| Early the next morning we were back in a dolmus with our box, paying extra for the seats it occupied. Of course upon arriving at the post office, there was a man waving his hands "no", telling us in Turkish that it was now closed. Doors were open but apparently package services were not—to be resumed on Monday.
Gregg was ready to sell the baglama back to the shop. We asked if there were any other post offices open in Istanbul. The guy, and two others who had now joined our broken conversation, stood scratching their heads. Ultimately, I heard the only sounds I needed—"Oooo-Pei-Esh." UPS! Yes! I suddenly recalled the shiny UPS delivery truck I saw on display in the tourist area of Sultan Ahmet when we first arrived. That was quite far from where we were—were they talking about a different one in the vicinity? We were already out in an obscure part of the city—wide highways, industrial buildings, bus lots, auto repair yards...what were the chances? "One kilometer," they seemed to say. We jumped in a taxi in which the driver was clueless as to what 'UPS' was, let alone where it might be. We stopped off at a gas station and got directions after several inquiries and within minutes, saw the brown and white logo peeking out from a cluster of buildings.
Now, feeling the full weight of the burden, we barely managed to get our box through the doors. A young guy at the packing counter glanced at our ill-shaped box, then at us. We weren't able to communicate and our hands were having a hard time describing a ship to suggest seamail. Immediately, he phoned up for help and another young man appeared, extending a hand, "Can I help you?"
Murat was very personable, spoke great English, translated all our questions, and responded in a calm manner. We were quoted an estimate of US$200 to send the box using one of their airmail services; seamail was not an option. In fact, after it was weighed, we would end up spending over $300 at minimum—most of the charge a result of it being an oversize. Now I too was ready to sell back Gregg's baglama and give away the Turkish tea sets we got for under $5.
Helpless, we opened the box in search for a better solution. Perhaps repacking it to UPS standards, if possible, would drop the price. Admiring our construction job, Murat suggested we apply for a job with UPS. The packing guy, already off to find UPS shipping materials, came back with a giant plastic white bag. In the corner of the room was a nozzle attached to a hose dangling from the ceiling. He suggested that he repack it using jet foam.
The next 20 minutes he spent placing our items into the bag and spraying this steamy odorous substance into it. It instantly solidified into light-weight foam, forming a mold around our stuff. By the time he was finished, our rectangular box had transformed into what looked like a covered armchair. Its new weight was half what it was before, and because it conformed to UPS standards, was a third of the price to send by airmail. Gregg's sister Ellen, whom since we'd been sending boxes home has had to deal with picking them up, would be receiving it in five days. We were to assure her beforehand that we had not began to collect furniture souvenir pieces on our trip. As we had our last sip of tea courtesy of UPS, Murat handed us a waybill number to copy down. "You can check on your package on the Internet. Do you know how to find us?" Oh, we L-O-V-E UPS! This was amazing to us, given what we'd just gone through to send it.
We exited the building—feeling light once again—walking out onto the road as big trucks roared by. We didn't know where we were or how we would get back to the hotel. Just then I spotted a yellow dolmus, parked on the side of the road next to a vendor selling corn-on-the-cob. "Taksim?" we asked. He nodded and smiled, teeth decorated with kernals of corn. We jumped in and within seconds, were backing up onto the highway from the exit ramp, the driver simultaneously offering us his corn. Cars streaming past us off the highway were unfazed by this traffic violation.
In the end all things worked out, thanks to generous sisters, American multi-nationalism (good for some things!), and not least of all, Turkish hospitality. On Sunday, we were at the airport, getting into our new India Lonely Planet, our 'armchair' package on its way home. Shortly after arriving in India (another story) we checked the status of our box at the UPS site. As we travelled East, it went West: Cologne-Germany, Louisville-Kentucky, Philadelphia-Pennsylvania, Oakland-California, San Bruno-California, and finally, San Francisco. There was also an email from Ellen, subject line: 'Safe Arrival'.