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A post about the Post - package for Mr. Grewal

3 August 2006 - 8:49pm -- Joseph

We went to the Post Office today to send a package to Australia. my friend Nanu is currently resident in Queensland, Oz (g'day Nanu!) and emailed me the other day to suggest that we have a postal incompetency competition. Apparently his confidence in the swiftness of the Australian postal system is not the highest, and he reckons he'd receive something from Cameroon before I from Australia. the rules of engagement were these: we each purchase a small item not exceeding £5 in value. We send them to each other.

I won't reveal what I purchased as yet, as that will ruin the surprise for Nanu, but I purchased something for the required amount yesterday, and went to the post office today. The Post Office - oh boy.

The Post Office was interesting. The package cost over £5 to send, which I found rather surprising, as it wasn't that heavy. While we were at the Post Office we also went to collect the post from the PO Box. there were no items for us ( sad face...), but there were slips for packages for Genesis, which we needed to go to the counter to collect. When we got there, they wanted 7000 cfa to collect it! That's about £7, but relatively speaking is a lot of money. We asked them why, and apparently it's for storage! The package had been there a while (not sure why it hadn't been collected - maybe because it's been held to ransom).

Apparently there is a daily storage charge for packages which aren't collected. People generally have things sent to a PO Box because most house don't have numbers and the streets don't have names (the address for the house we were going to live in was 'behind the bakery, Buea' - no idea what the address is of the house we live in. ) People aren't generally able to check their boxes every day, so they incur these storage charges for packages. This is on top of the amount you pay to have a PO Box in the first place (which I naively supposed would cover the cost of actually storing your post - though admittedly the package wouldn't fit in there). we didn't pay for the package, as we still haven't managed to successfully transfer any money out here, so have hardly any money left (We have the equivalent of a just over a pound between us, but fret not, we won't starve, our room and board is prearranged, and Hev's Western Union-ing money to us as I type ).

I left the Post Office feeling frustrated, helpless, and a little angry. It highlighted to me the problems of doing anything here. It made me feel the helplessness that many feel here everyday, of being powerless to prevent your exploitation at the hands of others. Of course, I knew this before I came, and of course the same thing goes on in England (Letting agents like Chancellors come to mind, who charge you an administration fee, then charge you an additional fee to pay that fee unless you do it by banker's draft - absolute [expletive deleted]s...). It often seems the way that when people have you over a barrel, they'll exploit the situation to the full. This is just as true in the UK as it is here, and the biggest problem is not corruption by individuals (though that does go on), but institutionalised extortion.

The difference here is that because people have less, there are more opportunities for leverage. I'm afraid it all comes down to all the money and power being in the hands of a few. It's this concentration of wealth and influence that is the cause of poverty, both locally, and on a global scale. what is needed is a sharing of privilege. In the case of Hint, I think the obvious way to do this is to set up a UK branch of HINT as a charity, and a corresponding business account, so that they are able to use the facilities afford to such status, such collecting online donations. I hope that the Internet will have the effect of widening access to services and knowledge which we take for granted, but which are now becoming conspicuous to me by their absence. I think the Internet can help, as it's use becomes more widespread, and people become more aware of what is possible, but it will take time. Hopefully HINT can help with this, by continuing it's IT training program, and I hope to help them with that.

So, Nanu, you'll probably get my package before I get yours, but don't take it as a ringing endorsement of the postal system around here...


I believe our address now is behind the cheifs compound. And HINTS address is opposite Mini Coquette Junction.

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