How to Send Mail in the United States

Most countries have a postal service (a way to send mail). It’s a basic service, so you might think that it’s the same in every country. Have you noticed differences between the way we send mail in the United States and the way people send mail in your country? Today, we’re going to talk about how to send mail in the United States.

First, let’s talk about mailboxes.

There are a few different kinds of mailboxes. If you have a mailbox at your house, it might look like one of these:

Used with permission from

By ( [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons













If you live in an apartment or townhouse, you might have a group of mailboxes for your neighborhood or your building. Those look similar to these:

By Dmitry G (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons









The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) also has mailboxes in public places all around the city. They are large, blue boxes like this one:

Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

You can only RECEIVE mail in your home or apartment mailbox (not the blue Postal Service boxes). You can SEND mail from all of these mailboxes, but the way you do it is different for each one.

How to Send Mail

Here is how you send mail from each kind of mailbox:

  • Home Mailbox – To send mail from your home mailbox, put the mail inside the mailbox, and raise the red flag on the side. When the flag is up, the mail carrier will take out the mail that is inside.
  • Neighborhood Mailbox – Most neighborhood mailboxes have a special box that says “Outgoing Mail.” You can put mail into this box, and the mail carrier will take it.
  • Postal Service Mailbox – Just put mail into the box. There is a sign on the box that tells you what time the mail carrier will pick it up.

You can also take your mail to a post office. Near the entrance, there is an “outgoing mail” box. You can put your mail there if it is ready. In order to send mail in the United States, you must pay. We pay to send mail by buying stamps. You buy a stamp and put it on your mail. It is very important that you put a stamp on your mail. If you don’t use a stamp, the mail carrier will not deliver your mail. You can buy stamps at the post office. You may also be able to buy stamps at Wal-Mart, a gas station, a bank, a pharmacy, an office supply store, or a grocery store. You can buy stamps online at or Look for the word “forever” on the stamps. You can use those even if the price of stamps goes up in the future.

How to Address an Envelope

In different countries, people address envelopes differently. It’s important to do it correctly so that your mail goes to the right place. Here is an envelope that is ready to mail:

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In the United States, we write the “to” address in the middle of the envelope. This letter is going to Bob Vance. Bob is the recipient of the letter (the person who will receive it). On the first line, we write the person’s name. On the second line, we write the number of the building (house/apartment/townhouse/office) and the name of the street. If we need to add an apartment number, we can put it in the same line or a different one. Below that, we write the city, state, and zip code. You can also write the zip code on a different line if the city and state are very long and you don’t have space.

In the top-left corner, we write the return address – the “from” address. This letter is from Phyllis Lapin. Phyllis wrote the letter. She is sending it to Bob. If there is a problem with the letter, the mail carrier can return it to Phyllis at this address. We write it the same as the “to” address:
Street Address (number of building + name of street)
City/State/Zip Code (*Notice that we put a comma between the city and the state.)

The stamp always goes in the top-right corner.

Your Turn

Find a partner in your class. Write your partner a letter and send it to him/her. When you receive a letter from your partner, bring it to class. Is the U.S. Postal Service fast or slow?

Discuss these questions with your classmates:

  1. Can you send letters from your home mailbox in your country?
  2. Can you receive mail at home in your country, or do you have to pick it up from another place?
  3. Is sending a letter in the United States cheap or expensive?
  4. Have you ever been to a U.S. post office? What was your opinion of it?
  5. Is the postal service in the U.S. the same as in your country or different? Explain your answer.
  6. In the United States, postal mail is sometimes called “snail mail.” What do you think that means? After you discuss it with your classmates, ask your teacher to explain.

Getting Involved – Organize a Neighborhood Event

In many countries people know their neighbors and speak to them often. In the United States, this is less common. When you are new to the U.S., this can be difficult and confusing. It is possible to meet your neighbors, but you must be brave and outgoing (starting conversations with many people/not shy). If you are shy or nervous about starting conversations, you can still meet your neighbors if you have a little help from a friend.

