Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Posts tagged "spotlight"

Two whale-themed stamps, with a whale-themed cancellation mark on top

Orla (aka ohegarty) caught our attention when she sent us a postcard for the 150th anniversary of postcards a few years ago featuring a whale-themed cancellation mark that she had designed!

Turns out, she’s the postmaster of a seaside community in Newfoundland that has the best beach in the world for watching humpback whales, so the design and initiative made total sense. We were curious to find out more, so we asked her a few questions:

How did you get started sending postcards? What is your earliest memory of them?

I am a first generation Canadian Irish immigrant. My grandfather sent me/our family postcards and letters in the 1970s-1980s from his various travels to visit his children and grandchildren.

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I read about your launch and early success but did not join back then. I was reminded of this site when a postcrosser sent a cancel request to my post office (I am now the post master in a small rural seaside community) and designed/ordered a special humpback whale cancel since our town is famous for being able to watch humpback whales feed from our beach.

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

Every send or receive is a surprise. The rare countries are extra special though, I have to admit.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
ohegarty's mailbox, with a postcard featuring mailboxes in its front
Orla’s mailbox
ohegarty's postoffice window, featuring drawings detail of one of the drawings in a window
The decorated windows of the post office where she works.
What’s one way that postcards have changed your life for the better?

Joining the Postcrossing community opened up a different kind of creativity for me. And a different kind of connection to other humans that feels more real than our common electronic virtual square on various social media platforms.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

Reading a new profile and thinking of what I could send to make their mailbox extra special.

Have you inspired other people to join Postcrossing, or met other members yet?

I’ve inspired at least four IRL friends to join and none of them know each other! I’ve only met the 4 people that are now members because of me, but I’ve attended an international virtual meetup — I know that’s not the same but still counts.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or things that you’re passionate about?

I have the worlds largest collection of feminist postcards and feminist postage stamps. Actually, I’m not really sure about that claim but I’m willing to find out about other collections like mine!

I’m passionate about Feminism. I started the Counting Dead Women Canada list. Femicide is the ignored tragedy on our planet.

PS: You can hear Orla talk about postcards and her life in Newfoundland on episode 89 of the Postcardist podcast!

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Jim Lynch (aka jlynch9923) is a big fan of all things Postcrossing, and has even been featured on The Postcardist podcast (in episodes 60 and 92), sharing his enthusiasm for postcards with people all over the world! So we asked him if he’d be interested in doing one of our spotlight interviews too. :) Without further ado, it’s over to Jim!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I learned about Postcrossing from other friends in a postcard exchange that I belong to. I had heard of it before that but I never looked into it. Sending and receiving postcards from people from all over the world is what got me hooked.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I love stickers. So I have a lot of stickers and I decorate my Postcrossing postcards with some stickers on the message side. I have also started making what I call “sticker postcards”: I take a food packaging postcard and I fully decorate the front of it with assorted stickers. All I need is a food package, my stickers and my creativity. These are so much fun to make and people seem to love them.

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

Yes. The first postcard from a country that I had never heard of was the Åland Islands. I recently got to send a postcard to Malta. I always love to add another country to my list. I am at 61 countries right now.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

My mailman knows I am the postcard guy but I don’t feel comfortable asking to take his picture…

Jim's mailbox
Jim’s mailbox
What’s one way that postcards have changed your life for the better?

Postcards help me keep a positive outlook on life. I love to send and receive postcards. I get to send people joy in the form of a postcard and people do the same for me from all over the world. I have a lot of postcard friends in Postcrossing and out so I am blessed to receive a lot of Happy mail. I am involved in the postcard communities on Instagram and Facebook. Postcard people are the best.

Have you met any other members in real life?

