Our mail comes to Private Bag 001, Mochudi, Botswana. This is the address for the District Administration (DA) Offices. When mail arrives it is picked up at the Post Office by an employee from the Registry office in the DA who brings it back where it sits in an inbox. There it sits until someone happens to wander in to check for mail for my office, the District Aids Coordinator (DAC) office. If someone from my office has been by the DA and picked up a letter for me, they bring it in and lay it on my desk. Then when I come into my office and see the letter with a return address from the U.S.A. I do a little happy dance and read it (or bring it home for Tish).
Boxes are handled differently. When a box comes in to the post office, instead of the allowing the box to be picked up by just anyone, the Post Office sends a small 2″ x 3″ slip of paper. This official form indicates that a parcel is waiting, who it is addressed to and who sent it. So sometimes when I come into my office I see the small slip of paper from the post office laying on my desk, and I do an even more enthusiastic happy dance, put the slip of paper in my pocket, and start thinking about when I can get to the Post Office to collect the package.
I have been to the Post Office several times now. 99% of the time there is a long queue (a line is called a queue here). The queue requires waiting for at least 30 minutes sometimes over an hour. It is not an organized line like you might see in the states, with people standing behind each other. Instead people just stand around or sit in no apparent order. Everyone seems to know who is next. Upon entering the Post Office my strategy is to quickly make a friend, and ask him or her where the end of the queue is. Then I talk to that person, and keep my eye on him as he makes progress toward the counter. When I get to the counter I have to show my passport, sign the slip of paper and wait for the clerk to retrieve the box from the back of the building.
There was one day in particular that was really crazy. it went like this…
- I walked (.8 mile) to the office from home and spotted a Post Office slip on my desk
- Immediately turned around and walked home (.8 mile) and retrieved my passport
- Walked (.9 mile) from home to the Post Office
- Waited over an hour in line
- Finally it is my turn at the counter and I realized to my horror that in my rush I had mistakenly picked up Tish’s passport instead of my own. The clerk said I needed my own passport, hers would not do. I asked her if I went right now and got it, would I have to wait in the queue again. She gestured toward the people in the queue behind me and said it was ok with her if it was ok with them. I then tried to explain to those people what was going on, that I was coming right back with my passport. I got some blank stores, and one or two nods.
- Walked back home (.9 mile), returned Tish’s passport and got mine.
- Walked to the Post Office (.9 mile) and saw that everyone I had talked to in the queue were gone. The queue was now populated by strangers who looked at me suspiciously. I tried to explain using what Setswana I knew, and the English I hoped they knew that I already had been through the queue, etc, etc; and someone let me in. I waited about 20 minutes in the queue that time.
- Finally at the counter for the second time, I presented the correct passport, and the clerk came from behind the counter with the wonderful white box from the U.S.A. I gave it a quick once over to be sure it was intact, put it under my arm and headed home.
- Walked home (.9 miles) with the box (which seemed to get heavier with each step), and left it in the living room to be opened by Tish and myself after work.
- Walked back to work (.8 miles).
- After work I walked home (.8 miles)
I think I walked close to seven miles that day and spent well over an hour waiting in queues that day. But I am most definitely NOT complaining; in fact, it would have been worth twice that much trouble, because opening a box from home is SO much fun. First we really appreciate the entire effort someone has gone through: the shopping for the items, the visit to the Post Office, and paying the cost of postage to Botswana. It is a lot of work and we love it that there are people back home who care enough to do that for us. Then we open the box itself. It is like Christmas morning and we are like a couple of kids, with paper on the floor, squabbling over who gets what, and whoops of excitement.
So far we have only had one package go missing, either lost in transit or stolen. Though the package did not make it, we are very grateful for the effort and thought behind it.
Please don’t get the idea this is a post to solicit boxes from home. It is not, I just want to shout out to those folks who have sent us stuff and tell you how much it means to us. If you want to see a list of who those wonderful people are… CLICK HERE.
Thank you… Ke a leboga… Thank you!