Good news: I finally I have a mailing address! It only took five months! Pats herself on back for being so efficient.
This is a huge accomplishment. I promise that the story will make you want to write me a letter or pack a box of treats for all of my efforts. Plus, who doesn’t love getting mail from friends and family? And who doesn’t love the idea that they brightened someone’s day? We both win!
The story goes a little something like this: while I was living with my host family, I stopped in to the Post Office to obtain a post office box. I knew that I needed to do this because I would soon move to a place that did not have addresses let alone mail service. Plus, Christmas was coming, and I was getting requests from family about where to send things.
This ended up being a two-day process because I had to find the post office. Once located, I had to get there when it was actually open. Once I arrived, I waited patiently for five or ten minutes for someone to show up at the desk. There is no bell at the desk. When I finally tracked someone down, I learned that they only sell PO Boxes by calendar year. If I bought one at that point, I would pay the year-fee for only a few weeks of use. I decided to wait until January.
So then January came. I had to wait for a time when I was in the city during the week and during business hours. Shoot! I forgot my work visa! Double shoot! I don’t have any documented proof that I live here! This happened several times. But today I was prepared! Today was the day!
I walk in confidently. I wait patiently at the counter with no bell. No one is coming. I decide to yell through the small hole in the glass, even though it feels a little rude to do so. Nothing. I walk to the other counter and ask a man if he can help to find someone who could assist me at the PO Box counter. He calls a number. Nothing. Another number. Nothing. A third number. Still nothing. A fourth number. Seriously, is this necessary? Finally, we both hear a woman respond: “Bueno?”
Several minutes later, she was at the desk. I practically squatted down to align my face with the opening in the window. I explain to her that I have my visa and my 300 pesos with me, and a copy of a letter that proves that I work in Mexico. She responds to my smile with: “You don’t have a utility bill? You need a utility bill.” And then she turns to walk away. I stop her, “but I work here and I don’t pay utility bills. My landlord does that. I really need a PO Box because I have no address,” I start laying on my sob-story so that she will help, “It is because I am a volunteer who is helping with development in the rural communities. I live up in the mountains and have no way of getting mail. Please help me!”
“Let me talk to my supervisor,” was her surly response. Thank goodness! I am getting somewhere despite her lack of enthusiasm.
They decide to be flexible with me. I happily run down the street to make sufficient copies of each piece of required paperwork. I come back grinning. She is not at the window. There is still no bell. I yell out to a man in the back: “Can you find Lupita for me?”
Several minutes later, she shows up and hands me a STACK of forms. “Fill these out. I am leaving to do other things. I will be back later,” I hear her say through that low crack in the window. Man, this is like going to the Department of Motor Vehicles. I glance at the paperwork. She has given me three different packets of forms stapled together, but two are identical. I put one to the side; that must have been a mistake.
I begin to tackle the forms. They all ask the same basic questions: name, address (remember, I don’t have one), phone number, email address. Name, phone number, email address. Sign here. Name next to it. Date. Name, address, email address. Phone number with name. Over and over.
When I was done, I yelled through the hole in the window. No Lupita anywhere. I walk around to the other desk and ask if someone can help me find her. When she finally shows up, she dryly says: “But you did not complete this form.”
“But it is the same exact form as this one,” I say while fishing through the pile of papers.
“No matter. You need to fill out all of the forms.”
I quickly complete the next set while she is helping another woman. Name, phone number, email address. Sign here. Name next to it. Date. Name, address, email address. Phone number with name. All completed with sloppy handwriting; I am determined to finish this form before she can leave the window!
A few minutes later, she collects the forms and tells me to pay at the cashier. She motions to the long line across the lobby.
I wait patiently with 300 pesos in my hand. When I arrive at the cashier, he answers the phone and ignores me. I wait. Finally, he looks at my stack of papers and the colorful bills of money and takes out a huge carbon copy receipt book. The form is equally redundant to mine. He actually writes the name of our state three times. On a receipt.
I bring back the blue copy for Lupita to take a look. She wasn’t there again. Still no bell. A few minutes later, she returns and glances at the paperwork. She then grabs a lock from below the counter. Oh man! Something is finally happening, I think.
But then something funny happened; she handed me an actual lock and is now describing where I can find a locksmith so that I can make copies of the key: one for me and one for the post office. Seriously??
So I walk down the street looking for the shop, and I cannot find it to save my life. I ask a few people on the street for help, but they tell me to take a taxi to the city center. Um, no.
Defeated, I return to the Post Office. Surly Lupita is nowhere to be found, so I find another man who starts giving me vague directions. I interrupt him to ask for a hand-drawn map. He happily draws one out, which turns out to be very clear. I was able to find the shop with no problems this time. Well, except for the fact that the shop is closed.
I walk back to the post office once more, and locate the man who had helped me before. Lupita is still nowhere to be found. He grabs the paper with a smile, laughing at the whole situation, and draws another map. “I hope this one is open!” I joke with him. He agrees and sends me on my way once more.
As luck would have it, success at the second locksmith! I had actual keys in my hand, along with the lock to my new post office box. I walked back with a light step and a smile on my face, laughing at the absurdity of getting some things done.
Once I found Lupita for the last time, she handed me a copy of my receipt, took the lock and one key, and said “have a nice day.” I think she almost meant it too.
So, after all of that effort, I am really hoping for some mail! To limit internet stalk-ability, please send me an email request. I do not want my address plastered on this public forum.
If you want to send a care package and are looking for suggestions, check out my wish list. Or fill it with other things! I will love whatever you send because then, all of my post office efforts won’t have been in vain.
Making me smile:
- Seeing clowns drive home after work
- Watching chickens cross the road
- Fence building plans are in effect; the first stages of starting my garden and compost
- I have joined in with a seven-week training for tour guides in my national park. I will get to make great connections, learn even more trails and cool spots to visit, and help teach them more about local ecology and English.