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!
security guard: What's the address?
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.