Lately I've been really eager to hear Willie's bark warning me that the mail carrier is in the neighborhood. Most days the only good thing mixed in with the bills would be the latest Netflix DVD rental. Now there's nothing wrong with that in the summer of TV reruns, but about a month ago I found something that has made getting the mail even more exciting. I was reading blogs and ran across junebug's post about the Postcard Crossing Project, a website ( Postcrossing ) which links postcard fanciers worldwide. It was a simple sign up: create an "about me" profile, user name, and description of kinds of postcards you'd like to receive. Next request up to five addresses of other postcarding participants. The addresses are assigned randomly, so the first cards I sent went to England, The Netherlands, Finland, Germany and Taiwan. In a couple of weeks I started receiving these really cool postcards from all over the world:
In all I've sent out about 20 postcards to people in Finland, China, Russia, Poland, Thailand, Hungary, and Lithuania to name just a few countries. In return I've gotten cards from Holland, Taiwan, Finland, China, and Thailand with more to come, I'm sure. In just a few comments you learn such fascinating tidbits about other people, their culture and their country. For example: teenager Stephanie in Holland told me that she has a really nice "chamber" (bedroom) decorated with posters and rides everywhere on a bicycle. Hsueh-Lin in Taiwan plays college basketball, once on TV, so I sent her a postcard of Kentucky's giant arena where the KY Wildcats play (she said it was the best card ever!). Liissa in Finland shared some censored art created by a politician. Virenque of The Netherlands sent a card with just the Dutch flag sticking out of the water--the joke is that since most of the country is below sea level, the flag is the only way to find your way home. Of course the postmarks and stamps make the cards special as does a sample of another language like this card from Carol in Beijing, China. She shares this, what we would call a timber frame, Hall of Prayer built with no iron nails and then writes her message in both English and beautiful Cantonese:
Now a little truth in advertising. All the cards on this display are not from Postcarding participants. Many are from my own collection--some are over 30 years old. Friends who travel abroad send me cards because they know how much I treasure them--Susie's from Stratford-upon-Avon when she was doing some college studies in London, Chuck's reminder of the romantic Grand Canal in Venice, sallymademedoit's "thinking of you" from the West Indies, kittyhawk's magical Istanbul. Other cards I collected as souvenirs of my own travels: the onion-domed Eastern Orthodox churches of Kiev, Ukraine; Tuscany's red poppy fields; England's Lake District; Canadian Rockies waterfall; Walt Disney's inspiration for the Magic Kingdom castle in Bavaria; Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris; pohutukawa, the New Zealand Christmas tree, in bloom; Gap of Dunloe in Killarney, Ireland; Mozart's Salzburg; and Mount Pilatus near Luzerne, Switzerland. As I receive more postcards I'll replace the ones from my collection with new ones of places where I may never have traveled.
Last September when I took a pretty good tour of about eight European countries, I borrowed an idea of a favorite writer. In Without Reservations, the Travels of an Independent Woman Alice Steinbach writes of her own solitary journey "through Europe and the self." Every day, or at least from every place she visited, Alice wrote a postcard to herself describing her experiences and feelings at each point in her travels. She then mailed these cards so they were waiting for her when she got home. I did this for my European trip as well. What fun--and how revealing--to read these messages to myself when I got back to everyday life.
So in these times when our family responsibilities, health, or financial limits keep us from seeing as much of the world as we would like, I heartily recommend The Postcard Crossing Project as a way of connecting with people from all over the world. For sure, the mailbox gets to be a lot more interesting!