This was a popular email that we sent out to the mailing list, so I have decided to share it here. It provides a frame of reference on the journey that every postcard from Timbuktu takes before it arrives in your mailbox.
1. Your postcard begins its journey in Timbuktu. If all goes well, the post office has enough stamps on hand and the postcard will be transported on a United Nations flight down to Bamako. The post office itself advised us that if we did not transport the cards ourselves, they would take several weeks to arrive in Bamako from Timbuktu. So we get them stamped and postmarked in Timbuktu and then figure out a way to get them to Bamako. Best case scenario is a UN flight. If we can't get it on a UN flight (reasons could include not knowing anyone on the flight or in the flight crew, sandstorms or other weather incidents, or cancelations of the flight for other reasons), we send it on a bus or a shared 4x4 that is heading to Bamako. We have even put postcards on a boat from Timbuktu to Mopti.
2. Once the card arrives in Bamako, we verify that the address is correct etc. and then drop it off at the Bamako central post office. In normal times, the post office had a relatively quick turnaround time. At the moment, or really since the coup d'etat last August, things have not been so efficient. Part of this may be due to changing personnel on the administrative side of things. It may also have to do with disruptions to flight schedules in and out of Bamako.
3. If your postcard is going anywhere outside of the African continent, it will end up on a flight to France. All postcards from Mali, whether they are going to the US or Australia, first go to France if they are not destined for somewhere in Africa.
4. Once in France, your postcard is processed by the French post office and then sent onwards to or towards its final destination.
5. We don't know the extent of the disruption in every country, but we know that COVID has seriously affected the ability of post offices and postal workers to carry out their duties. In the United States, mail woes began before COVID with a certain political party and a certain president (sayonara) eviscerating the post office. With the COVID outbreak at alarming levels now, many postal workers have contracted the virus and are out sick. You may have noticed delays already yourselves. I was speaking to my mom the other day and she said it took over a week for a letter she sent to travel between two cities in Ohio.
6. All of that said, up until now everyone who has sent me a "where is my postcard" email has been very understanding. We really appreciate your support and your patience. We know that it is not normal to wait this long for mail, but hopefully after reading the above, you will appreciate your postcard's journey that much more.
7. One other thing. In addition to the coup and covid, we had more orders than we have ever had during a 3-week-period. We are not exactly amazon.com. In fact, we are more or less the opposite. This volume of orders has been challenging for a small operation situated on the edge of the Sahara Desert. I can confirm that we are the only e-commerce business in Timbuktu. The logistics hurdles, some of which I mentioned above, are considerable.
Thanks for bringing some magic into our lives.
You are doing something special here. My childhood was spent moving between countries as my dad was in the Foreign Service. Only as I grew older did I realise this has broadened my perspectives relative to those Americans who have never left their home towns. The world is a big place, with lots to see. Thank you for giving us a window into life in Mali!
I absolutely LOVE this business idea of yours! Not only have I been collecting postcards all my life, since inheriting my great aunt’s collection from the early 1900s, but I have also sent home postcards from my world travels. I did not find postcards in Timbuktu when I was there in October 2011, so I will be sending you an order soon. Whenever it gets here will be great! THANK YOU!