Monday, February 21, 2011


Last October 19, my parents sent me a care package from the United States. The week after, a wonderful couple from my home church sent me another care package.

On January 13, the package from my parents arrived.On January 20 , the package from my church friends arrived.

At least the Syrian postal system is consistent.

From where I live, the bareed markazi (Central Post Office) is a pleasant fifteen-minute walk through the Old City. The bareed markazi itself is an eight-story rattrap, where dreams go to die.

In America, the postal truck comes to my house, I sign for the package, and the postman hands the package over. In Syria, the postman brings me a receipt for my package. It is then up to me to walk to the bareed markazi, walk around the main entrance to a hidden side door below ground level, walk into a grimy, chaotic room filled with old furniture and three-year-old re-election posters for President Bashar (“Yes!” “Yes!” “We all say yes!”), shove my way through the crowds to the front desk, and try to get the stressed-out non-uniformed men to take my receipt, instead of the receipts being held out by the five men next to me. This usually takes a while, because I’m not very pushy. When finally the men take my receipt, they take it into the backroom, bring out my package, cut it open in front of me (looking for contraband? I dunno), sign my receipt, and then send me to two separate offices to get my receipts signed by other men, also out of uniform. When I have their signatures, I return with the receipt, get it stamped, sign my name, pay 90 pounds (about $2) and then I get to take my package.

Makes sense, right?

Today, while I was in the middle of this process, the man at the counter got distracted, set my package down on the counter in front of me, and went off to help somebody else. And for one crazy moment, I thought: I could just take it. Take it and run. It’s right there in front of me, and it is, after all, mine. I could leave the 90 pounds on the desk. They’d never know. I’d save them and myself the headache.

But I didn’t.

Clyde and Charlene, your package was wonderful – more than worth the hassle. Thank you so much. Everyone else – if you want to send me a package, I appreciate the thought, but I’m worried it won’t arrive while I’m still here. A promise from you that I’ll get to take you out for coffee when I return will be a fine substitute.

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