I have met other postcrossers. The first time I found a local meetup only the host and myself signed up. We were going to meet at a postcard show. The host had to cancel but I still went to the postcard show. I had a great time and bought a lot of postcards. In 2019 I got to go to a real meetup with about 25 other postcrossers. The host sonataca was super organized. She hosted in one place on Saturday and a second location on Sunday. There was a meetup card and she had raffle prizes. It was held at a restaurant both days. It was such a joy finally meet other postcrossers, share stories and talk about our hobby. During the pandemic we keep in contact with each other through our groups FB page and we continue to send each other postcards. We hope to meet up again soon.

Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

I got to be a guest on The Postcardist podcast twice. After my first episode I told everyone in the postcard exchange that I am in, and many of them listened to it. Some of them were already postcrossers but one member Bill had never heard of Postcrossing. He is now a member and enjoys getting and sending postcards all over the world. The Postcardist podcast has a good sized audience so I hope I have inspired others to investigate Postcrossing.

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

So many people have taken the time to read my profile and send me postcards from my favorites list. I don’t have just one favorite. I especially love the sunset postcards and the black and white postcards that I have received.

Sunset postcards
Some of Jim’s favourite sunset postcards
Black and white postcards
Black and white postcards Jim loves
Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I am passionate about photography, traveling and graffiti. My wife and I try to take at least one great trip every year. Because of Covid that did not happen last year, but we look forward to traveling again. There are so many amazing things to see in this world. One thing I have started doing during Covid was I started making postcards from my own photography. My main concentration has been graffiti. Graffiti Art is colorful and amazing. Plus it can be found in cities all over the world. I have my postcards professionally made by a company called moo.com. So far I just send them to my friends and other postcrossers.

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Masha (aka MMokeeva) is a Russian postcrosser living near Moscow, passionate about books and literature. She stumbled on Postcrossing a few years ago, and has been hooked since then, even opening her own postcard shop, starting a podcast about postcards, and this year Masha even launched a book about Postcrossing, titled “Postcrossing — Book of Secret Knowledge”! It’s a beautiful book, featuring stories about the website, interviews with postcrossers and lots of other postcard-related knowledge and interesting facts. We’re happy to invite Masha to the blog today, to tell us all about how postcards took over her life. 😊

Picture of Masha's book about Postcrossing, surrounded by candles, postcards and other stationery!
Where did your interest in postcards come from? Have you always been a person who liked mail?

“Once I got lost in Moscow. There was a heavy snowstorm. I went to the gift shop to ask where I should go. I was wearing a large bearskin coat that I had inherited from my ancestors. It made me a little clumsy, and I knocked down the postcard rack. The postcards lay like a carpet in front of me, bright and beautiful, with the image of the proud Red Square. And I fell in love with them!”

I would like to have such a fascinating story of happy meeting with postcards, but in fact my story is quite ordinary :) When I was a child, I wrote paper letters to other children. It never even occurred to me to send them postcards, because no one was doing it around me!.. When I got older, I used to buy postcards as fine pictures to put them on the table or use as a bookmark. I started sending postcards just when I found Postcrossing!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

One day I was looking for a postcard for a gift to my granny and I saw the strange word “Postcrossing” on the website of that online postcard shop. The next day I ran to the post office with my first five cards! I just fell in love with every moment: when you pull out an address, read the profile, view the received and sent postcards… it was like rediscovering the world and the people around.

You even created your own shop selling stationery! How did Amelie Cards get started and how is it going?

I did start it about 5 months after I began to send postcards though Postcrossing. 😊 I was so impressed by this huge postcard world… and I was unemployed. I decided to try to open an online postcard store and printed postcards that I couldn’t find in Russia: with Russian writers, reprints of ads from the Russian Empire, funny “Keep Calm”. Then I started paying more attention to themes what other people need, and so the range expanded! Currently, the most popular sections are the “My Russia” series with atmospheric pictures by independent Russian photographers, illustrations by Russian contemporary artists and quotes from books and movies.

