When we left Korea, I shipped three years of my life home in boxes of all sizes. Big boxes of bedding, shoes, books I couldn’t part with, even bags of 쌈장 and 된장 (Korean bean pastes) I couldn’t foresee finding in Kentucky and living without. (Not having immediate access to Korean food has been a struggle for both of us already.) When we left Hoi An, a few days ago, we sent a box home of things we brought, or already bought, and didn’t need, and Andrew’s new suit. Not a problem! My dragon, on the other hand proved to be a big. big. problem.
When we got to the Post Office, I left Andrew to write out postcards and walked up to counter 7, where the man eyed my dragon suspiciously and tried to fit it into a box. “Too big!” He declared. “Cannot send. This is the biggest size box you can ship to USA. Cannot send. Go to counter 8.”
Counter 8 turned out to be the DHL counter. They told me I needed a box first. They sent me back to counter 7 for a box.
Counter 7 shook his head at me. “Too big! Cannot send!” he barked. I shook my head to assure him I understood, and asked for a box. He eyed me suspiciously, but took my dragon, and put two printer boxes together to make a new bigger box, fit the dragon right in, and demanded the equivalent of $5.00 for his handiwork.
Back at Counter 8, they shook their head and said it would be very expensive. Wrote down $211.00 on a piece of paper and said it would take 3-5 days. I asked for something slower (cheaper) and they sent me to Counter 6. Counter 6 sends me back to Counter 7. Counter 7 barks at me again, “Too big! No! Cannot send! Go Counter 8!” I go back, to Counter 8. They look at the box again, then do some calculations again, and then they write $593.00 on the same piece of paper they wrote $211.00 on previously. I look at them like they must have made a mistake. I asked for something slower. They informed me they only did express shipping. I pointed to $211.00 and asked what happened. They pointed to $593.00 and waited for me to magically understand. I told them I could not pay $593.00 and plopped my box down next to Andrew, who was – throughout this whole ordeal- still sitting in the middle of the three counters writing out postcards.
“It’s not possible. I can’t send it.” I told him, close to tears, again. (Have I mentioned my emotions have been a little heightened this first month of travel?)
He gets up, takes the box to Counter 6. Gets sent to Counter 7, where the same postal clerk looks at me like I must be missing something in the head. “I’m sorry! Too big! Cannot send!” he tells Andrew. Andrew tries to explain how light it is and asks again why they can’t send it. Counter 7 ignores him. Andrew doesn’t budge. I try to hide, until I eventually see Andrew get sent to Counter 8. The girls at Counter 8 have disappeared. I convince Andrew that it’s not possible, and we take our dragon to the agency where we booked our bus tickets to Cambodia.
The girls at the tour guide agency demand to know what is in the box. I say “Dragon!” and I do the dance. They shake their heads and say we have to talk to the bus driver, maybe the box is too big, and we cannot take it with us. I make the executive decision that I will wear the dragon head on the 5 hour bus ride if I have to. Andrew makes the executive decision to get a motorbike so we can pile as many boxes as we’d like on the back. We walk up to the bus drivers. There are at least five of them. They all look at me suspiciously until one asks what is in the box. “Dragon!” I said again, and again, I do the dance. “Ohhh…” and they respond in Vietnamese, and do the dance. “Yes!” I cry, relieve to see them smiling. One of them demands $10.00, and I say “No way!” and they laugh, repeated “No way!” to each other and put the dragon under the bus.
“Maybe we should just take the dragon with us around the world.” I suggested to Andrew once we got on the bus.
“Maaaybe…” He replied, unconvinced.