A Minute With Mike

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 9/10/96.

July 17, 1996

Christmas came early for me at Lumi yesterday. My long-awaited and much anticipated care package from my parents arrived.

Due to logistics, leaving Madang and changing my address from Port Moresby to Lumi, I hadn't gotten any mail in three weeks. This long interval had peaked my interest. A four-year-old's desire on Christmas morning to rush under the tree and tear the wrappers to shreds pales in comparison to my eagerness to receive a single piece of mail.

First, I started to wonder if all my pen pals had stopped writing. Then, after observing the sorry state of the local post office, I began to worry if any mail sent to me would ever get through.

So, when the Irish sister from the Catholic Mission stopped me outside the school's staff room and told me a parcel had arrived for me, I was ecstatic. Arranging for the school truck to retrieve it was like putting out a plate of cookies and glass of milk for Santa, the final step before the big reward.

What a sight it was!! When I returned from class, a cardboard box from Minnesota had been placed on my desk. There was even a bonus, a letter from my aunt and uncle in Chicago. I hurried home at 4 p.m. to open them.

M&M's never tasted so good. Simple items like packets of Kool Aid, pasta, soup mixes, a new water bottle, a couple shirts, and some shorts never evoked such joy before.

The $100 it cost for air mail postage sounds like a lot. It is. I remember thinking one of my mother's first letters, which included some magazines and cost $9, was excessive. Now, nearly three months later, I'd consider asking her to mail me a new bathroom sink. (I could use one.)

How can you put a price tag on having clean underwear, without mud stains from undressing on a river bank? What peace of mind I have in knowing that when I wear holes in my socks (washing by hand takes a toll) I'll have some extra pairs to wear. I've been craving a cool glass of lemonade for months, and I'm rationing my M&M's, just a handful a day.

The combined value of this collection of mundane things is small in Paynesville, but for me at a remote high school in Papua New Guinea, they are a godsend.

The package was a complete success. The only damage done in transit was a punctured package of cheese and broccoli pasta, which I cooked last night. I don't remember the last time I ate cheese.

Today I'm feeling a little like that four-year-old on December 26. Like her, with her toys under the tree or scattered around the house, I'm a little wealthier materially. But the excitement is gone. Unlike her, I won't have to wait a full year to do it again. Already my anticipation for another batch of mail is building again.

(Michael, a former Press reporter, is currently serving as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Papua New Guinea.)

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