Where did the idea for a book about Postcrossing come from? What prompted you to write it?
Masha lies facing up with the book covering her face

When I became interested in postcards, I was curious: what stories hides behind them? Who creates postcards and why? How do postcards reflect our life? What research and collections exist? What is the situation with postcards in other countries? I couldn’t read about it in Russian anywhere, just some scraps of information. My first attempt to answer some questions was my podcast Открытки Амели in 2017. After 11 episodes, I realized that people are interested in learning more about postcards, but it would be more convenient for them to read about it rather than listen to it. So I wrote a plan for the book and started working on it in my spare time. I was writing a book that I wanted to read myself.


Could you give postcrossers an overview of the book? How would you describe this book to someone who hasn’t heard about it before?

This may sound strange, but this book is for people who want to know the postcard as a person: from all sides. Its character, talents and story of the life. It’s also the book about people who love mail. There are seven chapters: about Postcrossing Project, the text on a postcard, postage stamps, postcards, postal connection, postcrossers and postcard shops. There are also life hacks, dictionary of postcrosser words, and 100 ideas for a postcard message.

I have already received more than a hundred warm reviews that make me very happy. People write that they learned a lot of new things from the book, and that they had registered on postcrossing.com or came back to the Big Game after a long break after reading it!

What was your writing process with this book, and what parts are you especially proud of?
Masha holds the Postcrossing book she wrote in her hands

There was a lot of very diverse work! It was like making stained glass window from different fragments. And it was important to fit these fragments together and make up a beautiful and logical narrative. Besides, I wanted to make this book fun and easy to read. To achieve this ease, I had to rewrite the text several times. This was a very valuable experience for me as for a young writer.

I’m especially proud of the most original parts: where I talk about Postcrossing’s place in the world of ideas (from the ancient Greeks’ letters to the 21st century with its technologies and popularity of danish Hygge); the first mail artist Alexander Asarkan in the Soviet Union for whom creating postcards was a way to make conceptual art in totalitarian state; who and how creates postage stamps in Russia (there’s a very interesting interview with the leading artist of the publishing house Marka, where he tells all the details of creating a postage stamp, who works on them, what their values are and what they think about stamps of other countries); the interviews with unforgettable postcrossers; and my favorite part is about how postcards were published and sold before, how the circumstances and place of postcard in people’s lives changed and how we came to what we have now.

I wrote the book in chapters, in order. When I finished one, I gave it to the artist Maria Vasilyeva and she drew the next part of the comics about the adventures of postcrosser Asya. I’m proud of this cartoon too!

Thank you so much Masha, for taking the time to answer our questions about your book! For anyone interested, “Postcrossing — Book of Secret Knowledge” (in Russian-language only) can be purchased on Masha’s store amelie-cards.ru and soon on Wildberries as well.

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In October last year, Ethan (aka Ebot) took part in a Postcrossing meeting in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, his first time attending one. The postcrossers there were charmed by this young postcrossers’s curiosity about the world, geography and stamps, and his enthusiasm for postcards! They suggested we interviewed him on the blog, so here he is, to tell us all about his favorite postcard, and the green initiative that he started together with his brother some years ago!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I came across Postcrossing as I was searching for pen pals a few years ago. After I looked into it a bit, I was instantly hooked because the thought of sending and receiving postcards from all over the world blew my mind!

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

My favorite hobby is playing drums. I’ve been doing it for about 6 years and recently got my own electric drum set which I practice on almost every day!

Ethan's drumset
Ebot’s new drumset
Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

I store most of the postcards I’ve received in special cardboard boxes I created myself out of shipping boxes.

Ethan's postcard storage box, made of a repurposed USPS box
Repurposed USPS box
Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

My favorite postcard I’ve received during my time on Postcrossing is a card from a postal museum in Hungary. The front of the card is amazing with all the vintage postal contraptions and there is a spectacular moon landing themed stamp on the back!

