Wrapping, Cards, and Mailing
My mother points out, a bit tartly, that we are not the only family in the world that reuses wrapping paper. Well, I should certainly hope we are not. As she says, it is a great waste of money and natural resources to throw out all that paper after only one use. But it has been my experience that other people do precisely that: they enjoy tearing and crumpling the paper, whereas we enjoy carefully undoing the tape (sometimes it lifts, sometimes it has to be slit with a paring knife) and gently making piles of smoothed-out paper. On Christmas morning, my mother or I go through the piles and decide which pieces go into the paper-recycling sack versus which ones are good for another year of wrapping (possibly with a little judicious trimming). My occasional purchases of new paper are intended in part for recipients who might not appreciate elderly paper, and in part to replace paper that just strikes me as singularly ugly (in the past we sometimes bought packages of several rolls, which would invariably contain at least one substandard design).
Having said this, I must now admit that my complaint about Czech wrapping paper was premature. As Elinor observed in an email, the paper I did find is perfectly acceptable, even if its brethren were not very appealing. Moreover, now that it is closer to Christmas, everyone I see on the tram is carrying rolls of quite nice paper. I’m not sure where they found it, but find it they did.
The card situation also improved somewhat, although not soon enough for timely delivery. While Tesco and Carrefour seemed to offer nothing but hideous cartoon cards that I would never dream of inflicting upon my friends and relatives, and more upscale outlets like bookstores only had beautiful but very expensive cards, I finally ran across a rack of old-fashioned Christmas postcards at Tesco. They are not remarkable in any way, but they are pleasant and (dare I say it) typically Czech. For 1Kč (as opposed to 70 or more) one gets a little still-life with Christmas and, usually, New Year’s greetings. As you can see from the photos, candles and food are the favorite subjects of Czech Christmas photography, along with a certain amount of holiday foliage. Traditional ornaments are also a theme. As the Czech Republic is a largely secular society, religious imagery is not generally to be found on cards, but I was surprised that only two cards featured winter scenery. In the past, scenes of snow (whether photographic or painted by Josef Lada) were just as popular as scenes of food. I am not sure what this means.
So… now all I have to do is write on them and mail them.
I like to imagine that mailing them will be easy, but while thus far the Czech postal service has largely been my friend, recent experiences make me uncertain.
Kristen has described her adventures mailing holiday packages in Moscow, and my initial reaction was that at least things are simpler here. After all, I had learned that one buys padded mailers of various sizes at Tesco, sticks books into them, addresses them, and at the (correct) postal window states that they are all books, all going to the same address, and should be sent at the slowest, cheapest rate. The clerk then puts them in a sack with suitable customs form and announces the price. The procedure for holiday packages is similar, except that they are not all to the same address and are to be sent airmail rather than via Antarctica or whatever.
This worked nicely with my first batch of packages. The second, however, appeared to be accursed. Tesco has not had large mailer envelopes for weeks, nor has anyplace else I have looked. One of my packages is too broad and thick to fit into the fairly large envelopes I was able to get. And then, when I had nearly everything else ready to mail, the window that handles packages was closed, presumably for lunch. When I returned an hour or so later, there was a long line that did not move at all in twenty minutes. Eventually, postal employees directed us to go to other windows. I followed the guy in front of me to a window I associate with paying phone bills. He was able to send his packages, but mine were rejected because they were going to America. I returned to the package line and was again redirected, this time to a window that did not object to international packages. Jesse had informed me that I could buy envelopes at the post office, but at this point I was incapable of asking for anything of the kind, as I wanted only to escape the crowd (especially since people kept choosing me as the person most likely to answer their questions about postal service, although I had no clue what to say) and get to the Fulbright meeting.
So… we shall see what happens when I go to the post office today.