Where I fit in the box of crayons....

Do you ever get that feeling like there's more out there? That's the feeling that brought me to beyond borders. The global community is growing, and I have not yet become a part of it. I want to be a contributing citizen to the global community through participation and action. Over the years, I have developed an appreciation for diversity and difference, and look for other ways that people are doing things. There’s a whole world out there beyond our North American perspective that has the potential to change the way I see things, and to change my life. Gahndi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I think we should not only find the change within ourselves, but also take part in the change we want to see in the world. I hope that Beyond Borders will offer a medium in which I can be the change I want to see in the world, and also take part in that change.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I have located my box...

There are so many ways I would like to start this blog post, but in the interest of not being passive aggressive, or cryptic, all I am going to say is that after 3 months the box saga seems to have taken a positive turn, but then again it ain’t over till it’s over.

Let me fill you in. (for those who are unaware of this struggle)

It all began when I had one of my strokes of genius (please note sarcasm). After the first day that the Internat (beginning of June) I realized that the girls are in LOVE with taking photographs. They took 300 photographs in the first hour I was with them! The next day I went shopping for cameras. Electronics are a real challenge here – Ukrainians have the choice between really terrible Russian electronic technology with above (North American) average prices, or, old and obsolete Asian technology that is usually two to three times what we would pay in Canada. At the time it seemed to make MUCH more sense to buy the cameras in Canada and ship them here….

I sent Felix shopping for cameras (he’s such an angel!). Lucky for us a few of the electronics stores were having camera sales gearing up for summer. We bought 6 cameras (thank you all for your more than generous support before I left. This purchase wouldn’t have been possible with out your help!).

After we bought the cameras I got excited and went out in search of a professional photographer here in Ternopil that would be willing to lend a few mornings to teaching the girls how to use the cameras. It was a challenge – there aren’t many professional photographers, the ones that exist are not so willing to give up their time, or didn’t really understand what I was trying to do. I did finally arrange someone who was excited to be a part of the whole thing. But first we had to get the cameras…

The next step was finding a way to get them from there to here. I did some price shopping and found out that it was going to be a fortune to get them here (in the neighbourhood of $400), so I started canvassing. You might remember a post from July “Down with FedEx” in which I outlined the length of time it took FedEx to respond to me, how they responded to me, and what their response was - a resounding NO for the record. This episode took us into the middle of July, and still the cameras were sitting in the condo in Toronto.

There was a possibility that someone would be visiting Ukraine from the University, so I followed up with that… Due to other commitments and scheduling difficulties, it wasn’t going to be possible this time. So this option was a no go.

Felix and I explored some other shipping options. When shipping to a less travelled destination (like Ukraine) you have two options: 1) semi quick – within 2 weeks – crazy expensive and 2) painstakingly slow – 6-8 weeks – still expensive. The other issue we were having is that Canada Post has a shipping partnership with FedEx and after being supremely disappointed, and blowing my top at them it was a principal issue to not have their hands on my box. Canada post offers a ground service to Ukraine which is not nearly as expensive as the priority shipping, but it takes 8 weeks to arrive and there’s no protection for the package. This seemed like the way to go, even considering the length of time it was going to take.

I think in Canada we take out postal system for granted. We trust that when we put something in a post box that it will get to its destination in a reasonable amount of time, and that whatever we decide to post is protected (you have no idea how protected our postal system is…). One of Felix’s co workers over heard him arranging to have the packaged shipped to Ukraine via ground service and decided to lend some of her experience (thank goodness). She was actually a mail carrier in Romania, and also has a side business that sells art and photography over the internet. She alerted Felix to the problems and corruption that exist with the postal service here. Most importantly she stressed that in these parts (Eastern Europe) being a customs officer is the best job anyone can hope for because of the “perks” – namely greased palms and the liberty to pick and choose what you’d like to confiscate. Felix was apprehensive about shipping. Then we got a taste of the postal system here when we realized something funny was happening with my post cards (see A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Post Box). We were getting closer and closer to the end of July – time was running short and I was running out of options.

