We thought that sending a package from Almaty, Kazakhstan was pretty entertaining back in 2005. We’d heard it was relatively inexpensive to send from India, so yesterday we gave it a try.
We waited patiently in line as people crowded the window. That is to say, Indians crowded the window and the Western tourists just didn’t know any better, so we hung back with some mental tracking of whose turn it was next.
I knew the clerk expected to look through the contents of what I wanted to send and I wasn’t sure if they had mailing supplies there, so I put my small pile of clothes on the counter and said I wanted to mail them. I gathered more from other tourists than from the clerk, that I needed to go find some fabric, take it to a tailor to have it sewn into a bag, and come back.
A South Korean just steps ahead of me in sending his package, mentored me through the process. Bob and I walked a few shops down to a fabric store and bought a yard of “parcel cloth.” It was more than I needed, but at 50 rupees a meter (probably the tourist price), I wasn’t going to quibble.
I borrowed the South Korean’s marker, wrote the address, borrowed a needle, and began stitching up the side. I could have taken it to a tailor and further supported the local economy, but I had a vague, inexplicable feeling that the further I went from the post office, the less likely my package was to be sent.
The South Korean had by now gone to a copy place to get a copy of his passport (4 rupees), and was filling out a blank form with carbon paper.
I don’t know what I was thinking going to the post office without a marker, tape, sewing needle, thread, passport copies and the address of the guest house, but I did, and now we would have to walk home and get the passport copies. Well, I thought we did, because I thought they wanted the copy of the visa also, but I’m not certain of that. I always carry a laminated photocopy of my passport and may have been able to get by with just a copy of that.
We told the South Korean we would have to come back, but he was preoccupied; he looked like he was going to cry. The clerk told him they couldn’t send his package to South Korea because they only had postal information for North Korea.
We came back after lunch and waited outside for the clerks to come back from their lunch, though we weren’t certain of that because there was so sign posting the hours and only the little-man-with-no-legs-sitting-on-a-homemade-skateboard-out-in-front told us that the clerks would be back within an hour. And they were.
I showed the clerk my carefully stitched bag and its contents and she approved it to stitch closed. I’d hoped for effusive praise of my tidy stitching, but no luck. Next, they weighed it, .320 kg. I filled out the blank page with my name address, address of the guest house, value of the items and my passport number, in duplicate. I transcribed the tracking number they gave me onto the muslin, (in case the sticker comes off). For just 270 rupees, I could mail my souvenir clothes home.
On our victorious walk out, we passed some packages on the floor, one was addressed to South Korea.
I love the U.S. Postal Service.