As soon as Hope mentioned it, I knew she was on to something. We were sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Florence talking about the deliciousness that is Italy, and she commented that many typical items in the grocery store are worth sending home as souvenirs because they’re unique, tasty, and easy to ship.
I was off! Immediately, I sent my sister a box of Italian hot chocolate mix, or as KC calls it, hot pudding. And when we got to Turkey, it was even better. Soup mixes with mind-blowing flavors, tiny jars of spaghetti sauce with walnuts and basil ground up, olive paste… Yum!!!!
It took me most of 6 weeks to find a poster tube to protect the olive oil lotions I bought at a little co-op in Sirince (shop local! then ship it to the other side of the planet!), so when we arrived at the post office, we were less than 72 hours from leaving Turkey. Our goodies were safely packed into several small postal boxes (provided at no charge by the man behind the Kargo counter) and half a dozen manila envelopes.
I’d been to the post office (“PTT” in Turkey) a few times already, so I thought I was being smart when I posted (no pun intended) KC in the Kargo line with the big stuff while I waited in the Stamp line with our holiday thank-you cards. (I’d seen a woman with manila envelopes wait in the stamp line the week before only to be sent to the Kargo line.) The surly postal clerk printed some stickers for my letters, then showed me the total on a calculator (this is how a good deal of my business in Turkey is conducted). I paid and rejoined KC in the Kargo line.
Ah, the joys of learning the hard way. (This is why EVERYTHING takes longer in a foreign country.) Now I can report that the Kargo line is for big boxes and express (read: expensive) shipping for small boxes…. Sigh. Back to the Stamp line. Back to the surly postal clerk.
Who handed me a box cutter and barked, “Open!” (So she can speak English…). Sigh.
She then went through every single box and envelope, saying, “No, no, no” to pretty much every item she pulled out. Sigh.
Things she refused to mail: hand lotion, salt & pepper shakers, a few Euro coins, dry soup mix (think Lipton packets), and touristy sealed spice packets of saffron. She even sniffed the spices like we were smuggling drugs.
Imagine the line that’s now grown behind us… Imagine how pleased they were. When she got to the box with my dad’s fishing pole (a telescoping pole that collapses to about 24″ – we bought it from a guy on the bridge) and wanted to know what it was, imagine KC pantomiming a fly-fishing cast into the yonder depths of the Kargo room. Imagine her feigning ignorance. Imagine the entire line behind us shouting, in unison, what I can only assume was, “it’s a FISHING POLE, you moron!” in Turkish. It was the only thing we managed to mail that day.
I went home and had myself a good cry.
The next day we went to a different branch and mailed everything, no questions asked.
…Actually, that’s not true. The clerk did ask why in the world I would send that soup mix to anyone: “Don’t you have this in America? It’s terrible. Unhealthy. Turks don’t eat it.” [Sorry, Ziggy! That one’s yours!]
And he removed that wonderful spaghetti sauce, explaining it was dangerous to mail food in glass items. Me: “Ok, I’ll have it for dinner tonight.”
Him: “Dinner?! This is for breakfast! Here, let me show you: first you toast some bread, then you spread this on the toast. It’s the best Turkish breakfast!”
And you know? He’s right.. [Sorry, Hope! That was to be yours.]