"You've got mail," messaged our friend, Stella, from the neighboring village, "I saw a letter for you at the Stoupa post office."
|Stoupa, our neighbor village, home to the post office|
Now that was news!! But what to do? Hop in the car and go racing to the substation that afternoon or wait until the next day in hopes it would still be there. We did wait until the next day and I found it in a tray of unclaimed letters that we now routinely sort through when at our tiny substation of a post office. You never know what missing treasures you might find in that bin!
Getting mail is one of those multitudes of things we realize we took for granted when living in the United States. After email came along, we snidely called the tangible stuff delivered each day, 'snail mail' with no concept of what real 'snail mail" meant. It, like uninterrupted electricity and internet during a storm, a supply of domestic water during the summer months, regular garbage collection, and road repair are among those things so routinely available or provided that we gave little thought to them. And, I might add, little thanks for them - until having the opportunity to experience life without them.
|The road beyond us awaits repairs|
For those of you -- and I know there are quite a few of you out there -- who are considering the expat life, these little, but often continuous, upheavals of routines and expectations once taken for granted, are among the things you will need to be able to shrug off. . .that, or you will soon be wearing straight jackets as your uniform.
I sometimes laugh at myself when I say that we chose the expat life because we 'wanted to live differently' because sometimes it is so very different it takes a bit to comprehend how very different it is!
You've Got Mail or Do You?
|Before Brexit and Covid - still a game of chance|
While mail delivery to Greece has always been a game of chance, a combination of a change in local postal delivery, Covid lockdowns and Brexit made for the perfect storm; a vast Never, Never Land between sender and recipient which seems never-ending.
|That would be where we live - no address!|
Our long-time readers know that we live in a rural area of the Greek Peloponnese, just outside the fishing village of Agios Nikolaos. We have no street address, in fact our street doesn't have a name. We describe our location as the 'bad road between Agios Dimitrios and Platsa' (referring to the road condition - not the neighbors) although we often describe our address as it relates to a neighbor's house because they are better known in the village.
|Our address? The road to Platsa, that's it!|
For having no address, our mailing address is a marathon long: Kossava, (for the area), Agios Dimitrios (nearest village), Messinias Mani (the region), 24024 (postal code) and Greece (our host country).
And the former longtime postman knew that meant: leave it on the mail table in Gregg's Plateia, in Agios Nikolaos and we'd pick it up there. Really quite simple. . .until . . .
Local Changes ~ Local Confusion
We got a new delivery system and new mailman. Then Gregg's Plateia was closed (as most eateries continue to be) as part of second COVID lockdown, now in its fourth month. With Gregg's closed and no commercial business open in our area, the new postman had nowhere to deliver 'Kossava' mail. So it was left in the new Stoupa post office to be picked up by us there.
|Simplify the address, we thought. . .|
However, in an effort to simplify delivery, we'd started notifying senders to change it to one that reads: c/o Gregg's Plateia in Agios Nikolaos because that mail does get delivered to a business in Agios Nikolaos while the lockdown continues.
All we've accomplished was to add to the storm as now some mail goes one place, some is the other and some remains in Never, Never Land.
First, Covid, then Brexit
For a short time, mail delivery was negatively impacted when France closed its borders to - both people and parcels - coming from the United Kingdom after the new strain of Covid was discovered in the UK. The photos of transportation traffic jams were enough to give anyone hives. . .especially those who had ordered items from the UK and who suspected those items were somewhere within those big trucks parked on the highways unable to move.
On January1st, when the United Kingdom left the European Union, the reverberations were felt even in the village. All mail delivery to and from the United Kingdom stopped. For a few weeks leading up to New Year's Day and for a period of time after, our British expats friends here found themselves unable to mail anything back home or receive it as well.
|Customs form - new normal for UK And EU|
Logistics between the UK and EU had to be worked out. Customs forms are now required for parcels sent between the two, declaring contents and value of the goods being shipped. Some people are posting on FB even this second week of February that parcels sent to them prior to the breakup are being held by customs officials for lack of proper customs declarations.
Even we Yanks felt the pinch. I had three books on order from Book Depository in London and two items that had been delayed in shipping from Amazon.com.uk (yes, we shop on line when in lockdown with all retail stores closed for months at a time). All eventually arrived in late January bearing the appropriate customs declaration forms.
It was during a Zoom visit with friends back in the States a few weeks ago, that I realized how different our world is from that which we left behind. In the course of the conversation they mentioned how frustrating it was to place an Amazon order and expect same day delivery and have it arrive two days later. Days, mind you! We now consider it speedy if something arrives within the month! Sometimes we think it a miracle that it arrives at all!
Life Goes On
|Christmas cards on display - on our mantle|
As it turned out that letter Stella alerted us to was a Christmas card sent from the United States well before the holiday but it arrived in the village just after we'd flipped the calendar page to February. Actually, it made good time as it arrived within a month. We've had a half dozen such cards arrive in recent weeks -- all are on display on the fireplace mantle, now replacing those shown above which arrived in December and January.
The best part of all of this is that we have learned to make do with what we have and not to fret about that which we don't have. If missing mail is the worst thing we suffer during a pandemic then so be it! We'll take it.
I have to tell you, though, that getting mail, real, open-the-flap-and-pull-it-out-of-the-envelope kind of mail, is a real treat when you are an expat. We recognize it take a bit extra effort to get that international stamp and get the item mailed to us and we appreciate that effort so very much!
|We got mail!|
As I mentioned above our lockdown has moved into its fourth month in Greece. The supply of COVID vaccine has been much less than expected in the European Union so vaccinations are going slowly. But thankfully, not as slow as the mail!
Until next time, we thank you for your time and hope you are continuing to stay safe and distanced! Next time I plan to tell you about Kalamata, the city, not the olive. . .it is one of Greece's hidden tourist gems!
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