Postcrossing Blog

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

Posts tagged "spotlight"

Meet Alison (aka alison41) from Cape Town in South Africa 🇿🇦. She’s a very enthusiastic postcrosser in her country, and a fan of books, writing, and mahjong! She has sent us quite a few interesting postal-themed articles over the years, and regularly updates us on the postal situation in her country… so we thought it was time we got to know her a little better. Here she is!

Alison41 Postcrossing spotlight interview
How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

A local magazine “IDEAS”, featured a 2 page article with pictures, about Postcrossing — at the sight of the international stamps and Par Avion stickers, I was immediately interested! I love receiving mail. I’ve been a letter writer my entire life, and had literally dozens of penfriends over the years. I still have one or two, particularly an Australian lady, we still correspond — by now it has been nearly 50 years.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

Apart from being an avid reader, and writing articles for my two blogs (Despatches from Timbuktu and The Booksmith) my other passion is playing Mah Jong. I have been playing the game for nearly 50 years. I learned in Rhodesia, during the early 1970s, and have been playing, and teaching others how to play, ever since. I run a small club in the retirement village where live.

Mahjong play set

I found a couple of Asian themed cards to display next to my Mah Jong set.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

Reading the biographies of the people to whom I’m about to send a card. As a writer, I find people and their lives intensely interesting. So I enjoy reading everyone’s profiles, because here you have insight into their personalities, likes and dislikes.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
Alison41 Postcrossing spotlight interview

Blue mailboxes and the red outgoing box at the Big Bay Post Office. The view from the post office balcony cross the bay to Table Mountain is stunning!

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

I love my cat-themed postcards, and have displayed some of my current favourites in front of my work table, so can see and enjoy them daily. I am a huge cat fan!

Alison41 Postcrossing spotlight interview

But apart from my Cat Cards, I’m involved with Gonny in the Netherlands, and we have our own “story card” project, inspired by a post on this blog from September 2017 titled “Postcard Stories”, about a woman who published a book consisting entirely of stories written on postcards. I don’t think we’ll produce our own book, but we’re having a lot of fun!

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

Mexico! If you live in South Africa, then Mexico is a very far way foreign country; ditto Iceland and Greenland.

Have you met any other members in real life?

Regrettably not; South Africa has very few members, and it is a big country. I’d love to attend a local Postcrossing get-together… but I think for that to happen, I’ll have to organise it myself!

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

What else excites me? Going to the theatre; book sales; cats; current affairs; books and reading; my monthly writing group; attending monthly meetings of the University of Third Age – the speakers are usually professional people who come and speak about their field of expertise. I run a monthly Book Club meeting at the local library and I’m always delighted to meet other readers and chat about books.

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Helen (aka Honney17)

Member Caroline (aka Luminarium) is a social worker from the USA. A few weeks ago, she brought to our attention that a postcrosser she was helping to send postcards found it funny that she was older than the age settings the website allowed. We were intrigued, as no one had ever complained about this bug before… but then again, we probably don’t have many postcrossers like Helen (aka Honney17) who celebrated her 101st birthday earlier this year! 🎉

We were so happily surprised, we decided to ask them a few questions!

What are your first memories of writing?

I used to write a lot of letters to my friend I went to school with; We were in the same grade, but I was a year older than her because I got sick. I wrote my friend Virginia McCafferty. Her family was from England, and she lived beyond me. When we got out of school, we’d walk together home. She was my dear friend. Her family raised prize winning black angus cows. After school we’d walk down the hill and through a cow path in the field. We’d get to her fence and she would jump over and we’d walk to our own houses. You could get a postcard for a penny back then. I wrote to her till I got married. Galveston, IN (where Helen was born) had eight houses then. The house I was born in is still there. Our first cousins lived there too. I think I’m the only one left of this generation. My mother’s family was from Ireland. I used to love to write. They always used to call on me because I made up good stories. They wanted me to be on the high school newspaper. I only got one semester of my freshman year. I was 14 and didn’t have a home then, so I went to work in a dry goods store.

A framed painting of Helen's family barn, painted by a friend from a photo.
A framed painting of Helen’s family barn, painted by a friend from a photo.
How did you hear about Postcrossing?

