Monday, January 30, 2006

El Salvador

President Elias Antonio Saca of El Salvador became the 36th world leader to honor my request. The photo is hand-signed and contains two inscriptions.

My Spanish is still elementary and so I am having difficulty figuring out what the letter or inscriptions say. As always, translations are graciously accepted.

You'll notice that the format of the envelope is unusual. The address, stamps, seals, and postmarks are in uncommon places. I wonder if all El Salvadoran mail looks this way or maybe it is a unique format limited to presidential mail...

I also noticed that the stamps each carry two value amounts. And one of them is pretty scary looking...

What I found even more interesting was the number 0007493 that is stamped on both the envelope and letter. Is it for recordkeeping? Or perhaps to deter fraud?

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy became the 35th world leader to honor my request.

In diplomatic channels, news sources, and encyclopedia entries Mr Berlusconi is always referred to as Prime Minister. Today's letter and seal, however, seem to refer to him as President. Understandably I'm a bit confused. Is he President or Prime Minister?

Also, the correspondence is entirely in Italian which means that, other for the President bit, I have no inkling what the letter says. The same goes for the message on the photograph. If you understand Italian and are able to translate for us it would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, I have included here a closeup of the presidential stamp as found on the back of the envelope. I though it was interesting...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Vatican City

Vatican City's Pope Benedict XVI became the 34th world leader to honor my request. The response consisted of an envelope and photo. There was no letter included in the correspondence.

With only 900 residents and at 0.2 square miles big the Vatican is the world's smallest country in both population and size. It therefore seems rather ironic that at the helm of government is one of the worlds most influential leaders. I feel honored and priviliged to have received a response.

What's most interesting about the letter is that it was sent from the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington instead of from the Vatican itself. As much as I try I cannot think of a compelling reason for doing so. It is clear the correspondence did actually originate in Europe because the inside of the envelope is marked with the name and phone number of it's Italian manafacturer.

Could the Vatican have wanted to save on international postage? Or maybe perhaps they had a unique reason for wanting the envelope to arrive in the United States via diplomatic pouch? This is very intriguing.


Prime Minister Hans Ensoken of Greenland became the 33rd world leader to honor my request and one of the few to personally sign the photo.

In the enclosed letter the Prime Minister is referred to merely as Premier. I wonder if that is a preference or just happenstance.

I also wonder about the interesting garb the Prime Minister (or Premier) wears. Clearly it's a cultural or religious thing. If anyone could shed some light on this it would be greatly appreciated. (Doesn't it kinda look like a spacesuit?)

Though very much independent, Greenland is technically a Danish territory and not a sovereign nation. It is somewhat anomalous because while Denmark is part of the European Union, Greenland specifically isn't. With a population of only 56,000 it is probably the least populated area, as of yet, to respond to my request.

Truthfully, I must confess that my letter to Greenland, because it is technically not a country, was the only one not included in the original 208 letters dispatched around the world. It only dawned on me a week after I mailed the others when I finished reading this amazing book.

One more thing; Does anyone know the translation for Tusagassiivik? Apparently it's a word in Greenlandic...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


President Festus Mogae of Botswana became the 32nd world leader to honor my request and the second leader to respond from Africa.

The letter was sent under lock and key via registered mail and contains many markings. One of the pen markings sections off the front and back of the envelope into four areas and I can't quite figure out why as I have never seen that done before. Other markings seem to indicate the proper postage required and the date the letter arrived at my post office. (I was not able to figure out what "op 031" means...)

Interestingly, the back of the envelope has three postmarks; from the "circulation branch" of the central Botswana post office in Gaborone, a Botswana sorting center, and from my own post office here in Brooklyn.

Also, the return address on the envelope and enclosed letter bear the address "Private Bag 001." Does anyone have any idea what that means?

Lastly, is there any significance to a letter marked "on Botswana government service"?

Monday, January 23, 2006


President Fidel Castro of Cuba became the 31st world leader to honor my request and only the second leader to respond without a photo.

Being that I am not fluent in Spanish I am not quite sure what he did send or what it says. If anyone can help me out here it would be greatly appreciated. Below you'll find a scan of the back of the above.

Cuba is said to be a beautiful country but unfortunately by law I cannot visit. While the embargo also prohibits all economic, commercial, and financial ties, plain letters it seems are allowed. (Restrictions are in place for parcels though.)

Looking at the letter you'll see two postmarks with different dates. The one on the front is dated December 30 while the one on back is dated January 5. The one on back says "Certificado." Could it mean the one on the back is something other than a postmark?

The letter took a while to arrive and I wonder if perhaps it had to go through a third country to be in compliance with the embargo. I would imagine fifteen days is a long time for a country only 90 miles from the US.

One more thing about the postmark I noticed: Why is the month in roman numerals? Is that common practice?

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia became the 30th world leader to honor my request. He was kind to add his "best wishes for your signed-photo collection project."

The letter and envelope both bear a return address in the city of Putrajaya. I was under the impression that Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia and my letter addressed to the Prime Minister was addressed to him there. As it turns out Putrajaya is actually a brand new city created in the past year from the ground up to serve as the new administrative capital and fortunately my letter was forwarded there.

This was also the first response to be sent via UPS. The letter was addressed to my post office box but somehow someway UPS figured out a street address for me. I appreciate their due diligence but I didn't expect them to have access to post office box rental records. (The letter was actually delivered to a relative last week and only forwarded to me today).

One advantage to the letter being sent via UPS was that I was able to track the package as it made it's way from Malaysia to New York. Doing so reveals that although the return address shows the city of Putrajaya the letter was actually sent from Kuala Lumpur. It also made stops in the Phillipines, Japan, Alaska, and Kentucky before it made it's way to Brooklyn.

