There is no such thing as a quick trip to the Post Office here in China. I have grown to dread these trips. I tried to alleviate the severity of the discomfort today by going to a different post office other than the one that’s closest to our house. At the post office closest to our house, the workers are pretty consistently rude and speak in an unintelligible dialect while making fun of our Chinese. In an attempt to avoid their rudeness, I went to the post office that is nearly half a mile from our apartment.
Today, there was only one worker at this post office. Usually, there are at least two or three workers. I approached her with my first objective. To mail two teddy bears to a team-mate in the States. She helped me get a box and gave me the estimate of how much money it would be to mail it. I had approximately 244 kuai on me and 4 mao. She mumbled that it would be 200 something to mail the package, but I couldn’t hear what she said very clearly. I asked her again; this time another indecipherable dollar amount. So, I assumed that I would have enough money and started to fill out the form to mail the package. After filling out the form and writing the address on the box, she calculated the total and this time, she said the amount very clearly-- 270 yuan. I told her that I didn’t have enough money, and I told her that I had not understood what she said the first two times. The boy next to me offered to foot me the money, but I knew that was not a good option. So, I asked her if I could run home, get the money, and come back. She reluctantly agreed. It was about 95 degrees outside at this time and a little uncomfortable, but I just chalked it up to exercise.
After returning with the money, the boy who had offered to give me the money was still at the post office. He commented that I was fast, and I deflected the compliment and paid the money. Then, I asked the postal worker to help me with my second task, mailing a letter to America. After getting the right-sized envelope, I began to write the address on the front of the envelope, including my Chinese address (in characters) on the top left hand of the letter. I was proud of myself for using the Chinese characters. After I finished, the postal worker took one look at the envelope and shook her head. Now, I know that in China you write the return address and the address in different places than we do in the States, but I had assumed that since this envelope was going to America, I could use the American system.
However, no such luck. She had me re-write the envelope and this time, she clearly explained what address should go where. I finished writing the addresses which take some time when as one of them was in Chinese. As I handed it to her, she looked satisfied and took the envelope. Then, I saw her stamp the front of the envelope. She gasped, and then tried to erase the red stamp. I knew that she had used the wrong stamp on the envelope, and I also guessed the correct outcome. She sheepishly handed me another blank envelope, and didn’t even have to ask me to re-write the addresses. After writing the addresses for the third time, we had success on both ends. I paid the fee, and told her in Chinese, “Thank you for your diligence with me.” I think she smiled a little bit. It was now about one hour and 45 minutes after the time I had first left the apartment for the post office. And with that dear Friends, you may not be getting any letters from me this year.