Here are some ideas for getting all your neighbors together. They require some organizing skills and some advertising, but they can be very simple.

Donation Drive – A donation is something that someone gives. A drive, in this case, is an event where you try to get a lot of something. If you want to get money for a charity, people can donate money during your event. If you want to collect food for the Raleigh Rescue Mission or the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, people can give food during your event. A donation drive is always an opportunity to help a person or charity. You could collect blankets or coats for homeless people in the winter. You could ask for book or toy donations for a preschool. People could donate crayons, pencils, and glue to a school. Think of a charity that is important to you. What do they need? You can organize a donation drive in your neighborhood! And when your neighbors bring their donations to you, you can meet them!

Fundraising Event – A fundraising event is like a donation drive, but it is only for getting money (not things). Again, think about a charity or group that needs money. Invite your neighbors to a fundraising party, and when they arrive, they can donate money. They can pay to attend the party, eat food, or play games. Use your imagination! Just make sure all the money really goes to the charity.

Eat Alberta Potluck used with permission by]Mack Male, on Flickr

Eat Alberta Potluck used with permission by Mack Male on flickr ( )

Block Party – A block party is just a party for your neighborhood. Maybe it’s one block, maybe more. A lot of people will go to this kind of party, but they don’t want to organize and plan it. If you do the work, you can meet many of your neighbors. For a truly American party, make it a potluck. That means everyone brings food to share. You can also plan activities, games, and contests for adults, children, and families! This website has several fun ideas to help you get started!

Holiday Event – You don’t need a special reason to have a block party, but if you want a reason, you can have a holiday party! Your American neighbors might be more comfortable attending a party for an American holiday. However, when you know your neighbors better, you can introduce them to your culture by hosting a party for a non-American holiday.

Your Turn

Talk to your teacher, your classmates, your family, and your friends about your ideas for a neighborhood event.

  1. Which kind of event would you most enjoy?
  2. Do you like planning events?
  3. Who could help you plan your event?
  4. Work with 2-3 classmates to plan an event for your neighborhood. What kind of event will you have? What will you need to do? How will you invite people? Where will you have your event?

Getting Involved – Volunteer

I hear the same two questions from a lot of students:

  1. How and where can I meet more Americans?
  2. What can I do after I graduate from ESL/ERV?

Many students want to know how they can get involved in the community. American communities aren’t the same as communities in other countries. Neighbors don’t always know each other, and if you don’t have a job, it can be difficult to meet Americans.

Over the next few months, we will look at several ways you can participate in your community. This month, our topic is volunteering. Volunteering is very common in the United States, and there are many organizations that accept volunteer workers. You just have to find an organization that you care about. Here are some suggestions.

photo credit: P1000275 via photopin (license)

photo credit: P1000275 via photopin (license)

Rebuilding Together of the Triangle – Do you like building things, working with tools, painting, learning construction skills, or helping people? You might want to volunteer with Rebuilding Together! This organization fixes (repairs) and updates homes for low-income people. Many of them are retired (too old to work) or disabled (not able to work, physically), and their houses have a lot of problems. Rebuilding Together uses volunteers to make these houses safe and comfortable again, and they can teach you how to do simple jobs if you don’t know how.

Wake County Public Libraries – Do you like books, reading, or organizing? The public library system might have the perfect job for you! Volunteers at the library help keep the library organized and pretty. Click here for an application to volunteer at your local library. Print the application, and take it to the library where you would like to volunteer.

Raleigh Rescue Mission – Did you know that more than 1,100 people in Raleigh don’t have a place to sleep at night? The Raleigh Rescue Mission is a Christian organization that helps these people, but you do not have to be a Christian to volunteer. You can volunteer to prepare and serve food, work with children, work in a store, answer the phone and talk with visitors, or help an adult who is preparing to take the GED test. Go here to see which volunteer jobs are available and fill out an application.

SPCA of Wake County – Do you love animals? The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is an organization that protects animals and tries to find good homes for them. Click here to see a list of volunteer opportunities.

