There are two certifiable ways for me to feel as though I have fully into a new place. The first, is gaining a library card. The second is receiving mail. Though it may seem rather hyperbolic to say so, there is something quite satisfying about seeing your name printed above a foreign address. It literally symbolizes that you have arrived.
Last year, while living in Madrid, I had almost no use for the postal service. Because I was in a major city, I had no need to order things online. And unlike my roommates and friends, no one sent me packages or cards from back home.
Instead I spent last year living vicariously through their frustrations. One friend was told that she had to pay 80 euros in customs/import fees to pick up a package from their grandmother. She told them to send it back. Another, ordered a dress from the UK which ended up Malaga instead of Madrid. And while I nodded along to their stories, I couldn’t help but think–better you than me.
But my luck has run out. Life on my beloved little island, while in many ways divine, comes with an additional set of challenges. Menorca, unlike its sister islands Ibiza and Mallorca, is not very developed. This means two things: more virgin beaches and less of, well, everything else. There are very few stores here, generally, in comparison to nearly any other place I’ve lived. And that makes certain things, certain important things, almost impossible to find.
Among these were: bedding that I liked and other household items from Ikea. Months later, this anxiety was transferred into trying to find a bra in my size after my old standbys had worn out. And most importantly of all, finding hair products for Afro-textured hair.
For the bedding, I decided to go with what I thought would be the simplest solution–ordering from Amazon. The great thing about Amazon is that you can easily switch from the UK, Spanish or American websites in order to find what you need. However, I often found that many of the vendors still did not ship to the Balearic Islands, or if they did, the shipping costs were higher than the actual product.
After grumbling to myself about this in the beginning, I finally decided to order a duvet that I liked. Here began problem number 1.
My apartment building is situated on a corner and I realized too late that my landlord had given me the wrong address to the building. I had no idea where that package would end up and had no choice but to order it again.
The Wine Shop
The following week, I was left with a UPS sticker on my mailbox stating that my duvet was waiting for me at a local shop or access point. The problem with that was, I generally work from home and most certainly would have been there at the time of the delivery. Why hadn’t the delivery person just rang the bell and handed me the package?
I’ll tell you why: because, Spain.
It turns out that the local access point was a wine shop. Of course. A wine shop that had a propensity to be closed; despite, of course, both the horarios listed online and on the closed gate. I learned this after having taken a few 40 minute walks (one way!) to the industrial/commercial area of the city.
After having received both packages, I was delighted and disappointed. The duvets were beautiful. But I had to send them back. I had ordered the wrong size. Damn you metric system!
After spending nearly 40 euros to send them back, I decided to order from another company. But the product never arrived. Never. For over a week, the tracking system said that the package was being delivered “today.”
But “today” never came. And after a terse email exchange with the company, I finally asked for and was granted a full refund. Who needs cute sheets anyway?
As for the next needs on my list, I plotted my course of action carefully. The bras, I chose to pick up while I was in London on vacation to avoid confusion about measurements. For the hair products, I had decided to bite the bullet and order them online from the States. What could go wrong?
Well, this is an except from an email I received from one of my favorite brands after a failed order:
“Unfortunately, we have had to discontinue shipping to EU countries for the current time because the new cosmetics labeling and resident agent requirements instituted in summer 2013 in the European Union are prohibitive for a company of our size. “
Refusing to be defeated, I called my mom. She agreed to send me my favorite products as a care package. But. But, but, but. The package arrived in Menorca two days after I had left for London. It was sent back to Madrid nearly two weeks later…two days before I returned home. My mother finally got it back last week.
At Long Last…
After mixing my own products for months, I came across a UK beauty supplier on Instagram which offered free international shipping. Fearing that it may be too good to be true, I logged on, placed my items in the cart and waited tentitively as I placed my (correct) address into the online form.
My products arrived yesterday. And as the package was placed in my hands, eyes scrolled across name and address beneath “deliver to.” Finally, I had arrived. I was truly settled into my new home–two months before I leave to return to the states.
Progress? I guess we can call it that. But next time, I’ll just get a library card instead.
Photo by Tania Tortolero