Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Just Need a Stamp

I went to the post office the other day. Gripping, I know.

We left the office at about 11:30 in the morning. After a ten minute walk, complete with cars and motorcycles whizzing by my elbow (a feature of any walk to any destination here) we arrive at what best could be described as a “postal annex” and more accurately described as a “shack”. It’s a tiny little building featuring the requisite Indian chaos. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the organization of the papers, envelopes, and other objects I could see through the old-school, Clint Eastwood-style barred teller windows.

I tried to “speed post” the birthday card to my Mom (awwww, what a good son) but it was not to be. Apparently, we had to go to the “main” post office to do that. We determined this after a rapid-fire exchange of Tamil between my guides and the postal worker, who were soon joined by several onlookers, all who seemed to have an opinion or contribution to telling us how to get to this place. The rapidly spoken and nearly full volume Tamil flew everywhere and somehow I ended up right in the middle of it all. If I was a language-learning savant I would have looked like Trinity learning to fly the Apache.

Armed with our new directions, we hire a tuk tuk (or auto-rickshaw) for the ride. These things provide quite an exhilarating ride. The one wheel in front and motorcycle-style handlebars inside make them very maneuverable. We darted in and out of traffic and were making turns between two other moving vehicles. I think they’d be kinda fun to drive around. They’d be great for a version of bumper cars but they probably tip over easily.

We arrived at our new destination and this one looked more like a government office. Run down, peeling paint, signs everywhere, stacks of papers and folders all over, and more chaos. The concept of a “line” here is a bit different than in the US. If someone is conducting a transaction and there is a brief delay for, say, getting your money out of your wallet or some translation of the prices of the different delivery methods, the next person in “line” will just walk up, nudge you out of the way, and hand their letter to the clerk. I nearly, and I mean NEARLY, elbowed this guy out of the way the first time it happened. I mean, it’s so different than the American “please wait behind the yellow line” approach that my natural, almost instinctual, reaction was, “Dude, hello, WTF?!? Go wait your F’in turn, buddy.” But, hey, that’s how they do things here and it didn’t really slow down my transaction at all. I think it’s a product of having so many people in one place. I think. Dave says China is even worse in that regard, with cutting in line and other types of madness.

Christen comes in tonight and we’re off to Sri Lanka tomorrow. The blog posts will no doubt decline in frequency and may stop completely. We’ll be back in the US on the evening of March 25th. I will no doubt be ready to come back to the US by then, although I am looking forward to lounging on the beach for a few days.

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