Life & times of the only Everest post office staff

Xinhua
Tsomo, 26, is the only staff for the post office at the foot of the world's highest peak Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest.
Xinhua

Tsomo, 26, is the only staff for the post office at the foot of the world’s highest peak Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest, in southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region.

Located more than 5,200 meters above sea level, the 20-square-meter post office was established in 1998 at the base of Mount Qomolangma in Zhaxizom Township in Tingri County. It is known among global tourists as the highest post office in the world.

The Tibetan girl has been working at the office since she graduated from a vocational school in the city of Shigatse in 2011, with a monthly salary of about US$1,000.

In many people’s eyes, Tsomo’s job is easy and boring: every workday, she needs to postmark thousands of postcards and souvenir picture albums which display spectacular views of Qomolangma in different seasons.

At the post office, a postcard has two postmarks: a red mark printed with the word Qomolangma both in Chinese and Tibetan, and a black mark indicating the date and address of the post office.

During the peak travel season from April to October, Tsomo needs to postmark more than 3,000 cards every day from 9am to 9pm. She sometimes needs to write blessings on postcards in Tibetan for both domestic and overseas visitors.

“My job is very meaningful,” says Tsomo in response to people who say her job is boring. “Tourists trek several hundred kilometers to have a look at the sacred mountain. They also want to send blessings to their friends and families by mailing postcards.

“They cannot leave anything at the base camp for environmental reasons, but they can take something meaningful home.”

The base camp is suitable for year-round travel with a record 114,000 visitors in 2017. Staying at tea houses or lodges is the most common practice at the base camp.

The busy work leads to irregular mealtimes for Tsomo. “I usually don’t eat my meals during ‘normal’ times. Several tourists have to leave the base camp before sunset. I need to postmark their postcards as soon as possible so they can descend early,” she said.

During the peak season, Tsomo’s colleagues come from Tingri two or three times a week to the post office to collect the postcards waiting to be mailed around the world.

“Sometimes I feel tired and bored. But every time I see visitors writing down their blessings, I can imagine how happy their families will be when receiving them from the sacred mountain,” said Tsomo. “I become refreshed and energetic again.”

Working alone at the world’s highest post office is not so hard for Tsomo. After work, she often spends hours reading books, watching TV programs or video chatting with her family who live in downtown Tingri.

“I am not lonely. I go back home twice a month and my parents and four siblings often come to see me,” said Tsomo.

Tsomo has also made friends with the local people who run the tea houses or lodges at the base camp. “We often talk about the latest happenings with each other when we are not busy. They often prepare meals for me when I am busy, which I really appreciate.”

The job also brings happy surprises to Tsomo who has received many postcards or letters from tourists. “I have made friends with some of the visitors. After they return home, they share their travels with me by mailing me letters or postcards,” she said.

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