Lima, Peru: “Post Office” or Hardware Store? [Day 41] | Shipping from Peru to the United States

Day 41 | Saturday, December 3, 2016

How a trip to Serpost (the Peruvian Post Office) ended up at the hardware store. Only in a standard Martindale adventure can these things happen.

So, we finally found a painting that we just had to bring home with us. We acquired it last Saturday, November 26. We figured we had better ship it back to the states before we leave Peru for a couple of reasons:

  1. It wouldn’t travel well to Chile in our luggage.
  2. We have a better chance of finding someone at the post office that speaks English in Peru.

Steve did some Googling to get an idea of what it would cost and then did a scouting mission at the Serpost office on Thursday afternoon to get a better idea of the cost and if someone at the Serpost office near our apartment spoke English. The gentleman at the Serpost office near us unfortunately didn’t speak English so we thought we might try the Serpost office we have walked by serval times in Miraflores. 

Given we only have a week left in Lima we figured today was the day to get the painting shipped out. Finally around 2pm we ordered an Uber and made our way to the Serpost office in Miraflores painting all rolled up and in hand.

We arrived at the Serpost office, found what we thought was the line to stand in, waited for a couple of minutes and then were ushered up to the counter. We greeted the lady behind the counter and promptly asked if she spoke English. No – Let the adventure begin.

She had us hand over the painting which she promptly cut open and began to unroll. She confirmed that we only had one. Then she rolled it back up and re-wrapped it. She then began taping it up in preparation for shipment. Finally, Steve asked if they had tubes to ship it in. She replied no then attempted to tell us something neither of us could figure out. She finally pulled up Google and translated her advice. We needed to go to a hardware store, of course. She told us to bring the tube back open and with a copy of a passport. Having just spent 15 minutes at Serpost to find out we needed to make a trip to the hardware store we thanked her and walked back out onto the sidewalk.

Out came the smartphones and Google Maps. Hardware store (ferretería). Where was the nearest hardware store? Finally, after a few minutes standing on the sidewalk Googling and sniping at each other Steve found a place that looked promising. A 27 minuted walk away, I suggested that we Uber over there. Steve ordered an Uber and about 5 minutes later we were on our way. As our driver drove across town I started to realize we were headed for an area of town we had never been to before. After about 15 minutes our driver pulled over to the curb and confirmed our stop, I looked at the small stall we were in front of that carried bags of cement and other building materials. As we got out of the car I looked around further, lo and behold we were literally on hardware alley. All up and down the street was stall after stall of paint, tile, flooring, fixtures, cement, wood and any manner of building supply you could think of.

As we walked along the street looking in stalls we weren’t sure which one was best to stop at. Finally about halfway down the street we stopped and retraced our steps along the sidewalk. We finally stopped at what looked like a stall that might carry something we could use. There was a young girl out in front and she greeted us. We stumbled around as we explained that we don’t speak Spanish very well and asked if she spoke English. No – the adventure continues. She definitely wasn’t willing to let us walk away so easily. Steve asked for a tubo (tube) to which she pulled out a piece of PVC. It could work but wasn’t quite what we were looking for. She said something which neither of us could understand so Steve pulled out his phone with Google Translate up and handed it to her. She typed her sentence. I suggested we tell her what we were attempting to do. I took the phone and typed that we were looking for a cardboard tube to ship the painting in. She pointed to the previously supplied PVC tube and supplied an end cap and told us that they didn’t carry cardboard tubes. Not knowing where else to go we figured that the PVC tube would work. Thankfully it was fairly thin walled. A gentleman had appeared from the back  at this point and they offered to cut the tube to size. We asked the price, the caps 3 soles each and the tube 7 soles for a total of 13 soles or $3.80. We gave the ok, the gentleman confirmed how long we wanted the tube, cut it off and made sure the caps fit. We paid them and after about 15 minutes for the entire exchange were on our way again. We ordered another Uber and about 5 minutes later were headed back to the Serpost office.

We walked back into the Serpost office and waited in line again, approximately 5 more minutes. The same lady ushered us back to the counter and we handed over our painting in the tube. She opened it, verified the contents and attempted to place the cap on it. She ended up handing it back over to Steve to get the cap back on. She then asked where we were sending it? We responded the USA. She supplied us a customs form to fill out and I began filling it out while Steve supervised the taping of the tube. Once I had completed the form she had me supply a photocopy of my passport (which thankfully we had made one in case either of our passports were stolen and I just happened to be carrying mine with me) so that we didn’t have to go down the street to another business to have a copy made. Then she pulled out an ink pad and had me put a finger print on each of the 5 copies of the customs form I had just completed, a Serpost form for the shipment and on the photocopy of my passport. If you are counting that is 7 pages with my finger print on them. Once I had signed all the forms (thankfully only 3 signatures because the customs form was a carbon copy form) and we handed over the 169 soles for the shipping and tax our tube was added to a stack of outgoing packages. We thanked the lady and exited the Serpost office.

With some patience, willingness for a 2 hour detour and 30 minutes at the Serpost office hopefully in the next month or so our painting will arrive in Oregon. Fingers crossed!



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