From Belarus and all over the world, with love

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-03-06 15:35:46

One of the nicest surprises about my nearly four years stay in China is that I've learned a lot about ... Belarus.

Related: People to people talk enhance mutual understanding

Although I'm an avid reader of world news, I hadn't thought that much about Belarus before.

My first flash came at the Shanghai Expo 2010, when I saw the Belarus pavilion. The edifice was a massive folk-art painting: Brightly costumed people and all sorts of interesting architecture swarmed the surface like fairy-tale mosaic.

From Belarus and all over the world, with love

Lately, though, I know Belarus from my mail. You remember mail: You write a message on a piece of paper, stick a postage stamp on it, and put it in a mailbox.

Last year my roommate and I joined a social network called, where you become pen pals with strangers from around the world. So far I've sent 80 postcards and received 74, corresponding with students, lawyers, farmers and mothers who hope to interest their children in the wide world out there.

A surprising number of them are from Belarus, it seems. Perhaps that's because that country has opened up, like China in recent years. My new friends from Belarus are often keen to share images of their architecture, including some marvelous grand churches.

Finland, Russia, Germany and China have also produced many new pen pals. We communicate via post cards, so like e-mails and texts, the messages are often short. But they are not received instantly. A card could take a week to reach Bangkok, or 50 days to arrive in Belarus.

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