I recently got a package from China, this little Doraemon decal that I put on my new car which, while cute, is really, really, white, and I can’t abide plainness: see Exhibits A, B, and C. (I also put this decal on my car…it has almost as many tattoos as I do.)
I get excited when I receive mail with a foreign postmark. Scott can attest to the fact that there’s always an announcement to the effect of, “I got mail from _____. How cool is that???” There were the hats from Barcelona, the CD from Uruguay, the paua shell from England and Australia, and more stuff from China. I’m old enough to remember a time when people on the other side of the world may as well have been on Mars, for all the interaction average folks in both places had with each other, or could hope to have. And while it happens more often since I became an internet citizen, it’s still a thrill. The world is a much smaller place now, and I think that’s to the good. It’s a lot harder to “Other” people elsewhere when you have friends across the world, thanks to the internet. It shrinks the planet and broadens your mind.
When I was in school, I had two pen pals in the USSR, and the correspondence took effort—you had to go to the post office to get special air mail stamps, and it took months to receive a response to a letter you sent (much like my correspondence with a certain adopted brother of mine…I guess it’s not that he’s not writing, he’s just old-school like that?)* But before you could do that, you had to sign up with a pen pal service that charged you a few bucks per address to match you up. I imagine that business has gone the way of the Buggy Whip Co. Or morphed into eHarmony.
Now, you can e-mail anywhere in the world while sitting at home in your jammies and talk to people you couldn’t imagine “meeting” even 20 years ago. I don’t think the excitement of that is any different for me; just more immediate. 20 years ago, I didn’t even know Dubai was a place. Now I have a friend there I’ve been corresponding with for years.
When I’m in California, I like to stand at the edge of the cliff above the ocean (because I usually go to northern California, and you get more cliffs and headlands than beaches) and imagine someone in Japan standing on the beach there, wondering if anyone in America is wondering about her. Because I am. And though we will probably never meet, we are connected in that moment. And that’s why I like foreign mail; because this package that showed up in my mailbox was somewhere exotic and far away not too long ago, somewhere I may never go but think about and imagine nonetheless. There’s a lot of adventure and romance in a stamp.
*Yes, I did just call you out.