Thursday, November 12, 2009

Going Postal, part 3

III. Cape Town, South Dakota
(July 2002 – July 2004)

In March of 2002, I received—yes, actually received in the mail, believe it or not—a piece of paper that many people know as a "Mission Call", informing me where I would serve my two year religious/humanitarian mission. There were a number of places whose names I wanted to see on that piece of paper, from Scotland to Mongolia to Tonga. It came as no surprise, then, that the place listed was none of those, and was about as far from Sandy, Utah as one can get: Cape Town, South Africa. Over the next few months, I prepared for my 24-month sojourn, informing those I knew and giving them an address I could be reached at there. Incidentally, there was a large number of people who, upon hearing of my destination, would reply, "South Africa? Where exactly is that?"

Wait wait wait... there’s a South Africa?
After a few months of residing in ZA (because SA is Saudi Arabia, obviously), I began to notice many of the idiosyncrasies of the SAPO (South African Post Office, obviously). For example, with the exchange rate it was cheaper to send a letter from Cape Town to Sandy than it was to send one from, say, Sandy to Sandy. I noticed that there could be multiple streets with the same name and numbers—one neighborhood I was in had five Protea Roads—so writing the correct postal code was super imperative. I also noticed that the post office lacked any postage-printing machines, so if someone needed R139.57 in stamps, the unfortunate postal worker had to do an awful lot of mental math to choose the correct number and variety of stamps.

Why oh why didn't I listen to Winnie Cooper!?
The biggest issue I found, however, naturally had nothing to do with the SAPO and everything to do with the USPS. One of every ten or so letters I would receive would have two interesting features on the envelope:
  1) The words "South Africa" would be highlighted in yellow; and
  2) There was a postmark from Rapid City, South Dakota in the corner.
I quickly realized that there must have been a postal worker(s?) out there who saw the "South", saw that it had a "A" near the beginning and ended in one as well, and concluded that South Dakota was probably the letter's destination. (Interestingly enough, I never received a letter that had been mistakenly sent to South Carolina, so perhaps the formula was a bit more complex than I am giving it credit.)

Table Mount Rushmore, South Dafrica
As noted before, this was a fairly common occurrence. However, since the address the letters were sent to was a permanent address in ZA and not wherever I was staying at the time, I only received the mail about once a month and was usually not bothered by the rerouting delay. There was one offense, though, that needs be mentioned. In a letter to one of my friends, I pointed out the (somewhat amusing) error in passing, as one of his previous letters had been sent on the Great Plains detour. In an attempt to prevent any further delivery mishaps, my friend addressed his next letter to me as per postal standards, then wrote "AFRICA" in large capital letters at the bottom. To drive the nail in further, he drew a miniature outline of Africa and pointed an arrow to the bottom with the word "here". Surely there could be no confusion this time.

I chuckled when I saw the envelope. Not because of the giant letters or the humorous drawing... but because "South Africa" was highlighted in yellow and there was a "Rapid City, SD" postmark in the corner.

Ok, in their defense, it does kind of look like South Dakota.


Debra said...

Table Mount Rushmore (Since I have been to both places, Mt. Rushmore and Table Mountain) might be the funniest thing I have ever read.

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha! Great story Adam! Here's another great mail story for you: Sister Mendenhall sent a small package from Namibia that needed a significant amount of postage, but since they don't have postage machines, and the stamps wouldn't all fit on the package, they taped a small plastic bag to the package with all the stamps in it! Thats Africa for you!

~Kimberly Nuttall

Jodi Lou said...

Question... What are the postal codes in South Africa?