I heard about Postcrossing in a place I used to live, but didn’t start participating till my helper introduced it to me.

What do you do and what do you need help with to participate in Postcrossing?

I think up stuff, but I have trouble writing because my hand is clunky, so I need help writing. What you don’t use, you lose! I save the postcards I get for my helper to register them. She gets the addresses for me and I tell her what to write. I sign them all.

Helen (aka Honney17)  and Caroline (aka Luminarium) Helen (aka Honney17)  and her postcards
Helen, Caroline and some postcards they’ve received.
What are your first memories of getting mail? How has mail changed over the years?

Back in the beginning, a horse and buggy brought it to us in the country; then they got a car, a Ford. A rattling good car. Sometimes if you didn’t live in a city you had to go downtown to get mail because they wouldn’t deliver it. I had a cousin who delivered mail. We had a little mailbox along the dirt road and I mostly remember when the mail carrier had an old jalopy and would bring it to the box. It was a Ford, I think. They were the first cars anyone knew about. “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.” There was a box on the side to help fix a tire and you had to crank them! And, if you didn’t do it right, the crank would go backwards and break your arm. My brother used to push it (our Ford), to get it up and running, and then had to run and jump in.

What do people think about you participating in PostCrossing?

People that work here notice I get mail; it doesn’t look like anybody here gets much mail. Maybe people have family here that don’t write. My son and daughter visit me. I lost my cousin and my friend so it’s nice to get mail.

Helen (aka Honney17)  and her postcards
Helen and her postcards.
What does Postcrossing mean to you?

It’s interesting because you get personal, and that’s big—to get mail. We all live in our little worlds, and you don’t have many activities to do, and this is a hobby you can be busy with. And the cards come, and people are living all over the world, and it’s interesting to read about their families and work and see the cards they send. I bet they wonder about America the way I wonder about the places they live. It’s almost like taking a trip—you get a picture in your mind. It’s like a little vacation. The postcards are something I look forward to. It really makes me think about places and people differently than I have before. Every postcard is something to look forward to.

Do you have a Favorite post card?

DE-7117460. It looks like a dog I used to love that my grandson adopted when he was going through a hard time. He got that pup and it helped him out of his depression.

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What kind of post cards would you most like to receive?

Besides birds and dogs, it would be nice to have pictures of your country. Your buildings, and how they are built, and what the people look like.

Thank you so much to Helen and Caroline for this lovely interview!

As Helen mentions in the interview, people in her Senior Assisted Living community don’t get much mail nowadays… so how about we send them some? With the permission of her family and Activities Director Valarie, we’re publishing here the address of the place where she lives, so that if you want, you can send a postcard there and make a senior’s day a little bit brighter. 😊 Send iconic images of your town/country with a fact and greeting from where you live, and then Caroline and Valarie will organize them so that everyone can enjoy them! :)

Shall we fill their mailbox with postcards, and give Helen and her friends the opportunity to travel around the world through them?


This initiative is now finished, but here’s a quick update from Helen’s caretaker Caroline in February 2019:

“There’s nothing like a beautiful piece of mail to brighten a grey day. Helen has LOVED receiving all the mail you’ve sent. She’s hit a rough patch, but being the resilient woman she is she’s pushing through. Your postcards are a constant source of smiles, wonder and support. Helen frequently looks at them and says ”It’s just like a vacation!" or “Ah, Finland…I always wanted to go there.” or looking at a card from Indonesia “Can you believe that? From all that way?!” This rough patch (and rough weather) has stalled out our original bigger plan for sharing with other residents. Don’t worry though, your cards are getting a great deal of attention and will be shared with the wider community. Thank you for spreading your joy. At nearly 102 you’ve sincerely brightened Helen and her caregiver’s days. From Helen, her family and Caroline, her helper – Thank you."
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Héléna (aka Helena2008) is a young postcrosser from the French region of Auvergne. Earlier this year, she gave an interview about her hobby to teen magazine “Trampoline”… and that’s how we knew we had a very enthusiastic postcrosser in the area! Turns out, she has a lot of stories to tell, so we invited her to the blog, with the help of her mom Marie (aka Marie007). Here they are:

