Postcrossing Blog

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

Posts tagged "spotlight"

Awhile ago, Dutch postcrosser Paulien (aka Paulienvdmeer) received an amazing illustrated postcard from India… and was so impressed that she immediately wrote to let us know about it. Following up on her suggestion, we reached out to Ashwin, the illustrator behind these special postcards, to ask him a few questions!

How did you discover Postcrossing? What made you stay?

It was on a 2015 trip to Ladakh in the Himalayas that I posted my first ever postcard — to my parents back home. By the time I got back home, the postcard had already arrived, and it was fascinating to know that something could travel 2000+ kms and from 11500 feet altitude to sea-level — for as little as 6 rupees (8 cents USD). Ever since I got back, I knew there must be more people in love with postcards and I googled for postcard exchange platforms. Postcrossing happened to be amongst the top results and I was impressed by its member base. I am a huge travel buff and the fact that you get to hear stories from across the world by the way of postcards is the secondary reason why I continue to use the platform. The primary reason, of course, is that I imagine postal services might be discontinued someday (they shouldn’t be) and my postcard collection will be worth millions then! 😄

Ashwin's sketched postcards
What attracts you to urban sketching? How do you choose the buildings/sceneries that you focus on?

My training as an architect-urban designer led me to sketch and doodle a lot of ideas. But it was my Bachelors thesis professor, Ar. Shrikant Sathe, who insisted that I never give up sketching. I simply followed his advice and now I end up sketching even while waiting at airports and train stations! Life in urban environments is very interesting and I usually pick a small frame of a large and chaotic surrounding to sketch it. At the moment, I am focusing on drawings humans better in my sketches!

Ashwin's sketched postcards
Do you have a favourite postcard that you’ve made?

I doodled a map of my city titled 'A-Z Bombay’ for a heritage travel company called Khaki Tours I work with. This map chronicled the 26 must-do experiences in Mumbai alphabetically laid out on a map.

Ashwin's sketched postcards

Since then, I have used the illustration across posters, mugs and postcards. It remains my favourite card till date. But I am always looking to find a new favourite.

What are members reactions when they receive one of these sketched postcards?

While posting the cards is a reward in itself, it is heartening to know that my recipients love my postcards. I have made friends with so many people from around the globe and many are in touch via Whatsapp/Instagram with regular exchange of postcards. I am happy when my sketches inspire people to visit my country. Perhaps someday my life partner will show up on a postcard too!

Which materials do you use to make these cards?

Sketches are usually done in my sketchbook that I carry with me at all times. They’re then scanned and laid out on my computer before being printed on a thick 300gsm textured paper. I am extremely finicky about the finish and take the delivery of the cards from my printshop myself.

Ashwin's sketched postcards

Thank you so much Ashwin! We love it when people pour their talents into the postcards they send — it’s so inspiring! 😍 If you’ve received a particularly nice handmade postcard lately, let us know in the comments below!

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Sometime ago, Simon (aka SimonBurrow) emailed us a very cool story about receiving snowy postcards in Arizona’s hot desert climate. Reading his profile and blog afterwards, we noticed we had a few things in common including a love for hiking, minimalism and Seth Godin’s philosophy… so it seemed like a good idea to invite him over to the blog, so he could tell about these passions, as well as the story which prompted his initial contact. If you’re curious, read on!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?
SimonBurrow's snowy postcards

I joined just over six years ago. How I first heard about Postcrossing is lost in the mist of time. But I recall that as soon as I heard I joined and spent a lot of time anxiously waiting for my first cards. Now I get a postcard almost every day and each one makes me happy so I extrapolate and am pleased to think that each card I write is making somebody else a little bit happier.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I’m retired and I love to hike. I especially like endurance hiking. I have hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a day and Mt Whitney in California twice. Around home I’m hiking all the trails in a book called “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Phoenix.” Whenever I hear about a petroglyph that i can hike to, I start planning.

Once a week or so I volunteer as a tour guide at the Pueblo Grande Museum near the airport in Phoenix. Early people built a complicated irrigation base society in this area from about 300CE until about 1400CE and then they stopped. There are lots of mysteries that I enjoy talking about.

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

I walk to the post office about a half kilometer away to buy stamps but I mail all of my cards in the mail room in my building.

I was a collector of many thing for many years: books, maps, matchbooks, marbles and rocks to name a few. But now my collecting days are over and I’m giving things away. I scan all cards I receive and then give the physical postcards to an elementary school teacher who uses them for sorting exercises.

