what's in the box?

I know you think I just sip macchiatos, graze farmer's markets, ride my 'junk bike' and walk through museums admiring sculpture and art. It isn't always so. Consider this day in the life of:

This day had a lot to do with the fact that James is in Seattle, and we thought it would be a good idea for him to send us a care package. Why not send a box of things we could use, stuff that might not be readily available in Italy? We will just keep it light so it doesn't cost so much to ship. (So we thought).

So he shipped a box via 2 day FedEx and a few days later, the customs office calls me to tell me if I want the box I need to pay tariffs and fill out then fax paperwork---and I have 3 days to pay or the box gets shipped home. So she emails me the forms. The next morning:

"Mom, we are having parties at school today for Carnevale, and I am supposed to bring plastic cups." Can you have it there by 10am? So it starts: breakfast, dishes, laundry... send boys off to school. I sneak an hour online to blow through some emails, check twitter, facebook and the like---mostly waiting for the printer and grocer to open. I load the customs' papers onto a geek stick and at 9am, pop into the printers to have it printed. I stop by the grocers, buy cups and bike across the Arno to the boys' school to deliver the cups. On my way home, I stop in Piazza Niccolo and have the best 10 minutes of my day (well---duh---despite all the minutes with the boys): a fantastic pastry and macchiato (did you catch that? that was the macchiato-sipping moment).

I cycled a bit further to the post office---in Italy you pay bills at post offices and/or banks. So I went to pay my 40 euro tariff. And stood in line for 30 minutes. I paid, was given a receipt and 6 pages of paperwork to fill out... in Italian (bugger!). So I stopped by one friend's shop for translating help---she wasn't there. Then I came home and called another friend; we sat on Skype and went through line by line (it wasn't horrific, mostly just addresses but I had to describe box contents and claim vitamins... assuming that's the food product they meant?). After it was mostly filled out, I waited until James woke up in the states so I could verify some facts. Then waited until 4pm when the printer would be open again (she is open, like most Italian stores, from 9-12 and from 4-6; times vary slightly, but you get the idea).

First I went to the post office, to fax from there. I waited 30 minutes---wrong window, need a different letter/number ticket. Waited another 30 minutes, gave my papers over to the gal and she said to wait while she faxed and when it was confirmed I would pay and be on my way. Another 30 minutes; unfortunately, the fax wouldn't go through. So I left. I stopped by a printer near our house and tried faxing another time; she tried multiple times---no luck. So I came home, got my geek stick, scanned the paperwork (again at the printer), came home and tried to email it back tot he original sender (following this?). Then I emailed James all the info, and he followed up as well (at this point the clock is ticking: it is day 2 before they send this box home, and James had already paid shipping, and I had already paid the tariff...).

It was about 6pm, I had done what I could; I cooked dinner and the boys and I enjoyed a nice evening together. That was my day.

A few points of interest:
  • Communicating in Italian is not yet my forte; fortunately I had just learned 'ieri' which means 'yesterday'. The post offices kept asking when I received the email, knowing I only had 3 days to turn it around. I also know 'aspetta'... which means 'wait.'
  • The cost kept creeping up: it cost 35 euros to send, 40 euros tariff and when the fax finally goes through, another 10 euros. Ouch. What's in that box anyway?
  • FYI commodities in the states are so, so much cheaper. And often better quality. When my folks visited I actually had them bring me Ziploc bags and scotch tape (lol).
  • In the box:
    •  vitamins (fish oil pills, gummy vitamins, some Tylenol cold medicine)
    • Q-tips (I know---embarrassing. But its a quality issue for me... and how would I know they would end up costing like $20?).
    • mosquito net (also embarrassing. But the mosquitoes here are vicious, biting multiple times and haunting you while you try to sleep). And it is wonderful to have the windows wide open!
    • a bank card. that is the crux. I actually DO need that item.
    • 2 sport watches. Insanely cheap compared to Italy (mine Timex, Caleb's Puma); Caleb and I both needed watches with trusty alarms on them---our morning depends on it. We picked out inexpensive watches on Amazon and shipped them to James. (Amazon.uk ships to Italy but then you are talking pounds instead of euros... still very expensive). Even with all the fees aforementioned? Still cheaper to buy our watches and ship them twelve times. 
    • Aveda hairspray. Yes, really. Once you compute the exchange rate it costs 3x as much here. So I had James toss a bottle into the box. What was I thinking?!?! 
FYI we did finally get the box. James tracked down the company-with-our-box online; they had given us the wrong fax number. Make that twice. The third time was the charm: and then round two, since one page I hadn't filled out fully (translation: specific kinds of vitamins, not just 'vitamins'). Another few faxes add geek stick, trip to printer...  and I specifically asked them to hold the box. Because at this point, we were headed out of town for our 6 day Tuscan road trip. Could you imagine? All that work, 3 attempts to deliver and then 'failed delivery---return to sender.'

... on day 3 of our road trip I received a phone call from the delivery company (a different company than the receiving company); they had attempted to deliver the box 2 times. Would I be there tomorrow? (Seriously, thank god she could speak a bit of English). No, I would not be there tomorrow. I will not be there until the following Monday. She said they can hold it and would deliver it Monday morning. PHEW.

Monday morning. I cannot walk Anthony's still-wet painting up to his school for fear of not being available for the post. (He ended up taking it in later that week---the art teacher was gracious). In fact, would I even dare use the bathroom? No music---so I can hear the buzzer. Morning came and went. The delivery man arrived at 2:30pm. But we had our box! finally.

Seriously? Please don't send me anything. at all. ever.  

I need a macchiato.


    1. Good heavens! What a gong show! It's hilarious and horrible at the same time. :-)

    2. I have thought of sending along a few other items to Janelle, but have elected to simply 'pass' at this time. Better to do without, or wait until our next round of family makes a visit in April! If all the Italians can manage with what is available in Italy, then so can my family. ;) Italian post is too unreliable. Thank goodness for email!

    3. Rambling: lol, right? It is all in good jest. In fact, many rounds of days like this is causing me---and my whole family---to learn to not get all twisted in a knot over things. Sometimes it is frustrating, but it is also good to not be so impatient or have expectations of perfect delivery...;).

      Giacomo: no problem at all! The irony is, when we get back to the states we will miss a lot of things from Italy!

    4. Oh wow! This was so interesting to read, but I imagine frustrating and funny all at the same time. I think that was a well-earned macchiato for you.

      In spite of the crazy obstacles that you have, it still seems like a wonderful adventure. Thanks again for sharing the good, the not-so-good and the beautiful with the rest of us. I so love reading about your Italian life!

    5. oh. my. goodness.

      I want to travel again - but now I'll remember to bring EVERYTHING I might need.


    6. Barbara: frustrating and funny is a fantastic combination... maybe even a half empty/half full equivalent...

      Jodi: Nah, just go without;). I just remind myself that when I return to the states I need to figure out how to give Costco a HUG and just might tape freezer ziploc bags all over my body.


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