A while ago I already wrote about how much I enjoy writing and receiving letters. I can proudly say my penpal friendships are going strong. Right now, I have three steady friendships with regular exchanges and two in that delicate state where you don’t know where it’s going, yet. Much like with other friendships, I prefer a few penpals whom I hold very close to my heart over having a bunch of them with whom I exchange quick and superficial letters.
Through one of my penpals, I found a new hobby of mine: Postcrossing. Even though the community has existed for several years and has thousands of members, I figure there’ll be others like me who’ve never heard of it, so let me explain: Postcrossing is a community for people who enjoy sending and receiving postcards. The idea is that for every card you send, you’ll receive one in return. But not from the person you sent yours to but another random member who can draw your address from the pool. That way, you never know who and where your next card will come from. I absolutely love this idea and it took me about five seconds of looking at the website before signing up. As I said, with penpals, I prefer to make real friends, share personal things and worries. But through Postcrossing, you can reach out to random strangers and put a smile on their face (hopefully) when they find a nice card between all the bills and newsletters in their mailbox. And then someone, somewhere will return the favor.
The community has a lot of members who are collectors of cards in general, certain themes or stamps. Some even ask for something else like ticket stubs, teabags or other small things you could fit in an envelope. What I like is that people can’t make demands, only wishes. I always try to find something fitting but sometimes, it’s just impossible to find the exact thing someone is looking for. Just the other day I drew a guy’s address who was very much into trains and spacecraft and if he got a tourist card, he preferred mountains. Well, there aren’t mountains nearby and frankly, I don’t even know where to buy cards of his other interests around here, either. I sent him something else and he was still happy, or said he was anyway.
I myself have quite the elaborate profile. I’m excited about pretty much anything I get but I know how frustrating it can be to draw the address of a person who only has a random ‘Send me any card you like’-profile and then you struggle to go by their avatar, cards they’ve favorited and cards they’ve received to find something suitable. Because, let’s face it, even if you’re pretty easy to please, there are always things you like more than others, things you don’t enjoy at all and even things that can be a trigger for you. So I put a list up of things I like or enjoy, on cards and in general, just to give people a rough idea. But even then, I know it can be hard. As seen on the picture, the easiest of my likes for people to please are cats. GIVE ME ALL YOUR KITTY CARDS!!! There wasn’t a single one I pulled out of the mailbox without squealing in delight.
But sometimes, what’s even more important to me than the cute, beautiful, funny or surprising picture on the card is the message on the back. Even though they’re usually not very personal – they’re from strangers, after all – I’m not gonna share those here, of course. At least not in detail. But there’ve been some truly cute and nice messages from people who have such interesting lives. I’ve received some from people who volunteer in charities and humanitarian organizations. And some from people who have such interesting tastes and hobbies. My favorite are those from people who sign cards with their own name and those of their pets.
In the picture on the right, you can see my four favorites so far. The first one is the very first card I received. It came from the Czech Republic, from a very young girl who is active on Postcrossing with the help of her father. The second is the one that had the longest time of travel so far. It came from South Africa, also from a young girl. The third is from the Netherlands and my favorite kitten card so far. And the fourth is my favorite illustration so far, also showing a cat, having tea with a rabbit. That one came from Belgium.
Another thing I like about Postcrossing is that its main aim may be to allow people to send and receive cards all across the globe, to and from locations they’ll probably never visit, but it also leads to happy or funny situations between two strangers.
The nicest story I have to share so far is about a card I sent to a girl who doesn’t even live very far from me here in Germany. Her profile said she was very much into music and books and she asked people to tell her their favorite song on the card. It was a wish I fulfilled only too gladly, along with telling her a bit about myself and my taste. I waited a couple days, nothing. I waited for a week, nothing. It’s very weird for a card to take longer than a week when it’s sent within Germany. After over two weeks, I had already submitted myself to the idea that it would probably expire (cards expire after 60 days, so you can send another card to a new address and the original recipient’s address can get drawn from the pool again, although the card can still get registered if it does arrive after all). But then, after over three weeks, I suddenly received the Hurray-mail from the girl. She had received the card, after all, but was in the middle of her finals and so stressed she’d all but forgotten about it. She wrote me the longest Hurray-message and we talked back and forth for a bit. Actually, this rollercoaster ride of “Oh no, I think the card is lost” to “Oh my god, the recipient is the nicest person ever!” has become quite common with me now.
In fact, the only not so nice story I have to share so far is that one of the cards I received from China was an ad-card. Ad-cards are free promotional cards you receive from businesses or find in bars and restaurants to promote a business or website. I’m not opposed to receiving them, unlike many other Postcrossers. In Germany we have a PR brand called Edgar that produce a bunch of really funny or cute ad-cards that you can grab for free in bars, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. And I’ve seen a bunch of similar cool cards from other countries on Postcrossing that I’d be glad to receive. But that particular card was just lame. It was just white with red Chinese letters and a website address in Latin letters (that’s how I know it was an ad-card in the first place, as the sender didn’t even provide a translation). There was no message on the card, either, just some scribbling that I assume was a signature but which I took for a pen accident at first. So I had no name, no message, nothing. That’s just rude and I was pretty upset about it. I vented in the official forums for a bit and people suggested that maybe it was a religious or cultural thing preventing the person from leaving a personal message. Apparently, that exists. It did make me feel better to imagine that it wasn’t just a thoughtless person but I still hope I won’t receive something similar anytime soon.
But other than that, I’m pretty damn happy with my new hobby. Expect to see me yap about it a lot more in the future.