Hungarian postcard, featuring postal objects
Hungarian postal-themed postcard
Hungarian lunar landing stamp
Moon landing stamp
Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

I was surprised to get an amazing card from Kazakhstan after 63 days!

Multi-view postcard from Kazakhstan, featuring monuments
Postcard KZ-46593, from Kazakhstan
Have you met any other members in real life?

Yes! I’ve been able to go to two Postcrossing meetup events in my area. One was in October 2019, and the other in January 2020. Both of the events were very fun and I even designed a meetup card for one of them!

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

My brother and I started our environmental organization called “Green Gasparilla”, about 5 years ago. The Gasparilla Parade occurs every January in Tampa. It is a mock pirate evasion where one main pirate ship and a few thousand other boats pass through the channel throwing cheap plastic strands of beads over the water to people on shore. As you can imagine, not everyone has perfect aim and over 50% of the beads land in the water and sink to the bottom. The goal of our organization is to combat this very harmful pollution, by stopping it and holding diver cleanups.

In the past few years, we have held 3 diver cleanup events with over 30 divers each time. Also, within the past year we have been able to work with the mayor of Tampa to create a campaign called “Bead Free Bay” to educate citizens of Tampa on the proper way to safely celebrate the parade without throwing beads over the water. We even created a PSA video that was posted all over the city’s social media.

Our work is definitely not done, but we have made lots of progress. I hope that this inspires people to speak up and do something if our ecosystem is being exploited in their community.

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Earlier this year, we started noticing a lot of tweets about articles featuring Postcrossing, published in newspapers like The Saturday Star in South Africa, or The Citizen in Tanzania… but also in a lot of other publications, from Ethiopia to Bangladesh. Our curiosity was piqued! Turns out, this was the work of Rainer (aka rainerebert), who was doing his best to spread the word about Postcrossing in these “rare countries” by taking the time to interview local postcrossers in each country, and then writing articles with their experiences for all these newspapers. We were in awe of his efforts and enthusiasm (which earned him the Ambassador badge) and decided to interview him for the blog. 😊

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?
Posting a postcard at the Southmore Post Office, Houston, Texas, USA

I have been fascinated by the mail for as long as I can think. All you need is a stamp and your letter or postcard will be carried to (almost) any corner of the world. If you think about the logistics of it, the coordination and agreements between countries and private companies, the technology, and the vast network of planes, helicopters, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, bicycles, and feet required to make the system work, it is simply amazing. I remember, as a child, whenever I went on a trip somewhere with my parents, I sent postcards back home. I wrote to my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, friends, my teachers, and the old lady who ran the little grocery store in my grandparents’ village. I imagined how finding the postcards in their mailboxes would put smiles on their faces. My postcards often arrived back home long after I did, but that did not matter. What I wanted is for the people back home to have a physical token that proves I was thinking about them while I was away.

This fascination for the mail persists to this day, and I got hooked immediately when I came across Postcrossing in 2015. How I came across Postcrossing, I do not remember, but I probably googled something related to the mail.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I am curious about the world, and I love to travel! To date, I have had the privilege to visit about fifty countries. A distant dream is to have visited all of them someday. If I can make it at least halfway to achieving that dream, I think I will be satisfied.

My greatest adventure so far was a three-month motorcycle ride with friends in 2011, from my hometown of Adelmannsfelden in Southwest Germany to Cape Town in South Africa. We covered a total of approximately 13,000 km (or 8077 miles), crossing twelve countries: Germany, Austria, Italy, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. We made many friends along the way, and we found that Africa is home to some of the world’s warmest and most welcoming people. I have written about the motorcycle trip here, and here, hoping to inspire others to go and make friends in Africa as well.

Rainer in the Sahara Desert in Sudan in 2011
Rainer in the Sahara Desert in Sudan in 2011

There is much to learn and experience on all continents, but I am particularly fond of Africa and I think more people from other parts of the world should travel there. Too often, people think of Africa as if it was a single country, rife with disease, poverty, hopelessness, and corruption. This tiring image is at best misleading, and has little to do with reality! In fact, Africa is all but monolithic, and arguably the most diverse continent of all. Africa is full of hope, joy, and energy, and incredibly rich in history, culture, language, food, wildlife, and natural beauty.