Ten Thousand Villages – Do you like shopping, sales, home decorations, talking with people, or helping people earn money to support their families? You should consider volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages. It is a store that sells fair trade products. This means that the people who make the products earn a fair amount of money for them. Many people in other countries work very hard to make products, but they receive only a little money. Fair trade means that people get paid a good price for their products.

Hospitals – Do you like helping people who are sick? Are you interested in healthcare? Maybe you should look for volunteer opportunities at one of the hospitals in the area. You don’t need medical knowledge or experience to volunteer at a hospital. They have many different ways for you to get involved. For volunteer information at Rex Hospital, click here. For information on volunteer opportunities at all Wake Med Hospital locations, go here. And to find out how you can volunteer at Duke University Hospital, visit this site.

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle – Do you care about food education, feeding hungry people, nutrition, or gardening? You might be interested in the work of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. This organization’s goal is to end hunger in our area. Many people don’t have enough money to buy food for their families. There are also areas where it’s difficult to find fresh, healthy food. The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle gives food to people who need it. They also teach people about food, cooking, nutrition, and gardening so that they can get jobs, make healthy meals, and grow their own food. Go here to see all the ways you can volunteer with this organization.

photo credit: IMG_0248 via photopin (license)

photo credit: IMG_0248 via photopin (license)

Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts – The Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts of America are two organizations for children and teenagers. Both groups teach young people about responsibility, character (being a good person), team work, and citizenship so that they can make the world a better place. Click here to learn more about volunteering with the Girl Scouts. Go here if you are interested in volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America. And if you have children between the ages of 5 and 18 years old, these organizations are a great way for them to get involved in the community!

Schools – Did you know that you can volunteer at your child’s school? Many teachers love having parent volunteers in their classrooms, but you can also volunteer in the school’s office or library. In middle and high schools, you might be able to volunteer with a sports team or club. You can also join the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) or PTSA (Parent-Teacher-Student Association) at your child’s school for more volunteer opportunities. Check your school’s website for PTA/PTSA information, or ask your child’s teacher or the school secretary how you can help.

InterAct – InterAct is an organization that helps, protects, and educates women who have been victims of domestic violence (violence, danger, harm, injury at home), rape (sex without permission/agreement), or sexual assault. If a woman’s husband/boyfriend hurts her, she (and her children) can go to InterAct for help. There are many ways you can volunteer with InterAct. You can work with the women and their children, you can help in the office, you can help with special projects, and more. Click here to see all the ways you can volunteer.

Other Volunteer Opportunities

If you aren’t interested in any of the organizations above, there are PLENTY more places you can volunteer. The following websites can help you find a volunteer job that you will love:

Your Turn

Discuss these questions with your classmates:

  1. Is volunteering common/popular in your country? Why/why not?
  2. Have you ever done volunteer work?
  3. Is volunteering a good way to spend your time? Why/why not?
  4. Why do you think there are so many opportunities to volunteer in the US?
  5. Which programs listed here would be good for people who don’t speak much English? Which programs would be good for advanced students?
  6. What kind of volunteer job would you like to do? Why?
  7. What kind of volunteer job would you NOT like to do? Why?
  8. Do you think children should volunteer? Why/why not?
  9. What kinds of volunteer projects can families do together?
  10. Choose an organization above that has group volunteering activities. Would you enjoy volunteering there with your classmates? Why/why not?

Pick Your Own Strawberries!

Spring is here! That means that you can get fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables from the State Farmers Market. It also means that you can get some things even fresher by going to the farm and picking them yourself. Strawberry picking is a great activity for families to do together when the weather is good.

photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

Before you go to any of these farms, call or email to make sure the farm is open. The opening times can change depending on the weather and when the fruit is ripe (ready to be eaten). Click on the name of a farm to get more information.

