It only took a month, but I've finally mailed some letters. As it turns out, there's a China Post office just down the street. I had been repeatedly told that it was "across the street" from my apartment, which was not exactly helpful; when you're in an apartment block, there are four across the streets, and they are each, you know, a full block. (A Chinese block is much longer than an American block)
It was a surprisingly painless process, really, though I felt a lot of anxiety walking up to the door. It must have been all the waiting, because this is something I haven't so much put off as simply not gotten to; it's the band-aid I've elected to remove slowly.
I walked up to the counter with the sign "Stamp Ccunter". Seemed a safe bet. While I waited for the person in front of me to finish their transaction, I pulled out my dictionary and looked up "Stamp". (邮票)
The moment I found it, the woman at the counter looked over and asked me, "邮票?"
"Uh, 是，邮票." (If I barely knew what was going on, I'm not giving you an advantage)
She pointed to the "Letters&Pa rcels" counter, spoke quickly to the men behind it, and went back to whatever she was doing.
There was a gentleman in front of me here as well, being helped by the two men. One of them was busy dealing with the customer while the other looked on. After a few minutes, the less busy of the two looked over at me.
I smiled, which seems to be a permanent condition when you're in a country where you don't speak the language. "Smile at them," your instincts tell you, "lest they decide you are to be feared."
He responded in quite a bit of Chinese. I smiled and replied "I'm sorry, I don't speak that much Chinese." (Pinning down how to say this in Chinese has proven remarkably tricky. I have asked several people, and they all give me different answers. The first thing they teach you in Spanish class is "Yo hablo español," which is really just propagating a lie at that point, but at least it's not a large leap to "Yo no hablo español." I know how to say neither in Chinese, which is really getting embarrassing.)
He considered me a moment, and gently offered "Please wait a moment." He didn't speak English, but his pronunciation in that sentence was better than mine. Someone's been practicing.
I had three letters; One to go to England, one to go to the United States, and one to go to France. When it was my turn, I handed them to the man at the computer, offering "英国，美国，法国" as my best explanation. When I receive letters from other people here, the envelope has my address scribbled in Chinese on it, so Mr. Postman (Hey!) knows where to drop the letter. I figure outgoing mail doesn't need more than a knowledge of the country of destination. Leave it to their respective postal companies to sort the rest out. Just get it on the plane. I paid the man ¥18, and went on my way.
A simple outing, but it was affirming. The big stuff is easy because the school has people to help us; phones, medical issues, etc. The little things are left to us, as well they should be. It's a great feeling when you figure something out. I have a stack of 10 letters sitting on my desk at work, waiting. They will have to wait but one day more, and they will be on their way.