What’s In My Mailbox

What’s In My Mailbox #1

Yes, I’m still alive. Things at work are…not good at the moment, so I’m not in the mood for much. Netflix and I have become quite close in the past few weeks. I can’t begin to describe how very, very much I’m looking forward to 3:00pm on Friday, when I will shut off my computer and walk out the door of the office for a much needed break.

But I’ve also been writing and receiving postcards, a fact that gave me a reason to smile every other day. As I promised – or threatened, depending on your POV – I’d like to show off an write about what I found in my mailbox every other week or month, depending on what there is to show. I can’t post every single card and hey, sometimes it’s also just nothing to write home about. But the cards – and maybe letters later – I liked the most or that stuck out for me for other reasons will get a little space here.

This one I found particularly cool. At first glance, it’s a postcard style you get a lot from China or other Asian countries. A drawing, colourful and really cute. But if you look closer, it’s a Postcrossing card. The person write that they had found it randomly, not in a special Postcrossing store or as part of a collection. I’m glad they decided to send it to me. Also, if the representation of the different mailboxes are only half correct, everywhere else has so much cooler ones than ours here in Germany. They’re just square yellow metal boxes. Boo!

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain why I actually squealed when I found this one in my mailbox, right? It was the first and only raccoon card I received so far. My profile says that I like them but I understand that not many people will have raccoons available. I’ve come across many profiles of people like me who like a specific, less popular anymore and it’s the same for them. I tried to have a few different animals, even exotic ones I’d never heard of, in my collection but it’s impossible to please everyone. This card came from Germany, by the way. Awwwww!

This one is so weirdly cool, I had to share it. If I was to describe the card, it’d sound silly but somehow, it works and the whole vintage style makes it look really awesome. I received a lot of cat and kitten cards but this one is unique. It came from Poland.

I received this card from a Russian Postcrosser. Russia has the most Postcrossing users, so you get a loooot of cards from there. This one is my favourite so far. The person wrote that the artist’s name is Sasha Salmina. I really like the colours of this one and how, at first glance, the girl looks lonely and sad but the longer you look at it, the happier she seems, like maybe she’s just enjoying a rare, quiet moment alone. That’s another cool feature of Postcrossing: It introduces you to new kinds of people and new things, such as art, music, authors, quotes…whatever the person decides to share with you.

Have I mentioned how much I love art cards? No? Well, I do. This one came from the UK and I like that the person chose to share an image from the Greek mythology with me.

So, as you can see, I get a lot of different cards, a lot of things I wouldn’t have asked for specifically but then ended up loving. I also get tourist cards and I enjoy those a lot. I know I haven’t shared of of those yet and you know why? Oddly, I don’t receive all that many of those. A lot of people on the website ask for tourist cards, famous sights or buildings, but when you look through the galleries, most cards sent and received seem to be of other places. So far it seems that people from East Europe are either the most proud of their countries or they just find more postcards of that kind because most of the tourist cards I received came from there.

Categories: What's In My Mailbox | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Finding The World In My Mailbox

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.

Categories: What's In My Mailbox | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

The Art of Writing Letters

When I was about ten, maybe younger, I was crazy about horses and I would buy this horse magazine for girls religiously (or have my mom buy it, anyway). At some point, they started this category for readers to place penpal ads. Soon, this was the first page I’d check and read through all of those ads with a curious interest. Who were all these girls? Was one of them a future friend of mine? But I was too shy to write to any of them. First letters are always hard to write and those ads were barely more than a name and an address. What was I supposed to write about? What do people write in first letters? I had no idea, so I took what seemed like the easy way and placed an ad of my own. Maybe, if I was lucky, someone would find me remotely interesting, enough to write me a letter.

Well, that someone ended up being several dozen, maybe even a hundred. My ad got placed almost straight away and within a week or two, the letters started coming in. Several a day. I was ecstatic. And I wrote back, to every single one in the first few weeks. Until my mom had a serious talk with me because she kept buying stamps and stationary for me (of course, simple paper and envelopes wouldn’t do!) and it was becoming a little too much. So I had to sort out those I didn’t really feel suited me. I still promised myself I would reply to them all but that it would take longer. I don’t think I ever managed to do that, it was simply too much. But I did write to many of them. Needless to say, a lot of the exchanges ended very quickly, we were all young girls, after all. In the end, just one of them stayed with me for a few years.

