Monthly Archives:September 2011

I’ve Just Got To Get a Letter to You

30 Sep , 2011,
Willman
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Some time ago Beth sent us three letters – a father’s day card, a birthday card for Adam and a fun card for Elana. While two cards arrived about three weeks later, Adam’s birthday card never made it. That seems about right – at least one third of the mail here seems to get lost or stolen.

And don’t expect a timely delivery. Letters from the states, if they arrived, took more than three weeks to get here. Same for our infrequent mailings back home.

At first, it was our fault. We just didn’t understand that mail delivery meant shoving letters under the garage door, where they would end up beneath the car’s tires or stuck in a corner somewhere. Our first cable bill was not paid on time because we didn’t know we had gotten a bill. Slipped under the garage door, it was picked up by Aris and placed on a shelf where I discovered it three weeks later.

Mail service is so poor even for domestic letters that we were told never to pay bills by mail. Instead, we hop in the car and drive to the cable company, and the phone company, and whatever other company we owe money, because mail may not get there. I don’t mean get there on time – actually not get there.

This it turns out is why we needed to hire a driver. After the first month or two in Bandung I knew my way around the city, and drove us wherever we needed to be on the weekends. But Aris was vital to my getting any work done. He would pay the bills, and run other errands, because you could never tell when a traffic jam would occur and you’d be stuck somewhere.

Maybe it’s the traffic that keeps the mail from being delivered. But I suspect it’s more about inefficiencies in a country still not entirely used to free enterprise. After all, Indonesia has been a democracy for less than 15 years. The Post Office is not the only branch of government that seems to lack basic efficiency measures. Perhaps I’ll write at some point about our experiences getting our residency papers from the country’s immigration office.

One other reason the mail may not get through is the lack of a cool motto.

For Americans, the mail must go through. It’s a tradition that started at least as far back as the Alaska Gold Rush. In fact, most Americans believe the Post Office has enshrined this belief in an official motto – “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Like so many elements of the American mythology this particular belief isn’t true – the Post Office has no official motto. But it certainly has a place in American culture. Roy Rogers sang about its prowess at making sure the mail gets to where it belongs:

When you mail a letter, you can send it anywhere.
On foot, by truck, or aeroplane, the postman gets it there.
So write a letter to your friend, maybe she’ll write you.
No matter what you always know, the mail must go through.
Well, the mail must go through.
The mail must go through.
No matter if it rains or snows, the mail must go through.
I said the mail must go through.
The mail must go through.
No matter if it rains or snows, the mail must go through.
Some folks live in a city, some live in a little town.
And even if you live out on a farm, there’s a postman making his rounds.
So mail someone a letter, even just a card will do.
You know it’s nice when the postman has a letter in his sack for you.

I point this out not because I have a particular love for old cowboy music (although I do), but rather to say that it is my belief that the U.S. has the best postal system in the world. And spending time in Indonesia reminded me of that.

Mail a letter anywhere in the U.S., and it is likely it will arrive the next day – at worst, in two. I think it’s funny the postal service makes money with priority mail, which guarantees two day delivery, because the normal mail makes it in that time. And it does that day in and day out, with more than 160 billion pieces of mail sent every year. That’s more than 500 pieces of mail a year for each American.

Granted, many of those pieces of mail are unwanted credit card applications and Victoria’s Secret catalogues (hint to Post Office – send more catalogues). But that’s not the post office’s fault.

Of course, technology is doing away with the need for a good old fashioned letter, and the PO’s delivery numbers are dropping drastically. But as far as I’m concerned, I hope the mailman never stops visiting our door.  After all…

No matter what you always know, the mail must go through.
Well, the mail must go through.
The mail must go through.
No matter if it rains or snows, the mail must go through.
I said the mail must go through.
The mail must go through.

Up From the Streets – Part 7

16 Sep , 2011,
Willman
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While living in Indonesia, I was always surprised to find something that seems so out of place in a predominantly Muslim country. So imagine my surprise to see a somewhat risque T-Shirt on a guy riding the train somewhere on Java. I couldn’t get a picture, but here’s what it said:

 

“Your boyfriend is gay, so U better with me.”