So I found out earlier in the year that I would have to send in my forms for yearly inspection via the post office. I was a bit skeptical because sometimes there are rumors of the post office performing certain functions, but then it turns out they never put the idea into practice or it was short-lived, etc. But even after showing up at the FMS with all my documents, they sent me to the post office so I could mail it in.
After that it took several months to get myself together and go to the post office...which is a 3-minute walk from our building. Go ahead, you can laugh!
Alas, nothing is that simple...
I wish this wasn't a step in the process, but it was: determining the working hours of the post office (which we pass at least once a week on our way to the grocery store).
A lot of establishments in St. Petersburg take a lunch break in the afternoon. The trick is knowing when it will take place: from 1-2 pm OR from 2-3 pm (and there will always be a strange variation to throw you off, like alternating hours, or a 2-hr lunch break).
We set off for the post office at 1 pm hoping the lunch was at 2 pm. We wanted to get home as soon as possible to put D. down for a nap. I wandered over to scout while Andrei and David continued getting ready. The hours were 9-8 or 10-8 or something...NO BREAKS, it said. I should have known not to trust the signage.
I went through the first set of doors into an unlit foyer. There were 3 doors leading off from it and they were all locked. I peered through the door that had a window in it, and there was a postal clerk sitting at the desk, but apparently on break judging by the locked door. A man walked in and said "Lunch? I thought they had it from 2-3 pm." I mumbled something about there being no sign indicating anything about lunch. I went out the door and walked around the building looking for other entrances. The other entrance was marked "Deliveries," so that didn't have anything to do with me. I went back into the dark foyer and a woman who had been gabbing on her phone was standing by one of the other doors. "LUNCH FROM 1-2!" she barked. Okay...I headed out and asked a few more people. "Lunch is from 1-2, like ALWAYS!" they emphasized. Obviously I was the ignorant one. However, during this time a handful of other people had gone up and down the stairs, asking if it was the lunch hour and then leaving.
Meanwhile, the boys made their way over. We got in the "live" line (asked around to find out who was last and declared ourselves to be next after them)...actually two different lines because no one was sure if it was one general line or two different ones. And the place was actually infiltrated at this time by pensioners hoping to receive some benefits...they were in a certain line, too. Then it was determined that neither Andrei nor I had any cash, so he went to the ATM and David and I played on the playground across the street; David exclaiming over ants on the sidewalk, grass tickling his ankles, and sand in his shoes (my poor city boy!).
When we got inside and reached the counter, I started to say that I needed to send something to the FMS by registered mail. She gave me the envelope and I got as far as addressing it, but then she said that she didn't handle those types of mailings. She told us to go to "Window Number One," but hers was the only one in the room. It turned out that one of the other doors off the foyer led into another room with a few different counters. "Not today, though, the person is out sick," she said. "Tomorrow evening is the next time slot." Pressing for more information, I asked, "From what time in the evening?" Apparently that was a stupid question as she barked "2 pm." I guess "evening" is after lunch in this context? I started to leave without paying for the envelope, but she reminded me and I scraped together the change, my hands shaking...even though it isn't nearly as scary as the Immigration Office!
We peeked into the Other Room on our way out. It was actually the main room, quite big and with different lines. I insisted on marching over to "Window Number One" to check the times: M-W-F in the morning (before lunch); T-TH after lunch. Of course they couldn't post that on the doors outside, so if the building is locked you can't get in to read the schedule...
We'd have to try again the next day "after lunch" or the day after that in the morning.
Part 2 (the next day)
The lady who had sold me the envelope seemed to indicate that I'd need two copies of my Immigration Inspection Form, so I filled out a second one just in case. I was rather confused about the whole process...who would be checking everything and putting stamps on it?
We got to the Big Room at 2 pm and got in line behind 3 or 4 people. When it was my turn I told her I needed to send it "registered mail" but she told me it was something different, which annoyed me as I was just reciting what I had been told in the FMS. Andrei told the lady she was right, though. She wasn't too bossy and thankfully knew what to do. I feel like I've had so many situations where I was some sort of exception and no one knew what to do with me.
I had to fill out a few more things, including listing the documents inside the envelope, which I had already forgotten the contents of, but luckily it wasn't sealed yet. And then I had to do an emergency photocopy of my latest (post-Finland) migration card. They actually had a photocopier right there!!! In the Immigration Office they always make you run down the street and find somewhere to make a copy, and then you come back and have to squeeze your way up to the front of the line again. Here she just charged me another 10 rubles...whew.
I got a bunch of receipts including the stamped tear-off portion of my form. I'm sure I probably made some mistakes, and I wonder if it matters. What do they do in that situation? Send you a failure notice? Anyway, I plan to go back to Immigration when the summer's over, to check up on things.
The Post Office is definitely more suited to this kind of work, but I wish they could answer more questions. It's great to have the lines reduced at Immigration by sending people elsewhere, yet as scary as the inspectors are, they are also the only ones who really have all The Answers and Information. I feel more comfortable having the inspector herself grant approval right there on the spot. But right now I'm just happy I have this task done, Praise the Lord!