A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Written 17 April 2013
Five months ago I had just left Australia.
The month leading up to my departure had included a lot of selling, trading, donating, gifting, tossing, and using everything that was still in my possession. It wasn’t a new thing for me, but just as I purged before coming to Oz, so was it time to purge before leaving.
When you can only keep what you carry, your list of things gets smaller. When you have a car to expand into, you acquire. Much of it, including the car, was not going to be leaving the country. But there was a decent pile of things that was. Facing a month of further travel through Singapore and Vietnam, the entire pile wasn’t going to come with me. Some of it must part from my sight and meet up with me later.
Getting everything packaged and ready to ship was an adventure. Or a debacle depending on how you look at it. No place sold a box sturdy enough for shipping that would hold everything I wanted to ship. And that is how, on the morning of my last full day, I found myself at Best Buy (or the Australian equivalent) pleading with the guys on the loading dock to allow me to take a few of the large appliance boxes and the molded Styrofoam packing inserts.
Back at the hostel, the room became a scrap yard. Styrofoam shavings littered the floor. Bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts formed flows between piles of stuff to ship, stuff to carry, and stuff of Sam’s. The box had to be cut down to just large enough to fit everything. And given the hack-job of constructing the new box, a slightly larger slip-on top box got constructed as well, to tape in excessive quantities. The boxes were hard to cut, and the sizes weren’t ideal. But everything fit. Somehow. After a couple hours of frantic packing, sorting, constructing, compressing, and securely fastening, the box was sealed.
By my estimation, it was just under 20kg. This was critical as it was the maximum weight that AusPost would accept.
Sam helped me carry the monster down the stairs and across a block and a half, to the post office which was closing in 10 minutes. It was down to the wire despite trying to get this done starting four days earlier. But we had made it. I could feel the burden, both actual and metaphorical, about to be lifted.
“Sir, this package is too big. It exceeds the maximum dimentions by about 30 cm.”
Dead eyes. A car could have blown up outside and I don’t think I would have turned around.
The walk back to the hostel was one of the longer ones I have had to take. The box was twice as heavy. The sense of defeat was palpable. There was no post office at the airport. The only way for me to get the box out myself was to be waiting when they opened the doors at this location tomorrow morning, then sprint to the airport and hope I wasn’t cutting it too close for my international flight out. Any delays and I’d miss it. And it was a guarantee that I would have to see Sam off from the hostel rather than saying my goodbyes at the airport. I’d have the last few hours in the country without any feeling of success. I would be sweaty, stressing, and sad. I would leave on a kick to the ribs rather than with a kiss goodbye.
The repackaging process was a slow one. Hacking the box down. Making more of a mess. Sorting out which things Sam could ship to me from Sydney to get everything else into the right dimensions. It came together eventually, in a way. I brought the box to the owner of the hostel. I asked him where one of the guests I knew was and explained why. “Ah don’t worry ‘bout that. We’ll ship it. I gotta run to the post office on Monday anyway.”
I confirmed. I left them my address. I left them my credit card info. I left them shipping requirements. Insurance – at least $2000. Tracking. Signature on delivery. And I left them a box containing a few camera lenses, my journal, souveniers, gifts, and Aboriginal art.
There are times when you put your faith in others. You accept that no solution is perfect and so you choose one you have no control over in exchange for some other good (like making a flight, or being there for a loved one). You trust in the goodness of man and the mechanics of the universe and karma.
There are times when your faith is not rewarded.