Vanessa Workman is a sand-and-sea girl through and through. Moving to the north of Malaysia from a job in Singapore, she found her home and now writes about her experiences as an expat on a tropical island.
I’m sporting a new pair of specs this month, which is an amazing feat in itself considering it took over two weeks for them to make their way from Kuala Lumpur to my island doorstep. Yes, I went a tad overboard on my most recent ‘big city’ shopping spree, dropping a hefty chunk of change on a much-needed new pair of glasses. It’s amazing how much clearer the world is through scratch-free lenses.
But somehow this rather expensive pair of prescription glasses was mailed to me, in lieu of using a reliable delivery service. In fact it’s pure luck that I even looked in my mailbox. It usually sits empty with the exception of a few boring utility bills, so why bother.
I’m not even sure who delivered the small package to my mailbox, because when it comes to delivering something of possible value, the postman usually beeps twice.
I have a love-hate relationship with the local postman, because he seems to keep inconsistent hours in my neck of the kampung. I sometimes think I’m deliberately the last house he delivers to.
In fact now, for anything of significant value or importance, I try to use a delivery service. A delivery service, which requires a signature from someone at my actual address, and hopefully takes my parcel deliveries seriously as well. Not just passed to a friend who happens to be going ‘that way’.
Sounds harsh, right? Well the day I waited 12 hours for an important and time sensitive package from a potential employer was my wake up call. After the expected arrival time had passed, I did the dutiful package trace only to find out that it had indeed been delivered. AND the package had been signed for. But the question was, “By whom?”
This of course was a few years ago, but when the local UPS office informed me that my package had been delivered to a “foreigner’s house” I nearly went through the roof!
“A foreigner’s house!?” “Did you not see a specific name on the package?!”
“Oh, but madam, they signed for it.”
“Really?! There’s another Vanessa Workman residing on this island?!”
For some odd reason my new friend at the local UPS office no longer wanted to talk to me and recommended I call another number. Did the day get any brighter and more fun? No.
As these types of things seem to go, the trickle down effect of brilliance continued and I eventually had to go to the police station and tell them my tale of woe. Amazingly enough, those guys actually went door to door asking a few people if they knew anything about ‘The Package’.
Long story long, the friend of a friend, delivery service (the guy who was heading my way anyway) asked a few locals where “the foreigners” lived. (Trust me we aren’t that few and far between, even back then). So this guy successfully dropped off my important documents at “a foreigner’s house”. What’s even worse, a foreigner I didn’t even know signed for it! My meticulous and exhausting detective work eventually found the package, but the damage was done. I had lost faith.
Now I’m like a mountain hawk when it comes to incoming deliveries. Careful to give instructions like, “Do not leave any package on the doorstep.” “Do not give package to a friendly neighbour.” “Please do not have your friend do the delivery for you, because you are taking the day off and too busy.” And for goodness sakes, “Do not deliver anything with my name on it to ‘a random, foreigner’s house’!”
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has some special, delivery service tale to tell. My German friend Iris, who pronounces her name “ear ris” (although it’s spelled like ‘eye ris’), spent about a year chasing her lost mail. As luck would have it, her mail often ended up at the local Irish Pub. (But I could certainly think of worse places, couldn’t you?)
My mother often shared one of her southern pet peeves with me and that was the disrespectfulness of gentlemen callers to honk their horns rather than politely knock at the door. But I’ve now come to equate the once annoying ‘beep beep’ as a good sign. It now holds possibilities and hopefully a pleasant connection to the outside, off-island world. The possibility that, once again, a delivery has arrived successfully to the correct ‘foreigner’s house’.