Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Greetings from South Africa!

Or if you speak Afrikaans, "Groete uit Suid-Afrika!"

If you follow me on Facebook (and if you don't, then join us!), you might've seen the tease I did on Monday about today's post.  When I saw the envelope in the mailbox, it took me a minute to realize what it was.  Oh my goodness, was I ever thrilled when I opened it up!

Okay, a little back story - I got the loveliest e-mail from a gentleman named Cuan, who just wanted to write and tell me how much he enjoyed the blog.  Isn't that so nice?  :D  He is a fellow ephemera collector and mail artist (and as you can see, he included two of his wonderful ATCs for me!).  He wondered if I wouldn't want some ephemera "from his corner of the world".  

WOULD I?!?  In all of my ephemera swaps and ATC trades over the last six years, I don't believe I've ever had any contact with someone from South Africa.  From where I sit, here in Middle America, South Africa seems like a whole 'nother world.  I gladly accepted his offer and, less than three weeks later, the packet arrived, along with a very detailed note and the aforementioned ATCs.  What a wonderful surprise!

Since South Africa is 8 hours ahead of me time-wise, I wanted to get a quick thank you out (it was 10:45 his time).  In my haste, I hadn't even looked through everything yet.  Now that I've had a chance to digest its contents, allow me to share some of my favorite bits with you (in Cuan's own words from his VERY thorough and fascinating note)!  :D

Various tickets (Cuan says these are for library fines?): I live in East London, a city on the East Coast of S.A. It is set on the Buffalo River - hence Buffalo City municipality.  The white ticket is for a public bus. The yellow one is a train ticket from Berlin (small village named by German colonists) to Vincent.  The pink one is for a flea market in Johannesburg (it's SO cool to know that flea markets exist on the other side of the world!).

Bubble gum wrappers: one from S.A. and one from Botswana.  All South African kids grew up with Chappies (trivia).

Emirates sticker from when we flew to the Comores Islands (I had to look up where the Comores Islands are located!  I need to brush up on my geography!)  We did a Nile cruise.  This is a bar bill from the MS Glory (a NILE cruise?!  How cool would that be?!)

Found photo - I think the pic of the waiter must be from Zimbabwe or Kenya, circa 1960s (indeed, the photo is dated 1968).

Licky Lick sherbet pack - I have a notorious sweet tooth and collect sherbet, bubble gum, chocolate wrappers, etc. etc. etc. (that makes two of us, Cuan!).

Air mail stamp from the 1970s, featuring the notorious old S.A. flag (you can see the new one here). 

Old hair net package - possibly from the 1950s (you KNOW how much I love these!)

Some bar coasters - another of my ephemera interests - featuring long-defunct local brands.  A lot of S.A. stuff is bilingual, featuring English/Afrikaans.

Juicy Lucy sugar packet - this was a fast food chain featuring "healthy" food - didn't last long.  This is from the years before McDonald's colonized Africa (excellent choice of wording, Cuan!).

A page from a manual on Fangalo.  Fangalo was a language formed at the mines in S.A. where workers from various tribes worked together.  It was an attempt to create a simple communication medium where everyone could understand each other (and I thought my Esperanto dictionary page was unusual!  This one now holds the title as the COOLEST foreign language dictionary page in my collection!).

Some South African cigarette cards from when smoking was still socially acceptable. (Makes me wonder if there is anywhere in the developed world where smoking IS still acceptable?) 

There you have it.  And this was only about HALF of what I received in the packet (I'll do another post about the rest in the future)!  I know I learned so much from this packet!  Just from this ephemera I got lessons in history, geography, linguistics, pop culture, sociology.....and THIS is why ephemera, for all of its throwaway reputation, is important!  It's through our ephemera that we can learn more about cultures different from ours (and as we can see, sometimes not-so-different).

I want to publicly thank Cuan for taking time out to send me not only some great mail art, but some AMAZING ephemera!  I will treasure it, that's guaranteed!!!


  1. What a wonderful story and a terrific collection of South African ephemera! Gotta love Licky Lick sherbet!

    1. Thank you, Chris! I am flabbergasted still at my good fortune and the Cuan's generosity! I love the "Licky Lick" sherbet wrapper too - do you suppose it's like our Pixie Stix? :D

  2. Lovely write up and filled with nostalgia as memories of yesteryear flooded my mind.
    I wonder if you perhaps can direct me? I have been looking for an ATC Society in South Africa, but it seems that I am on a cul de sac. Or many of them. I have been surfing the net, and found beautiful sites, but none that will lead me to a SA ATC Soc.
    Thanks for reading my note.

    Best to you!