Friday, January 20, 2012

Snail Mail in Spain: Slow as a Snail?

When I got back to Madrid after my two weeks away over winter break, my grandma asked me if I had received the package that she and my aunt had sent me for Christmas.

Package?  Uh what package?  Negative.

She said they had sent it before Christmas, and by this time it was January 8.  I figured I would wait a bit longer; perhaps the postal service had been backed up with the holiday season (and for being closed on all of the Spanish holidays).  I read on the auxiliares' facebook page posts from some auxiliares about receiving packages a month after they were sent.  (Other auxiliares also have shared horror stories about needing to go to the Barajas airport to pick up packages -- which is a far ways out of the city.  Once they got there they had to pay huge custom fees, between 50-100 euro, if they wanted to see their package!)

It was also during that first week back in Madrid two weeks ago that I decided to buy a kindle.  After dragging four books with me to Válor then meeting another HelpXer with a kindle, I saw how useful it was for a reading traveler (and daily metro-rider).  So I made up my mind and when I got back to Madrid I ordered one from the U.S.  Due to the mailing horror stories mentioned above, I had my kindle shipped to my home in the states (free shipping), and then planned to have my mother ship it to me here.  I thought that if I had it shipped straight to Spain, I might have to pay custom fees since it would clearly be new.

So I instructed my mom to wrap the Amazon box so the U.S. post office workers couldn't tell it was brand new when she went to mail it.  I told her to say it was a book that cost less than $20 when she filled out the contents sticker (to avoid the custom fees).  When sending things here from the states, your recipient should be safe (and fee-free) if you say the box/package contains "personal items" that are worth less than $20.  Just don't let them know if it's anything new or valuable.  (If you insure the package, your recipient will surely be charged)

The kindle arrived in Wisconsin this past Saturday.  On that same day here in Madrid, I was at frisbee practice talking with a fellow teammate about the shipping issue.  She told me that she had ordered a kindle earlier this year from the U.S.'s Amazon, and had it shipped directly to Spain.  The Spanish delivery people actually called her to see if she'd be home when they were trying to deliver it.  Since she was never home earlier than 6pm because of work, they asked for her work address and delivered it right to her school.

And here I thought I was being sneaky and clever, when I should have just had it shipped directly to me in Madrid.  I still hadn't received the package my grandma and aunt had sent me before Christmas, but it was too late to change my mind with the kindle shipping issue.

My mom sent my kindle to Spain on Tuesday of this week, and I've decided it will either get here in a week, a month, or never.

When I send letters from Madrid to the United States, they usually take between one and a half to two weeks to arrive.  But I remember when I sent some study abroad documents from Madison to the coordinator in Madrid the summer before I studied here, they arrived to her in three days.  Most cards from home only take a couple of days to get here as well.  That United States is pretty good at shipping mail out of the country.

Then last night when I got home late after frisbee practice (first practice since fall league ended -- yay!), my roommates told me I had an aviso de llegada from the post office.  That means they tried to deliver something that's too big for our apartment's mailbox when I wasn't home, so I needed to take that slip of paper and some ID to the post office to pick it up.  My grandma and aunt's Christmas package!  At last!

Their names are Kathy and Bernice, but on the aviso de llegada the Spanish postal service person had written that the package was from "Kathy y Bernicéé" haha

So this morning I walked down to the post office with the slip of paper to pick up my package.  The woman took my slip and was looking on two shelves of packages.  She'd pick up a package, look at the address, then set it back down.  I watched her pick up the same packages multiple times.  Then she asked a taller coworker to help her.  So the two of them are double checking these two shelves of packages.  There couldn't have been more than 25 packages between the two shelves.  At one point there were three workers standing in front of this shelf looking.  Oh great, I'm thinking.  A month later, it finally arrives, and now they've lost it?!

The three continue looking as I imagine hopping the counter to take a look for myself.  And then finally the woman comes back to the counter.  She has a box in her hands.  Thank goodness.

As I'm walking home this morning, excited to open the package, I was composing this very blog post in my head.  I wanted to be sure to include the fact that the package was mailed on December 20, 2011.  Do you know what day it is today?  January 20, 2012.  (Happy Birthday JB, btw!)  So if mother sent the kindle on January 17...

I seriously considered taking a detour back to the library where I had returned some books before I went to the post office.  If I won't be able to read my ebooks for another month, maybe I should check out a few more.

But I'm reading a book now that I'm borrowing from Gregorio, and I wanted to open the package so I went straight home.  I walk in the living room, box in hand, and here's what I see:

Living room as it always is, plus a little something on the table

My attention was immediately drawn to the table.  What's that?

Well would you look at that

No. Way.

No. Freaking. Way.

During the half hour that I had been out walking down to the post office, they had delivered this envelope aka kindle.  Luckily my roommates were home this time, so the mailman brought the package to my apartment instead of having me retrieve it from the post office tomorrow.

I couldn't believe it.  I was already so thrilled to have a box to open, and now I have a kindle to open too?!  

I brought both packages to my room and just stared for a while.  There was no rush to open them because here they were, both packages sitting safely on my bed.  Not lost in the mail.  Not waiting at the airport for me to come pay.  

Thank you Grandma B and Aunt Kathy and mother!  Now I feel like I celebrated Christmas 2011 with the family, and I have visual proof:
The family will understand this picture

My Friday surprise

When you think about it, Tuesday to Friday is pretty fast for getting a package to an airport, on an airplane, flying across the Atlantic, unloading it, getting it to the correct post office in Madrid, and delivering it to moi.

So I still have mixed feelings about the efficiency of the Spanish postal service.  If letters can get to me from the states in a few days, why does it take over a week and sometimes two for my letters to arrive there?  Is it Spain's fault?  Or does the United States take their sweet time checking all letters that enter the country?  

Maybe we could turn this into an experiment: you guys can send me letters and I'll see how long it takes for them to get here.  Ready? Let the experiment begin!

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