“Gonna mail myself to you…”

There’s no doubt that internet, email, video chatting, social media, and instant messaging are incredible human achievements. And it’s wonderful that these have allowed us to keep in touch with day to day events as if we were across town.

But do we really appreciate the international postal system?


Just think, you put paper in an envelope, stick a stamp on it, place it in a box and several weeks later, on the other side of the planet, we are holding that same paper in our hands! Consider the systems of cooperation in place that bridge different kinds of government, currencies, transit systems. “Eish!” as they say here, or “Uff-da” as they say back home. Doesn’t it make your head spin to think of what it took to build a system that would carry a piece of paper from one side of the world to the other?

We are amazed that the system seems to be working, albeit slowly. Most mail arrives to us in about three weeks. People do not generally have home delivery here. They rent P.O. boxes which are located at shopping centers or the post office and stop in to check what has arrived. In our case, we receive our mail via a “Private Bag” address for Scott’s department at the University. That means that Scott gets to deliver our mail and here’s what the excitement looks like when he arrives.



There are also boxes for each unit at our complex’s gate. Apparently it is theoretically possible to receive mail at this physical address, but people don’t with a few exceptions. The municipal utility bills arrive here and a whole bunch of advertising circulars that tend to pile up. Those items are delivered by this gentleman on bicycle.


I had seen him zooming about the neighborhood several times and was so curious about how he got hold of the USPS box. On this particular day I encountered him delivering at our gate and was delighted to visit with him. His other box had broken he explained and these are much sturdier. It wasn’t clear to me where he obtained this box.  He did have an official South African Post logo on his shirt so perhaps the US mail arrives in these which are then available to workers for the taking? I have spotted two other bicycle deliverers with these boxes since.

“I’m a-gonna wrap myself in paper,
I’m gonna daub myself with glue,
Stick some stamps on top of my head;
I’m gonna mail myself to you.”  – Woody Guthrie

Thank you to people have trusted their messages to the international postal system.  It is such a treat to hold them in our own two hands!


Next up – your questions answered by Elsa Ruth!  Please submit your top (one or two…not more!) questions in the comments below and stay tuned for her responses.


7 thoughts on ““Gonna mail myself to you…”

  1. What holidays in South Africa are different from the U.S.?

    Did you observe Halloween or at least tell your non-American friends about the day and traditions?


  2. What surprises you most about South Africa?
    What do you miss most about North Dakota?
    Which South African custom would you like to bring home with you when you return?


  3. I think about the mail system too and how amazing it is! We sent you some mail a few weeks ago did you get it? Had an interesting talk with Espen as we weighed it to figure out how much it would cost, doing math to get the right amount for stamps, then sending it off to go half way around the world! Amazed that we can send you a letter for a dollar and some change. Seems so cheap for how far it travels! Kids are asleep now, so I will ask them tomorrow what questions they want to ask Elsa Ruth. I’m sure they will have some.


  4. Great musings, as always…
    Here is a question for Elsa Ruth: Apart from the color of your skin, in what way do you feel different from your new class or play mates, or don’t you at all?


  5. Your postings are such bright spots of my days when they come through. Each one well written and fascinating! We are all learning so much. I am wondering how the violin lessons are going and what new pieces you have learned from your new teacher?
    Love from Grandma Nancy


  6. Questions from Espen for ER: What are the trees like there, are they crazy? Are there lots of spiders there?
    From me: What is your favorite part of your day? And is it fun to be at the same school as your brother? Do you see each other much during the day?


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