Big city post office, small town service

We have had our share of problems in sending packages between the US and Sri Lanka. We discovered that USPS does not track packages once they leave the US and, while  the packages we sent ourselves did arrive, they arrived beat to a pulp. We discovered that buying anything online and having it shipped to Sri Lanka involved being ready to pay the DHL or FedEx delivery man an unpredictable (but substantial) fee for duties at the unpredictable time when the package is delivered, with exact change, in cash (no checks or credit cards accepted).

Hmm. I do not seem to have told that last story on this blog before. I am surprised, because I thought I had posted every one of my kvetches.  Rants, kvetches, and my medical issues, that’s my blog. Anyway, bottom line, DHL is the best option by far for sending any package with goods that have to clear customs. For paper documents in  a hurry, any of the courier services that track packages (i.e., not USPS) will get the job done. For paper documents where there is no hurry, the respective country’s postal system delivers, eventually. Paper mail sent by Connie at Kenyon to me at Peradeniya seems to take about two weeks.

Today, we had an interesting postal experience. Keep in mind that we live in a city with a population of about 100,000 within the boundaries of the city itself, but is the administrative center of a district of 1.4 million people. We were doing errands in Kandy itself and stopped off at the central post office. Kris had collected three Sunday newspapers to send to my Kenyon colleague, Frank Peiris, who will be living in Kandy next year with his family. Kris hoped that the papers and their classified ads would help the Peiris’ get a sense of the rental housing market in Kandy.

So, Kris approaches the stamp counter with her package. The man behind the counter deems her wrapping job to be inadequate and sends her off to the conveniently located postal store in the lobby. Kris purchases a new envelope, addresses it, and reappears at the stamp counter. The man behind the counter tells Kris that the cost to send the package will be $15. Kris decides that is more than she wants to spend. So she dumps the package in a lobby trash can and we head off for our other errands. The time is approximately 11:30AM.

After our errands, we met a fellow Fulbright scholar for lunch and a Peradeniya faculty member in the Economics Department. We had a delightful lunch with great conversation and basically were the last people to leave the restaurant from the lunch crowd. I tell you this to explain why it was that we only returned home close to 5PM (and to publicly thank the Econ faculty member for treating us all to a delicious lunch!)

So we get home and our maid tells Kris that the neighbors have a notice from the Peradeniya post office (not the Kandy post office, but the post office closest to our house) about them holding a “package” for us to pick up. Most forms in use in Sri Lanka are a Rosetta Stone of the same message in Sinhala, Tamil, and English. This was all in Sinhala, but the neighbors kindly translated for us. Some confusion ensued because we were not expecting any packages, but, of course, it turned out to be the package of newspapers Kris had discarded in the Kandy post office trash can.

I was trying to imagine this happening in the US. I can see it happening in Gambier, OH (population 2069) or Mount Vernon, OH (population 14375), but it seems unlikely in any larger city. So credit one to the Sri Lankan postal service for providing that “small town” level of service in one of its largest administrative centers.

Tim

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