The Pochta is the Place for Stamps

1997 > Russia

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!