There are a few things that make travel challenging but there are two in particular that really stretch me. The first is being dumped off a bus in the middle of a new town and trying to find the hostel. All hostels are advertised as being within 200 metres of the “bus station.” Even if a town has multiple bus stations.
The second is trying to use any country’s mailing system. Morocco’s system really pushed me to the limit, but Argentina really gave them a run for their money when we tried to mail a package home.
The first day, in 38 degree heat we walked to the post office for the sole purpose of obtaining a box to mail some things that we’ve been carting around back to Canada. We waited in the line, even though we weren’t sure it was the right line, and when our turn came we met the nicest Argentine lady. I tried to ask for a box in Spanish, but she replied in English. She set me up with an awesome box, and said, “when you come back tomorrow don’t wait in the line, just come see me and I will help you.” People like this are like little angels placed in South America to help me when things seem difficult.
We returned to our apartment full of hope. The box was a decent size and said it could be filled to a maximum weight of 5kg. Everything seemed perfect. We filled the box with all manner of exciting things – gifts for friends, our winter jackets, toques, mitts, long johns, books, souvenirs, Jen’s journal and some baby slippers for my step sister’s new baby! It felt a a bit heavy, but was certain that it was less than 5 kg.
The next morning, we set our alarm for 10 AM to make sure we wake up early to head back to the post office.
True to her word our Argentine Angel recognizes us right away and calls us up to her little window. She takes the box from me and weighs it. I can see immediately that there is a problem.
She returns – “It weighs more than 2 kg.”
Me, “Um yes, but the box that you gave me yesterday explicitly states that it can have up to 5kg. ”
Oh what’s that?
This post office can only mail packages up to 2 kg. For 5 kg packages I would have to go to the International Post office. And no of course it’s not nearby.
She writes down the address and suggests a bus we can take. The bus to take is just across the street. The minute we leave the building we immediately forget the bus number – was it 150 or 152, as both of them roar by.
The obvious solution to this problem is coffee (isn’t it always). We break for coffee and medialunas (croissants!). With the wifi we look up the route. Ok 30 minutes to get there. Awesome.
We walk back up to the street to take the bus, and catch the bus. We then ride it for 30 minutes, and get off at Retiro Station (which is a feat in itself because I am actually glued to the vinyl seats with my sweat). We walk across Canada Plaza (complete with Totem Pole) and find the post office. This is both good and bad. The post office is where the lady described (good) but outside are two upset tourists who let us know that it is actually closed for the holidays (less good.) OMG.
So we walk back to the bus stop and wait for the bus to take us back up to the other post office. We can’t find the bus stop, and by the time we do we’ve missed two buses.
Total time spent on this pointless venture 90 minutes.
Our Argentine friend looks surprised to see us.
Ok, new solution is that we will take some paper things out of the box, and interrupt a line up of about 20 locals about 7 times while asking our friend to re-weigh our box until it’s under 2 kg. We ask for an envelope to put our paper goods in – maybe we can just mail them in an envelople!
They don’t have any envelopes so we are instructed to “just go across the street” and find a church, across from the church is a store that will sell us an envelope. I have to ask a man at a flower shop for directions. I ask for a libreria cerca a iglesia. He’s very confused – would I like the stationary store or the church? They are not near each other, but there is a stationary store down the street. By some miracle we obtain an envelope.
On our return we decide that actually this envelope is a little too flimsy, we will just hold onto these things until we meet some family in a few months. The box weights 1.97xx Kg and as she’s taping it up I ask her to please wait so we can try and put a pair of gloves in. She holds the gloves and says that she likes them very much. Super. They push the weight over to 2.04, but she says it’s fine – because she has some kind of sway in the box weight department? Who knows.
The box gets sealed with magic tape – which would have been good to know before we bought our own ordinary tape yesterday. I say thank you 100 times, and we finally walk out (3 hours later).
2 blocks later Jen is browsing in a wine store when I have a thought. I leave her in the wine shop and run back to the post office. One more time I interrupt the line up and offer our second pair of gloves to this very nice lady. She is thrilled by this and reaches her hand through the tiny money slot under her plexi glass barrier to hold my hand! She tells me that she’s going on a trip in the Andes next year and these will be perfect.
I’ve never been more happy to give a pair of gloves away.