Tuesday, February 22

Post Office in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Oh, folks! Check me out: I'm in a Cambodian post office!

Khmer mail collection box.
I held off from writing any postcards for a while because it was getting spendy and I was writing far too many of them. But you know me, I love writing letters, I believe in availing myself of the formal postal system. It's not that I'm above e-mails: I've written e-mails to friends in times of need, just to keep in touch, stuff like that. And while e-mail's advantages include speed, efficiency, velocity, and promptness, they cannot compare in the least way to actually holding a postcard that you just got in the mail. They can't compare to regarding the exotic stamps commemorating people and events you've never heard of, to looking at the date and realizing it's been traveling for a month, to examining every bend in the card or scrape in the photo and wondering in which country these physical traces were rendered.

Main Post Office, Siem Reap, Cambodia
But my wife agreed it was time to send out another batch, as we've been in Cambodia for a week. We were several days in Phnom Penh, the capitol, and are now holing up in Siem Reap (trans.: "the defeat of Thailand"). We have visited the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, as well as many of the temples around Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. We have tried amok and lok lak (the latter is my favorite), we have stumbled with wrapping our tongues around Khmer phrases (ch'ngain, "delicious," is the hardest), and we bought two packs of postcards. One is for writing, but the other is a novelty. Everywhere we go, children are trying to sell us stuff: bracelets, postcards, books, toys, doohickeys, baubles, gewgaws, etc. We need none of these, but instead give them a dollar if they will draw us a picture, and we use the back of a blank postcard for their canvas. This places the illustration in a specific location for us, and what I've noticed is that girls in Phnom Penh like to draw flowers and butterflies, while girls in Siem Reap prefer mountains and rivers. Why is that?

Action shot: a postal clerk hand-franks my postcards.
Okay, so, Lonely Planet was correct, for once, in its placement of the main post office on its map, and it even... I won't say "taught me a new word," but it did remind me of one I'd forgotten a long time ago: franking. When they take that little hammer and bump it in the ink and thwack it on your stamps to make a postmark, that is called franking the postage. It comes from the verb "to frank" and means marking stamps with a postmark to show the time/date of their submission to post.

Franking. Totally forgot that word, but I won't again.