post and present

Everyone likes presents don’t they? What can be better than an unexpected parcel from home, sent with love? When my Mom told me in December that she had posted us a Christmas parcel I was really pleased. Being an expat means you don’t often receive gifts from your family back home that actually coincide with the event they celebrate – so when you do visit once a year you are handed a bag containing your last birthday gift and one for the coming Christmas. And let’s face it, with the prices of postage these days even the smallest thing can end up costing more that it’s worth to send to someone halfway round the world. I find it easier to buy things online in the country where the intended recipient is actually living, and send it directly. It’s not quite the same though is it as being given something that has been hand-picked and lovingly wrapped and labelled? But as they say “it’s the thought that counts” right? I hope so.

[my parcel]

Anyway, by the middle of January there was still no sign of said parcel. Now I should also mention at this point, if I haven’t already at some time in the past, that there is no street delivery for mail here in Dubai. It is a service that the post office are considering implementing very soon apparently, but right now the only option is to have mail sent to a post office box. And most people here just use their company one as getting your own is rather tricky – not because it’s difficult but there just aren’t enough. And the post offices themselves are in the older part of town, so it’s a bit of a schlepp to be honest. But I digress. Eventually this month (Feb) the slip arrived in our box. So I popped into the post office proper next door and handed my slip to the gent behind the counter. He then told me that I had to go to the central post office (in Karama) to collect the parcel. Damn. Another mission with parking was on the horizon.

The CPO is a massive building down near the green Metro Line and the creek, so it’s not difficult to find, but it is busy and parking is tricky. Of course they also close at 2pm or something so I did’t want to delay, as I was halfway there, being in Satwa already (where our box is). The system for collecting your parcel at CPO is quite a bizarre one. You hand the slip and your ID to the person at the counter – and then you pay 4 dirhams (storage!!!? and admin fee) before they give you a second slip with a handwritten number on it. And then you wait. What happens next is that all the slips are then collected up (in random batches) and someone with a trolley heads into the bowels of the building to retrieve all the parcels in that batch. In no particular order. They are then dumped onto the trolley and brought back to the counter. Then one at a time they are scanned, opened by a customs official if necessary (based on the contents and sometimes the recipient it seems), checked, resealed, and handed over. If the person holding the matching receipt has wandered off to have a smoke or find something to drink then the whole process grinds to a halt. Frustratingly the package my Mom sent me was quite small and ended up on the bottom of the pile, while other packages got dumped on top of it. I could see it sitting there (recognised the handwriting and SA postage stamps) on the bottom of the ever-growing pile. Woe betide you if there is anything fragile in your boxes, as they literally get slung onto the conveyor belt before being dumped on the counter the other side. Eventually my parcel was going through the scanner. Unfortunately there was another bottle-neck at this point, as the package just before mine had been opened to reveal a bunch of what looked like arrows (WTF!) and the lady collecting them was trying to explain / reason with the customs official that they weren’t dangerous or whatever. So everything ground to a halt for a while as this was discussed, and then eventually she was moved to another counter. I’m not sure how that worked out, she is probably still there having that argument, as my number was called and I was out of there, at last!

Thanks Mom!

p.s. ok that sounds a bit sarcastic but that’s not how I mean it. I really am thankful for the gifts Ma. Love you!

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