While we might complain about mail service in the states- believe me after 9 months here you have NOTHING to complain about. Yes, from time to time, you might get your neighbors mail in your box (but that is probably the only time you talk with your neighbor isn't it), the lines might be really long to mail a package, (but then again you can do it over the internet now adays), or your mailman might be Newman (completely different thing). But for the most part you get mail- delivered to your house- usually not opened- and in a relatively short amount of time- you can even track it to know where things went wrong.
Ecuador is a little different. For starters we don't have a physical street address. No one lives at 234 Home Street. We all live near something or a business name, or a box number at the post office. Our address is easy because it is the hospital and everyone know where the hospital is, but that really doesn't matter for mail anyway because mail isn't delivered to your house. There is someone at the hospital who goes to get hospital mail, which we are very grateful for.
Packages, however are a different story. Packages (anything not in an envelope) is left at the post office. They notify us that it is there and then every 2 weeks the customs agent goes to the post office in the next town over and we have to be there between 10 AM and 1PM to get our package and pay whatever customs are due. I wish I could explain how the customs fees are assessed. I wish someone could explain to me how the customs fees are assessed. I think it has a lot to do with the day, the weather, and the mood of the agent. Don't get me wrong, we LOVE to get mail and encourage it, just ask (very politely) that you follow a few rules. We have had a lot of questions lately about mailing us packages so I thought I would post the most important parts here for any of you who are brave enough to start the process.
- Use the GREEN customs label at the USPS office
- When listing the items in the box - don't lie - but maybe forget items such as DVDs, CDs or the like. They charge a lot for movies and music that are mailed in.
- Make sure the package is under 4 pounds (very important). Anything under 4 pounds is usually under a dollar for us to pick up. Anything over 4 pounds can start to get expensive.
- Do not send more than one package addressed to the same person within a week of each other. (meaning you can't get past the 4 pounds rule by sending 2 3.8 pound packages. If we get 2 packages on the same day they add up the combined weights so it is total weight not per package)- yeah, I know......
- Address it to one of us (Joe or Tracy), not the entire family or the children. We have to take copies of passports for anyone listed on the boxes, and if it is in Sebastiao's name we have to get him to write out in Spanish that he allows us to pick the box up for him. - yep, I'm not making that up.
- Save up and be prepared when you go to the post office- is ain't cheap! I am convinced my parents have spent my "inheritance" just in shipping packages to the grand kids. I will cost you about $25 for less than 4 pounds (gulp).
If you still aren't scared away here is our address:
Hospital Voz Andes del Oriente
Shell Pastazas Ecuador
We are always grateful for packages from the states. The smallest things are really what you miss, so tea bags, candy (GOOD), and magazines (in english) mean more than you could imagine. Thanks to all of you who have send things, some monthly (thanks MOM!).