Postcrossing Blog

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

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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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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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Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live on Mars? Maybe the question brings to mind flashbacks of Matt Damon cultivating his crop of potatoes on The Martian… but what about other important stuff, like mail? Who will deliver our postcards from Mars to our friends back on Earth? And how will mailboxes on the red planet look like? 🤔

We might not be able to send postcards to space just yet, but with the help of Matthew (aka COSmatthew), some families in Colorado Springs, USA enjoyed a fun space & postcard-themed afternoon this month! He organized a workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center that helped everyone sign up for Postcrossing, and send their own space-themed cards to people all around the world. How cool is that?!

Here is Matthew’s report of this event:

Greetings from the beautiful city of Colorado Springs in the United States of America! Our City is a large hub for the space industry in our country, so it’s no surprise that we have the Space Foundation Discovery Center, a top-notch space museum here for which I oversee Guest Relations.

Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center!

This Summer, the Space Foundation Discovery Center is exploring the topic of what it will be like to live and work on Mars. One of our activities is a station where you can create your own postcards to send to others to let them know what you’ve been learning. This station has been so popular that I knew adding in Postcrossing would be a natural fit.

Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center!

With the help of the Postcrossing staff, our Programs Team went to work learning how to use the Postcrossing platform and how we could best teach our guests how to get the most out of the experience. By the time the “Postcrossing to Mars” workshop came and went, we had a lot of smiling faces and kids (along with adults) who were positively giddy at the prospect of receiving postcards from around the world.

And who knows? One of our custom postcards that was made in the workshop might be coming soon to a mailbox near you!

Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center! Postcrossing workshop at the Space Foundation Discovery Center!

Well done Matthew for this very cool workshop, and for bringing Postcrossing to the Discovery Center. Those big monitors make it look like a command center, and it’s really neat to see the website up there! Who would have thought that putting two cool things together would make something even cooler?!

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Earlier this year, we noticed a curious link on Terry’s (aka Terry5) profile… which triggered a few enthusiastic email exchanges, and eventually ended with the Little Mail Carriers jumping onto an envelope headed to Ohio to check out a very special place. Come discover the Postmark Collectors Club, and their wonderful museum!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

Hi everyone! We traveled to the center of the USA to visit the National Postmark Museum, the premiere collection of the Postmark Collectors Club. Yes! There is a whole club devoted to the collecting, studying and enjoying the trusted postmark! The Club has been around since 1946 and a few years later some of the Club members formed a group collection of postmarks. When the collection began to grow, they actually put it into an old School Bus!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

The club’s membership comes from all across the USA and many other countries. Each year they hold an annual convention somewhere around the USA, getting together to share postmarks, stories and good wishes. The Museum has continued to grow and preserve material important to the field of postmarks and postal history. The Museum has been in a few homes along the way typically moving to larger spaces to house the holdings. Then it moved to Bellevue, Ohio, USA, into the Historic Lyme Village, where it has been since 1978.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

One of the largest single holdings is the Willett-Thompson Collection, and today it is held in more than 300 blue binders.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

We checked out many of the special collections including postmarks from Military Camps and Bases. “First Day Cover” with postmarks that were only cancelled on the first day that a new stamp is issued by the Post Office.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

There are so many of these in this collection, covering many years. Some of the other special collections here in the Museum include postmarks with slogans, “Pray for Peace” cancels, and individual U.S. state collections. Being mail carriers, we moved over to our favorite part of the museum, a collection of Post Office photographs.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

The museum has drawers and drawers holding more than 55,000 pictures of Post Offices including new and old ones, from around the USA and around the World. They have thousands more pictures in their on-line internet collection.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

Another cool stop on our journey was the assortment of memorabilia and artifacts from Post Offices, hand stamps, canceling devices, sorting windows, mailboxes… and even some model mail trucks! All of these tools helped move the mail. There is certainly a passion here for collecting and showing mail and postcards, especially those with interesting postmarks. Each letter and postcard has a story to tell and the cancel helps telling that story!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

PS – Thank you very much Terry and Ron for these wonderful photos and report! They were a nice distraction from the nail-biting wait for postcard number 50 million to be registered…

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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.

DE-7117460
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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