Thursday, January 31, 2013

French Southern and Antarctic Lands – Kerguelen II

Postcard of an elephant seal pup, Mirounga leonina, lounging on beach of the French sub-Antarctic island Kerguelen. Southern elephant seals are the largest seal species and, in fact, the largest carnivores living today, with males typically weighing 2,200–4,000 kilograms and measuring 4.2–5.8 meters long! They can dive for 20 minutes at a time and have been recorded at depths exceeding 2,000 meters.

Stamp showing the Weddell seal, Leptonychotes weddellii, a relatively large and abundant seal noted for having the most southerly distribution of any mammal, with a habitat that extends as far south as McMurdo Sound at 77° S.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

United States of America – Illinois

Postcard showing a beach on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline in the background. Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, although it is not the capital of Illinois, which is the small city of Springfield to the southwest. The city was founded in 1833 near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed. Due to its location on the banks of the Chicago River, at one of the few natural harbours on southern Lake Michigan, and with the opening up of agricultural lands in the Midwest, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world for much of the nineteenth century.

Thanks to Paul who was in Chicago for a short holiday.

Stamp commemorating José Ferrer, a Puerto Rican actor who was the first Hispanic person to win an Academy Award (in 1950, for Best Actor in Cyrano de Bergerac).

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Certainly one of the harder-to-get countries in my collection, so my thanks to Wu for helping me out with this one. Tuvalu – formerly the Ellice Islands – is probably most famously known, along with the Maldives, as being highly threatened by rising sea levels caused by global warming. The highest point in the country is a mere 4.6 metres and the country is subjected to wide-spread flooding during the king tides that peak in late summer, as seen in this photo of the Nui Community Meeting Hall in the capital city of Funafuti.

Postcard of endangered, blue-hued, Indo-Pacific coral species, Acropora aculeus.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Postcard of traditional Voodoo practitioner. Voodoo is an indigenous organised religion of coastal West Africa from Togo to Nigeria. Voodoo gets a bad rap from its portrayal in Western films, TV shows, and books. But Voodoo isn't a cult, black magic or devil worship. Those who practice Voodoo believe that there is a visible and an invisible world, and that these worlds are intertwined. Death is a transition to the invisible world, so our predecessors are still with us in spirit to watch over and guide us.

Stamp from definitive series featuring Bella Bellow, an internationally famous Togolese singer who recorded several albums and performed at Paris Olympia before dying in a tragic car accident at age 27.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Netherlands Antilles

Another card from the archives that I was able to upload while home for the Christmas holidays, this time sent from the no longer extant Netherlands Antilles. My retroactive thanks to my then coworker, Tani, for sending this and helping me get the Netherlands Antilles into my collection before it disappeared off the maps.

There were two island groups in the Netherlands Antilles; the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao off the Venezuelan coast, and the SSS islands of Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius southeast of the Virgin Islands. Aruba became a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1986. The rest of the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on 10 October 2010. Sint Maarten and Curaçao became two new constituent countries of the Netherlands with their own postal systems. The other islands became special municipalities within the Netherlands and make up the new postal entity "Caribbean Netherlands".

Card shows the Fort Amsterdam Peninsula on Little Bay, which has been designated an important breeding area for brown pelicans by BirdLife International.

Top stamp from the 1988 definitives series featuring the component islands of the Netherlands Antilles, in this case the small island of Saba, which ironically has the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mount Scenery (877 m). Lower stamp from 2000 commemorates fathers.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Another card from the holiday archives sent from Portuguese Macau before its handover to mainland China in 1999. One of Macau's most famous landmarks, this façade of the Ruins of Saint Paul's Cathedral is all that remain of what was once the largest churches in Asia. The cathedral was Built by Jesuits from 1582 to 1602 with carvings made by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland and was largely consumed by fire caused by a typhoon in 1835. It is now a part of the Historic Centre of Macau World Heritage site.

Both stamps from a multiyear series on public buildings and monuments in Macau. Stamp on the left was issued in 1983 and features the same Ruins of Saint Paul's Cathedral as the postcard. Stamp on the right was issued in 1982 and features the Museum of Luís de Camões, the literary darling of the Portuguese language who spent a number of years working in Macau in the very earliest days of the colony.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Andorra – Spanish Administration

Postcard showing Llac dels Pessons in the Andorran Pyrenees Mountains near the border with Spain. Part of the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley World Heritage site that offers a window on the ways people have lived with and in the high Pyrenees over time. The World Heritage site covers over a tenth of the entire country! That must certainly be a record. :-)

Andorra is a bit of an anomaly, truth be told. It's a co-principality – the only one of its kind in the world, in fact. It has two heads of State, the Bishop of Urgell (the next town over in Spain) and the President of France (originally the Count of Foix, the next town over in France). "Double the pleasure, double the fun", I suppose they figured back in 1278 when this system was set up. It resulted in double everything else too: two school systems, two cinemas, and, yes, two postal systems, one run by Spain and one run by France! Andorra is in fact the only country without its own postal system. There are even two sets of letter boxes around the country, and of course only French-issued stamps can go into French letterboxes (and vice versa)! 

In general, I tend to see more Andorra postcards out there with French-issued stamps and I've always wondered why until I went to Andorra myself and stood in line for nearly 90 minutes to buy a stamp at the Spanish post office, whereas the French post office never had any lines at all!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Postcard showing a Maasai girl, a celebrated ethnic group living in northern Tanzania and in Kenya. They are semi-nomadic pastoralists with their traditional lifestyle centring around the cattle which constitute their primary source of food. In the past, the Maasai had fearsome reputations as warriors and cattle-rustlers, the latter stemming from the religious belief that God gave the Maasai all the cattle on earth, and that rustling cattle from other tribes was a matter of taking back what was rightfully theirs.

Stamp on the left is from a 2004 set of five on traditional boat races on the island of Zanzibar. Stamp on the right featuring an ostrich is from a 1990 set of 12 on Tanzanian birds. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Viet Nam

Card showing market-goers wearing Viet Nam's celebrated cone hats, known locally as nón lá. They form an integral and iconic part of Viet Nam's national dress and have been around for 3,000 years, as attested by their depiction in archaeological findings. They sometimes contain decorations or poem verses stitched inside that are revealed when direct sunlight shines through the palm leaf.

Stamp on the left features gerbera daisies. Stamp on the right features royal angelfish, Pygoplites diacanthus, a species found in tropical areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They can grow as long as 25 cm and are sometimes kept as an aquarium fish.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Spain II

Another postcard from the archives, this one rather special because it was sent by my mother when she was a hippy backbacking around Europe on $5 a day in 1968. The card was sent to my great-grandmother and great-aunt. It shows the Court of the Myrtles in the Alhambra Palace in Granada in southern Spain. The courtyard is in one of the oldest parts of the Palace and was used to receive ambassadors and distinguished guests at the Moorish Court. It is so named for the myrtle shrubs lining the pond. Part of the Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada World Heritage site.

Left stamp features former dictator, Francisco Franco. Stamp on the right commemorates the 2,000th anniversary of the foundation of the city of Cáceres in Extremadura in western Spain.