I had a bit of a crazy travel day yesterday. I left Cusco to get to Nazca (there is a sign at the entrance of town that says ¨Nasca¨followed by another ten meters away that says ¨Nazca¨… I don´t get it) via Lima airport and Cruz del Sur bus station. The flight on Star Peru (mistake taking this airline… should have stuck with LAN Peru) was delayed by two hours. This would not have been an issue except I planned a little excursion between my anticipated 8:30 AM arrival in Lima and 1:30 PM departure. The excurson was to the Lima main office of the Postal Service to mail a box home.
Have I discussed mailing boxes home from other countries yet? I must have said something because each time is quite the adventure. They are usually fun, but they are also tests of patience, communication skills and flexibility. I could write a book on mailing packages from foreign countries and it would proably be a comedy and tragedy all in one. I arrived at the Lima post office in the city center around 11:00 AM or about two hours after I expected although I was not worried other than all my extra time was already gone. I was armed with all of the needed instruments including the box, contents ready for inspection, packing tape, pen, marker and brown paper to wrap the box. The brown paper is required by some countries and not required by others and after my little adventure in Panama on another travel day looking for brown paper I was sure to bring it ahead of time. I was very happy with myself when I convinced a Cusco merchant to sell me two large pieces.
The tax dropped me off with my backpack, carry-on and the nine kilo box to be mailed at the wrong side of the post office. I lugged it all around to the entrance where an armed guard immediately swooped in to show me the way. This guy was amazing. He took me to customs and then told me to leave my backpack in a corner and he would watch it. Where on earth are you going to find a guard to watch your stuff while you do business? My experience is that postal people around the world love foreigners and you can probably find such help in many places although this is a first for me. So far, I have had nothing but great service from postal staff. Yesterday was no exception.
I opened the sealed box (sealed due to flight) and showed it to the clerk. She wondered why it was so cold. I told her Cusco and she told me how frio Cusco is. I told her how calor Lima is. We agreed and laughed although I found Cusco more refreshing than cold. She told me the price – a whopping fifty-five dollars or about fifteen more dollars than any other like-sized package I have mailed so far. She then told me that I need to have it wrapped and that my brown paper was not needed.
I was confused so the guard came over and guided me to a booth outside where a woman had canvas bags that she would wrap the package in. Due to the size of the package, she had to unstitch two bags and then stitch them together. She then wrapped the package and stictched the seams together to seal the box. She was a master with the ¨thread¨and needle. My box was beautiful when she was done although I think this was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen and really wonder why brown paper would not have sufficed or would have been more superior. Whatever…
Her stitching took almost one hour and it was now after noon when I went through the final hoops. I paid her the four dollars for her knitting. By the way, while waiting for the stitching to be completed, she told me to go get a refreshment and she would watch my bags (teh guard had to leave after waiting about 45 minutes for me earlier). Remember, Lima has ten million people and has a lot of crime. Crime and filth, but absolutely friendly and kind people. (I still hate the city, though.) I then used a marker and re-addressed the box, filled out the customs paperwork and turned the box in. I tried to pay there, but no… I had to take a bill and go to another line to do that. I was right up against my deadline of 12:45 when I was done and running out of the building to catch a cab to my bus. That´s almost two hours and the post office was pretty quiet! Patience is a must! I caught the bus on time and kicked back and enjoyed Braveheart in Spanish with English subtitles. By the way, have you ever noticed how much William Wallace´s execution was made to look like Christ´s?Apparently, Mel Gibson was already toying with the Passion of the Christ when he did Braveheart. I never noticed except now that I have visited thirty different churches in Peru I am quite boned up on crucifixion.