One year and two months ago, I posted an Instagram story asking people to swap postcards with me.
It seems ridiculous in retrospect. The Philippine postal system is unreliable at best, and postcards aren’t the sturdiest things. Most people don’t even know where their local post office is. And how much does it actually cost to send mail overseas?
But I asked anyway. It gave me something to do, and space to hope for keepsakes that lived outside the internet. Mostly, I remind myself that it’s a good excuse to write postcards — a process that’s meditative and soothing, never mind what happens after I drop the cards in the mail.
Half the time, it feels like sending signals out into space. But we’ve learned so much of the universe that way, haven’t we?
This whole endeavour, for example, taught me more about how international mail works, if only to answer the question of who foots the bill for a postcard’s journey overseas.
You buy the stamp — of course you’re paying for the process, was my knee-jerk reaction. But Singapore charges only 70 cents for postcards to international destinations, and that doesn’t sound enough to cover logistics, even if you imagine the postcard as piggybacking on bigger shipments.
As it turns out, most countries pay terminal dues for all these international deliveries, and the United Nations has an agency to standardise fees and procedures. Would you believe that international delivery dues are reassessed and updated every quarter?