Paul found the site I’m going to tell you about, and so I might as well give him credit right now or I’ll be hearing about it later like I’ve been hearing about it all month: “WHO found that site for you? WHO is a genius for finding it? WHO shows love by keenly honing in on your interests?” Etc.
The site is called Postcrossing. It is the faceless-one-night-stand version of pen-pals: instead of mailing back and forth with one person, developing a deeper understanding of each other’s cultural likenesses and differences as you build a new friendship, Postcrossing is about sending and receiving postcards with a bunch of strangers who don’t even remember your name afterward.
The kids and I are doing this as one of our summer projects. It’s low-work and high-fun, and yet still smacks of enrichment: you can talk about other countries, and the site shows you a map of where you are and where your postcard is going. The site also keeps track of how many miles your postcards have traveled, and how many days they took to get to their destinations.
Postcrossing requires you to send a postcard before you can receive one, and you can send up to five. (You can send as few as you want, as infrequently as you want.) We sent our maximum right away: one postcard each to addresses in Germany, Finland, France, Slovakia, and Portugal. Then we waited. I had expected to wait a long, long time, but only a week later two of our five postcards had been received. That meant we were now on the list to receive cards ourselves.
If you want to try it yourself, local scenery/cityscapes postcards are usually available at drugstores or at greeting card stores in the 20-50 cents range (try Hallmark, Borders, Barnes & Noble). I also bought this set of oversized postcards:
100 Maverick Postcards: Pictures, Images, & Thoughts for Each Conceivable Occasion (approx. 20 cents per card). I wish there was a good photo of this set. Not only are they huge (a little larger than a 5×7 photo—but they still go for the same international postcard rate), the pictures are a crazy-cool assortment, all very arty. One says “PHWOAR!” in purple paint on a red background. One is a whole bunch of mouths. One is a bird sitting on the edge of a drinking glass.
If you’re in the U.S. and you’re mailing to Canada or Mexico, you need a 72-cent stamp; if you’re in the U.S. and mailing to any other country you need a 94-cent stamp. You can get them at the post office (der), or you can order them online at www.usps.com. (Shipping for any size order of stamps is $1, which I generally consider worth it to avoid having to go to the post office. Nothing personal, post office.)
And then, of course, you start to receive cards. We’ve received three so far: one from Portugal, one from Germany, and one from Taiwan. Each one has been a thrill: seeing it in the mailbox, bringing it in and showing it to the kids, seeing what kind of card it is and how far it had to travel to get to us. Already I’m a postcard junkie, hoping every day to get either a postcard in the mail or a notification that one of our cards has arrived and we can send another.
Would you like to give it a try? I’m going to give one randomly-chosen commenter a little “starter kit”: an assortment of five postcards from the Maverick set, plus five 94-cent stamps. You can leave any comment at all to be entered, but if you feel chatty you can say what country you’d be most hoping to collect postcards from (mine is The Netherlands—I have ancestors from there). The contest will end Saturday, August 2nd, at noon U.S. Pacific time, and I’ll modify this post to announce the winner. (If you include your email address on the comment form, I can email you to let you know you’ve won.)
Edited: The winner is commenter number 47: Robin! I’m emailing you now, Robin, to get your mailing info.