The woman at the post office had to lend me one of their super-strong plastic sacks and then hail me a taxi. I live only a few hundred yards from Hay Post but my birthday haul of presents was just too big and too heavy for me to carry home. Six parcels of various shapes and sizes–lots of love boxed and taped and mailed all the way from the United States and from the UK too.
At home in Washington DC I am lucky to receive even one card in the mail on my birthday. Friends might treat me to coffee or buy me a drink, but there is a general agreement that congratulatory Facebook posts are all that's needed to mark the beginning of another shuffle round the sun. It is not so now I am in Peace Corps and living thousands of miles away. My friends and family–fellow travelers all– know that home comforts are particularly sweet when you've spent months in a country where nothing is familiar, and where the stores don't carry the peculiar range of things you suddenly find you miss. Lynn's parcel contained fish sauce– essential for the Thai flavors I love– and sriracha. The sriracha bottle split in transit, but luckily Lynn is an expert parcel packer. The bottle was dispatched in a plastic baggie and so the pads of construction paper, sheets of alphabet stickers and jigsaws she also sent arrived without sticky chili stains. She cut the cover pictures from the jigsaw boxes and used them to line the bottom of the box. As long as I can work out which image matches each pack of pieces, I should have plenty to keep me busy across the
snowy months of winter in Armenia. Home entertainment was a feature of Brendan's parcel too. A game of Monopoly featuring the landmarks of my hometown. Local newspapers so I can keep up with who's newly wed– or newly dead. From my brother, a face cream I love but can't buy here. From my sister, sturdy underwear supplies and a book to help me identify Armenia's wild flowers. From one of my oldest friends, a tote bag that rolled up small enough to post.
I know other volunteers have been thrilled to open packages containing well-worn t-shirts they never thought they'd miss; family photos; jars of peanut butter. Of course it's not the things themselves that matter, but the association with well-loved people and places. The knowledge that someone misses you enough and thinks about you enough to put together a goodie bag and get it in the mail.