Air Mail Stamps

I have a love of stamps, especially air mail stamps.  There’s something romantic about envelopes bearing colorful and exotic stamps, and the receipt of a letter in a red- and blue-striped envelope with “par avion” marked on the outside holds all the promise of great adventure in foreign lands.

Many of you know that I write letters to my nieces for them to save and open when they turn 18.  Along the way, I send letters from different countries I journey to and ask at the post office here in Thailand for the latest and most interesting stamps, so that when they sit down with the letters as adults, they enjoy a journey even before opening them.

I must say, though, that I’ve grown tired of the Thai Post Office “air mail” stamp.  I’ve recently thought about having a rubber stamp or two custom made with my own air mail logo.  Browsing the internet, I collected bits of clip art and sat down last week to create some potential designs.  Lacking Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, I instead used PowerPoint and SnagIt to create and manipulate these images.  Your thoughts and opinions are most welcome. 

1Stamp Design 1 

#1 – My initial design was very simple, perfect for a rubber stamp.  It features a plane that looks to be a Ford Tri-Motor and some simple text, with French, naturellement!

2Stamp Design 2

#2 – Advancing the design a bit, I decided to get more martial in my font choice.  This would certainly capture the attention of the employees at the postal service. 

3Stamp Design 6   4Stamp Design 9

I continued my experimenting with a new airplane image, one with a transparent background that let me lay the image over text and other graphics.  Design #3 was my first attempt with the circular logo, playing around with PowerPoint’s word art feature until I figured out how to use it.  Design #4 introduced stars and saw the plane heading in the other direction, which gives it an altogether different feel.

5Stamp Design 8   6Stamp Design 13

The next two designs made use of rotating everything 270 degrees, which is a little silly considering that with a rubber stamp, I could just hold the stamp at an angle.  No need to design everything at an angle, too!  Anyhow, design #5 simplified the circular border and had the airplane’s wing and propeller breaking the border, which is a dynamic effect.  In design #6 I returned the second circle and also introduced the Thai phrase for “air mail”.

7Stamp Design 18

Feeling that I had neglected modern aviation, design #7 introduced the silhouette of a Boeing 737 Next Generation and a simple text box.  I played around with it to have the airplane’s tail and landing gear break the border of the text box, giving it a little bit of dimension.

8Stamp Design 12   9Stamp Design 11   10Stamp Design 10

I started to wonder whether, instead of making a rubber stamp, I should just have the air mail logo printed as an adhesive stamp, an inexpensive prospect.  So I created a series of designs to explore that idea.  #8 has a nice “out of the box” effect.  #9 is similar but introducing color and moving the Thai to align with the English and French.  #10 played with the idea of inverting the colors, which is interesting.

11Stamp Design 15      12Stamp Design 14

Next, I decided to revisit the classic air mail envelope, but couldn’t decide how to end the stripes.  #11 complements the angle of the italic letters while #12 has the 90-degree angle of a classic letter envelope.

13Stamp Design 17    14Stamp Design 16

My final two designs were a little more art deco.  #13 is an original and took some time to figure out how to make the airplane image come together correctly.  #14 is an homage to a classic stamp I saw online, with a few small changes.

So what do you think?  Which one(s) do you like and do you think I should go rubber stamp or self-adhesive?


What level am I on?

This morning I walked to Ble’s shop to pick up some light fixtures and ask a few questions about the final stages of the condo remodel.  His shop is only two sois over, about a ten-minute walk.  The weather was cool and the sun not too strong, so it was a pleasant walk.

On the way I stopped at the post office to mail some letters and buy some stamps.  Our neighborhood branch is a small affair, four counter positions and room for about twenty waiting customers, seated in a cozy configuration.  Off to the side is an old metal office desk, 70s style, and at it sits a young looking man.  I’ve never been sure what his job is, though sometimes I seem him helping people with envelopes or packaging, taping up boxes, etc.

I grabbed my number and was waiting, when the young man called over to me and asked what I needed.  I explained that I had a domestic letter and two international ones and wanted to buy some stamps as well.  He explained that the envelope I had for the domestic letter couldn’t be used: it was a Postal Service envelope used for selling stamps.  (I was recycling an envelope in which I had carried home a previous stamp purchase.)

As he explained all this, he was sitting in his chair behind the desk and I was standing in front of it.  Finding the difference in our heights awkward, I squatted down in front of the desk so we would be eye-to-eye.  As I did this, I realized that I’d better think carefully about that: Thai culture is foremost a hierarchical one and where you stand (literally) in relation to others is an important matter.

Had I been insulting by standing over him?  Was I embarrassing him (or myself) by squatting down to his level?  Was anyone in the room watching me and shaking their head, sighing to themselves at the poor manners of these farang?

All this played as a commentary track in my mind as I proceeded with the transaction. 

He saw the envelope I had was addressed in Thai and after he gave me another envelope, I started to write the address in Thai.  “You write Thai?” he asked.  “Yes,” I confirmed, “and read it, too.”

“Wow.  You write Thai…” and his voice trailed off in amazement.

As we spoke, I realized that the young man was developmentally challenged.  His job at the post office was possibly part of some government scheme to integrate the disabled community into the workforce.  The reason I was never clear what he was doing there was because he probably rarely has much to do.  He’s there because some puu yai (“big” person – someone higher up the pecking order) said he was supposed to be.

After addressing the envelope, he took my letters to a counter, butted in front of another customer, weighed them and returned to me to report that with the purchase price of the envelope, my total was 61 baht.  I gave him a 100-baht note and he opened his drawer, revealing a modest change fund.   He asked if I had a one-baht coin.  “Sorry,” I replied.

He then made change in a most interesting fashion: he made two piles on his desk.  One pile was 61 baht: three twenties and a single, shiny coin.  The other pile was the remaining 39 baht.  He gave the second pile to me and then carried the first pile and the letters back to the counter.

I followed along to see about my stamps.

I explained that I wanted 40 ten-baht stamps and either some one- or two-baht stamps.  He wrote this down on the back of a piece of note paper I was carrying that he grabbed from me.  Then he asked each cashier, one by one, to see who had stamps.

The ten-baht stamps caused only a little confusion.  Purchasers of these are perhaps infrequent at this branch.  The small denomination stamps caused an absolute riot, however.  “We don’t have one-baht stamps” said one clerk to the another, who then repeated it to the young man.  He turned to me and said with utmost sincerity, “We don’t have one-baht stamps.”

“Do you have two-baht stamps?” I asked, trying to direct my question both to the young man as well as the clerk who was one step further along the communication chain.

A skeptical pause.

“How many?” she asked.

“Do you have forty of them?” I asked, figuring I had best get whatever I could.  Her gasp surprised me; surely it was not de classe to purchase that many stamps?

She rifled through her stamp book, the young man looking on, desperately willing her with his eyes to… find… the… stamps.

All she could come up with was twenty, so I bought out her entire supply.  Who would have imagined that buying stamps at a post office could be such a big deal?

The transaction completed, the young man smiled and thanked me.  Khap khun maak khrap! 


That was my post office adventure, an encapsulation of Thai culture in all its charming idiosyncracies.  And I do say that with utmost sincerity.



Above: This evening I took Brian out for dinner for his birthday.  Somehow, through people being out of town, his having a extremely inconsiderate and self-centered quasi-boyfriend, and his originally planning on being out of town on business for his birthday, he was going to be all alone on the evening of his birthday.  Tawn had to go out to the airport to pick up his parents, so I met Brian at All Seasons Place and we went to Coffee Bean by Dao for dinner.