Saturday, January 28, 2017

Aspects of living abroad

So I wrote about grocery shopping recently and now I have something to share about the postal system in Russia.

I just completed an experiment in which I ordered some books online to see how long they would take to get here. I'm not sure about big cities in the U.S., but here it's like being back in college: you get a package slip in your mailbox and have to go to the pick-up window. Kind of exciting but a let-down at the same time because you have an extra errand to do before getting your package.

Post offices are pretty easy to find and ours is practically visible from our kitchen window (if you kind of crane your neck a bit). I've written before about how the hours can be confusing, but it turns out that the pick-up window doesn't have a lunch break.

A few weeks ago, the first part of my order came in. It had been shipped separately from Great Britain. The pick-up window is open until 8pm and it was around 6, so I grabbed my passport, threw on a coat, and headed over. I went around the corner thinking I had been sent there before to pick something up. Waited in line only to be told I needed to go to the other window on the other side of the building. Once at the front of the line, it turned out I was supposed to actually copy my passport info onto the back of the package slip, along with the date.

That was to receive one book, which had taken a month or so.

Earlier this week, I got the second package slip, marked Urgent. I hustled over, but when I opened the door, the room was filled with people and I didn't have that kind of time to wait in line. :( Everyone always complains about the lines at the post office, but I don't usually mind...must have come at a particularly busy time, though. I went back home feeling rather disappointed.

The next day, David and I got ready after breakfast and went over together. He was committing all sorts of faux pas that made me rather nervous. For example, he was going up to a child in a stroller and letting the baby touch his clothes. The mother was nice about it but I know Russians worry about outer clothing carrying germs. I was afraid the mother would think it was unsanitary, even though David wasn't sick or anything. It sounds silly and I probably could have just asked her. But at any rate I tried to have David step away. Then he met a little girl, maybe a little older, and her mother was pregnant. They decided to play hide and seek, which was cute since there was nowhere to hide. David was speaking too softly and she didn't understand what his name was. Then I tried to bring him over to stand in line with me and he kept darting away from me and squeezing in-between people. Normal behavior for his age, but I realized we haven't really taught him much about how to behave in public places. At least errands are still novel enough that he finds them interesting.

When we got up to the counter, we were told to go to the other pick-up window around the corner. This must be Murphy's Law of living in Russia: if there are 2 lines, you're in the wrong one. Of course, Russians usually "stand" in both lines by verbally reserving a spot. But in this case we were not only in the wrong room, but had to go outside to get to the other room...and the opposite situation had happened just a week or two before! What are the odds?

As we got to the other entrance, I spotted 2-3 people that had been in line with us in the other room, so we weren't the only ones!

Oh, the other thing that had happened was that the package slip spelled my last name with a "B." My last name starts with an "S." So of course the young woman at the counter started scratching her head wondering what to do about that. It wasn't a problem, though. The package was within a postal delivery bag, and once opened, the original packaging (with a courtesy rip in it where Customs had likely checked to see if it really contained books) had the correct spelling typed out.

We got home and read all the books right away. Kind of reminds me of going to the library as a kid! In this case, we waited 6-7 weeks to get a few used books that we read in one day. I may order some again, but....I wish we had another source of reading material! I'm trying to work on exchanging with people.


  1. Wow! I think I might have been tempted to hide them away and bring one out every week or so! I'd send you some, but what an ordeal to put you through! Were they books in English? Are there libraries with children's books? Could you possibly print some out? I'm presuming these are for David....

    1. Yes, the idea is to have some in English. Andrei has plenty in Russian from his childhood. They're just so much more accessible in the U.S. I'll have to check our neighborhood library to see which languages they have.

    2. Might there be some from Russian publishers for young ones learning English? I've got a few young children's books in Russian around my house that I picked up here and there.

    3. Well, I would rather be immersed in language through native literature, and not via a textbook that is specifically for language learning. I suppose there may be some that are sort of like picture dictionaries. But since David doesn't read anyway, any book could be a picture dictionary. I am just kind of assuming that with the demand for English, there aren't a lot of homeless books lying around. Maybe I could get some in Finland, though I don't know if it would be cheaper.

  2. Just discovered that if I click "l" into google - the first thing popping up is your blog. Do I check for new posts too often? Um....maybe!

    1. Well, that's flattering! I had cleared my cache and had to sign into Wordpress all over again to read yours. Hard to remember all the passwords these days! My Internet has been down though, so I'm a bit behind.

    2. Wordpress is a pain in the neck. I liked blogger so much better.


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