Hal and I did two things on dates, besides eat: we’d try out sofas (I have no idea why we did this… we’d be out,
there’d be a furniture store and next thing you know we are sitting on
all the sofas.) And browse bookstores. We couldn’t walk out of a
bookstore without a stack of books. Last week in Naples, we spent $400 on discount books… That’s a lot of books. We had some catching up to do…

At our garage sale just before we ran away, people like us walked out with boxes of our books. We had so many books and just couldn’t move them all for a year abroad… It was very gratifying though: so many people lost so many books to the flood so our yard sale was perfect for all of us. At the end of the day, there were still seven bookshelves full in the living room, but the delightful Avi, who sublet our house, was fine with looking at our books. We would miss them in Costa Rica but, hey, it was only for a year….

When you live in a country where English is not the primary language, getting your hands on new books is a critical item. And, once they are not readily available, you start to crave books. We visited all the bookstores in the central valley, but they all are used-book stores, except for two. The used are almost exclusively novels. The new books are new novels. OK for me, but ol’ stick-in-the-mud-I-like-history-and-finance-and-politics Hal doesn’t read fiction except Stephanie Plum novels and Dean Koontz. We started to get very homesick for our books.

Discovering m-bags was a very big day for us. You can ship up to 66 lbs of books in an m-bag for $1/lb. So 30lbs of books for $30. That same 30lbs in a box would be $46. Airmail would be $111. M-bags were a Godsend. Once we knew about m-bags, we started to dream of having our books in Costa Rica. And now we could order from Amazon with wild abandon like in the old days, deliver to my mom or Hal’s brother. Once they had an m-bag full, they’d ship it off and 8 weeks later, voila! NEW BOOKS!!!

As of Monday, that is all over. Because the USPS – I would say "in its infinite wisdom" but not – is doing away with m-bags as of Monday. This Monday. 5/14/07. In fact, they are doing away with ALL international ground shipping. Only airmail from now on. No m-bags. No ground. Only airmail. This is very, very, very sad news for expats.

I called UPS on a whim to see what they would charge to deliver a 30lb box to Costa Rica from Key West. Are you sitting down? $400 and something. I’m thinking UPS is out.

So for the past two days, I’ve been packing and shipping m-bags. Yesterday, I shipped five 40lb m-bags. This morning I shipped five more. Then I packed up two 70lb and one 40lb suitcases with photos to take back to Costa Rica. Photos of my boys as babies – ohmygod. They were so cute. And our wedding photos. My high school yearbook. Hal’s baby pictures. I WAS skinny once. And young. But I am NOT young anymore and I am whipped. It’s 7pm here and I’m trying to stay awake. My last two nights in Key West and I may not be able to move from in front of the TV. That’s old.

But we will have our books in Costa Rica. Hal is giddy, I can’t wait to see them around the house. We’ll have to just load up when we visit since we can’t get them there cheaply. Up to now, when friends said, "We are coming down. Can we bring you anything?" I’ve always said no… From now on, I’m saying, "Yes!!! How many extra pounds can you carry?"

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