Sunday, 2 December 2007

Sending and Receiving Post

The Central Post Offioce in Georgetown, Guyana

When you're seven thousand miles away from home, receiving post is a big thing. Most of the time it takes about 3- 4 weeks for a letter or a card to arrive with the record being 11 days and anything from 2 months to 5 1/2 months for a parcel (at least that's our record!).

But that's not the end of it. Small things come direct to the VSO office, albeit sometimes via Ghana, or a slip will be left for a parcel. It's not just a matter of going across the road to the nearest Post Office but to the general Post Office in the centre of town.

When you find the right window to go to, you wait some time and then a bored young lady will snatch your slip from you without saying a word and slam the shutters in your face. Soon after she will demand your passport and will wander around for a while slitting parcels and leaving them open for the customs officers and after a while will go round the back for your one. Eventually she will slit it open in its own little wooden tray. What excitement! After 10 minutes or so, a customs officer will casually sidle up to your parcel, flick the contents around with plastic gloved fingers and loll back into her office where she will chat, do a crossword or maybe even some paperwork before coming back out with the slip with the "amount to pay" written on it.

Some time will elapse before the same slitter lady will get some tape and parcel it up again (without the same loving care) and eventually will pass it to her left on a table. If you are in the know, you will go to the next window. If you are not, you just stay there waiting. I am now in the know. It was my second time giving up a whole dinner hour for this process. To the next window went I. Waited and waited until the cashier held out her hand for the revenue without even looking at me. I handed over a thousand and got the change to the nearest hundred but didn't complain because most of the stuffing had already been knocked out of me by then.

With a wave of the hand I was sent to the next window labelled delivery. At least this one told me. I was already 30 minutes late to get back to work. There was no-one at this window, so I waited and waited and waited. Eventually, the first girl came over and "yes?". I've come to collect my parcel". She knew exactly who I was and which parcel it was because I have a paler complexion than others around. "Slip?" I handed it over, whereupon it was stamped several times and went to collect the parcel, having the window slammed behind me.

Instinct made me go on to the next window even though I had the parcel in my hand. I stood there as the woman answered the phone (a personal call) and texted with her other hand. I looked up and saw SUPERINTENDENT OF PARCELS. "Yes, yes!" I thought. I will tell her what it feels like. After a very polite but assertive diatribe from me, she lifted her head, looked me in the eye and said "Yes, it is like that, isn't it?" and she closed the window behind her as she walked off. I don't complain anymore, I do it like the Guyanese, accustomed and resigned to such treatment from a public service. It's a pity, because the same people are so nice when you speak to them socially. It must be so miserable for them being miserable all day long!!!