Discovering I’m a Relic


Well, I’m back from China now and it seems that I beat my postcards home! Postcards. When is the last time you received one? The experience of sending them began with realizing that my language partner had not learned the vocabulary for all matter of snail mail realities in her first few years of English. Now that I’ve navigated the system I see why. She shouldn’t waste her time after all. I may very well be the only person she encounters in her lifetime who is practicing the ancient ritual of mailing postcards. After utilizing her translation app on her smart phone, I got my request across. It was then that we made our journey to the post office.  A few things I discovered:

  • Postcards may only be purchased in post offices.
  • Purchasing postage for an overseas postcard involves nearly all of the post office staff. Since the ritual is so outdated and unusual, no one knows the rates. A consultation is necessary to determine the cost.
  • Stamps—another outdated vocabulary word—are no longer to be found in the post office.

This was probably my biggest disappointment. On my previous trips to China, collecting stamps had been a great joy and an artistic delight. The delicate Chinese paintings depicted on stamps were exquisite! I had hoped to find some in the style of the minority population that we were learning so much about. But, I was told that there are no longer any stamps in the post office. I wonder if they were considering giving me the address to a museum!

My local friend very sensitively explained to me that all communication now takes place over the internet….that no one she is aware of sends postcards in China. It was frustrating to so clearly understand this and see this in the US while still expecting that I’d find something different when I was traveling overseas. Don’t get me wrong, I was deeply grateful for my Internet communication this summer, but I wanted to put my hands on a card, write words with a very nice pen, affix an exotic stamp to it and drop it in a mailbox!

Me and my ancient rituals. I hope that my postcards do, in fact, arrive at their destination. The mail that my mother sent to the various hotels where we lodged never got to me.

I suppose that being a relic has its built in disappointments, no?

One Comment

  1. I do like the deferential pose of the man in the stamp as he gestures, opening his drum, to the woman with veils, dancing. Don’t get that in an email!

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published.