Made in China, But Don't Even Think About Sending It Back

You know my oldest son lives in China now. Well, I am all but freaking out over the fact that he’s going to be spending his first Christmas away from us, in a country that doesn’t celebrate the birth of Christ with any tinsel, paid days off work, or as much as a fa la la. It's times like this that make it hard to be a mom.

So I decided to send him a Fitzpatrick family Christmas in a box. Or a series of boxes. Or, now that I’ve seen the postal rates for mailing large boxes to China, a series of big envelopes with papers that describe a nice American Christmas, one that he might have had if I could have afforded to send him a bunch of presents.

I’ve sent him packages before, but small stuff and light stuff. I thought it was cool that I could send him some fluffy American things in a box and he would get it in about a week and it would cost me less than $20.

So I went out and bought a bunch of stuff for him for Christmas. Lots of presents for him to open on Christmas morning (before he goes to freaking work, because he doesn’t get the day off - did I mention that?) plus a small fake Christmas tree, some ornaments, a stocking, some junk food that he can’t get there, and some toys for his new dog, which he is getting right before the holiday.

Then I went on the U.S. Postal Service Web site to see how best to mail this portable celebration, and it may as well have been printed in Mandarin, it was so confusing.

So I hot footed it over to my local post office, stood in line for about 15 minutes and asked for advice from a postal worker. She might have been speaking in Mandarin, it was still so confusing. There are prepaid international mailing boxes that you pay for, but then pay more for, depending on where you’re mailing it and how much it weighs. If you go with your own cardboard boxes (which I could do; I just bought a shit load of wine, I’ve got the boxes) there are rates for weight, size, girth (I’m not kidding. Girth.) and how fast you want it to get there.

I left the post office less informed than when I went. So back to the Web site I went. Where I stumbled upon this gem: There are restrictions on what you’re allowed to send to China.

Here’s a list of what you are not allowed to mail to you son, who is living in China and is only 23 and is spending his first Christmas alone in a Communist country:

⚈ Arms, ammunition, weapons
⚈ Articles in hermetically sealed, nontransparent containers
⚈ Chinese currency
⚈ Coins; banknotes; securities payable to bearer; traveler’s checks; gold, silver, platinum, manufactured or not; precious stones; jewelry; and other valuable articles, unless sent as an insured post
⚈ Manuscripts, printed matter, photographic negatives, gramophone records, films, magnetic tapes, video tapes, etc., which could do political, economical, cultural, or moral harm to the People’s Republic of China
⚈ Meat and meat products
⚈ Perishable infectious biological substances
⚈ Radioactive materials
⚈ Radio receivers, transmitters or receivers of all kinds, walkie-talkies and parts thereof; valves, antennae, etc
⚈ Used clothing and bedding
⚈ Wrist-watches, cameras, television sets, radio sets, tape records, bicycles, sewing machines, and ventilators

Well. There goes my idea for a “Valve and Meat Product” theme Christmas this year.

I can see the infectious biological substances, perishable or non-perishable. And let’s face it: Who wants radioactive materials in any mailbox where children and pets play. But cameras? Watches? Sewing machines? Ventilators? No? Even if someone needs one? Even if they’re made in China and we paid for them already? Could there not be some satisfaction in knowing that some of the crap we buy from China is being exported, bought by Americans, and sent back to China, all at our expense? You think we’re indebted to the Chinese now . . .

The Chinese government is kind enough to offer the following exceptions to the bans:

⚈ You can sent 1 pocket electronic calculator per year, but only if the addressee submits a prior request to Customs.
⚈ You can send up to 5 cassettes of magnetic tape at a time.
⚈ You may send cotton or synthetic fabric, but not more than 10 1/4 yards and the width must not exceed 50 inches.
⚈ You may send medicines or materials used in Chinese medicine - “RMB 40 yuan.” I have no idea what that means.
⚈ And you may send up to 100 Philatelic stamps.

That was no help to me. I wasn’t planning to give him collectable stamps, acupuncture needles or fabric for Christmas. But thanks for clarifying.

From the information I got from my local postal worker and the Web site, I think it’s going to cost me somewhere around $150 to mail him a Christmas. But it'll be worth it when he gets all the presents, decor, and Cheez-its. That is, if the Customs inspectors don't find the hidden bicycle I've cleverly tucked in there.

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