Monday, January 31

Post Office in Luang Prabang, Laos

New country, new post office! Welcome to the interior of the official post office in Luang Prabang, Laos, kitty-corner from Wat Chon Si. If you were here, you'd know this temple wherever you stood in the city, regardless of knowing its name. It's the huge, ancient temple mounted atop the most enormous hill in the center of town. Over 300 steps to reach the top, just to see a spectacular sunset each night...

I digress. I'd written a stack of postcards and even a letter, all going out around the world. I confess I feel a certain glow of warmth whenever I have a stack of mail to go out and it's not all in the US. Having pen pals around the world to at least drop a line to (currently I have no mailing address for myself) makes me feel like I've expanded myself a little, and sending postcards from other nations is like a special "thank you" I can render to these friends who agreed to correspond with me way back when I wasn't doing anything that interesting.

Of course, this gets to be an expensive habit. Experience has shown me it's much better to e-mail from Norway, as postage rates there will quickly impoverish anyone with more than two people to write to. Thailand and Laos have rates a little closer to US rates, but a pile of cards and letters will still diminish the tidy wad you've just extracted from the ATM, leaving you pretty glum about your prospects for lunch and dinner that day. (Or, in my case, give my wife some reason to ask you to hold off on going crazy with my pastime until we actually have some form of income. Writing letters is cool, but it's not worth having to go home early.)

I don't know that I saw any mailboxes in Luang Prabang. I'm quite sure they were there, I probably didn't recognize them for what they are. I'm including a shot of the exterior of the post office, the slots where I was directed to deposit my own letters. Now, when I was in the States and brought a stack of postcards (I never write a few when a great many will do) to the post office, I was quite accustomed to being handed a strip or card of stamps and affixing them myself to my missives. That was easier in the States, with self-adhesive stickers for postage. In these SE Asian nations, they're still using adhesive you have to lick or moisten to activate, and even that's an imperfect science: my clerk handed me a glue-stick to help tack on some of the lesser stamps that wouldn't hold. So applying two kinds of stamps to each envelope or postcard, when dealing with fifteen of these pieces of outgoing mail, begins to border on the tedious and can soak up a lot of time.

But still it's worth it, because I'm enjoying sending these things out to people... though I wish my recipients were a little more diligent about letting me know they've gotten them. My friends in other nations are, they're great about that, they'll shoot me an e-mail or notify me on Facebook that something turned up. My friends in the States, not so much: I have to assume that either the postcards were lost/destroyed in transit, that the Indonesian infrastructure could not support safe transport of my postcards, or that my friends don't feel any compunction to let me know they got anything. That's a little discouraging, but then, "snail mail" has fallen out of favor in the US and we don't have any traditions or conventions governing that behavior anymore.


1 comment:

BATTLEFINCH said...

i haven't received anything, but i have no idea if you're still writing here.