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

I favorite every bridge postcard and mountain postcard I receive because I asked for them. But I often favorite the quirky ones I receive or that I see on other peoples walls. My current, non-snow favorite card is a Burro from San Miguel de Allende Mexico, since my name is Burrow.

SimonBurrow's snowy postcards

In June last year, I added a special request for snow postcards to my profile. I thought just seeing snow would help me get through this very hot summer (43C or 109F some days). By July, far more than half of the cards I’d received had been snow cards! It is really delightfully cool and cooling.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

I like it all but if I have to choose I’d say writing the cards. Trying to tell a story that relates to the recipient and that comes alive in four lines is a good challenge.

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

I like it when I get cards from places I’ve never heard of, like Åland. I keep hoping to get cards from Cuba or Iran.

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

“If you are not curious, you are not smart.”, wrote Sandra Day O’Connor.

As an immigrant to the USA, I am passionate about making it possible for more people to move around in the world. I wrote a blog, made a documentary film and run a Facebook group about “Rational Immigration.” There is a long way to go on this issue because fear of strangers is built into our DNA. Postcrossing in a small way helps to break down this barrier.

Trip to France

I can’t end without mentioning how much I like to spend time with my wife and two grown daughters. Last year, we had a family trip to Lyon, France to watch the Women’s World Cup Football.

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Sometime ago, we received a wonderful handcrafted postcard from Noa (aka Chenoah) in Germany. On it, she mentioned the struggles of living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a debilitating chronic illness. She also mentioned how Postcrossing is an outlet for her creativity and helps her connect with the world while being housebound.

Over the years, we’ve heard from several postcrossers with similarly serious conditions, about how important this activity is for them — sometimes on aspects that hadn’t even crossed our minds. So, in an effort to raise awareness about these realities and understand them a bit better, we’ve asked Noa a few questions about her life and her interaction with the world through Postcrossing.

For someone who doesn’t know, what is it like to live with chronic fatigue? What are some of the challenges that you face?

Chenoah from GermanyWhen they stumble upon the word “fatigue”, healthy folks think of being tired… but clinical fatigue is more like an overwhelming exhaustion that healthy people don‘t experience. You’re so exhausted that you might be unable not just to move (thus leading to muscle weakness) but also unable to even grasp your own thoughts or speak. It’s not something that can be relieved by a couple of good nights of sleep or even a few weeks’ long holiday. It’s an exhaustion without a cause, that leaves you totally drained.

For instance, when I brush my teeth, I need to rest for a while afterwards, so that I can then attempt to slowly eat breakfast. And when I don‘t let myself have a break afterwards, digestion won‘t work well or even temporarily stop entirely. So it’s the little things that most people won’t even consider tiresome, which wipe me out entirely.

It’s hard to be taken seriously by doctors (especially as a twenty-something female), and it took me 8 years to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and to find a physician willing to treat me. And naturally, until your condition has been diagnosed, it’s hard to get health insurance companies to help. Besides these more technical things, are the very personal ones. I‘m relatively isolated. My regulars are my husband, my substitute carer friend, who lets him off duty for two hours each Friday, and my physiotherapist who does house calls.

Nevertheless, I am still fascinated that I have someone by my side. The more ill you are, the less opportunities of meeting people there are. Visits are a rare highlight, because they exhaust me terribly, and the same goes for phone calls. One friend is allowed to call on a regular basis. She‘s a “spoonie” too — which means, someone with illness that comes with extremely raised fatigability and difficulty in recovering energy. It‘s a whispered call with long pauses and lots of muffled laughter. Sometimes we cry together, which is a good thing. And then we laugh some more, because her jealous borderline-narcissistic cat Romi is screaming like an infant to get her attention.

How does Postcrossing work for you? What can you do yourself and on what parts do you help with?

Everything I do is slow and there are lots of interruptions, because I need some rest, but I am glad that the website is very well structured and I‘ve never lost my way so far.

Chenoah from GermanyPicking a card is a long process. I start with reading the profile and getting a feel for the recipient, sometimes looking into the favorites. I obviously can’t go out and shop for postcards, which I loved to do. I do have a huge stash, but walking to the boxes can be “iffy” and involve some help. Usually I end up in bed again, with 3 cards and the final decision postponed for after a break.

A concept or decoration will be thought up and I very consciously give my love, my time and my precious energy to the postcard. Art and creativity is totally my thing. I have found materials and ways to draw and paint in bed (I love water soluble crayons!), and I‘ve sent out some original artwork before or crafted cards using a print. My first two professional cards are in print at the moment, which is really exciting. They are published by a cooperative supporting initiatives helping people in all kinds of disadvantages, locally and globally.

