Here is possibly the most beautiful piece of mail I have ever received. And to be fair, it was my husband who received it, but I thieved the envelope. This is a manila folder sized piece that contained a document of some importance--it was shipped SedEx, which is the Brazilian equivalent of the US Priority Mail from the post office. The photo on front and back of this envelope is from the botanical gardens of Curitiba, Brazil.
I have a love-hate relationship with the mail service here. Mostly hate. A dear friend sent me two boxes of Samoas (Girl Scout cookies) from Maine and they arrived three months late and crushed into tiny crumbs (I ate every last one, by the way). I usually get my last Christmas card in April (and yes, the date stamp says December 15 so it's not just folks as late as I am). My college alum magazine routinely arrives three months after shipping from the US. And some stuff just plain old doesn't arrive--the latest one that I mourn that didn't arrive is a treasured hat from a good friend. Why would a hat not make it through the customs guys? I have no idea. Maybe a bald one had a head cold. Four months after it was shipped from Alabama, I know I will never see this item.
A friend's family sent a Barbie dream house as a present for her daughter. Customs got a hold of it and asked her for one and a half times the price of the item in order to "liberate it" from customs. And if they hadn't gotten that money from her, they might have gone after the sender in the US. Items of any value higher than US$50 are in danger of never making it, or having a customs tax added.
Why all the taxing? The theory is to protect Brazilian manufacturing. But the reality of it is that Brazil does not manufacture any item that competes even remotely with various foreign-made products--Barbie dream house, even well-made clothes are scarce here. Some other time I will talk about the imported car situation--we paid three times US prices for our Honda. All taxes and "penalties" for not buying Brazilian.
I cannot ship anything from the US and I discourage my friends or family from sending anything. I just can't bear the thought of things disappearing forever. Irreplaceable things. If they just taxed or took the Dream House, that would be okay (not sure what the Dream House would be doing here anyway considering I have two boys). But not the friend's hat: used, with no value other than sentimental. The only chance there is to get through is to declare a value under US$50 and play the roulette of whether customs will open it or not. And be prepared to wait for those girl scout cookies--apparently they are stomped on for three months before delivered. Still, the crumbs are good...