Hi Héléna! How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

Two years ago, my mom saw an article about postcrossing on Facebook. It was the evening, and I was in my bed, almost sleeping. Mom was very excited by this project, and she thought I would be interested, too. So she came in my bedroom, turned on the light, woke me, and she asked me if I was interested in this project. Of course I said “yes”. I didn’t know it at this moment, but it was the beginning of a great adventure! :)

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I collect stamps with animals and flowers. Postcrossing is a wonderful way to discover very beautiful stamps! Sometimes postcrossers use an envelope and they add some stamps inside the envelope just for me. It’s very nice and I always thank them. I’m very interested about languages, especially English. I learn English at school, and also at home with a free internet website named Duolingo. When I’ll be older, I would like to own a “learning languages store”. I’d like to be an English teacher for adults.

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

My mailman has a lot of work because of me! He is so used to deliver postcards to me, that sometimes he puts in my mailbox postcards which are not for me! When it happens, I take them and put them in the mailbox of my neighbors. At home, I have a wall where I put my postcards.

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

My favorite postcard was the one I have received from the city Helena, Montana, USA. It was so strange to see my name written on a postcard!! I also love to receive postcards of rabbits. I have a rabbit, so I’m crazy about these nice and soft animals.

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

My favorite part of postcrossing is to go to my mailbox and see if there is a postcard for me :) The more exciting is when I receive an envelope. It’s wonderful to open it and to discover what it is inside. Some postcrossers are very nice with me and they send to me some girly stickers, stamps, or coins from their country. It’s very kind and it makes me very happy.

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

Yes, I have been surprised many times by the places that I have received postcards. With a swap, I have received a postcard from Syria. It was from a girl who is almost the same age as I am. It’s hard to think about her and about the war in her country. I often think about this little girl and I hope she is fine.

Have you met any other members in real life?

I also love to travel around the world with my mom. In August 2016, Jeremy, a very nice American postcrosser invited me and my mom to visit the city of Helena (capital of Montana, USA). It was absolutely wonderful!! I went in a plane for the first time of my life, I have discovered America, eaten real hamburgers, visited a ghost town, looked for gold nuggets, visited the city of Helena…

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!

This trip was the best moment of my life! After that, I have invited this postcrosser to France. He came in my house during summer 2017. It was great to show him my country and to see each other again. We are still in touch, and my mom and I are planning a trip next summer, to go back to Helena. I already know that it’s going to be awesome!

I have also met many french postcrossers, during Postcrossing meetings. I went with my mom to the meetings of Avignon, Lyon, Ternay, Valence… It’s really good to see postcrossers in real life. They are very nice and they have become my friends. My favorite meeting was last Autumn, when mom and I have organised a meeting in our own home. There were 20 persons and we have sent 435 postcards on this day!! I live in a small village with only 550 inhabitants. I can’t imagine the face of the postman the day after, when he has found the mailbox full of postcards to send!! :)

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I love to travel the world and discover different cultures. I hope to receive one postcard from each country in the world. I have a big map in my house, where I can color the countries once I have received a postcard. I have currently received postcards from 98 countries. My bigger dream is to receive a postcard from North Korea. Maybe one day it will happen…

Postcrossing Spotlight: Helena2008 from France!
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Andry (aka Andry1961) from Estonia is a special postcrosser: over the past 7 years, he has mailed postcards from over 30 different countries! Before the Travel Mode came along, this was not a very easy task… but his diligence and determination to get those countries on the map were part of the inspiration behind the new feature.

For years, we’ve been fascinated by Andry’s many travels around the world, so this spotlight interview was long overdue — come meet a globetrotting member of the community! :)

How did you discover Postcrossing, and what made you stay?

I have always spent a lot of time in post offices sending postcards to my acquaintances. One day, my girlfriend sent me a link about Postcrossing and told that this might be something that interests me. That was true! It was very interesting to meet other people who shared the same interest to send postcards, to receive them, to choose them, to explore the stamps from different countries and of course the label “par avion”.

When and how did your traveling adventures around the world start?

