Usually a post office is one of the first things you notice when you are traveling in a different country. Usually they are quite noticeable and are as numerous as a McDonald’s family restaurant.

It occurred to me about two weeks ago that I had not yet seen one in China and had no idea what it would look like if I were to need to visit one. Of course, that reminded me. I did need one! I needed to send something back to Australia!

I looked for 郵局 on Baidu Maps and a few options came up. The next day, I went on a walk to visit one and ended up in a bank! Not a post card nor envelope to be seen. It turns out, China Post is also a bank and I would need to find the actual China Post post office.

Well, I needed an envelope to send the document anyhow, so I went home and decided to make the next day my day for finding envelopes. Thinking it would be rather easy to find, I headed out and visited my nearest department store. In the stationary department, there were pens, pads of paper and everything else one would need to write a letter – all except for envelopes! I went into shop after shop after shop, looking for envelopes but had no success.

I asked my colleagues and they said the Miniso may have them, and if they didn’t, I should just order some on Taobao and have some delivered to my door. Miniso had no envelopes and I didn’t want to have to order them online. Surely someone sells envelopes somewhere!

This morning, I looked at my Baidu maps again and noticed there was a post office closer to my apartment that I hadn’t visited yet. Surely they would have envelopes, postage stamps and postcards! I ventured out, with my letter in hand, and when I arrived at the post office, it was beside a China Post bank but the section I was in was definitely a proper post office! A woman was having her enormous parcel weight at the counter, so I was sure that I was in the right place.

When I went up to the counter, I asked if she had any envelopes. The lady said no and said something in Chinese, pointing to the street. So, a bit perplexed as to why an actual post office wouldn’t sell envelopes, I walked down the street, wondering to myself what I should do. There was nothing else I could do except to go into each little local shop that I could find and ask if they sold envelopes.

After three or four shops, I had nearly lost hope, but then I went into a shop that had a photocopier service. I asked the lady and finally she said yes! I bought two envelopes for 2 元. I popped my letter in one and headed back to the post office.

Presenting the letter, I said I wanted to send this and if I could buy a postage stamp to Australia. She lady shook her head and threw an enormously long-winded sentence my way about what I needed to do. Shazui…. something, something, shazui. I repeated – Shazui? She nodded. I asked her to write it down, which she did. I send a photo of the words to my colleagues and they told me that it read “Shazui Post Office”. One of my colleagues kindly sent me a map and it wasn’t too far.

So, despite feeling a little frustrated that I hadn’t made much progress and already an hour had passed, I walked to Shazui Post Office which was hidden away in a very industrial area, with shops selling doors, toilet bowls, windows and light fittings. There was Shazui Post Office – the biggest post office I had seen as of yet.

I went up to the counter and asked the lady if I could get a postage stamp. She shook her head and said I didn’t need to worry and that she would take care of it for me. She spoke a little English and directed me in where I needed to write the address and return address. Then, she asked if I wanted it sent by ship or plane, weighed my letter and finally asked for 7元. Then she said it was all done and that I could go! Hurray!

I felt exhilarated! I had posted something and two or three weeks of confusion and running around not knowing what I needed to do was over!

I rushed to 85度C, bought myself a croissant and a 美式咖啡 (Americano coffee), and spent an hour or so reading Madame Bovary. The poor woman has just been financially ruined and, if I have understood the French correctly, has just given her a dose of arsenic and perhaps died! I will read the rest tomorrow on my way to work.

To add to the excitement of my day, I also bought myself a mini toaster oven. I love toast – especially hot, buttered toast – and I am rather sick of “toasting” it in a fry pan and ending up with fried bread or bread drenched in burnt butter. (My gas cooker is very hot and the low setting is not so low…)

I found one for 118元 – which I thought was an OK price for a fairly well-known Chinese brand – but there didn’t seem to be any stock left under the display model. I asked the shop assistant if she knew if they had any. She replied that they did and asked me to wait. After about one hour of waiting and listening to them squawk loudly into their phones to send and receive WeChat voice messages, finally a man appeared with a box. It was all very amusing.

To top it off, when I got it home, the cord is too short to read the powerpoint, so I will need to buy an extension. But, it does look handsome in my kitchen and I can’t wait to use it!

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