Friday, November 21, 2008

a few notes on mail

Hello, all! First of all, thank you so much to all who have sent me letters, cards, and care packages! I can’t even tell you how exciting and meaningful it is to get mail down here.

Second of all, let me say that I think some of you have sent me things that I have not received. The Dominican mail system is slow and somewhat unreliable, so it’s possible that these things will reach me eventually, but for the record: if I have not specifically thanked you for a letter or package, I have not received it yet.

Here are a few more tips I’ve gleaned about handling the Dominican mail system:

  • Things in large manila envelopes tend to have better luck than smaller cards. Even if you’re sending a small card, please consider sticking it in a manila envelope. The postage cost will go up a little bit, but it seems like it will be much more likely to reach me.
  • Make sure you have the address right:
    Renata S., PCV (Use my whole last name, I just don’t want to put it on my blog)
    451 Avenida Bolivar
    Apartado Postal 1412
    Santo Domingo
    Dominican Republic
  • If you are sending a package (thanks!!), try for a padded envelope rather than a box. Also, on the customs form say that you are sending me “religious materials.”
  • For letters or packages, it seems to help if you make it look like you actually are sending me some sort of religious materials. Try drawing crosses or writing “Que vaya con Dios,” something like that.
  • This should be obvious, but—don’t send me money! It’ll get stolen.

Also, here my top 5 most-desired things in care packages (just in time for Christmas ;)):
1. Soy nuts! Delicious, crunchy sources of protein and fiber; completely unavailable in the DR.
2. Dried fruit/trail mix. Again—not available here. Nuts you can get (although they are very expensive), but not dried fruit.
3. Non-perishable, vegetarian box dinners—things like Annie’s pasta, Tasty Bite Indian dinners, and Thai Kitchen boxes (check the labels on those please, not all the Thai Kitchen stuff is vegetarian but a lot of it is). Nothing microwaveable though, it has to have a stovetop cooking option.
4. Chocolate, particularly individually-wrapped items (fun size candy bars, etc—they hold up better to this climate) and particularly peanut butter/chocolate combinations or dark chocolate items. But whatever, really, beggars (and Peace Corps volunteers) can’t be choosy!
5. Magazines. I’m partial to celebrity gossip and commie pinko political magazines, but really anything in English is great.

BUT SERIOUSLY I’m super excited to receive anything in the mail, and I promise to return the favor with postcards of my beautiful, impoverished republic.

Also, for those of you looking to support my community with school supplies or whatever—honestly, right now it is best if you don’t send me things to distribute here. Peace Corps tries very hard to get our sites to view us as human resources, not as sources of handouts. So instead, support the volunteer who is trying to teach them English! Also, I usually do share my candy with my classes. (Alternate suggestion: donate some money to Oxfam, they are my favorite charity and they do great things where they are most needed.) Also, later on in my project it’s possible I will write up a Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) grant, which is basically where I beg for money from friends, family, and local (meaning Illinois, not the DR) organizations to support a project and you guys give it to Peace Corps and then they give it to me. Rest assured I will let you all know if I start something that needs PCPP support and will happily accept your donations then :) (Check out the PC donors page if you are interested in this project.)

Anyway, thanks, guys! You are rad, and sorry if the Dominican mail system lost something you sent me.

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