Her name was Barbara and she lived in a town barely two hours from me. But back then, without the Internet or money of my own, it seemed like she was from an entirely different world. When you’re a child, especially one without Internet access, your social group starts and ends with school, neighbors and family. And here I was, corresponding with a girl who belonged to neither of those categories. I thought I was the shit. I carried her photograph with me and would whip it out and show it to everyone without so much as a prompt. I’d randomly drop her name in conversations. ‘Look at me, mere mortals, I know someone you don’t!” It was awesome.

But I think this excitement was the only thing that kept us going. We had close to nothing in common and with hindsight, our letters were dull, even for kids. So our friendship ended as soon as we changed schools and our lives became busier.

But still, Barbara deserves some credit because she sparked something in my life. Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed writing letters. I love the thrill of finding an envelope in my mailbox that does not have the logo of some company on it. I love seeing someone else’s handwriting. And I love learning about their lives, their likes, their joys and what keeps them going.

Problem is, I’ve had two great penpal friends over the years – and both of them vanished eventually. Well, one is still around but I fear we made the mistake of moving on to Facebook. That sort of killed the magic.

So I’m eager to find new pals. I post ads on penpal sites randomly. Nowadays, of course, I’m cautious enough not to just post my address. I leave my e-mail and see what happens and if things click between us, we exchange addresses. Only thing is, I’m older and wiser now – and also a lot pickier. Not necessarily in a mean way. But I’ve learned to see the signs for when something isn’t meant to be. If the first few exchanges are thick and slow and nothing seems to click between us, it becomes a drag all too quickly until one of us gives up. And the thing is, most of the e-mails you get through those sites are like that.

The latest ad I posted sounded almost harsh to me. The only Don’t’s I used to add were that you shouldn’t ask for money and – something I adopted from other ads – that I’d accept no contacts from African countries. I soon realized how silly that is. It’s true, a large percentage of mails from those countries are scam but you soon learn to sort those out anyway. They don’t all come from there and those who mean to send you crap will also ignore requests like that. Geez, this time I even received an e-mail from a 50 y.o. guy from the US who is openly seeking for a woman to marry, despite everything about my ad screaming penpal / friendship only. So ruling out entire countries’ population because of a few bad experiences seems cruel. But this time round I let them know straight away that I couldn’t handle mails that have close to zero content. No proper introduction, no start of a conversation, nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s frustrating to write your heart out in a mail or letter and then receive no reply. So I understand if people keep the first contact short. But there has to be something that shows me that (and why) they really want to get to know me. What about my ad seemed interesting enough for them to write me? What do we have in common? What don’t we have in common but they’d like to share with me anyway? Honestly, I felt a bit bitchy adding those parts to the ad but I received a few genuinely nice replies that told me it was exactly that what made them want to reach out to me. But, quite frustratingly, I’m still receiving empty word mails, too. Which I ignore nowadays. It may be disappointing for those people but then again, how disappointed can you be when you receive no reply to a mail that you whipped out within thirty seconds – and probably sent in the exact same wording to a dozen others?

What’s also frustrating is that so many people on penpal sites don’t even seem to be looking for penpals. Or even e-pals. I keep getting asked for some messenger or Skype ID, or even my mobile number, so we can text. How about no? I don’t mean to be stuck up or mean but text messages annoy me. No, that’s not true. I have some friends with whom I am constantly texting. But those are real life friends who I see every few days. It’s just different. And I can’t bear the thought of being bugged by constant chat messages from a bunch of people whenever I am online or even trying to get some work done on my computer. And, perhaps the most important argument here, I wouldn’t be posting an ad on a penpal website if I was looking for a chat. IRC is still a thing. You can still look for people through most messengers. If I wanted that, there’d be so many other ways of finding people. And am I gonna go on video chat with a stranger? Hell to the no! I can count the number of times I’ve had those with friends on the fingers of one hand. Video chats are a modern plague. It’s like a phone call but you have to be decently dressed, sit in one place or hold your phone or tablet in an awkward angle all the time and you can’t pick your nose or paint your toe nails or even just silently roll your eyes at something the other person says. No!!! When I get home, I put on my most hideous comfy clothes, take my bra off, wear my hair in ridiculous buns and scrub my makeup off. Often I walk around with a face mask for half an hour. Video chatting is like letting someone watch you doing stuff that people used to pretend they don’t do. Ever. What’s wrong with this picture? And why, oh why, would you ask a stranger for that? What’s the secret here?

Someone write me a good old-fashioned letter already!

Categories: What's In My Mailbox | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.