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Friday, February 26, 2010

The "painful procedure" of posting parcels..

This is just some fun..

2 days ago. Wednesday afternoon, I had decided to do something I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. The simplest thing, I thought it would be, which was to post some of my journals home. I had been carrying these with me for months and they were really started to weigh me down, so I figured it best to post them home. My luggage would be 2,5 kg’s lighter and that was such a welcome prospect at this stage, because I realized the other day that I can’t hardly carry my luggage anymore.. Or I can carry it, but walking is a little tricky, if the distance is further than 500 meters.

So Wednesday afternoon I had the time and I went out on a mission. And it was the biggest mission I’ve been faced with, since getting to this country. First of all, I couldn’t find the post office. I asked everyone, or almost everyone (seeing the amount of people living in this city, it would be a bit too big of a task to ask 1,2 million Indians!!). When I finally found someone who knew, I was on my way. I found the tiniest little shack in an alleyway. All the workers were ignoring me, supposedly they were all “too busy” to help the foreigner who doesn’t speak the language. Finally somebody acknowledged me, but she told me that I had to get a taxi to the main post office, and there they would help me further. Right. I got a rickshaw (which are the tiny little 3-wheeled vans, that scoot all over the city), and took a 15 minute ride to the post office. When it came to paying the driver, I was short of 5 rupees change. Now, 5 rupees is something like 0,07 cents..(to them it’s a lot, to us, not too much, so I can’t really blame the poor guy). I to go in search of a shop, where I could break my note of 500 rupees. I found a medical store and the driver actually walked with me, stood next to be, as if I was going to do a “runner” and try to avoid paying him 0.07 cents. I mean, come on! Anyhow, the “chemist-man” wouldn’t change my note.. So I had to buy some toiletries, just to get 5 rupees change for the driver. Well, I did. Most people would have done a runner.. They would never come running after you, because then they have to leave their rickshaw. But I was honest and didn’t want to cheat him.

This was only just the beginning of a few challenges I was to face. I went into the post office. Again, nobody wanted to help the foreigner who doesn’t speak the local language. How annoying!! I persevered though and finally a girl took notice of me and tried to explain the “procedure”. The procedure??? Excuse me? All I want is a box to put my books in and post it home! Is it really that big of a deal? Apparently it was and I was soon to find out just how big of a mission this was going to be. She sent me to flower-shop, around the corner. Why? I still don’t know. I think she said that they would have a box for me. Because this place didn’t. Of all places, in a big city like this, wouldn’t you think that at least the post office would have cardboard boxes? No.. they didn’t. So, off I went. In search of the flower-shop. I got there, no boxes. The girl thought I was probably the weirdest thing ever; expecting a flower-shop to give me a cardboard box??!! Then I remembered the post office-girl to have said something about the tailor-shop. So I thought maybe they would have boxes..? I know a tailor makes dresses.. but you just never know! I got there, and by this stage I was getting hot and bothered, frustrated and annoyed with the world - it didn’t help that it was the hottest part of the day and walking through these streets without having any shade or any water, was exhausting. The poor tailor man. He didn’t know what I was trying to find. He looked at me as if to have 10 heads (just like the flower-shop girl).. He sent me to a photocopy-place. Again, I received a look that suggested I had come from outer space. I was really getting so annoyed! Nobody was understanding me!!! Okay, Niamh, remember to breath. It’s okay, these are all nice people and they simply don’t understand you.. It’s not the end of the world.

I had come to realize by this stage that I could just go in anywhere and ask for a small cardboard box. So I did. I went into an office, with men in formal suits and with airconditioning that gave me some amazing relief for all of 3 minutes. I was such a sight by this stage. Covered in sweat, frustrated to the max, in walks a girl with the most random question: do you have a cardboard box??!! The guy was so nice, he was back within 2 minutes and hallelujah.. He had a box! BUT, it was too small.. I thanked him so much, took the box as if it was golden, and left. I knew I wouldn’t use it, but I wasn’t going to tell the kind man who had helped me. So I went into a sport-shop where the guy behind the counter saved my day! He had a box! The perfect size! He even taped it up for me! Okay, I was now onto a winner. This would all work out! I was feeling better already just knowing that there were people willing and able to help me! But I spoke way too soon.

I got back to the post office, again nobody wanted to help. Then I started to express my impatience and I made my presence felt, and suddenly things started to happen! One of the guys behind the counter, told me that I wouldn’t be able to send it like that.. Apparently I had to bring it to the tailor-shop where they would wrap it in white material and sow it all nice and neatly! But even if I was to do that, I still wouldn’t be able to post it today. First he said that the counter was closed for international parcels and I would have to come back the following morning. I said I was leaving Cochin and that I wasn’t able to come back. Then he claimed the computer wasn’t working so they wouldn’t be able to process it. But I wasn’t having any of it! He sensed it, much to my advantage! And after a group of them behind the counter had been standing around for quite a while, speaking about me in their local language and discussing probably how freckly my skin was and how inappropriate my clothes were, I was told to go to the tailor-shop and by the time I’d be back, the computer should be working again and they would hopefully be able to register my parcel and send it off.

Okay Niamh, keep breathing, really it’s okay. Just go with the flow. And I did. I made my way back to the tailor-shop and passed by the same men who were standing around watching the world go by, for the 3rd or 4th time that afternoon. They must have been seeing my every step unfold, as I so desperately tried to fulfil this mission of posting my journals home. I really had to laugh at myself by this stage. There was nothing else I could do. Laugh it off Niamh. What an adventure this was. So I got to the tailor-shop and he was happy to help. I apologized for being so rude earlier on, not that he understood a word of what I was saying. But it didn’t matter, it made me feel better. So hung around outside the shop, for half an hour, while the tailor wrapped this precious cardboard box in material and sewed it with so much love. No haste at all. He even sipped his chai tea and enjoyed every minute of what he was creating. I had to see the funny side. Patience is a virtue Niamh. This is what I was repeating over and over again.

When I got my parcel, beautifully wrapped in white material, I had to get the address from the guesthouse I’m currently staying at. Well, another mission. It wasn’t impossible though. I was outside on the street and couldn’t find a quiet place where I could ring the owner, so through the noise and the traffic we could hardly speak to each other. It took forever: both of us roaring down the phone at each other. It even came to the point where he was SPELLING out each number of the 6-digit postcode! Why is nothing ever easy??!! But I sorted it. So, back to the post office. Third time lucky? I hoped so..

At the counter, the same guy was helping me. And, unbelievably, the computer was working!! He was able to send my package off that same day! I didn’t need to come from the other side of this hectic city the following day and be overcharged again by the driver! I felt so relieved and so did he! Probably because of not wanting to deal with anymore fuss and commotion this young girl would cause if she were made to come back the following day, due to some lazy excuse on their behalf. I got it posted! I was relieved from 2,5 kg’s worth of journals. And do you know how long it took, from the moment I decided to search for the post office, to actually handing over that parcel in the white material with addresses and registration? 3 whole hours!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it. But was so chuffed though that I actually accomplished this mission that I had told myself could be impossible. I was exhausted afterwards. What an adventure. Nothing is ever easy here. Every step was painful almost. At home, this same mission would have taken probably no more than 15 minutes!!?? My patience were tested to the max. At the beginning of the afternoon I didn’t even consider how I could benefit from even “having patience” when posting a parcel. But little did I know!

I really wanted to share this crazy afternoon with you, just because it shows how easy life can be in countries that are well-developed and therefore work so efficiently without any effort. It also shows how much we should appreciate, be it here in India or back at home, whenever the simplest daily errands are actually “doable” in this world, wherever we may be! What an experience!

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