"You've Got Mail..."
I love mail! I love getting mail; I like sending mail; I just like mail. Who doesn't? There is nothing bad about mail! (Note: I do not consider ads or bills as mail - I'm talking birthday cards, "just saying hi" notes, etc.)
So I thought that I was in great luck when I learned that, after I forgot something I was working on before I left, my mom so wonderfully decided to send a care package! (YAY!! Thanks, Mom!) It was scheduled to arrive (to the hotel where we have been staying at while everyone frantically strives to find housing) on Monday.
With all this in mind, I was excited to see something from "Correos" (the post office) on my bed when I got back to my room Monday afternoon. Little did I know that the form and envelope on my bed was not a notification of joyous goodies waiting downstairs but, rather, something that would lead to a few tears, a little (or lot) of frustration, many wrong turns, and an adventure of trust and generosity.
I wish I had taken a picture of said form but, alas, it is now out of my hands and probably in a pile of papers to be recycled at the Post Office on C/Alfa in Madrid. Therefore, you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that it was not a form that I would like to see again, as I struggled to decipher and fill out all the right information and, even worse than that, figure out what to do with it when I finished all of that. One thing that was very clear on the form was that, if I didn't figure it out by Sunday (domingo), October 1st, it would be shipped back to the US and I would not be able to get it. I did my best to fill out and research what the right move was to make sure that my package would come to me (and not be shipped back to the US) with very little success. I even went down to the front desk of the hotel to ask for assistance from the wonderful people working there. They were as clueless as I was.
After spending a while working on it, I decided the best thing I could do would be to go to the nearest post office and ask them. That became my Tuesday goal - go to the post office, get it all worked out and get my package. How hard could that be?
I woke up early Tuesday morning and made my way to the post office. The very kind woman at the post office explained that the package was not there, that I needed to take the form that I had completed and either email, mail or personally deliver it to the Oficina de Correos (and she suggested taking it personally, so that I wouldn't have to wait the month that it can take for them to process the email/mail requests). With that information in hand, I made my way to the address I had found on one spot on the form (granted there were at least 3 addresses that I saw, 2 of which did not have an actual number, just a street name). I ended up in the middle of the Madrid airport - where the postal worker informed me that I was in the wrong place.
At this point yesterday I also was reaching a time crunch, due to my TIE appointment that was scheduled for 12:30. So, I gave up on getting my package on Tuesday - determined that Wednesday morning would be the day (especially because I was supposed to be catching a bus at noon to go to Salamanca for a few days and wouldn't make it back before the post office closed on Saturday). After my TIE appointment, I did some more research. I looked at the last two addresses that were on the form and the envelope, respectively, and picked the one that seemed most practical.
6:26 am: Alarm goes off.
6:35 am: I leave the hotel and begin my trek (on the bus, the metro and by foot), following the very handy-dandy "City Mapper" app which leads me to a slightly sketchy area behind the airport, filled with warehouse type buildings.
8:15 am: I approach the security guard at the gate where I had just seen the "Correos" truck turn and where my app was telling me that I needed to go. He very kindly informed me that I wasn't at the right place BUT I was close... He directed me where to go (and offered to go with me even) and I turned back around.
8:35 am: I get to the crossroads - where the security guard told me to ask someone the specific location of the address that he had found and highlighted for me - and see a nice woman walking by. I stop her and ask for her assistance. Not only does she tell me where I should go, she walks me there! Yay for kind people!
At this point, I'm thinking I am all set. After 2 days of trying to get my box, I'm FINALLY in the right place and now I can just hand in my paperwork, get my package and head back to the hotel, right??
No such luck... Instead I get sent from the post office to the administration building (only a block and a half away - but still - I manage to walk the wrong direction and again have to ask someone to help re-direct me) where I have to fill out more paperwork, declare the Tastykakes that my mom has sent me, and sign some more legal documents. After an hour-ish there, they send me back to the post office building where I pay my 5.34 Euros and receive the beautiful brown box that holds the twine I've been waiting for, the Tastykakes that I have had to defend and sign for and the vitamins that I forgot to bring.
There might have been a few tears of joy as I happily walked out of the post office (a few minutes after 10am) - thanking God for all the kindness of strangers who had helped me find my way - and assured another lost-looking individual who I passed on the street that she was going in the right direction as I recognized both the form in her hand and the look of total desperation and confusion in her eyes.
While not the best experience I have had in Spain, I'm thankful that I had it.
I'm glad that I was forced to step out of my comfort zone, get lost, struggle on my own a little, encounter some strangers who were willing to extend to me a great deal of kindness, and be overcome by the feeling of success in accomplishing something that really kind of terrified me.
And, on a positive side note, after all of that happened this morning, I made it to the bus station before noon and am writing all of this from the comfort of a beautiful hotel in Salamanca! So, I must say so long, for now and get ready to go figure out dinner... ¡Hasta pronto!