  • Buckwheat Farm – 2700 Holland Road Apex, NC, 27502. Phone: 919-303-0339. Email: Open: Mid-April to Early June; Monday to Saturday, 8AM to 7PM, Sun. 10AM to 6PM. In addition to strawberry picking, you can see animals on the farm. They have horses, goats, chickens and other kinds of birds.
  • Hilltop Farms – 6612 Kennebec Road, Willow Springs, NC 27592. Email us at: Open: Saturdays each weekend in May. For $4.50, you get a pound of organic strawberries and a basket to carry them. This farm also has other fruits and vegetables.
  • Hunts Strawberry Farm – 4505 Watkins Road, Raleigh, NC 27616. Phone: (919) 266-1619. Open: Sunday noon-7 pm, Monday to Saturday 8 am to 8 pm. Hunts also has cantaloupe, watermelon, potatoes and tomatoes.
  • Page Farms – 6100 Mt. Herman Rd, Raleigh, NC 27617. Phone: 919-596-3227. Alternate Phone: 919-451-5534. Email: Open: Saturday and Sunday; 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • Pope’s Strawberry Farm – 1007 Fayetteville Street, Knightdale, NC 27545. Phone: (919) 266-3767. Open: Sunday 1pm-7 pm, Monday to Saturday 8 am to 8 pm.

Your Turn

How do you like to eat strawberries? Write a comment to tell us your favorite strawberry recipe! Or better yet, make something with strawberries, and share it with your class!

R-LINE Buses

R-LINE bus

Capital Area Transit Bus 1288 R-Line by bendertj, on Flickr

If you live, work, or visit downtown Raleigh often, there is something very important that you should know. DOWNTOWN RALEIGH HAS A FREE BUS! It’s called the R-LINE.

When you are downtown, you can take these green and blue buses to many other downtown locations. It goes in a circle from Peace University in the north to Shaw University in the south, and from Glenwood Avenue in the west to Wilmington Street in the east. Most downtown restaurants, stores, museums, concert halls, and art galleries are within 4 blocks of the R-LINE, making it very convenient.

When can I use the R-LINE?

These buses are available:

  • Monday-Wednesday – 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
  • Thursday-Saturday – 7:00 a.m. – 2:15 a.m.
  • Sunday – 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

There are always 2 buses running, so the longest wait time for a bus is about 15 minutes.

For more information on the R-LINE, including a map and a list of bus stops, click here.

First Friday

Downtown Raleigh has LOTS of great things to see and do. There are restaurants, museums, art galleries, stores, and interesting people. The best time to see everything is First Friday.

What is First Friday?

On the first Friday of every month, there is a special event downtown. The museums and art galleries stay open later, so you can go in the evening, after dinner. Sometimes they have live music as well as art to look at. Also, many restaurants and stores have special prices! For example, at The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery, you get a free cupcake when you buy one cupcake on First Friday! In the summertime, there are often outdoor concerts on Hargett Street and in City Market.

Click here for a complete list of museums, galleries, and participating businesses.

How can I get around downtown?

Parking on the street downtown is free after 5:00 p.m., and there are lots of parking decks. When you are downtown, you can use the R-Line bus, which is free, or you can pay for a rickshaw (a small car pulled by a bicycle). Of course, you can also walk.

Your Turn

What would you most like to see and do at First Friday on May 1? Do you prefer looking at art or listening to music? Would you rather shop or eat? How would you like to get around downtown? With your classmates, make the perfect First Friday plan!

  • Where/What time will you meet?
  • Where will you eat? Why?
  • Which galleries/museums will you visit?
  • How will you travel?

Raleigh Lakes

When you arrived in Raleigh, what did you notice? Most students say that the nature here is beautiful. It is very green, and we have many parks and lakes that are open to the public. Today, I want to tell you about the lakes in this area. There is probably one close to your home. If you have never visited one of Raleigh’s lakes, now is a great time!

Lake Johnson

Lake Johnson
Photo used with permission by Amaris Photo (

Lake Johnson – Close to NCSU and downtown Raleigh, Lake Johnson has over 4 miles of trails for walking and running. You can rent canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, and small sailboats. You can also have a picnic in one of the shelters.

