June 13, 2006

Mailing System

I am going once again, to the field and sat down to write a letter to a school child living close to Lomela (which is 250 km from Lodja). There is no formal mailing system in the Congo.

This is how the letter will get to him:
-I will fly from Kinshasa to Lodja
-I will contact sisters in Lodja who know the school in which he works
-I will place the duct-taped letter in their hand
-They will hand it off to a bicycle porter who will pack it in his luggage--the letter has duct-tape on the edges to protect it from the long trip to Lomela
-The bike porter will take 7 to 10 days to make the trip from Lodja to Lomela-he will receive 200 francs

Then the child will get some news from me. But it is highly unlikely that he will be able to (a) find an enveloppe to respond, (b) afford the 200F necessary to send me the letter, (c) get the letter to me in time before I leave the Congo.

Actually, when I said "there is no formal mailing system", I lied. A colleague of mine had ordered an English-Swahili dictionnary from Kenya. The sellers sent it to his physical work address in Congo (instead of the pouch address--big mistake). It arrive to work today...2 years after it had been sent. No joke

Amazing. Surely this will make it to the Guiness Book of World Records.


Kingston Girl said...

I hope that you wrote a very long and interesting letter to make the journey worthwhile!

giovanni.dicristofano@tin.it said...

nO registered letter will reach you in Congo ! no taxmen, no solicitors, no bills, no fines ! a dream , paradise lost.No letter from and to relatives and fiancee. All to hell .Buy a drum and send me news.


Congogirl said...

1. Put an SASE in with your letter?
2. Leave instructions for dropping off with Aline whenever it gets to Kin to put in the pouch?
3. The 200FC is a problem. You can include it, but the kid would probably not use it to send you a letter. Can you advance pay the bicyclist for his next trip through Lomela?

C'mon, Article 15, there is a way around every obstacle!

Kate said...

Perhaps there's no mail between Kinshasa and Lomela but the Washington DC Office of Tax and Revenue had no problem finding me in Kinshasa via the mail system. Go figure...

Victoria said...

Speaking of which, I never did end up getting that package you sent me in one of your friends' suitcases... :(

Anonymous said...

Wow, 2 years! That's incredible.

Elizabeth said...

That's amazing that the book actually got there. Fantastic.

In Afghanistan there is also no postal system, but you mail things via taxis- you pay a fee to a taxi driver going to the closest city, and call a person in the city to pick it up. Then that person has to deliver it to the village or wait for the addressee to come by.

DHL, where are you when we need you?

Garci said...


I couln't vouch for DHL on the interior, but at least to Kin and the biggest cities, it will get there in a week or less sometimes. But of course, everything has a price... in this case, u$s 100 or more for a letter. Go figure!

007, hope you're doing fine. Best wishes on your flying back home!


Beaver said...

Hey ! I heard from Maite (Seb's gf, remember?) a story that makes the dictionnarie's delay pale in jealousy.

Apparently, this guy she knows who graduated from ENAC (Ecole Nationale d'Aviation Civile) and had applied to Air France upon graduation was called in for an interview.....

26 YEARS LATER !!!!!

I tell you, snail mail really sucks !

(By the way, some mail sent to me in Senegal came back to Montreal and was handed to me 1 1/2 year later !)

Much love,