11 July 2008

post office

Kate's friend friend from Belarus is emigrating to Canada! He is very excited. Kate has been asked to write a letter to introduce him to Canada, with the secret purpose of showing how easily assimilated he will be. Kate was happy to do this. And, since it seems likely that a letter from Russia to Belarus will arrive without complications, Kate decided to use the Russian post. Kate took the letter to the local post office. Now the letter is on its way to Minsk and then to Canada!

It sounds so simple...

What I've experienced here is that no matter what the waiting room (post office, airline tickets, etc.), people don't wait in line. (The train station is an exception, but that's not really a waiting room. And I already posted about the "rules" that mystify me there.) There is no take-a-number dispenser and "now serving" signs. You just wait. For a long time. (I passed the time trying and failing to discern a pattern in the numbering of the post boxes.)

Actually, what you do is walk in and ask (loudly demand to know--which I never pull off) who is last. Then, you just wait and watch for this person to go up to the window and follow. It's a system that keeps me hyper-vigilant for people taking advantage (There are usually some who try--they don't ask who's last (that's the tell) but just try to sidle up to the window. They go mute when confronted.), but it works.

I'm hoping the letter makes it to Minsk. I addressed it with the transliterated address I'd been given. (I used all caps, so that should help.) I asked the girl working if it was okay that I'd written in English or if I should write it in Russian. She replied that it would cost 33r to mail. I am constantly surprised by people who ignore my questions. It seems to primarily be government employees and line-jumpers who do this. They simply don't answer. Ask a customs agent where the pens are and you'll receive silence with a stony stare and, if you persist, perhaps even a profile. They just don't answer.

Nothing pithy to wrap this up for you.


sandy said...

I love the post! I've been trying to figure out the lines (or lack thereof) in Russia (as well as in other parts of Europe). Fortunately when we traveled last month we had someone waiting for us at the airline ticket counters. But for ourselves, we learned to lose that sense of personal space and to crowd those in front of us and that seemed to work. It's difficult to determine what's normal and what's rude.... and being American, I don't want to add to our already perceived image of rudeness and the must-have-it-now attitude.

Heidi said...

I couldn't figure it out for the life of me. We'd walk into an office with a crowded waiting room and some how be next. I just made sure not to meet anyone's eyes and followed.
It was totally weird.
Basically, I'm glad to be back home. How can you stand it?

A Room to Grow said...

It took my husband over 20 minutes to order two Big Mac meals + one happy meal at the McDonalds in Moscow. Everyone kept pushing ahead of him.

And the even better part ... He came back with one Big Mac, 2 orders of small Fries, one drink and one happy meal.

(He was sooo irritated by the whole thing.)

So then, I went to get my meal - took about 10 minutes but got it after some negotiation at the counter (the checker didn't understand me either that I wanted a burger, fries and drink).

(Hey, no scoffing please from anyone that we went to McDonalds! This was three weeks into our trip #2 and I was desperate for a quick, cheap meal and fries!)

Ruth Ann said...

In Thailand - the crowds just push forward to the front and whoever gets there first - wins! Picture the cashier at the convenience store. I used to try to wait my 'turn' and then I learned the better way. Just be assertive. Join the crowd and may the best man make his purchase first!

votemom said...

oh my gosh i remember the "who is last?" lines. at the notary's office. it stressed me out.

Annie said...

Americans are SO used to lines.

I went to an Irish church one time. Really Irish....so much so that at communion time, rather than lining up nicely as at all the other parishes I've gone to - there seemed to be what I construed as a MOB approaching the Eucharist. It was as though one were expected to push and shove one's way to Jesus. I was horrified, but an Irish friend just laughed at me.