Unfortunately the letter, envelope, and picture all arrived ripped. It seems as if the envelope was opened for inspection and the inspector was a bit careless. I wonder if this has anything to do with it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana became the 29th world leader to honor my request and has entered the club of those leaders who have personally signed the photo.

The letter took a while to arrive considering that it was postmarked on the 29th of December. The envelope appeared very wrinkled, perhaps the enclosed paper clip caused it to get stuck in a piece of machinery. Or maybe mail from one of the poorest countries of the world simply takes a long time to arrive. Either way I'm glad to have received the letter. As the famous saying goes "better late than never."

I also noticed that featured on the stamps is the "Egyptian goose." I find that to be very odd because usually countries use their postage stamps to express patriotism or to honor people or items unique to their country. One would not expect a country's postage to honor another country's goose...

(Did anyone else notice it cost $80 to mail the letter?)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel became the 28th world leader to honor my request and the first leader to respond from the Middle East.

Mr Sharon recently had a serious stroke and has been in a coma for the past two weeks or so. My letter should have arrived over a month ago so it's very possible he was aware of my correspondence before he fell ill. Not that it makes much of a difference. Either way, I wish him a full and rapid recovery and hopefully the next news report will report on an improving health condition.

Interestingly, the postmark bears the Hebrew term for Israel's capital; Yerushalayim. Its actually the way it's pronounced in Hebrew transliterated into English. I would have expected them to use the term Jerusalem. I wonder what the Arabic version says...


President Joseph J Urusemal of the Federated States of Micronesia became the 27th world leader to honor my request. He also became the 3rd leader to personally inscribe my name onto the photo in addition to his actual autograph.

I immediately noticed the US Postal Service zip code on the return address. I couldn't quite make sense of it because, as a sovereign nation, Micronesia should theoretically have it's own postal codes. Additionally the beautiful stamps were clearly Micronesian and not American.

Further investigation revealed that the US and (the former American territory of) Micronesia have entered a Compact of Free Association. Among other things the pact stipulates that postal services in Micronesia are to be provided by the US Postal Service. They even have their own state-like abbreviation of FM.

In fact, up until January 8th of this year all one needed was a 37cent stamp to send a letter to Micronesia. (If only I had known I could have saved 43 cents.)

Does anyone know what the responsibilities of the Micronesian Postal Service are and how they differ from those of the US Postal Service in Micronesia? Additionally are Micronesian postage stamps used exclusively or is US postage used as well? This is all very intriguing...

One more thing; The 'Special Assistant to the President' seemingly forgot to sign the letter...


Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg became the 26th world leader to honor my request. He also joins the club of those who have personally signed the photo.

The enclosed card isn't in English. To me it seemed like Spanish but as it turns out it is actually in Luxembourgish. I pride myself in learning new things every day and today I learned about the existence of this language.

I also noticed the postmark includes the number '1000.' I wonder what that signifies. It can't be the zip code because the correct zip code, included in the return address, is L-2910. Does anyone have a clue? (While you're at it what does Grand-Duche mean?)


President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania became the 25th world leader to honor my request. The signature appears to be a real but I don't know for sure.

They spelled Brooklyn wrong but I don't really mind. My only regret is that they neglected to use my zip code which means the delivery of the letter was delayed. The letter and photo did arrive a bit bent, quite possibly as a result of the additional handling.

There's some writing on the lower left corner of the envelope. It seems to be a European style of handwriting which means it was probably there before the envelope arrived in the US. Does anyone know what that means?

Pasta flavored postage? I don't think so but look at the postmark and decide for yourself. (Yes I know it's probably Lithuanian for postage.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Trinidad and Tobago

President Maxwell Richards of Trinidad and Tobago became the 24th world leader to honor my request and the second leader to actually inscribe my name onto the photograph. He also included his own signature and the date.

What I find interesting is that the photo is dated December 15th but the letter is dated December 14th. Also the letter sports a presidential stamp bearing the date December 19th while the envelope was actually postmarked on December 23rd (look very closely). Seemingly, from first stage to last it took over a week and a half.

While reading the letter I had a hard time figuring out some abbreviations. The President is referred to as 'His Excellency Professor George Maxwell Richards, TC., CMT., Ph.D,." Can anyone help me out with the last three abbreviations?

By the way, that stamp is just adorable...

Thursday, January 12, 2006


President James Michel of Seychelles became the 23rd world leader to honor my request. His response is also the first from Africa. I'm as of yet still unsure if the autograph is a real one or one superimposed on the image.

In the letter you'll see they apologize for the delay. Perhaps I should let them know there really is no need for an apology as the letter is definitely not late. In fact, it is early considering it is one of the first letters to arrive from the developing world - where which communication is spotty and mail links few.

It was also nice of him to wish me well in this endeavor.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


President Jacques Chirac of France became the 22nd world leader to honor my request.

The photo and correspondence were enclosed in a large, cardboard reinforced, envelope. Interestingly, it was stamped "lettre." I thought that was odd because sually an envelope containing photographs is identified as such so that it receives better care than an ordinary "lettre."

Also, the enclosed letter is in French. Being as I don't know more than three words of the language I can't say I know what it says. Can someone, merci, translate for us?


Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva became the 21st world leader to honor my request. Included in the correspondence were the photo and a note in Portuguese. Can anyone translate?

I found the envelope to be intriguing for three reasons;

1) They refer to New York as "Nova Iorque."

2) My name and address were printed on separate labels.

3) It's interesting how they pasted three postage stamps right on top of each other. I can't say I've seen that before...

Finally, I must say I really like the President's tie. It's my style...

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