Shelley Lake – This lake is in midtown Raleigh. It has 2 miles of trails for walking or running. It also has basketball courts and playgrounds for children. If you like art, you can take classes at Sertoma Arts Center, also located at Shelley Lake Park.

Lake Benson – Located in Garner, Lake Benson has 2 miles of trails for walking or running, playgrounds for kids, grills, picnic shelters and a large field. You can relax or play in the field, but the town of Garner often uses it for events as well.

Jordan Lake – This is the biggest lake in the area with lots of possible activities. It is southwest of Raleigh, near Apex. You can swim, camp, hike, fish, boat, and picnic. Click here for more information on where to go and what you can do.

Lake CrabtreeLake Crabtree is in Morrisville, near RDU airport. It is also a large park with lots of activities. They have boating, fishing, trails for hiking and mountain biking, play areas, volleyball courts, and picnic shelters.

Lake WheelerLake Wheeler is located south of Raleigh, between Raleigh and Garner. You can rent boats by the hour, go fishing, have a picnic, or play volleyball. The park also has a playground for children ages 2-12.

Disc Golf

Disc Golf
photo credit: Easy position via photopin (license)

Harris Lake – This lake is south of Jordan Lake, close to Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina. It has similar activities to Lake Crabtree – boating, fishing, trails for hiking and mountain biking, play areas, volleyball courts, and picnic shelters. It also has a disc golf course, which is like golf, but instead of hitting a ball, you throw a disc. Click here for more information.

Falls Lake – Falls Lake is located in Wake Forest, north of Raleigh. Here you can swim, camp, hike, bike, fish, boat, and picnic! Get more information here.

Lake Lynn – Located in North Raleigh, Lake Lynn has lots of cool things that other parks don’t have. There’s a community center with a fitness room, meeting room, art room, dance studio, and kitchen. There’s an indoor basketball court, 4 tennis courts, and a bocce court. There is a baseball field and batting cages. And there are two playgrounds – one for children ages 2-5, and another for children ages 5-12.

NC Museum of History

North Carolina Museum of History

By Abbylabar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that Raleigh has a great museum all about North Carolina history? The NC Museum of History in downtown Raleigh is a wonderful place for you and your family to learn about the history of our state!

What can I see at the museum?

The NC Museum of History has permanent (all the time) and temporary (only for a short time) exhibits. An exhibit is a collection of things in a museum. Right now, there are 13 exhibits you can see. Some are inside, and some are outside the museum. One of the permanent exhibits is the history of North Carolina. As you walk through the exhibit, you will see 14,000 years of life in this area.

In another exhibit, you can learn about movies and TV shows that were made in NC. Did you know that The Hunger Games was filmed in the NC mountains? And the TV series, Sleepy Hollow, is filmed in Wilmington, NC!

One temporary exhibit will be ending soon. It’s all about bluegrass music. Bluegrass is a type of folk music that is popular, especially in the western part of NC. If you like music, you should see this exhibit.

Click here for more information about exhibits.

How do I get to the museum?

The NC Museum of History is located at 5 East Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. It is VERY close to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the NC Capitol Building, and Marbles Kids Museum. If you don’t have a car, you can still get there easily because most buses pass very close to the museum. Click the map to get directions from your house.

Map to NC Museum of History

Click the map for directions – Screenshot of Google Maps

What if I can’t go to the museum?

If you want to go to the museum, but you can’t, they also have online exhibits about racial equality, health and healing, and NC in the Civil War. You can “visit” the museum without leaving your home!

Who should visit the museum?

EVERYONE! The NC Museum of History has fun learning activities and programs for adults, kids, and families! Even if you don’t participate in a special program, the museum’s exhibits have interesting things for people of all ages to see and touch.

When can I go?

The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On Sunday, it is open from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. It is FREE to go into the museum, and some of the exhibits are free, but you must pay for some special exhibits.

