porto area that I had to agree to pay a year in advance and sign a three-year contract to secure the place over other applicants.  I was perfectly happy to pay a year of rent in advance and, having been in real estate myself for many years, know that everything else is negotiable, so I signed the lease agreement.  At which point I was informed that after a year we can renegotiate the deal.  Once I left Rui’s office, I went to Millennium BCP bank, which he recommended, and opened an account.  Armed with the NIF document and an address, I could now open an account.

Gaia.Port
White port and biscuits at Quinta de Noval porthouse in Vila Nova de Gaia. (Delicious!) My reward for missions accomplished!

Now, I could return to BFE, USA and finish preparing for our visa appointment in San Francisco.  Whew.  That was a wild ride.  Many thanks to my Airbnb hosts for guiding me and helping me out when there was a taxi strike on the day I returned to Lisbon to catch my flight back to the states!  The Portuguese people are wonderfully friendly and helpful, and I can’t wait to live there.  But we still have a long way to go.

Back to BFE, USA and points west.

Having returned from ten days in Portugal, I now had two days to finish preparations for our visa appointment in San Francisco.  I may have mentioned that BFE Denver, Colorado does not have a Portuguese consulate. Rumor has it that it once did but, that was before my time.  So…if you want to apply for a resident visa to live in Portugal and you live in BFE, Denver, you must go in person to the Portuguese consulate in San Francisco.  Online sites say how easy it is to “move” to Portugal, these are bald faced lies; easy it is not!

Among other things required to obtain a resident visa for Portugal are: (and they don’t mention them all on the “official” site, mind you) $3,000 per person relocating deposited in a Portuguese bank account (See previous post on the catch 22s of opening a bank account over there!) and, ideally at least $50,000 in liquid assets, read cash, per person as well.

I also read that everything (all documents) should be in duplicate.  I compiled a list of documents, in duplicate that included all items on the Portuguese consulate’s list of required items including:  letters of intent (why you want to live in Portugal and what you plan to do while there.  I’ve also read that you had better keep it simple and doable because they judge your worthiness on how probable your statements are to actually happen).  Proof of plane tickets to Portugal and back, because you must come back to the States to renew your visa every year for the first five years.  Here’s the kicker:  how do you make plane reservations when you don’t know when the visa will be approved?  If you don’t plan to return to the city in the US you left, you can’t get round trip tickets and…then what?!  Oh, and I was also told to include birth certificates and marriage license, if applicable.

Holy mother of, can you believe it?  It is a miracle to me that anyone pulls this off.  You had better have the tenacity of ten Jack Russell terriers to get through the process.  I could not figure out what to do for plane tickets since I had heard that they are not always “required” and had purchased one-way tickets to Lisbon leaving October 20th (this date was a stab in the dark.  I got the travel insurance knowing I would probably have to change the date).

I was freaking out about it after my friend told me you HAVE to have a return ticket, and the night before the visa appointment, as we sat in a hotel room in Burlingame, California (S.F., by the airport), I purchased round trip tickets with random dates in September 2019 from Lisbon to L.A., Ca., and back from my, oh so smart phone.  Another two grand.  Ka-Ching.

Ok, now I felt as ready for this appointment as I was going to be.

It took the better part of an hour to get to the Portuguese consulate in San Francisco from near the airport.  (Another reminder of why we want out of BFE, USA:  Traffic hell!)  When you think of government offices you probably think of an office building, right?  Well, the Portuguese consulate is in an old house in Presidio Heights, a residential neighborhood!  We arrived within ten minutes of our first appointment.  Joe was scheduled at ten am and I was up at ten fifteen.  There was a couple ahead of us and we weren’t seen until about ten thirty, and then they took us together, contrary to what is stated online, that it is one appointment per person.  No problem.

After looking over our paperwork we were told that our reference had to be in Portugal and that we needed a letter from them, so my friend Simone was out since she was coming back to the States in October.  FFF!  What was I going to do now?!  Oh, and take your time getting a reference letter to them because their systems were down and would be till…???  And there are 15-16 applications ahead of you.  Once our application was complete, it would be at least six weeks to visa approval.  Welcome to European government bureaucracy.  Can you say DISAPPOINTED?!  Ok, time to regroup.