September 02, 2010

Birthday Gift

My son’s birthday is coming up toward the end of September. Sending him a gift from Namibia so that he receives it for his birthday takes some advance planning. They tell me at NamPost that the shipment time for air mail to the States is 10 days to 2 weeks. I frankly don’t believe it’s that quick so I allowed a full three weeks for his package to reach him. Having wrapped it in a bubble envelope last night, I was at the post office window at 11:41AM today to mail it.

When the young woman behind the counter put his package on the scale, her eyes got big and she whistled a low, “whooo this is expensive to send air mail…three hundred Namibian dollars”. I paused to allow good sense to overtake me, then promptly discarding my good sense said, “Yes, but it is a birthday gift for my son. I have to send it air mail to reach him by his birthday”. Her eyes brightened and she smiled and said, “Then we should decorate it”. I waited to see what exactly that meant as she turned page after page of a huge book that housed her stamp supply, pulling out stamps of all colors and sizes with gorgeous designs on all of them.

Note of Disappointment: There should be a beautiful photo here of said stamps but this happened to be the one day I didn’t take my camera with me.

She counted them once, recorded them in her computer, counted them again, ran to the next window to borrow a ‘pretty’ $50 stamp from the teller next to her, then came back and counted them all again. Once we had the correct number of the various denominations, she said, “There, this will be a beautiful birthday present with all these stamps on it. He will remember this birthday more than any other”. She ran to get more water for her stamp wetting apparatus (they don’t do self adhesive stamps here) and started to tear them along their individual perforations so she could wet them and adhere them to the package one by one. You may think this takes little longer than our stamp application process at home but you would be wrong.

We set up an assembly line with me tearing them for her and she wetting and adhering them to the envelope in the design she had in mind to make the package beautiful. We finally got to the end of the stack of stamps and they covered all but my son’s address on the envelope! She hand-canceled all of them with a ink stamp and told me, her eyes glowing with happiness, that she would personally put it in the mail for me. I thanked her profusely for her kindness in wanting to make my son’s birthday package so memorable, paid my bill and finally left the post office a full 20 minutes later.

Here is the receipt for my transaction:

So, Evan, when you get your beautifully decorated present, keep the envelope. The 38 stamps on it are worth more in USD than the gift inside! I think she’s probably right – this is a birthday you won’t forget. Happy birthday, honey, from your dad and me and Cynthia, the very thoughtful young woman at NamPost!