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a light in Cambodia

Postal misadventures

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 24 August 2011 | Views [232]

A visit to the post office in Phnom Penh is always filled with misadventures as you mind whirls at how this system works. You feel complete relief when your friend gives word that your letter arrived and liberated when you can finally take that parcel out of the postal workers hands and can leave the building.

The main city post office is located near Wat Phnom, making it a distant location in an area that I rarely go. The two times I have had to journey to this place I have recruited a Cambodian friend to give me a ride and help me work out what on earth is going on.

Today it was Thida’s turn. Like most Cambodians she has never been to the post office (I mean who need to use postage anyway) so it was interesting trying to find the place in the spitting rain. Once we arrived I got my paperwork and Australian drivers licence at the ready for a quick exchange. Little did I know it was going to be more complicated than that.

We found counter 3 with no problem. The sign above clearly stated in English “small packets” with bemused me. I handed over my receipt and licence, flashed the postal worker a smile and waited for him to retrieve my little parcel from Australia from out the back. I saw him carrying it in and my eyes lit up. Gifts are my love language so getting a gift from Australia makes me feel extra special. No matter what I was getting that present.

The man looked at me and then turned to the lady next to him and started speaking to her. I quietly shuffled my feet on the other side of the counter looking at my friend to discover what was going on.

The lady turned to me and said, “Do you have your passport?”. Not knowing that I would be going to the post office that day I had to answer that question with a negative. Was then sadly informed that only passports and Cambodian drivers licence could be used to collect parcels. Hope was quickly fading as any chance of me getting my gift today was slipping away.

Then I had one of those light bulb moments, my laptop in my bag has a scanned copy of my passport on it. I told my friend about this who passed on this information to the postal staff as I franticly turned on my laptop and searched for my passport file. It seemed to take an eternity to finally open the right file and then slip my computer under the glass barrier so the staff could jot down my details while I embarrassly looked on. Thankfully they accepted our unconventional form of ID, much to my relief, and asked for the 2500 r (about 62 cents) before finally handing me my parcel.

This is my second postal misadventure of the week. Just yesterday I dawdled down to the little postal shop near my school. They were doing renovations to the place so that means broken pavement piled up in a huge heap, dust everywhere and a lone desk basically on the sidewalk with a postal worker and two sets of kitchen scales. I handed my little letter to the lady and said “Dul Os-tra-lee” (go to Australia) which was met with a laugh from her and another worker joining us.

The letter went onto one set of scales (the weight never turned to the view of the sender) and when that wasn’t enough was dropped 3 times onto the smaller scales. I patiently awaited my fate as they calculated the price – 11000 r (about $2.75). I reached into my purse to retrieve the said about, practising counting my notes in Khmer as I went which again amused the two ladies.

Once I had handed the money over and had a bit of small chit chat about my learning Khmer one lady reached out, took hold of my shirt and started saying that my shirt was so beautiful. This led to the other lady also touching me and commenting on my shirt. I shyly smiled and said thank you whist longing for them to keep their hands to themselves.

Going to the post office always has you leaving with a story to tell. It is not as simple as it is meant to be, but you leave with experiences like these and they are what makes living here interesting and sure keeps me entertained.

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