OK, so I haven’t received my Hogwarts acceptance letter yet. Do they even have night school for working adults? Probably not. In the meantime I will settle for receiving fabulous postcards from around the (real) world. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, start here.
November 2014 saw postcards from India, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. Also many, many catalogs from Victoria’s Secret and advertisements for dog groomers, if we’re keeping track. I absolutely love receiving these postcards and getting to learn little bits about so many places and the thoughts of some of the residents, muggles though they may be. This is what I learned last month:
INDIA First of all, the Buddhists really know what’s up. I’ve seen pictures of these flags before but only recently learned that they are Tibetan prayer flags and that this tradition is ANCIENT, y’all. Let me break it on down for ya – prayer flags exist in five colors which are intended to represent the five elements and are only meant to fly in this order:
- Blue (sky and space)
- White (air and wind)
- Red (fire)
- Green (water)
- Yellow (earth)
Tibetan belief is that harmony is achieved with the balance of the elements and they are flown to promote peace, compassion, and wisdom. They are traditionally hung high (between Himalayan peaks, for instance) so that the energy of the symbols and sacred mantras written on the flags will be blown across the countryside by the wind. It is thought that happiness is spread to anyone who lays eyes on them. This custom is believed to have originated with Bon, the oldest spiritual tradition of Tibet, predating Buddhism if you can believe that. Prayer flags have a long history throughout Tibet, China, and India and have recently gained popularity in the West, so they say. Now I don’t know about you, but when I see pictures of these flags it really does make me happy. Relaxed even. I’m thinking about hanging them all around my house. Maybe even my car. All along my entire morning commute? My work desk? Yes, allllll over my work desk.
THE NETHERLANDS I love cards like this because it gives you simple, straightforward facts – the Netherlands for Dummies. And I am a huge dummy. I still have to find out why “the Netherlands” and “Holland” are interchangeable. Or are they? And why do they call themselves “Dutch”? Recently I told a friend of mine from the Netherlands that all I knew about her country was tulips and windmills and I’m happy to see that I’m not entirely incorrect. I like to ask for the senders to write a few words of wisdom. Through this project I’ve found that nearly everyone in the world is quite philosophical so I thought this would be a good way to learn about their world through them. Some make sense in American terms and some don’t make sense at all (which I love). This sender wrote, “Do the thing you believe in. Believe in what you do.” The Dutch obviously believe in bikes.
GERMANY SPOILER ALERT! (for a friend of mine who is a little behind…) No, the spoiler isn’t the fact that I’m 31 years old with the quirky enthusiasm of a tween. Or that I’m mildly obsessed with the world of Harry Potter. Or that I just accidentally typed Harry Pooter and thought it was hilarious. We’ll get there. This card may not have been delivered by an owl (or was it?) or teach me much about Germany, but I still love getting cards that coincide with my interests. Here Lies Dobby. I don’t care what anyone says, this is the saddest part of the whole octalogy! Yes, I had to look that up; it’s a group of eight related works of art. See? #learning
THE CZECH REPUBLIC Y’all are just too much! Postcard senders after my own heart! She says they have many sayings in the Czech Republic but the one she chose for me was, “Who digs a hole for someone else, he will fall in it himself.” …which has nothing to do with Lord of the Rings but still meaningful in and of itself. Besides, everyone knows that my favorite quote from Lord of the Rings is, “Roast Chicken?” (View the scene here, then come over and we’ll watch all 100 hours of it! I’ll bake the Lembas bread. No really, it wouldn’t be my first time…)
TAIWAN I spent a good amount of time in Taiwan, mostly sweating, sticking to things, and pretending to shop just so I could feel the glorious air conditioning all over my body. I had no idea they had snow-capped mountains and I never would have guessed because Taiwan is THE HOTTEST PLACE I have ever been. I didn’t think snow was atmospherically possible in the depths of hell, but clearly I’m wrong (again, I know). This picture is of Shei-Pa National Park. This park has 51 mountains over an elevation of 9,800 feet with the highest mountain in the park being the Xueshan with an elevation of 12,750 feet. Its climate ranges from sub-frigid to temperate which gives way to abundant biodiversity. This park is also the primary source of drinking water in northern and central Taiwan. So I may not have known about it but I have bathed in its offerings after quite literally sweating my face off in the rest of the country. Xie Xie, Shei-Pa!
THE NETHERLANDS If you read the postcard from the Netherlands above you noticed they have over 32,000 Postcrossing members so it’s common to get postcards from here. This postcard illustrates a scene from a Dutch book series written in the early twentieth century called Ot en Sien. Ot is a boy and Sien is a girl and they are neighbors. The books, written in rhyme, take place in a very impoverished part of Holland, but you wouldn’t know it. The books aim to illustrate the daily life of these naïve children being raised in idyllic, albeit unrealistic, conditions. Everyone in the book is well-off, the families have servants whom they are extremely nice to, everyone is super friendly, and everything in life is perfect, naturally. Up until WWII the books were used as teaching tools in Dutch schools as a means to set an idealized example of how to live life. These books aren’t taught in schools anymore (I mean, come on people…) but are still popular with some as “classics”. The recklessly misleading, pretentious version of America’s Dr. Seuss, which was pretty much just as realistic.
“Sometimes I feel quite CERTAIN there’s a JERTAIN in the CURTAIN.
Sometimes I have the feeling there’s a ZLOCK behind the CLOCK.
And that ZELF up on that SHELF! I have talked to him myself.
That’s the kind of house I live in.”
From There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, my favorite Dr. Seuss textbook about life and actual real things.
GERMANY This one is just cute. Who couldn’t use a trunk that big when traveling? (Or a giraffe that small? eeeee!) From this card I got some great advice that I wish more people followed. “Gib jedem tag die chance der beste deines lebens zu werden.” — Give every day the chance to be the best of your life.
I’m still giggling over Harry Pooter.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SAYINGS IN YOUR COUNTRY OR WORDS OF WISDOM FOR ME?