When was the last time your mailbox actually had a letter in it: handwritten and addressed to you from a real live person you know? The newest J Crew catalog does not count, although I know how exciting its arrival can be.
I have really come to love snail mail in Korea – receiving and sending mail – it is my new favorite thing. During my first few weeks in Korea as I unpacked and settled into my new life of teaching and finding my way around a foreign country, I stayed in touch with friends and family through Facebook, Skype and email, but it was when I received a postcard from my aunt that I got emotional (in a good way, of course). I think I startled the Koreans who work at my school. I have my mail sent directly to my school, so if I get any mail I am greeted with it when I walk into the Chungdahm building at the beginning of my work day. One day I stopped by the front desk to greet the staff and they curiously handed me 3 postcards from my aunt. I giggled loudly like a child and skipped off to my classroom only after proudly showing my Korean friends the postcard pictures. I don’t know what it is about getting personal mail sent to you…it is just wonderful. Maybe it is the thought, time and effort that you know the person on the sending end went through to get the mail to you. Who even knows anyone’s mailing address anymore? I can barely remember my new Korean cell phone number…
My friends and family have continued to send postcards and odd pieces of mail and each delivery to my school has made my day. My aunt continues to send me postcards weekly and my students eagerly await each new snapshot of life in the United States. Postcards from Washington D.C., New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida and New York have helped to spark many classroom conversations and curiosities. Another aunt who lives in Florida sent me a dozen or so postcards of animals who reside in the southern state. It is fantastic to be able to point to a postcard picture of a dolphin while I am teaching a lesson on ‘Animal Communication’, or refer to the postcards depicting the White House when my students ask questions about Obama and the United States. Each postcard includes a small note on the back that gives me a peek into family life that I am missing during my year abroad and the picture on the front is enjoyed by all of my students.
Snail mail seems to make its way into your life when you need it most. One rainy and gloomy Monday morning I was tickled to open a letter from my cousins. They had enclosed a take-out menu from one of our favorite pizza places in New Hampshire. On Memorial Day, when I was picturing all my friends at home celebrating the start of summer with cold beers, hot dogs and bonfires, I was handed a card from a close college friend – the cover: “ME? MISS YOU? the inside: “ONLY ALL THE TIME.”
The unspoken rule of snail mail is that you must send if you receive. I reciprocate the communication with postcards and cute Korean stationery that I enjoy picking out each time I visit the streets of Seoul or my favorite store, Artbox. I look forward to keeping the lines of communication from Uijeongbu to my friends and family back home in the US open and active. I recommend snail mailing it when you can, I promise it beats a Facebook ‘LIKE’ any day.