Over a week ago my mother sent me (via snail mail) my voter package — everything I needed to vote in California’s February 5th election. We weren’t sure if I would make the deadline or not but it was worth a shot even with the crazy Chinese mail system which was bound to lose or confiscate my voting ballot.
Today, alas, I got it and quickly proceeded to fill out the necessary parts and send it back to San Francisco for counting! But what is harder? Sending mail or receiving mail? This afternoon, I had one hour and one mission: send my ballot back to San Francisco.
So I managed to find my way to the local post office which isn’t far, post offices are fairly ubiquitous in Beijing. I went in and remembered that this sort of thing now has been “reformed” and uses a number system. So I looked for the kiosk to take a number. The three options on the kiosk were: “citizen” “foreign” and “VIP”. OK. I chose “foreign” sat and waited my turn which quickly came up because nobody else was waiting for “foreign.” Went to the counter and…no. This was alas, China Post Savings (which does remittances and bank stuff, etc.). So I was pointed over to “Postal Services.” Got it.
Of course, postal services doesn’t use lines so I crowded up front like usual and something miraculous happened, someone ahead of me said, “no please, after you.” Excuse me? Who are you? Are you trying to trick me? But no, just a very kind person who had a lot of stuff to mail and didn’t want to make me wait with just one letter. So the post office worker took my letter examined it and said she had to “further examine it.” That’s code for: I need make sure this isn’t something bad. So she took it to her supervisor who reads English and he deemed OK to send through customs! Score.
But my envelope was not worthy of the China Post. So, I was told to go buy an envelop at the other end of the post office. Got it. I chatted up the kind lady from before and it turns out she is a southerner (she’s darker, speaks better English, and is learning Deutch). She said she wanted to help me because I’m a mixed race person. Not sure how I feel about that but she seemed intrigued enough to help me navigate the buying an envelop of the appropriate size.
So, back to the postal counter and I get up to the counter again but this time, I’m told I need to seal my envelope. Where do I do that? At the adhesive machine of course. Well, excuse me for not knowing. Of course the adhesive machine doesn’t work on first go but I get to put some sort of glue on my envelope after about five minutes.
Returning to the counter, I pay for my postage and then, I turn to go when my envelope is placed to the side on a machine. Um, that’s not where the rest of the envelopes are. It’s just sitting on top of a computer. Are you going to put some postage on that and put it somewhere safe where you won’t forget about it? No.
So, I left. Who knows if my vote will be counted but I gave it a good shot.