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Russia, June 30, 1997

The Pochta is the Place for Stamps

I'll trade you the US Postal system for this place any day!

Now here is a tale for ya, those who think that Russia is too advanced to have a Peace Corps presence.

Today I had a pochta (post office) experience.

On Saturday, I received this little slip from the post office saying I had a package waiting for me. Well waiting for someone in our house. My name is still confusing and untranslatable into Russian (no surprise there), so here wasn't a name on the slip only USA under sender. Being the only American in the family, I went to the post office today.

Now, this is where it gets fun. The post office isn't open all day, or even 9-5 like America. Its open 10-6, but with a break form 2-3, when they have lunch. This break isn't uncommon. Usually all businesses, including cafes and restaurants close for lunch and dinner. Yes, at lunch, or dinner, a restaurant will close for lunch or dinner for the staff. Think about the logic.

Ok, so I arrived at the post office, when? At 2:10 pm. I sat down to write a letter and wait. No less than 12 Russians asked me the time while I sat there cuz they are waiting too. Why is it that only foreigners wear watches here? "Buy a watch, slacker!" is what I wanted to yell by the 7th guy. To top it off, I kept screwing up the time, making the process even more disruptive and annoying. 2, 12, and 20 sound extremely similar and I kept mixing them up. No, its not 10 pm or noon, I'm just an idiot American!

After that traumatic experience, I went into the pochta at 3pm. As the crowd formed around the window, cuz a line would be just too orderly, I squeezed my way to the front. First, I bought envelopes already stamped. It is illegal or something to own unstuck stamps here. Guess what the price was? 20 thousand rubbles. Yep, I gave her 12, and off we went into confusion land for a while. When all was settled I went to the end of the pack to regroup.

Soon I was at the front again and gave her my slip. 20 min later, she returned with a package. I looked at the front. It was from America, but not mine. Shit, I was all happy for mail, and. nuttin. Depressed I went home.

My host brother asked about the package and I told him what happened. He looked at me then asked for the slip. I gave it to him to toss. He splits and shows up an hour later with my envelope from my parents. Now here is a 13yr old showing me up. I tried to find out if the package was delivered to our apartment, or at the post office and they were just idiots, but I had no success.

Later, as I told this story to my fellow volunteers, the truth was revealed. It was a conspiracy against me! No, actually there are two types of post offices, one for letters and bill paying that I walked into, and a completely different one for packages, that my host brother went to.

God I love Russia!

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