This was an interesting experience, as they all have been living here in Hanoi for almost a month. Just regular errands turn into a journey. I suppose that’s half the fun of living abroad. You never quite know what you will encounter each day when you open your door and walk out into a new world on the other side of the planet. Some days when I leave the comfort of my apartment, which I have now labeled my safe space, I tell myself, “Okay, here we go!” I can get mentally lost in my apartment while writing and listening to music and for a bit it seems that I actually might still be in Florida. I get into my zone here and forget I’m actually living in Vietnam. Until I step foot outside, and I almost get run over by a motorbike.
As I ventured out today, I wanted to mail some cards back to the States. While I’m gone on this trip, I’m missing my brother’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and my dad’s birthday. So I figured I would send the cards early, so hopefully they would arrive in time. I decided to go to the main post office here in Hanoi which is also on a tour bus stop. I figured if it was on a bus stop it must be a big post office with many employees and people fluttering about. I took a Grab there and walked up to the front door where many people were sitting on the stairs.
Underwhelming is an understatement. There was a total of 6 people in the entire place. I assumed this was a government institution and would be official with no scams. But that was not the case. I walked up to the one lady who was sitting behind the counter to tell her what I was mailing, then another lady, who it seems was working at a souvenir place, came over to me in front of the counter. I told her that I needed to mail these letters to the USA. She took me over to a guy sitting at a table with a bag full of stamps. I kept looking back at the lady behind the counter but she said and did nothing. Like I wasn’t even there. So I guess this random guy was the keeper of the postage.
I showed him the letters I needed to mail, and he pulled out an equal number of stamps for each without looking at them. Or weighing them because one was bigger and heavier than the other. Or even really looking to see that it’s going overseas. One envelope was still open because in Vietnam most envelopes don’t have sticky stuff already on the back. He pointed to a bowl and said, “Glue.” I looked and said, “No, that’s water.” Then I stuck my finger in… um, yeah… that’s glue. So gross.. I rubbed it onto the flap and prayed it was going to seal up.
I had the blocks of stamps adhered to my envelopes, it was about 8 each, and I still had no idea if that was enough to get to the States. I asked, “How much?” I swear he said 130,000 dong, but it’s hard to understand. So I gave him 200,000 so I could get change. He said, “Too big,” like he couldn’t break that. So I gave him 140,000. He then said, “Thank you,” and he took all my money. I replied, “Wait, you said 130,000? Where’s my change?” Then he took my money out and counted it and gave me 110,000 back. I was confused. I just wanted my 10,000 dong. But I think he was ripping me off, and I called him out unknowingly, and then he gave me my proper change. I just thanked him, and he pointed for me to go outside to drop the envelopes in the mailbox on the street. Then he said, “You come back here to mail again, okay?” I just gave him a look like, “I don’t even know what just happened… or if these will even leave Vietnam… Do you even work here?”