Writing the Postcard IDs can be a little tricky, as my short-time memory is very impaired. My solution: I rap or sing them. This way, I manage to write four digits at once and the rest in a second go. Same goes for when I need to register the cards I receive.

My postcards are brought to the postbox by my husband, or the other two regulars. Even the physiotherapist has been my Postcrossing assistant a couple of times.

How does postcard writing help with some of the challenges?

Chenoah from GermanyI‘ve always been pretty active and busy… but no longer being sure that you can finish a certain task in time, is definitely not a good feeling. In this sense, a postcard can be quite therapeutic: it‘s just a piece of cardboard with an empty space, that even on not so good days looks manageable. I am able to take a postcard, hold onto it, focus my attention on the task of sending someone else a greeting. Though that might not sound like much, it actually is.

I‘d been studying psychology, when illness struck, and I am well aware of how easily chronic illness can lead to depression. Helplessness and desperation together are a really dangerous mixture. Being active changes your perception of the situation. You’re not as much at the mercy of your illness, but a human being doing something.

There are even some growth opportunities in Postcrossing. I don’t like profiles that are very demanding or defining what "real postcards“ are, or those that are mainly about collecting. As I have no way, to fulfill all those demands, in the beginning, I felt horribly cornered and was quite close to throwing in the towel. Now I am able to send them something made with love, time and more effort, he or she can imagine. Who knows when they last have been properly loved on. And of course I learned to let go, once I‘m done. I am not responsible for the happiness or contentment of another person. I try to do something for my recipients, the rest is entirely up to them.

What is your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

I love how it allows me to re-enter the world. In average years, I leave the house like five times a year, mostly to go to doctor’s offices or clinics. I‘m no longer able to watch TV, listen to radio, or be on social media, so the world I formerly felt part of, seems now very much disconnected. I‘m 42 years old now, but do often feel a culture shock not unlike someone who has been imprisoned for a long time when I am confronted with developments, topics, … I have no knowledge of or experience with. And I do have an urge to know about the world and it‘s people, as well as be part of the world.

I‘m scared of disappearing from the public eye so entirely, that I‘m kind of buried before I am actually dead. And despite my limitations and my little overall energy, the quality of this energy is very much alive and I am not planning of changing something about it. It just feels warm and fuzzy, to be able to share it with some random stranger friends. I‘ve been blessed with a few even becoming friends. We communicate per mail and email.

The postcards I get are like colorful specks of the world I miss so badly. We Germans even have words for it, “Fernweh” and “Weltschmerz”. I think, self perception happens almost always in the context of the world or groups of people you chose to surround yourself with. Isolation is a bummer and has you redefine yourself without the world… but I wanted a context, structure, a frame. And there came a welcoming rectangle, called postcard and invited me, to fill it with whatever makes me me.

And so the world, even though still very pixelated, is becoming perceivable again. Which makes me feel very grateful. Thanks a lot Postcrossing!

Do you have other hobbies or causes that you are passionate about?

I want the world to become a fairer and more peaceful place. And of course, to keep the world inhabitable, so I always try to not rush into decisions, but to be conscious and make as many healthy choices as possible. Anyone can help. I’ve got a small amount of money invested as Kiva loans, and I think of it as a human investment. My gain is, that I helped getting someone come closer to safety and being able to support a family.

I love animals so much that I am the godmother of Frederik, a teenager pig, growing at light speed. He has done the unthinkable and jumped off a pig transporter, only a few hours old. And he survived. I’m still completely in awe. I support Hof Butenland, the sanctuary at which he is at home now. (It’s a senior facility for former dairy cows, but they do have some other animals too). I am vegan, as best as I can under my given circumstances.

Then there is music. I’ve always been a musician and my wonderful husband and I formed a bond over immediately clicking musically, grooving and improvising including vocal harmonies, as if we had done this for ages. He is now my main carer and burdened by my illness as well. We still attempt to do one concert per year, and I sing and play strapped to my wheelchair, with my legs propped up onto a piano stool, to minimize the risk of losing consciousness. Of course, health-wise it’s a tremendously costly passion, but for my soul, it is sheer bliss because it really is my husband‘s and my favorite way of being a close unit. And we always transport messages and support causes with our concerts. So this is not just music: it is speaking out, being heard, contributing to a world and global society that is more just and fair than it is currently.

