Postcards from the field

I love sending (and receiving) postcards. However, when you travel to Ethiopia, especially to remote areas, postcards are hard to come by.  Some postcards on floppy paper and with fading colours are usually available in hotels and “touristy” shops in Addis Ababa and probably also in some other tourist destinations, but there are definitely no postcards available in places like Laska (Basketo Special Woreda), my fieldsite.

After my first trip to Laska in 2008/9 (at a time when there were no telephones lines and no mobile coverage), I decided to produce postcards myself and take them with me to the field on all subsequent trips.  And even though telephoning is now possible (and emailing might be possible soon), I have continued to design and print some postcards whenever I travel to Ethiopia. Here are some examples from my “collection”:


Postcard showing a Baskeet compound


Postcard showing the main road from Sawla to Laska


Postcard: Woman processing an enset tuber (top left), women sharing beer (top middle), lyre player (top right), Baskeet funeral ceremony (bottom left), woman producing a handle for an agricultural tool (bottom right)

After having produced your own postcards, the only problem that’s left to be solved: How do you post a postcard when you stay in a place without a post-office!? Get yourself stamps in Addis Ababa before you leave to your fieldsite and give your stamped postcards (and letters) to truck drivers that are on the way to the next town with a post-box. So far, this strategy has worked very well for me. Eventually, all my mail found its way into a post-box and, sooner or later, to the addressee.

Dedication: This blog post is dedicated to all truck drivers and truck passengers passing through Laska (Baskeet) who readily and reliably posted my mail in Sawla, Awasa or Addis Ababa. Thank you! I am also grateful to Mohamed Kasu and his family for helping me find “postmen” and “postwomen” in Laska.

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