I have been trying to capture some of the beauty of Africa, and the other places I have been to, with my camera, and photography has become another hobby of mine. You can see some of my photos on my website.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

Besides Germany, where I was born and raised, there are three more places that I consider home: Texas, where I live and went to graduate school, Bangladesh, where I have family and friends and try to go once or twice every year, and Tanzania, where I taught philosophy at the University of Dar es Salaam from 2017 to 2019. I have sent postcards from all of these places.

University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
My PO box at the University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
My PO box at the University Hill Post Office, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

In Tanzania, my post office is the University Hill Post Office in Dar es Salaam, where I still have a PO box. I went there so often that the two nice ladies working there, Leah and Winnie, treat me like family. The same is true for Romana, who works at the Jigatola Post Office in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s bustling capital. I will print copies of this interview and mail them to Leah, Winnie, and Romana! I hope they will be inspired to help promote Postcrossing in their communities, and maybe even join Postcrossing themselves.

Jigatola Post Office, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Jigatola Post Office, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Whenever I go to Bangladesh or Tanzania, I try to send as many postcards as I can, as both countries are sadly still underrepresented on Postcrossing. In Texas, the post office closest to where I live is the Southmore Post Office, where I usually go with my bicycle to send greetings from Houston to wherever the Postcrossing website tells me to send them!

My bicycle in front of the Southmore Post Office, Houston, Texas, USA
My bicycle in front of the Southmore Post Office, Houston, Texas, USA
Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

Each postcard is as unique and special as the person who wrote it. But if I have to pick one postcard, I will pick the one and only one I got from Hungary, in 2016 (HU-111390).

Postcard from Hungary HU 111390
Postcard from Hungary, HU-111390

It is special to me because my grandmother was born in Baranyajenő in Hungary, and lived there until being expelled by the Hungarian government in June 1946. She then had to start her life all over again in Germany… When I was nine years old, our whole family went to visit my grandmother’s village home in Hungary, and the postcard brought back good memories of that trip.

Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

There are not many Postcrossers in Bangladesh and Tanzania, so whenever I go to these countries I try to convince new people to join, with some success. I especially encourage my students to join, as I think Postcrossing is a wonderful way to learn, about other cultures and places.

Postcards I have sent from Tanzania via Postcrossing
Postcards I have sent from Tanzania via Postcrossing

A few months ago, I spoke to some of the most active Postcrossers in Bangladesh and Tanzania, and also in Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Africa, to find out what keeps people in these countries from joining Postcrossing. One reason that I was given again and again is cost. Postage rates are relatively high, which is very unfortunate, as those living in low-income countries rarely have the opportunity to travel abroad and would benefit the most from exchanging postcards with people in other countries. My conversations with these Postcrossers were published in a number of newspapers in their respective countries, and I hope some readers were inspired by my articles to join.

Is there anything that you are passionate about?
Rainer s PhD graduation at Rice University in Texas in 2016

I am a moral philosopher by profession, and I believe that philosophers should not confine themselves to the ivory tower, but spend at least some of their time actively working to achieve a broader presence of philosophy in public life. Philosophy can make a meaningful contribution to society, not least in that it can help people to think more clearly and critically about important social and policy issues.

I try to do my part and apply philosophy in the columns that I regularly write for newspapers around the globe. I have written on topics such as same-sex marriage, homophobia, transgender rights, veganism and animal rights, everyday racism, anti-refugee sentiment, open borders, religious tolerance, free speech and censorship, capital punishment, children’s rights, illiberal populism, and effective altruism. A common theme of much of my writing is the importance of individual freedom, about which I am particularly passionate.

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