It’s not often that I give up, but I was pretty tired of dealing with “the box” (as it has come to be unaffectionately know as) and nearly resolved that I was just not going to be able to make it happen. Just as I was ready to give up, Orest (the guy that was supposed to be my translator) gave me a glimmer of hope – his Aunt was travelling from Kamloops, BC to Ternopil at the beginning of August, and if we could get the box to them before she left she would be happy to bring it with her!!!! I really couldn’t have asked for anything better –I was beside myself with happiness…

Felix ran to the post office and arranged to have the box posted to Kamloops on the double. It was scheduled to arrive in 3 business days – but there was at least a week and a half of wiggle room before Orest’s aunt departed. Fail proof! I departed for Poland and Prague excited that by the time I returned the cameras would have arrived safely with the aunt.

I got back to Ternopil August 7th. The family told me the Orest had called a few times – my heart leapt – he was calling to arrange for me to pick up the cameras!!! I called Orest. I was happy to hear that his aunt had arrived safely and was happy to be spending time with family. Then Orest dropped the bomb – she didn’t have the cameras with her. The (F*@#%ING) box never arrived at her house!! Where the hell was the box?!?! Felix marched over to the post office and demanded they locate our box (now even less affectionately referred to!). Canada Post conducted an investigation to locate the box. They discovered that the box arrived at the correct address and was signed for more than 10 days before the aunt left. Orest’s family swore that they did not receive any box.

Instead of the leap forward to cross the finish line, we were now even further behind because the box was lost somewhere between Toronto and Kamloops. As much as I wanted to give up at this point I couldn’t because I needed to locate my box! Orest and I talked and he was going to have the family check again – there was a slight problem though they had moved from Kamloops to Vancouver city.

On Saturday August 28 Orest got a hold of me with great news – (my fingers were crossed that the aunt had actually packed the cameras and not realized it… I think I’d have to believe in God for something like that to happen hahahah) the box… HAD BEEN LOCATED!!!

Here’s what happened – Felix needed to pack the cameras, memory cards, batteries and a few other things that I wanted him to send me into something. He looked around for a box. He had just bought new dog cookies from Costco and it turned out that the Dog cookie box was the perfect size. He packaged everything, wrapped the box in white paper, addressed it to Kamloops and off it went. Felix didn’t think for a second that the box would be an obstacle, so he didn’t tell me that he shipped the cameras in a dog cookie box. The box arrived in Kamloops. The family unwrapped the white paper and was really confused - they don’t have a dog. Being former Soviet Russia immigrants (with a healthy distrust for the postal system) decided not to open the suspicious box of dog cookies. The box went into the garage. The aunt departed for Ternopil, and the uncle and kids moved homes from Kamloops to Vancouver. When Orest called asking about the box it took a couple days for the family to remember the strange box of dog cookies that came in the mail. And then an epiphany! Perhaps it WASN’T dog cookies in the box!!! So Orest’s uncle drove all the way BACK to Kamloops (400km one way) to retrieve the (effing gawd damned) box of NOT dog cookies and sure enough when he opened it, THERE were my CAMERAS!!!!!!!!!

There are two things I can’t believe happened here – 1) I can’t believe that Felix didn’t communicate his choice of shipping container. That little piece of information would have been very helpful to know both before and after the box arrived in Kamloops and may have ensured the box’s safe arrival to Ternopil with the aunt. 2) I can not believe not opening a package that comes in the mail. Perhaps it is my overwhelming curiosity, but if a box came in the mail even if it said BOMB all over it, I would probably open it! (Most of you know full well this is the case) Opening the box would have ensured that the box got here because it would have become very apparent that it wasn’t dog cookies, but my CAMERAS!

So as I said, it ain’t over till it’s over… it is wonderful that the box has been located and is now in the care of the family in Vancouver. BUT the box now has to travel BACK to Toronto, arrive safely to Felix, and then come with him when he flys over to meet me. The box has to survive 10 days in Greece (8 different cities) with us before it can finally be confirmed as having ARRIVED in Ternopil, Ukraine. And I’m sure you understand that after all this (I have run out of expletives I’m willing to post here, but think of some terrible ones…) BOX has been through, I’m not about to start counting my chickens before they are hatched…

Now you know the story of the (insert terrible descriptor) box.

I’ll let you know what happens in the next chapter of this saga….


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