Isend a letter to my friend in Armenia every month. A letter looks like a big diary split in months. I take a couple of days to write letters, as I have to recollect what has happened and put all my thoughts on paper. I know perfectly well she keeps all my letters and often rereads them.
Belarus’ postal monopoly “Belpochta” has to deal with a lot of correspondence. The Minsk-based department alone processes over 7 million outgoing paper letters and 10 million incoming letters. Minsk has over 2 million citizens, so an average Belarus citizen sends three to four letters every year and receives five or six. If we cross out babies and those who don’t write letters at all we will have more than 6 letters per capita a year.
This does not seem much, though, as they have more than 4,000 post offices at their service. “Belpochta” is part of the Universal Postal Union and cooperates with 190 countries of the world. There is express-mail, and in the countryside postmen do not only deliver mail, but also visit households to collect letters. Why change anything, some would ask? There seem to be no problems with getting in touch with your close ones. But there is often a “but”.
“I prefer using electronic mail,” shares Svetlana Kharitonova, a student of Belarusian State University. “I don’t really have to write a long letter to cover the whole page, you don’t have to look for a mailbox, and you may stay at home, drink your tea and chat with your friends and send them short messages.” Speed is the main advantage of these messages and high technologies as a whole. You write a short message, click the “send” button and in a couple of seconds it appears on the table, or rather, display of the addressee.
There are 120 e-communication operators, and they are all ready to provide their services. You could get through to your addressee anywhere in the world, in the air, at sea and on firm ground. You could get across half the world in a minute. The Belarusian portal is visited by over 200,000 surfers every day.
I asked many people whether they still write paper letters, and most of them said “No, not any more!” or “It is much easier on the net”…
A system administrator of one of Minsk Internet-cafйs surprised me when she said “Sure, I always write letters, not type or print them. I don’t use the Internet for communication. I write to my sister in England.”
I drop my letter to Armenia in a mailbox, and I am not intimidated by the time my letter takes to get there (over one week). I know my friend will be happy when she gets my mail. She will walk home full of expectations, she will find a nice warm cozy corner to open it and read every phrase of it and I am happy to be a member of this unofficial organization that writes letters and shares warmth on pages instead of cold flickering of the display.