Sunday, November 16, 2008

Something pissy at the PO

Last Sunday I got a call from the post office informing me that a package had arrived and that I needed to bring a copy of my passport in order to pick it up. Why do they need a copy of my passport? And why don't they deliver?

The package was a small box of personal items – cookies, chocolate, some small gifts for a couple of my classmates – accompanying the main item, an updated credit card. Imagining I might need it next month in India, I had asked Mustsumi to forward it, and sweet person that she is she sent along an assortment of goodies via EMS, a kind-of courier service through cooperating international postal systems requiring signature on delivery. I had received a similar package last year, though it had been addressed to me at the art school and not my guest house. Since then Nepal has had a change of governments, so I suppose the rules for EMS may have changed as well.

I got there around 14:00 and after finding the EMS office was asked to step into a back room that must have been right next to the toilets and reeked of urine. While I was trying to imagine having to work in a such a place, the guy at the computer checking to verify I had received a package said I had not, then went back to munching on his apple, not at all concerned with me (or the smell of piss). When I reminded him that someone had called to tell me I had in fact received a package, a fellow in a topi said “come” and led me into a store room stacked with EMS packages, boxes and envelopes piled on shelves, on the floor, and on top of each other, in no discernible order (except perhaps that big, heavy ones went on the floor and not on the shelves). Topi asked where my package had been shipped from and made a desultory effort looking through the upper-most boxes before shrugging his shoulders and telling me that the package was not to be found. The computer guy came in looking for a package and pushed a box onto the floor to have a look at the one underneath. This seemed to be the one he wanted, which he proceeded with his feet to kick out the door. I started looking on a shelf on the opposite side of the room and Topi came and joined me and no less than half a minute later Mutsumi's package was in hand. But not for long.

I was sent to the EMS counter where a bored-looking young man in a baseball cap took my package and the copy of my passport and sent me to Room 31, just around the corner and smelling quite better than the back room of the EMS office. This was the customs office, staffed by six guys sitting around enjoying their afternoon tea. They didn't appear to be doing any work. In fact, they weren't. When I asked for their assistance, one middle-aged mustachioed guy pointed to the sign on the door, on which were posted office hours. Before I had a good look at it I thought I was being told it was now lunch break, or tea break. To my great dismay, however, I found that on Fridays work stops at 13:00.

I put on a face of dismay and kindly pleaded for help. The mustache didn't appear at all sympathetic, but the pro-wrestler with the red goatee was tilting his head (as Nepalis and Indians do to indicate something is ok, alright, acceptable) and telling him to go ahead and take care of me. A long form in triplicate with carbon paper in between was produced for which I had to pay 25 rupees. It was all in Nepali, so another guy at the desk told me which boxes to fill-in. After I signed it, I was sent back to 32, the EMS room.

Baseball Cap was still looking bored when I presented my paper from the customs office. He indicated I needed to wait. A few minutes later a guy showed up and indicated I should open my package for inspection. He had a quick look and didn't bother to ask about opening any of the envelopes inside. He started scribbling on my customs form, then took out a calculator, at which point I understood that I would be paying duty. I also understood why the Nepali PO doesn't deliver EMS packages.

Once he had signed off on the form, he gave one copy to me and sent me back to the customs office. There they took the form and recorded the relevant data, hand copying it to a large ledger book, before collecting 225 rupees. A copy of the customs form was returned to me, and I returned with it to the EMS office to at last collect my package, and to swear that anything else delivered to me here be sent by private courier, which in fact delivers straight to your door.



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