Thursday, October 23, 2008

Postcard Frenzy 2008

One month ago, after seven months of strictly e-mail-based (written) communication, I decided it was time to go back to the 20th century. These last few weeks I have undertaken what I like to call “Postcard Frenzy 2008.” I sent 46 cards to the U.S. and one each to Ghana, Spain, England, China, and Chile. This is a jump from "Postcard Frenzy 2002" when I sent about 30 postcards from Sevilla, Spain, to the U.S. only. I've become much more international since then, and apparently, more verbose.

It only cost 50 centavos more to make it to non-U.S. countries (except for neighboring Chile) and each stamp was about U.S. $1.50. I bought 5 postcards at a time because I got a discount that way, but they were still about 75 cents each. I didn't realize what a pricey venture it was until I added it all up at the end, but it was money well spent. People got mail which has that "warm fuzzy" effect, and I had hours of entertainment trying to make postcards fun and original. As anyone who has travelled or spent large quantities of time alone will know, it's important to occupy oneself when out in public such as at a restaurant or in a park, which is where I wrote the majority of them.

My favorite interaction regarding the frenzy was at a café and went something like this (translated for your convenience):

Waiter: Where are you from? (How I've grown to despise this question!)
Me: Africa. (I like to give creative answers so this daily inquiry isn't so dull.)
Waiter: No, really.
Me: (sigh) I live here, but I’m from the U.S.
Waiter: That’s a lot of postcards (I had just bought 10)
Me: Yeah, I’ve been in South America for eight months and I figured it was time to send a few.
Waiter: Why don’t you use e-mail?
Me: ...I do. Everyone loves real mail, though.
Waiter: Well, welcome to Argentina!
Me: Um, thanks. I've been living here for two months.
Waiter: What hotel are you staying at?
Me: Well, I live here, so I have an apartment.
Waiter: Enjoy your stay.

Sometimes not all the conversation engines are firing during these quaint little exchanges…

I never sent the same postcard twice, which became tricky toward the end. Also, I either geared the writing specifically toward the sendee, related a unique anectode, or shared a bit of history or information I found particularly interesting; at any rate, I used nothing resembling standard "It's amazing, wish you were here!" language: each one was totally different. I dare you to compare!

I sent the postcards in four "waves," building up a dozen or so before braving the post office. That means that the date I wrote on the card and the send date are probably not the same. (I'd be interested in knowing the postmarks, though, since cards sent in the same wave tended to arrive as much as a week apart.) This is wave 2 and part of wave 3:

Post offices are like the DMV here; there aren't that many (though there is one only 2 blocks from my house) and they are always crowded. You have to take a number when you arrive, and it can take up to an hour for your turn. (I would usually take a number and then go shopping or for coffee before returning.) Once at the counter, they print out these mammoth sticker stamps and do not let you place them yourself. I would always stand there wincing as the disgruntled worker would slap the stamps any and everywhere, including over text I had written (even though I always left space for the stamp) and one time, over the address itself! Sometimes they would wrap the stamp over to the photo side of the card, which in the worst case covered the face of a tango dancer on an otherwise blank canvas (sorry about that one, Philly office).

Side note about the post office: yesterday I went to send a single piece of mail, my absentee ballot. It cost $4 to mail a simple envelope and yes, I waited an hour to send it. This was technically my third ballot: I completed an emergency write-in at the embassy two weeks ago; an absenee ballot was sent to my parents' house; and one was sent to my address here, with instructions to discard the one that had already been sent to my permanent address (you're on that, right, Mom?). In theory, my emergency ballot should be disqualified once this one arrives. It took me several hours to wade through the voter's guide but I like to make informed choices (my Dad was thrilled when I told him that a few of my local picks were actually Republicans [though not for president, governor, or any congress/senate seats]). I made my choices at a restaurant, and the waiter (after asking where I was from and what I was doing) commended me on being an informed voter: here it's the law to vote, and he mentioned something about how people are actually paid to vote which I have yet to verify, but he said no one pays attention to what they vote for. I'd like to think that's not universally true...

On another yet more related side note, if you were wondering why your postcard said EEUU, that's the Spanish abbreviation for “Estados Unidos.” EU is used for European Union, hence the doubling of the letters, I think.

In conclusion, if you did not receive a postcard, there are several logical explanations:

1) I sent you a one but it hasn’t arrived yet or was lost in the mail (I've already heard one instance of a lost postcard, though he admits he might have just thrown it out with his junk - thanks a lot, John!)
2) I sent one to your parents’ house to represent the whole family (or to the office)
3) I don’t know you, or I didn't think we were at the postcard-sending stage of our friendship
4) Sending you a postcard somehow complicated my life (for specific examples please inquire directly)
5) Soy boluda (I'm an idiot) and forgot to send you one

If you think there has been any oversight with your particular postcard, please let me know (include your address) so I can correct the grievance as quickly as possible! Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed hearing from me in a non-digital way. And remember, there are less than two months left until I can see (most of) you in a real, live setting. Huzzah!

p.s. I called Angelica today but she was out. I will try again tomorrow - stay tuned.

p.p.s. A third cockroach appeared in my apartment the other day. After staring at it for half an hour, squealing every time it moved, searching for different weapons with which to kill it, and in general trying to work up the nerve to do so, I finally went next door and begged my neighbor to do it for me. First he laughed, then when he saw it he exclaimed, "Holy crap, that's a big one!" He told me "not to look," killed it with his own shoe, then picked it up by its dead little legs and carried it to the common trash in the hall.

p.p.p.s. I passed the 2,000 mark for visitors to the blog (w00t), but today the counter on the bottom of the page regressed to 1,700 something. Any thoughts on why this might be??


Sunshine said...

ieieieie, I'm the first one commenting :-)
You forgot one option... El correo argentino could have missed it! I sent one to my mom for Christmas, just to surprise her (I was living here and sent it from the post office 2 blocks from home!) and we're still waiting for it :-P
It's wonderful getting a letter or a postcard -handwritten- so keep it up girl... You're touching lives all over!
Other thing, we call u EE.UU because in spanish when you short the words and if they finish with an "s" (it means it's plural) then you put both first letters. It works with Fuerzas Armadas= FF.AA.
I love the 20th Century and it's communications....
congrats on the 2.000 visitors!

Renée said...

When I was in Peru in the middle of July, I mailed about $18 worth of postcards to friends in the U.S. I didn't hear anything about them so I assumed they were lost in the Peruvian mail system.

But then I spoke to my mom on Saturday and she told me they just got my postcard LAST WEEK! I think a someone must have walked them from Cusco to LA. Hopefully your postcards get to the U.S. or wherever before you get home.

Casey said...

my postcard is hawt

Sara said...

Don't you love it when you tell them that you live there and they start telling you things like (here for example) "Oh, have you tried pisco? That's the national drink of Chile. I bet someday you'll get the chance to eat cazuela or pastel de choclo because we eat a lot of that here. Oh, Bellavista can be dangerous at night."


You remind me that I have to send my postcards, all four of them!