I have been interested in collectibles since the early days of my teenage years. As the collectors gatherings happened all over the USSR, it led me to travel alone to Riga (Latvia) in 1974 when I was just 13 years old, then to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) in Russia, after that to Chisinau (now part of Moldova) etc. Since those days, I have already visited 115 countries of the 193 member states of the United Nations.

Andry mailing some postcards in East Timor
Andry mailing some postcards in East Timor.
What are your favorite countries so far (if you can choose) and why?

Countries where I want to go back again and again are Australia and USA. To rent a car there and to just drive and stop in places which are really famous or maybe places that I have never heard before. In Estonia, where I live, you can drive 3 hours maximum and then you meet the state border.

One of the most valued travels were to Antarctica (I went there in 2009 with research ship Akademik Ioffe), to Ushuaia (southernmost part of Argentina) and I especially value a travel to Iraq.

We traveled to Iraq in November 2012 with a small group of 13 people from Estonia, going to Bagdad, Samarra, old Mesopotamia, Karbala, Najaf and Basra. We did not come across any other tourists there, but there was a lot to see! The locals asked us to pass on a message: “It is safe here, we are waiting for tourists!”… but just half a year later it was impossible to travel there. I also sent some postcards to postcrossers from there. I was supposed to send one postcard to Israel, a country that you couldn’t even mention in Iraq, much less send a postcard to. I wrote the address as it was, but instead of Israel wrote Ireland as the country name. I guess they figured it out in the post office in Ireland, as some time later the postcard reached its Israeli recipient. Great thanks to them!

Inside the post office in Bagdad, Iraq.
Inside the post office in Bagdad, Iraq.

The visiting of Iraq post office was also a very special. Although they assured us it was safe, they did not allow us to go anywhere alone without an escort. So, they organized a visit to the post office for the whole group because of my passion, with an escort of 12 soldiers and two local guides. :)

What’s your favourite part about visiting a new country? Is there anything that you do in all the countries you visit?

Visit a post office (and I’ve been doing this since the age of 13), go to a market and if possible, use some form of local public transportation.

Outside a post office in South Georgia
Outside a post office in South Georgia island.
What countries are next on your list?

This year I have plans to visit Andorra, San Marino, Saudi Arabia (If I get the tourist visa) and Columbia. In the first half of the next year I plan to visit 7 African countries located along the gulf of Guinea. And of course, the neighboring countries of Estonia, including attending some meetups nearby.

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The PhillipsFamily lives in a small town Minnesota, USA, where they homeschool their daughter Maya and use Postcrossing to teach her about geography and cultures all over the world. Some months ago, we received a very nice email from them, letting us know that Maya had won 1st place on her county fair’s 4-H project by submitting a presentation about Postcrossing and her postcard collection! 🥇 We were so proud of Maya that we decided to interview her for the blog — here she is:

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

I found out about Postcrossing from a friend who thought I would like it because I really like geography. I was hooked right away! I LOVE getting postcards from all over the world and learning about different countries and people. I’m always excited to get the mail everyday to see which countries I can add to my collection. Recently I received my first postcard from Spain. I have postcards from all 7 continents!

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

My family really likes geocaching together. We have seen so many beautiful places hunting caches. I also really, really like to read and play board games. My favorite books are the Harry Potter series. I play Legos a lot (thanks Denmark!), and also scrapbook.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
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I keep my postcards in a nice box. They are sorted by continent and country. My mama really likes that I can have such a big collection without taking up much space.

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.
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One of my favorite postcards is from Gordon the Great. He is a cat from New Zealand who has to put up with Fat Dog and Skinny Dog. I’ve showed his postcard to lots of my friends because it’s so funny.

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

I entered my postcard collection into the county fair as a 4-H project. I made a big display showcasing some of my favorite cards and wrote a description telling everyone about Postcrossing and how they can join.

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I won first place in my age group and second place overall. I got a big ribbon for it! I was so excited because it was my first time entering anything into the fair. I hope a lot of people signed up after seeing it.

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

I was surprised when I received a card from San Marino. I didn’t even know it was a country until then.

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I am passionate about reading. I like reading new books and rereading old books. Besides Harry Potter, some of my favorites are Calvin & Hobbes, Anne of Green Gables, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’m currently reading through Mensa’s Excellence in Reading book list. It has a lot of classics my parents like.

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