I did something retro on Monday morning: I mailed a letter at the local post office instead of communicating electronically.
Two letters, in fact, with Moldovan holiday cards for our sons and their families. You can see the colorful stamps, which totaled about 75 cents for each letter.
Our post office is in the center of Ialoveni, a block away from the Consiliul Raional, or county center, where I work. That’s typical in Moldova, where almost every town has a government office, a post office and a casa de cultura, or cultural center, along with at least one church, school and market.
I waited in line behind two elderly customers who were collecting their monthly pensions. The man in front of me was at least 75 years old, possibly much older.
Moldovans use their local post office for much more than mail. It’s also where they can pay utility bills, transfer money, send a fax or collect their pension. In Bardar, where we had our training, there was even a hair salon downstairs.
Moldova’s post offices do not offer as many services as some others in Europe, which sell everything from toys to umbrellas. As the New York Times reported a few years ago, “With mail volumes decreasing 1 to 2 percent annually in many countries, European postal services from Germany to Sweden to Switzerland have reinvented themselves over the past decade as multifaceted delivery and information companies tailored to the virtual age.”
That’s an interesting contrast with post offices in the United States, which are restricted legislatively from entering businesses unrelated to mail delivery. In that respect, what I thought was a retro visit actually got me thinking about the future of our own system back home, in our supposedly more advanced country.
Peace Corps surprises you like that. Feel free to ponder it while you’re waiting in line to mail your own cards and gifts in time for the holidays.