Postcard From the Black Lake, by Xinyi Li

Before selling postcards he ran the racecourse with some other locals. Now his dream was to go to Nepal to learn wood carving.

When I travel to a new city I always send a postcard to myself, for example: Sent on: Sunday, From: 要用北京腔. At first, the postcards were proof of the places I had been, but gradually it became a habit.

When the postcards arrive I put them in a big cookie box, along with other stuff I collect when I travel, plane, train and movie tickets, certificates, a picture of my ex-boyfriend and many other photos I’ve taken. The postcards bring back many memories, but perhaps one of the most memorable is about a postcard seller.

I met him at Chaka Salt Lake in Qinghai Province. That day I had separated from my friends – we were volunteer teachers in Qinghai Tibet Plateau and lived together for one month. We had been like a family. They returned to their home cities and I continued traveling alone. I felt so sad and wanted to cry.

Chaka Salt Lake was terrible. It was crowded with people and the lake was black, the sand dirty. All of that made me want to leave as soon as possible. Then one day when I was looking for something to eat I saw a postcard stall.

The owner was a young man with long hair tied back. He looked like an artist. The man told me he wasn’t local, he had only been there for a year. Before selling postcards he ran the racecourse with some other locals but quit because of cultural differences. Now his dream was to go to Nepal to learn wood carving.

While I wrote my postcard, a neighbouring stall keeper gave us two pieces of watermelon which we shared. At the end of the day I helped him put away his stall. After we said goodbye I watched him ride off on his motorbike until he was far in the distance.

I often wonder what is he doing now. Perhaps he became a famous wood-carver in Nepal. Or maybe he is still in Chaka Salt Lake selling postcards. He will stay in my memory forever.




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