Back in the early 80s I learned about a pen pal program where you could write to kids in other countries and they would write you back – what a concept. There was a company that, for a small charge, would connect you with children in countries that you were interested in who were also looking for someone to communicate with. I was interested in other countries, liked to write, and was more and more interested in girls. So I figured why not sign up? Might not work if you only try one or two – how about 10? Surely one of 10 girls from around the globe would reply to my mail from the USA? Well a bunch of them did.
Ainhoa Garcia De Zalva, from Spain
Amanda from Aukland New Zeland
Radha, from India
Morag, from Fort William, Invernesshire, Scotland
There were a couple more, but these were the only ones that lasted through several letters back-and-forth.
The last one, Morag, was special. It turned out that a few years later our family decided to take a vacation to Scotland to see where my grandparents grew up while they were still able to make the trip. I was able to arrange meeting Morag and her family. We made a special trip up to their home and we played in a playground and got to meet her family. It was very near Loch Ness.
In fact – this is so weird – I can even Google Map her address from the nearly 30 year old envelope …
… and confirm that it is about 1 hour and 3 minutes from Loch Ness to her (old?) house ….
….. and even get right down to the street.
This really puts things into perspective – maybe I’ll write more about these after I read through them again.
So what did I learn here?
- Girls have way nicer handwriting than me – my handwriting is even worse now, though it did improve when I tried using a PDA for a while with handwriting recognition.
- A handwritten note is pretty much second to none in communicating something lasting and of personal value. I don’t even have some e-mails from last week, only a handful last in archives over a year, but I have 30 year old pen pal letters that I’ll probably read again over the next few days.
- People who are different are not scary – many times their differences are very interesting. Radha from India was probably the most interesting pen pal of the whole, because she was funny, smart and waaaay different than me.
- Stick with something and it can end up exceeding your highest expectations. I never thought I’d meet any of the pen pals, or get to travel out of the country (still want to go again sometime).
- The world is much smaller now – I can now get a satellite image of Morag’s home from any computer on the Internet – a person I couldn’t even picture for months can now call or even video conference over the Internet in seconds.