22 August 2006

Извините, вы не знаете где почта?

I'm not saying that life in Russia is hard. Really, I'm not. But what's the deal with the post office?

See, I've been trying to send my brother his birthday present for the past couple of weeks. My first encounter with the post office involved having to ask five different people how to get there, not being able to figure out where the line ended when I did get there (note: Russian lines are not like American lines), and accidentally standing in the line for pension payments for ten minutes. But I finally got my postcard stamps (except they don't have postcard stamps, so if you receive a postcard from me it will have four different stamps on it. Sorry if your name is covered up by stamps). I didn't send the package because I lacked the vocabulary to ask how to do it and the will to tussle with a Russian who was clearly already irate at my so-so language skills.

My second encounter, which was yesterday, involved AG and I searching for a post office downtown for about forty-five minutes (not only are they not marked on our maps, but no one you ask on the street seems to have any knowledge of their existence, much less their location) before we gave up and rode the metro to a neighborhood where we knew there was a post office. There I was informed by the woman at the counter that I couldn't send my package internationally from that post office; I would have to go to the Center for International Mail. Hmph. At least she wrote down the address for me. (But really. There's only ONE place to send international packages in ALL OF MOSCOW, which by the way is Europe's largest city??)

This morning, I woke up bright and early to head to the Center for International Mail. It took me an hour to get there by foot and metro, but when I got to the right metro stop I was delighted to find that one of the exits to the street was labeled "To the Center for International Mail." In my foolishness, I assumed that this meant the Center for International Mail was somewhere within, oh, a half-mile radius of the metro stop.

And indeed, when I got to the street level, I was right in front of a building labeled 39 Whatever Street. "How convenient," I thought, because in my foolishness I believed that this meant that the building I was looking for, 37 Whatever Street, would be right next door. But the only thing next door was a very high wall; beyond this wall, there was a long driveway with a sign that said "Auto Repair." In my foolishness, I assumed that there must be something besides an auto repair place (say, a post office?) behind that big wall. But there wasn't. I walked a little farther, noticed that the buildings across the street were down to numbers 26 and 24 Whatever Street, and decided I had better turn back. I went back to building 39 and inquired of the security guard where I might find the post office.

Leslie: Where is the post office?
security guard: Not here.
Leslie: And you don't know where it is?
security guard: What do you mean, I don't know where it is? I know it's not here!
Leslie: ...
security guard: What's the address?
Leslie: 37.
security guard: Well, this is 39.
Leslie: Yes, I KNOW. But where's 37?
security guard: Dunno, probably somewhere down that way (points down the street).

So I continued walking down the street, and after passing two more widely-spaced buildings (un-numbered) I finally found 37. I asked another security guard where the post office was, and he directed me to the other side of the building. I found it, walked in, discovered I needed to take a number, took number 63, saw that numbers 47 and 48 were being served at the moment, and decided that since I already only had 55 minutes to get back home, I had better cut my losses.

So, at least now I know where the international post office is. But it looks like TJ won't be getting his present until October or so.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Just ... wow. And I thought I had an issue with the Air Force Academy postal facility letting Travis's box (with all his important electronic stuff in it) sit buried in a pile in the corner for 10 days!

On the other hand ... Russians can get pension payments at the post office. Hmmm ... If this happened in the U.S., the post offices in places such as Norwalk would be totally swamped by little old ladies driving Buicks uptown and jockeying for the six parking places on Whittlesey. Kind of boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Didn't a single kind Russian point out that you were too young for the pension-payments line?

And, I take it that the Russians could use a few lessons from Cedar Point on how to fun lines effectively. Clearly, if they had 15 roller-coasters people paid big-rubles to ride, they'd know how to do lines.

On the other hand, I see security guards the world over are cut from the same cloth ...


NH Roots said...

Happy 22nd Birthday, Leslie!!

Karen, Steve, Andrew and Molly

Anonymous said...

Leslie my dear,

I've had SO many similar experiences here in Jerusalem where the smallest, simplest-seeming practicalities become huge messes. I can totally relate to that story -- you know, I kept blaming Israel and its slow bureaucracy at first, but then a wise woman told me, "It's not being in Israel that makes your life difficult, it's being a foreigner." I thought about that a lot, and I agree that it's true. I still think there are some things particular to Israeli life that are super-tough to get used to: e.g., bus drivers who drive away while your foot is still on the step without giving you an extra 10 seconds to decide whether to get on or not ... because even if you fall and you sue them, it will cost you loads in lawyer's fees and it's super unlikely that you'll win ... e.g. no one being able to give me directions ANYWHERE since all the streets in Jerusalem are winding around and around the mountains upon which it was built and there's no way to say go straight and turn left most of the time ... so they just say "yashar yashar" (straight, straight) and if you were meant to go left, so they say "yashar smolah" (keep going straight on to the left ..." amusing to tell these stories to friends back home, but infuriating to live through them!

I could go on and on, but really I think that being a foreigner in any country is just TOUGH. You don't know how the systems work, you don't know the language fluently, you don't know where things are, and to top it off, the people around you who are supposed to know these things either don't or act like they don't -- so unhelpfulness abounds.

But from experience it IS possible to get your bearings eventually ... you just need lots of patience. Any idea where to buy some? I sure could use it too. :-)

Tseluyu tebya, immeninitsa!