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.

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Ainhoa Garcia De Zalva, from Spain

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Amanda from Aukland New Zeland

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Radha, from India

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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 …

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… and confirm that it is about 1 hour and 3 minutes from Loch Ness to her (old?) house ….

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….. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.

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