Best Outdoor Restaurants in the Triangle

It’s getting warmer, and that means people want to spend more time outside. Raleigh has some really great restaurants with outdoor seating. I will tell you about some of my favorites.


photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Dos TaquitosDos Taquitos in midtown Raleigh is a Mexican restaurant. If you want to try something different in that area, Relish is an American restaurant with delicious southern food. Both restaurants are near the corner of Creedmoor Rd. and Millbrook Rd., not far from Crabtree Valley Mall.

Boylan Bridge Brewpub – If you like beer, you should try Boylan Bridge Brewpub. They make their own beer, and they have an excellent view of downtown Raleigh from their large patio. If you don’t like beer, they have great burgers and sandwiches!

Mellow Mushroom – Mellow Mushroom is not authentic Italian pizza, but it is delicious, and you can eat outside at the Mellow Mushroom in Raleigh, the one in Cary, or the one in Durham.

Busy Bee – Located in downtown Raleigh, Busy Bee has amazing, fresh southern food and some really great salads.

Enrigo Italian Bistro – If you want authentic Italian food, you should go to Enrigo at Waverly Place in Cary. The chefs came to the United States from Italy to bring incredible Italian food to YOU! Also, just outside the restaurant, there is a nice play area for children, so take the whole family!

NeomondeNeomonde has two locations in the Triangle (one near NCSU, and one in Morrisville near the airport), both with excellent outdoor seating. The Lebanese food is perfect, and the location near NCSU has a small grocery section.

Tobacco RoadTobacco Road is a restaurant for people who love sports. They have great food and large TVs so you can watch all your favorite games. They have locations in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, all of which have outdoor seating, but I recommend that you go to the one in Durham. It is near the Durham Bulls baseball park, and if you sit outside, you can see the ballpark!

Southern Food

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

Coquette BrasserieCoquette is located at North Hills, in midtown Raleigh. It has French food and was recommended to me by a friend from France, so you can be sure that it’s good! Brunch (between breakfast and lunch, around 11:00 a.m.) is my favorite time to go.

Humble Pie – Since you are in the American South, I have one more southern food recommendation for you. Humble Pie, in downtown Raleigh, has some super delicious things for you to try. Go for lunch or dinner, but it’s also a great place for brunch!

CarrburritosCarrburritos is a family-owned restaurant in Carrboro (next to Chapel Hill). It’s not authentic Mexican food, but it is very, VERY good. If you go to Chapel Hill for any reason, PLEASE eat at Carrburritos.

Your Turn

Do you like to eat outside? Tell us about your favorite restaurants in this area. Or go out to eat with your class, and send me a picture!

Raulston Arboretum


photo credit: Roll 4 – 10 via photopin (license)

Do you love gardens, trees, or flowers? You should visit the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh! The arboretum has a large collection of landscape plants (plants used to make an outdoor area like your yard look pretty).

What is an arboretum?

An arboretum should be a collection of trees only, but most arboretums today also have other kinds of plants. In general, arboretums are used for scientific research, but most are also open to the public for visits.

Where is Raulston Arboretum?

The arboretum is located at 4415 Beryl Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606, near the NC State Fairgrounds and Meredith College. Click the map to get directions.

Map to Raulston Arboretum

screen shot of Google map

What can I do at Raulston Arboretum?

The weather is starting to get warmer now, and the arboretum will be a beautiful place to visit. Entrance to the arboretum is free, so you can have a picnic (a meal outside), you can take a walk, you can read about all the plants, or you can take a guided tour. Every Sunday, at 2:00, you can take a free tour. Just go to the Visitor Center.

If you want to pay, you can take gardening classes and attend lectures. Click here for a full calendar of events at the arboretum.

When is the arboretum open?

In the fall and winter (November-March), the arboretum opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m. In the spring and summer months, however (April-October), the arboretum opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 8:00 p.m. It is open every day of the year, but the buildings (the Visitor Center and the Education Center) are closed on holidays. They also have limited hours on weekends.