Friday, November 14, 2008

Correo Argentina, Take Two

I have been defeated again by what is quickly becoming my South American nemisis: Correo Argentina. For some reason, my skewed mind thought that it would be easier sending a package rather than receiving it. So, as my sisters' birthdays are fast-approaching, this morning I packaged up their gifts, sealed them in a box, and headed to my first class, planning on going to the International Correo right after the lesson.

After my lesson, my student asked me what was in my bag. I told him I was sending my sisters gifts for their birthdays. Immediately his face clouded over. ¨Do you want them to receive this package?¨ Was this a trick question? ¨Yes...¨ I responded. ¨Well then, don't send it through the Argentine postal system. At the very least, use OCA [Argentina's version of UPS], and even that is not guaranteed. My advice is to not trust any Argentine enterprise for international mail.¨ Hmmm, great. This was going to be a long day.

I left the lesson unsure of what to do, but finally headed to the only OCA I knew of, right across from the Obelisko in Microcentro. I popped out of the subte and headed into the nice, line-free, air-conditioned building. I pulled out my shabbily-taped box and explained in horriffic Spanish that I needed to send this box to the United States. The OCA employee shook his head and said two loathsome words: ¨Correo Argentina.¨ He proceeded to then explain directions of how to get to the nearest office. Apparently it was in a tunnel near-by. Of course it would be.

Why on earth was I rejected on the spot? My only guess, my hopeful guess rather, is that it wasn't personal, but rather OCA must operate only within Argentina. (???) I decided to save face and go with that theory. Moving on, I walked the twenty meters that the OCA man had instructed to do, walking and sweating down Avenida Corrientes until sure enough I saw a stairwell descending into what looked like nothing-ness, a nothing-ness with a big red sign that said ¨PASAJES.¨ Hmmm, I though, Pasajes, here I come.

Enter Pasajes. Seemingly a strange underground shopping center, with kiosks advertising kitschy Argentine goods, a few stores with electronic goods, and of course, good ol' Correo, which was, true-to-fashion, accompanied by a line of homicidal looking people, a line which I joined both physically and emotionally.

30 minutes later, I was up. Once again, I pulled out my box. The postal employee looked at me, looked at my box, and looked back at me. Finally she opened her mouth. ¨No me peudo.¨ I can't do it. ¨OHMYGODTELLMEYOUAREJOKING!¨ I shouted--in my head. In reality, I meekly asked why not, to which the postal employee responded that I need a Correo Argentina box to send something. I asked her then politely if I could please buy a box from her so that I could send my package. ¨No, we don't sell them here.¨ Obviously. Why on Earth would the post office sell the boxes that you need to send something through the post office? That would make life far too easy. I focused on her nose-ring to distract myself, a tiny silver dot in the lower half of her left nostril. A nose-ring that seemed out of place on this bored-looking, middle-aged red-head wearing a white-collared shirt, who was in other words, very proper in every way besides the jewel in her nose. Should I feel some connection, some compassion perhaps towards her, as a fellow-nose-ringer? I tried to let her nose-ring and the question of its purpose distract me from the rage that was slowly collecting within my intestines. Maybe that focus worked, or maybe it was telepathy and she too felt a need to feel a connection with a fellow-nose-ringer, as she finally took some mercy on me and wrote out the address of the store at which I could buy the necessary box.

The store was six blocks away, on Libertad and Sarmiento. I walked there, pushing my way through the mid-afternoon Microcentro crowds. I arrived at the appointed corner, and there was no store to be found with the name the postal employee had given me. I double checked, walking the area again and again, checking in every window. No where. I surrendered and decided to walk home, drink some ice water, and look up a UPS store online.

I got home, chugged some ice water, and did some research until I found the address of the nearest UPS store. It was only a short bus ride away, so I grabbed monedas and went to catch the bus. As I approached the UPS store, I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass reflection. Today was not my best day. Sweat was visible even in a store-front reflection, literally glistening from my face. My hair had ceased to be curly and had instead turned into a massive knotted glob of yellow frizz. I decided to grin and bear it, and I opened the door to UPS, only to trip and fall, and send my shoe flying. Even the homeless man standing outside looked sorry for me. Oh Lord, I was almost there.

Inside, the UPS employees were as nice as could be and the room was so refreshingly cool. I explained what was in the box, and they weighed the contents. Weighing in at not even three kilos, this box came to a whopping total of $116 US DOLLARS. That is 360 pesos, over two days of work. Oh my goodness, my bank account could not afford this. ¨DOLLARS, US dollars?¨ I asked the UPS employees. ¨Yes,¨ they told me, looking sorry even as they said it. ¨Oh my gosh, I can not send this,¨ I told them, thoroughly embarrassed and blushing a fire engine red. They laughed, and I laughed, too, in utter relief of their response. ¨It is very expensive to send things from Argentina,¨ they informed me. ¨I can see that,¨ I told them. ¨Our advice is to pack it in your suitcase when you go home.¨ Oh no, but Lizzie and Colleen...

My poor sisters. I did not send the package. I left without my dignity, with the presents still in their box, still in my hand. But I can promise Lizzie and Colleen that their gifts will of course be waiting here as good as new whenever they come and visit, along with their Christmas gifts and other goodies along the way. I hope they are not upset!!

On the way home, I grabbed four cans of beer for me and Nick, and here I am, sitting at the computer with a can of Quilmes, revelling at how complicated the Argentine postal system is. One blogger commented on my previous post about Correo Argentina, saying that they grew up in Argentina and now cherish the US Postal System as one of the perks of living in the US. I could not agree more! Nick and I were laughing that here we are dealing with the Pony Express. :-) But at the end of the day, it is chalked up to a funny story and a good lesson, of which there are many in Argentina. One of my students told me the other day that living in Argentina is like reading a 1000 page book on life lessons. I think that may be one of my favorite expressions I have heard yet in these three months.

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Other than Correo adventures, this week has been wonderful. Nick has been working for the past month for one company that he has come to really love, and which has come to really love him--they offered him two new classes this week! So he is very busy teaching, getting more comfortable in the profession with every passing day. He is reading up a storm, currently reading Ghost Wars, the book Barack Obama is also currently reading. :-) He continues to follow the news religiously regarding the President-Elect, and he has also found time to become very good at Scrabble, beating me in 4 out of 5 games this week. Yikes!

Other big news with us is that we are currently on the look-out for a new apartment. Although we have loved living in San Telmo and living with Cecilia, some things have convinced us that it is time to move. For one, San Telmo is relatively expensive for Buenos Aires, as it is very popular with tourists. In addition, unfortunately, Nick and I were robbed last week. However, for an unlucky situation, we were very lucky in that neither one of us was hurt at all--only our wallets suffered. Although a robbery is something that could happen absolutely anywhere, we feel that because San Telmo has so many tourists, it might at times proove to be a good target for thieves. So, we are taking extra precautions, taking cabs at night if we are alone, not taking anything valuable with us when we go out, etc. We have told Cecilia that we will be moving on December 15th and are currently looking at some nice and very safe areas, like Caballito, Almagro, and Villa Crespo--areas that are a little more removed from the city center, but seem to be very safe and have a community all their own. It is exciting looking for a new apartment--we will be moving in right around Christmas time, and will bring in the New Year in a new home, with new lessons under our belt, and a new chapter of our Buenos Aires adventure. We will keep you posted with descriptions and pictures of the new home we decide upon! Until later, ¡buen fin de semana!

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