Monday, December 31, 2007

Getting Our Mail....A Cultural Experience

Here are the kids with the fruits of our labor! We have just opened five packages that we received in the mail. I think it took longer for us to get the packages after they arrived in Coch, than it did for them to get here.

Our day started when we received a phone call from our friend and co-laborer in Christ at the Mission, Lorna. Lorna calls us when we have mail, and we go get them from her. She told us that there was an envelope waiting for us at the post office, but that they would not give it to her since our name was on it. This is weird, because she is authorized to get all mail addressed to MAE, which is the address people use to send us mail. Now, let me give you a little information before I continue. Bolivia doesn't have door to door mail delivery, or mailboxes on the corner. All mail goes to the post office, and you have to go there to get it. You have to know that you are going to get a package so that you will know to go ask for it. In Cochabamba, a city of almost 1,000,000 people...there is one post office, and it is never crowded...this is because everyone knows that their mail will not be there. Denise and I have been expecting packages since August...packages that had not arrived. Every week entails a trip to the post office, a question about packages, and a postal worker telling us that they have no packages for us...to come back and again 'mañana'. So...background...one Post Office...no mail...since August.

Back to my story.

So, Denise and I go to the post office...actually behind the post office to an office that we did not know existed...and ask for the envelope. We are told that we cannot pick it up because it is addressed to MAE. Remember why Lorna could not get it? We persisted, and after talking to two employees we were rewarded with an affirmative. Meanwhile, person after person had walked up beside us and asked to see the official post office receipt file. They would be handed a stack of papers about 12" high, and then they would thumb through the papers to see if anything had been sent to them. I figured, "What do I have to lose?" So, I asked if we had any other packages waiting for us.

Another worker picked up the stack and he and I looked through them...and we found five other packages that had been sitting in the post office since September 6th! Eureka! I aske the man to give me those boxes as well. Only, there was a glitch. I had to pay 'storage' since they had been thrown in a backroom with the other 500 boxes. What were my options? So, they took 45 minutes and a two person conference, then came back and told me that I owed 300 Bolivianos ($40) for storage. Reluctantly I complied, and another lady took my money. Then I received my packages right? OHHHH NNNOOOOOO. I had to go nextdoor to an adjoining office so they could figure my taxes. It was now 11:40, we had been there over an hour. I walked up to the empty counter with three employees behind it and handed them my paperwork. I was told to come back at 2:30, because lunch was at noon. I pointed to the clock and told the man that it was not noon, therefore it was not lunch. He told me to come back at 2:30. And since this is the man figuring out my taxes I did not want to go North American on him and make him angry.

No problem. I returned at 3:00 and got my packages, right? OHHHH NNNOOOOOO. When we returned, and waited while the three employees behind the empty counter talked. After 10 minutes, they asked for my paperwork and I received my packages, right? OHHHH NNNOOOOOO. The computer system went down, so they told me to come back tomorrow.

Day Two and my third trip to the Post Office, I returned and found the system now working. So, I received my packages, right? OHHHH NNNOOOOOO. After one of the three employees behind the empty counter took my paperwork and entered things into the computer, he turned and handed them to another of the three employees behind the empty counter. She entered more information, and wrote in a black marker on the paperwork, which was filled out in, honest, quadrupulet. I could not figure out what they were entering, since all of the paperwork had a sending address, a receiving address, and a box number....however, I waited. Finally, she smiled and said she was finished. Now, at last (after about an hour), I could get my packages, right? OHHHH NNNOOOOOO. She told me that I had to pay my taxed. I said, 'Okay', and took money out of my pocket. She looked at me with a strange expression, and told me again that I had to pay my taxes. I mistakenly assumed that this meant go to the person at the adjacent empty counter that I had paid the storage fees to the day before. But no...this wasn't the case. I had to walk four blocks away to a bank and pay the teller there. So, I had her write down the general address and off I went.

I arrived on the street, but was not sure of the correct bank, so I asked the policeman standing on the sidewalk. I showed him my paperwork, and said what I needed to do, and also had him read the directions that one of the three employees behind the empty counter had written down for me. He told me that they were wrong, and I had to walk another two blocks to a different bank. So, I did. When I got to the bank, the bank teller told me that I had to go to another bank, and gave me exact directions. So....I went back to the bank that the policeman was standing in front of (really) to pay my taxes.

After paying my taxes, and receiving multiple receipts showing that I had done so, I went back to one of the three employees behind the empty counter and showed them that I had paid. Now, I could pick up my packages right? OHHHH NNNOOOOOO. After entering something more in the computer, I was sent to the only one of the three employees behind the empty counter that had not yet touched my paperwork. Now, he took my papers, and I discovered his specialty. He is a stamper. He stood up, walked to the counter, and stamped, stamped, stamped, stamped, and stamped. Now, finally...well not yet. I had to go back to the original empty desk in the adjacent office, and hand them the stamped paperwork. They put them in some type of shoebox, and let me walk into the back room and find my boxes.

So, after two days, four trips, three offices, and 10 employees...I received my packages!

IT WAS WORTH IT! THE MORAL OF THIS STORY IS SEND MORE MAIL...WHY WASTE ALL OF THIS CULTURAL LEARNING BY NOT GETTING MORE PACKAGES?


Seriously, we have now learned when, where, and how to get our mail. We checked all of the date sent with the date received and it takes about three weeks to get stuff from the States.

But...when you send us something, LET US KNOW that you sent it. That way we can know when to go to the mailbox and thumb through the 12" high stack of papers. :)

Grateful To Get It,
Joe


7 comments:

MJ said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of Blogspot!

Sorry about your mail problems, glad you now have that worked out!


MJ

albinoblackguy said...

Hey, this is the Greene family from Sandy Cove (actually, their 20 year old son) and we would like to know, is there a PRIVATE mail delivery service such as DHL or UPS in Bolivia?

Jim Greene

Becky said...

Wow. I hope you'll be getting to know those folks.

Glad you are getting your mail. If there is a merit badge awarded for kindness in the face of extreme adversity you would have it for sure.

Becky

TheLuckyOne said...

Congratulations on your blog. Cool. And wow I was going N. Am. reading the story. :) What a lesson for us in NM to remember, patience. Happy you all received them. Is Denise still blogging? I just wrote her the other day! Thinking of you all. God Bless.

TheLuckyOne said...

p.s. TheLuckyOne @ www.handsfullheartsfull.blogspot.com

tdonn32761 said...

It sounds like you are getting lots of practice with your Spanish. We will pray that the angels continue to watch over your little bits of home that arrive for you.

Stumbler said...

I just read this again Joe..... and it still makes me laugh.

And to the son of the Greene family.... YES... you can DHL stuff to Bolivia.... but I'll let Joe tell you all about just how that turned out. ;-)