MEmi dolls, from Chenoah

I am also an ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) advocate, and I became a crochet artist when I became bedbound. And I‘ve made about 130 small dolls, called MEmis for fellow ME sufferers and a few others in need of some comfort, love and connection. Each doll is one of a kind and was made especially for this person. This project is coming slowly to an end, as I‘m no longer able to use Facebook, where many MEmi recipients are connected and where I received most requests. But as some even have their own blogs or social media, it seems to live on. Most “live” in Germany, but about a dozen is scattered all over the world.

This is still just a fraction of my interests and passions, as I am easily inflammable when it comes to enthusiasm and joy. And my dedication, once formed, doesn’t just go away.

Thank you Noa, for putting so much of your precious energy into this interview! ❤️ If you have some minutes to learn more about ME/CFS, we recommend this TED talk.

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Christa’s (aka reepeecheep) profile was brought to our attention by Norway_girl, who stumbled on it and was intrigued when reading this line:

“I am a librarian and collect everything about mice and rats. My collection is the biggest in the world and so I am holder of a Guinness Book Record – I got more than 47000 items.”

Wow… that seemed interesting! Our curiosity was piqued, and we immediately sent Christa a few questions about her unusual collection. She was super nice and let us know more about her unusual hobby and how things escalated to an impressive world record. Read on!

reepeecheep from Germany, has a large collection of mouse-themed items, and even a world record!
What prompted you to start collecting mice and rat-themed items?

My first husband died and I married again in 1991. My second husband is a geologist and had been collecting postcards about mining and mineral resources (he now has about 35000 and puts them online for the public). So I often went with him to fairs or postcard dealers to get cards for his collection. But I felt bored there, and I asked him what he would think about me collecting something. And he agreed. He suggested to collect mice and rats – that was the biggest fault he ever did in his life!!!

As a librarian I am a very systematic person, and when I act, I do it with all my heart. After two or three years, I went all in, collecting everything connected to my favorite animals. And as you know rodents are very fertile, so soon I ended up with hundreds and then thousands of items. We only had a small flat, but as space was getting tight we rented the apartment next door also. When we retired, we moved into a three storied house! Now every room is filled with mice and rats – even the basement, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the toilets.

reepeecheep's collection of mouse-themed items reepeecheep's collection of mouse-themed items

I am very lucky to have a husband who respects me and my spleen. When he starts to moan I always remind him that it was his idea!!! But on the other hand he is proud of me and it was he who had the idea to apply at the Guinness Book people.

Why rodents? Are mice or rats your favorite animal? Do you also have them as pets?

I had gerbils and rats as pets for years. These are very intelligent and cute animals. You can teach them tricks, and they are very cuddly. And I feel sorry for animals and humans, too, who are pursued. As a teenage I had some cute mice puppets which I liked very much. So at Christmas or for my birthday people gave me more mice figures and I had a little showcase where I put them.

reepeecheep's mouse figurines
How many items do you have in total? And how many of these are postcards?
reepeecheep's postcards

Back in 2004 when the Guiness record was accepted, I had 27623 items. In 2014, I beat my own record with 47398 items. Now five years later I got more than 50000.

Some portions: 4577 books, 3568 modern graphics, 11928 figurines, 27746 postcards (6265 vintage, 19408 modern, 1073 big ones)
 and 3585 greetings cards

Tell us about your postcards featuring these little animals. Do you receive and swap a lot of them through Postcrossing?

I am very happy to be part oft he Postcrossing family and ask people to send me rodent cards if possible. Until today I got 2266 cards from all over the world, and among them were 794 mice and rats!!! So this is more than one third! Some of them are repeated but I don’t mind as I know that it is not easy to find mice and rat cards. :)

Thank you Christa, that was wonderful! 🐭 By the way, any guesses as to where Christa got her username, “reepeecheep”?

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Michele (aka mikebond) comes from Italy, but currently lives in France. He’s a big fan of languages and can speak lots of them, including Portuguese — not an easy feat! Michele is also a big enthusiast of Postcrossing meetups, which is how we’ve met him a few times already. :) Here he is:

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

I have always loved sending and receiving postcards to friends and family members. At high school I started penpalling with people from several countries, but sadly I lost contact with them when I started university and had no time left to write meaningful letters.

So, imagine my excitement when, in 2008, Pinar, a fellow Turkish member of VirtualTourist.com, told me about a website where you could send and receive postcards to and from all over the world. I immediately loved the idea of having my mailbox full of beautiful postcards and messages from strangers. Back in 2008, Finland was the most represented country on Postcrossing, and some people moaned about getting “always Finland!” (later, the recurring moan turned into “always Russia!”), but postal fares were cheaper, waiting times shorter, and it was easier to send to, or receive from rare countries. I received some of my rarest postcards in 2008 or 2009.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

Definitely drawing addresses, with the hope of getting a rare country, or an inspiring profile! Then reading the profiles and finding the appropriate postcard for each recipient.

