OK, I miss the US (and my camera)

26 Sep

I’m a little sad today.

First my mom sent pictures of the pumpkin patch. I love Fall and the fresh, crisp air of the mid-latitudes this time of year, although I must say the weather in Arequipa has been fantastic. It’s Fall here pretty much every night if you don’t mind the mild exhaust fumes.

Second, I got a call on my cell phone from DHL in Lima regarding customs and the camera I’d ordered from Amazon.com and sent through MyUS.com (a freight forwarder that gives me a US address). Imagine my panic as the woman began speaking rapidly in Spanish. Of all the times not to have an interpreter handy! It would have been really useful to be able to ask her a lot of questions just then about what has happening with my package. She knew enough English to suggest that I send her a text with my email address, which I did. Then she emailed me the bill. My $196 camera and SD card, which were purchased from Amazon.com, have now incurred a DHL processing fee of $51 plus customs duties of $57. This is after I’ve already paid $47 for shipping and does not include my Amazon Prime membership (which looks increasingly useless) or MyUS.com membership (ditto). I selected MyUS.com because they were supposed to be expert in this sort of thing. I’m a little miffed because DHL has a rule that anything under $200 clears customs automatically. The cost of the items in my package was $200.22. That last 22 cents, which in this case is due to the addition of a wonderfully valued Nexus 7 case from Amazon.com for $5, has now cost me an extra $108 and counting, because DHL charges for every day of storage. It would have been nice to know this in advance! I could have purchased the camera and SD card for about $300 locally, so it looks like the Peruvian market is in fact efficient (stock market speculators take note).

This painful lesson, which began with the theft of my camera on the bus, is nevertheless valuable. It prompted me to find this handy guide about shipping to Peru, so in the future I will use, of all things, the USPS (provided it’s still in business! Ouch, that was uncalled for). According to the guide, packages arrive just the same but with the important advantage that the carrier doesn’t add their own insult to any customs injury.

Now, there are several reasons why I should be thankful about this whole incident. First, I’ve learned an important lesson about personal security and another about international shipping. Second, this expensive mistake is more than offset by the lower cost of living here. For example, today we purchased a new custom made kitchen table 1m x 1.8m with 10 chairs for $275. It’s very simple but has a nice formica top and will comfortably seat eight. I don’t think I could have even found this deal on Craigslist. Four bed frames and mattresses should come in right at $1,000 and we have been promised these for Saturday, when we move in to our new apartment (PTL!). So far the economics of selling everything in the US vs. trying to ship it are panning out. Third, and most important, is that what Christ gave up to become Emmanuel, God with us, is so much greater than the minor losses we’ve suffered that it’s shameful to even mention it as a comparison. Our minor sufferings have increased our appreciation for His love and sacrifice.

On the news front, we found a wonderful apartment and plan to sign the contract tomorrow. It’s actually two floors as the rooms are a bit small and we felt we would need the extra space for office and school areas, not to mention we will have fantastic guest quarters! Even if those reading this blog don’t use them (hopefully some of you will), there is a steady stream of visitors from other missions whom we will be able to host. The cost is $800/mo., which is more than the $600 we were hoping for, but it’s still cheap compared to the same space almost anywhere in the US. That savings makes up for many other mistakes. There are other offsetting factors, too. After furniture shopping today, as a thank you to our interpreter helpers, we took them out to an excellent lunch at a restaurant serving a typical menú. Lunch for the four of us came to $17. We are really, really grateful for the assistance of so many to help us find an apartment, deal with immigration, buy furniture, start a company, and more without a full grasp of the language.

Tomorrow, Lord-willing, we sign the rental contract and open a bank account for the company. The latter has taken longer than I thought it would on Monday, but we are still learning about Peruvian time. If you accomplish one thing per day (like ordering furniture), it’s a good day. If you accomplish two things, it’s a great day. If you accomplish three things involving other people, it’s pretty much a miracle. You would be amazed how much longer things take when you have to walk / taxi / bus everywhere. Many transactions involve hand-written notes, which are far less efficient than swiping a card. And you should have seen the immigration officer stamp our “permission to sign contracts.” I so wanted to take a video! There must have been 20 stamp impressions for our 2 documents! But he was very helpful and efficient and was equally helpful and apologetic when we returned 2 days later to ask him to correct a spelling mistake in my name. That took him only 10 minutes, but took me and the interpreter from 9am – 1pm: bus, wait, walk to get a form printed and copied, more wait, 10 min of action, on the bus again. And so it goes. In retrospect, I’m really thankful we allowed time between our arrival and starting language school. It’s been absolutely necessary to get our feet on the ground.

Praise the Lord, things are coming together and we haven’t come apart 🙂

4 Responses to “OK, I miss the US (and my camera)”

  1. Judy Chandler September 27, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    I hear ya! On those unfortunate days in Thailand, we learned to laugh and say “T.I.T.” This is Thailand! But you are right, only plan on one task a day, and if more are accomplished you have great cause for rejoicing.

  2. michael CHANDLER September 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    In the future all gifts from me to you in Peru will be strictly cash. You get more bang for the buck there and customs doesn’t get their cut. Somewhere between Amazon and DHL, somebody has dropped the ball. Customs is one thing, but they (shippers) shouldn’t be surcharging freight beyond their shipping weight fees.

    Ah, yes, you are becoming a foreigner. In Bangkok, if you got 2 things done in one day, you had a great day! There is a reason this country is great! Congrats on your new place to live!

    Love, Dad


  3. Peter L September 28, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Bienvendios al mundo hispano. We Americans can learn from the Spanish that the clock is a necessary evil, but that time is not important. Maybe we would have fewer health issues related to stress if we didn’t feel the need to demand everything yesterday. Slow down, relax, and live la vida más despacia (the slower life).

  4. Millie October 11, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    De acuerdo con Peter!!! I thought that was only part of the Dominican culture! Not more than one errand per day, and blessed if able to accomplish it!

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