| Somehow we stumbled upon a dolmus (inexpensive service taxis) that ended us terminating around the corner from the central PO. The staff was on lunch break but were to return within the hour. We would wait. Once it reopened, we ran around from window to window exchanging white slips for pink slips, relieved to finally see the box emerge from the storeroom onto the customs inspection desk. The official asked me if I knew what they were checking for as he broke the tape seal. "Narcotics, I suppose?"
Nodding, he said, "You have?"
"No, no, just books, some clothes..." I said as innocently as possible. Just then he pulled out a ziploc baggie of pale green pills.
Saying with a raised brow, "What this?" How would I explain the Chinese anti-cold medicine I asked Carolyn to throw in...
"Medicine." I said dumbly.
"And this?" He lifted out a small square box of ginseng bits which Gregg likes to chew.
"Uh, ginseng root... for sucking on," I regretted saying anything, realizing how ridiculous I sounded. He returned me a suspicious sideways glance, resealed the box with a big loud machine and sent me off to engage in yet another series of redtape: buy stamps, show slip, get signature, turn in slip, pay fee... Other people waiting for their packages kindly pointed me to where I needed to go, and inadvertently, I cut the line when someone slid my final slip through the cashiers window. Even at the central post office, Turks were friendly and helpful, taking care to help clueless foreigners. I shrugged thinking about dealing with this in India or China—our next two destinations. Leaving the place with our box, I pretended not to hear Gregg say that he had a funny feeling we would be back.
In the service taxi back to our hotel, we were too excited so we broke the plastic bands wound around the box. Peering in, I got a dose of home, and of Carolyn's touch. Everything was clearly itemized on the packing slip, neatly arranged. Everything we asked for was contained within, including the two inch velcro strip to replace the non-sticking back strap of my Teva sandals. What a dear, my sister!
We rushed back to the hotel to deal with our last remaining challenge—our box to ship home. There it stood in the backroom where we'd left it a week ago. We did a quick repacking and headed out yet again to a post office—this one fortunately only half a kilometer from our hotel. There was only one woman sitting behind a service counter but because she spoke no English and was apparently embarrased about it, she chose instead to simply shake her head at us and avoid eye contact. Eventually, a man emerged to tell us this office was no longer open for mail services; we would have to come back Monday or go to the central post office. Seeing as it was close to the end of the day, and Monday would be impossible as our flight departed the day before, we asked the man to phone the post office to inquire whether they would be open tomorrow—Saturday. Yes, they would be open until noon.
Wanting to believe what we were told, we then disappeared into the Internet cafe next door, dragging our awkward box up the narrow staircase, forgetting about it for the next two hours. It was Friday night and by the time we came out, the youth were filling Istiklal en masse. We each took an end of the box and hoisted it up on a shoulder, just as a young man pushing a hand truck appeared next to us. He only had two reams of paper on it and offered to take our box. He was from Iraq, came to Turkey two years ago with his parents. We had a nice little chat, thanked him and said we would be turning off the main street to our hotel, but he followed saying, "I'm going that way too." Because he was so nice, we didn't believe him. As it turned out, coincidentally, he was making his final delivery to the magazine-newstand across the street from our hotel. Funny the way some things work out.