Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a very British view of life in a small village in Alicante province, my experience of Spain, of Spaniards and sometimes of the other Britons who live nearby. The tabs beneath the header photo link to other blogs written whilst I was living in other parts of Spain, to my articles written for the now defunct TIM magazine and to my most recent photo albums.

Friday, May 23, 2014

It's a country

I'd been surprised when the door of office number two had opened as I leaned on it. I half stumbled and half leapt into the room on the other side. Two women gawped at me. I gawped back. I stammered out a greeting. 

"Hello, I want to send this to Qatar," I said, holding out a small padded envelope, weight about 20g and similar in size to an iPhone. 
"Qatar in Cantabria?" she asked. 
I pointed to the address printed on the envelope. 
"No, Qatar the country in the Middle East - next door to Saudi Arabia."
"Is that close to Lebanon?"
"Closeish," I said. 
"Is it part of Saudi Arabia?" she asked. 
"No, it's a country."
"Ah, I see; it's an island," she said, staring at the Google entry. 
"More a peninsula," I countered

She rang someone. "It'll be 97€," she said - "same as Lebanon." Back there again. I blanched but handed her my credit card. "We've got no machine," she said. I'm sure it was Gilbert O' Sullivan on the radio. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I asked if this were indeed a business. When I was outside again I couldn't help it. One very long, very crude outpouring at high volume. I went and got the money, I went back to the office, I paid and I left the little envelope with them to lose.

It was a strange office even by Spanish standards. When I'd first arrived I was sure the building was abandoned. Blinds down, litter strewn yard, no vehicles, no opening hours, no sign of life. I don't think they get many personal callers. Hence the gawping. 

Maggie has lost a contact lens. The sort of lens she needs is not available in Qatar. Fortunately she bought her last lenses in Cartagena so I was able to go to a local optician and order up a replacement.

Today was my first opportunity to ship the lens. I got up early to go to a carrier before work.  It was so early I hadn't been able to buy an envelope to put the lens in. I suspected, rightly, that the carriers would sell packaging. The lens was in liquid in a little bottle. The receptionist woman peered at it over her headset.

"You can't send liquids to Qatar," said the woman. 
"Fine, I'll put it in this case without liquid," I said. 
"You can't send contact lenses to Qatar," said the woman. 
I asked "Why not?"
"No idea." 
"Could I put it in something else; disguise it?"
"Not possible, they check everything."
"What can you send to Qatar?" I asked. 
"I can't tell you," said the woman.
"Can you send clothes?" I asked.
"Only with a receipt and a customs declaration," said the bearded man sitting next to her.

I felt we had maybe failed to build the human bridge so necessary for a fulfilling business relationship. Later I bought an envelope. I took the lens out of the liquid and put it into a dry case. That's why it was the second on my list, office number two.

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