Of course, opening my mailbox and finding beautiful postcards in it is just as amazing! The first thing I do when I get one is to read the message and look at the decorations and stamps. To me, an outstanding back side makes the ugliest postcard pretty!

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

This is the mailbox where I post my postcards in my Breton village:

mikebondmailbox

We don’t have a real post office here, but only a “post relay”, i.e. a desk inside the mini-market, whose owner also provides postal services. The closest post office is in the nearby town, 5 kms far away, so I rarely go there. I always order my stamps online since La Poste’s online shop ships stamps orders within a couple of days and for free if you spend over 25 euros. Postmen here deliver the mail in yellow vans, between 10am and midday.

I keep most of my official Postcrossing cards in albums like this:

mikebondalbum

And since space is limited in my albums, I keep postcards from swaps, RAS, etc on piles like these:

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

I was amazed when I received not one but two postcards from Mauritius in 2015, sent by Jordan and Tamera, two young siblings who had drawn my address simultaneously: MU-3168 and MU-3173!

More recently, I was extremely surprised when I drew an address on the Isle of Man. I was so happy to be able to send a postcard to this fellow Celtic land with only 25 postcrossers! And the recipient, Andrea, loved it, too!

Have you met any other members in real life?

I still cannot explain to myself how on Earth I could be a postcrosser for over 9 years without ever attending a Postcrossing meetup! Since I organised, and attended, my first two meetings in Italy in October and November 2017, traveling to such events has become an essential part of my Postcrossing experience. It is so much more fun to write postcards with old and new friends than at home alone!

So far, I have attended 15 meetings in seven different countries (Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Austria, Norway, Luxembourg and the latest in Belgium).

This photo was taken during my birthday dinner in Lisbon on 7 May 2018, two days after the awesome international meeting I attended there!

mikebondbday

I would have never imagined I could have such an international celebration with new friends from Portugal, Belgium and Norway, but Postcrossing made it possible! Since my very first meetup, I have become increasingly convinced that “Postcrossing is real only when shared”, just like happiness.

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

It is almost impossible to pick ONE favorite postcard out of about 2700, but I will choose this one:

mikebondfav lFAHqrKo

(Back of postcard posted with permission)

I have chosen it because it is the most beautiful Christmas card I have received so far. Christmas time is often a sad time of the year for me, but postcards like this one, wisely chosen, brightly decorated, and with awesome Christmas stamps, made it lighter than usual.

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

Yes! After my first meetup in 2017, I was interviewed by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which prompted over 400 Italian readers to join Postcrossing.

Moreover, my stories about postcards and meetings inspired a few (virtual) friends to try Postcrossing, including my Catalan tutor Carol. We even organized a Postcrossing meeting in her Catalan village in October 2018.

Sadly, I have never been able to inspire my family members to join Postcrossing. After more than ten years since I joined it, they still think I am a bit crazy!

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

Unfortunately (?), I have always been too curious about everything, so I have always had such a variety of hobbies that I often lack the time to devote to each of them.

My main hobby has been learning languages since I started studying French and English at junior high school. At high school I picked up Latin and German, then added a language after the other. Today I know a dozen of languages and have some knowledge of twice as many.

My other vital hobby has always been travelling. Since I was 7 years old, my parents and I travelled to a different part of France every summer for several years. When I was 17, I started attending summer school abroad (in England, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, and Slovenia). After that, I started travelling on my own and never stopped. I have travelled to half of the European countries and I aim to visit all of them. My latest visited country was Norway in July.

Another hobby I have nurtured since I was a child is collecting stuff: mostly coins and stamps, but also museum or transport tickets. In spite of this, I have never seen “official” Postcrossing as a way of increasing a collection, as its social aspect has always been more important to me.

More hobbies include reading, taking photos… and I must be forgetting something!

Besides these, I have been interested in Europe’s culture, society, and politics since I was a teenager. I used to volunteer for an Italian political party when I was in my early twenties, but now I no longer belong to any because I find it increasingly difficult to identify with one.

Since I have been living in the Breton countryside without a driving license and with an e-bike as my only autonomous means of transport, I have become increasingly passionate about riding my e-bike (I hadn’t ridden a bike for at least 15 years before buying my first one here in Brittany!) and interested in topics like slow/green mobility and alternative travel styles. I look forward to going on my first bike journey across Europe, hopefully soon!

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