OLD SCHOOL

Pak Joko* knew where it was. He said it was only a five-minute walk from the school. Pak Nova knew where it was, too. He, too, said it was near school. The directions were a little hazy but, fortunately, Ibu Yuli arrived in the nick of time and sorted out the directions.

“Which gate are we referring to?” she asked Pak Nova.

“The back gate,” he replied.

“Ah I see. Ok then,” said Ibu Yuli and looked at me, ready to give exact directions to the post office.

It had been more than a week that she had been asking colleagues, friends and students for the location of the post office, but no one seemed to know. It was a case of, unbelievably, generation gap especially with her students. Letters were considered out-dated, old-fashioned; they preferred to e-mail, chat on the Net or send text messages.

She noticed that there was always a pregnant pause whenever she asked a student about the post office.

“Err, I don’t know Ms,” one replied sheepishly.

“I can mail it for you but I don’t know exactly where it is. I can give it to my driver,” offered another one with a huge grin.

She belonged to the old school of correspondence. While she didn’t eschew the virtues of modern technology, she still preferred receiving letters the old way. There was something gratifying about ripping the flap of the envelope and unfolding the letter or card. It brought a smile to her face to see the curled, slanted handwriting and she could just imagine how they looked like writing that note to her. She preferred sending cards – birthday, Christmas, New Year and even Idul Fitr – rather than create a virtual card. And she wanted to wish her friends cards Selamat Idul Fitr the old fashion way.

“Walk out the back gate. Follow the road until you get to the first junction,” explained Ibu Yuli. “Cross over to the other side of that junction and then walk up the road. You won’t miss the post office. It has an orange sign with a bird on it.”

It was a hole in a wall, which she would have missed if not for the orange sign. There were no glass doors – actually any door at all – air conditioning, sleek cubicles or postal merchandise on sale (i.e. boxes and envelopes for documents, collectible stamps, packing materials). To her right was a counter-like table that had a recycled cup filled with water – for the stamps she guessed – and a wee plastic tub of paste, which was all dried up.

She walked to the long wooden counter and handed her cards. It was Rupiah10, 000 per card and would take 10 days to reach the destination.

“Hmm….a little long than I expected but better late than never,” she muttered under her breath, as she paid and placed the stamps on the cards. “I hope these cards get to their destination.”

There was no postbox outside either to drop her cards in. She went back to the woman behind the counter to enquire and before she could utter a word reached for her cards, checked if the stamps were in place, chucked them to a pile of stamped letters and smiled.

Mission accomplished! Post office found. She made a mental note that if she wanted to post mail in the future she had to do it early in the morning. The post office had very short hours with the latest opening hour extending to 12 noon only on Fridays. It is open on Saturdays but who wants to wake up early on weekends.

*In Indonesia, as a sign of respect, men are addressed as Bapak or Pak followed by their names hence Pak Joko and Pak Nova. Women, on the other hand, are addressed as Ibu such as Ibu Yuli.

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