Friday, March 25, 2011

Pen pals

Did you ever have pen pals? Strangers you wrote to?

At the age of 12, I started writing to peers around the world. In English of course, no doubt about that. Despite the fact that I had never had English classes before, I thought writing in English could be a true challenge. I'm pretty sure the contents of my letters were no big deal, since I used nothing but a dictionary to help me translate the words. But I had fun and I always looked forward to the letters my pen pals sent me. I used to keep them in a box, that I lost overtime.. with pain in my heart. Those letters were handwritten. No computers nor email in those days.. The charm of getting a handwritten letter someone had struggled on, without a spelling corrector or online translator nearby, is priceless.

I remember - at a certain time - I had 42 kids I corresponded with. That was probably a couple of years later. Some kids I wrote to for many years. I'm thinking of Ginny Tan Tit Sang from Singapore and Kelvin Lai from Hong Kong. Tom Gort from Holland was another person I used to write to. Although he lived (lives) in Holland, we wrote in English. Tom is the only pen pal I actually met in real life. Every now and then, we still hear from one another. Isn't that cool??

The year I spent in the US, my pen pal Kelvin Lai stayed there as well. I was working as an au pair back then, in Oregon and Massachusetts. He was an exchange student in Chicago, Illinois, at the time. We started corresponding again and we planned to meet up in Chicago. I don't remember the exact reason, but Kelvin never showed up. I wonder how he is now..

I have facebooked both Kelvin and Ginny, but there are so many people that share their name, that it's real hard to find them. I believe somewhere in the attic to find a yellow tape, recorded by Kelvin Lai. He wanted to teach me some Chinese phrases. I believe I sent him a tape as well, to teach him some Flemish lines. That was pretty funny, you know. I remember some of those words, like lam hai and loi hai or mu than and fu than. I might try to locate that tape, to see what else I learned from Kelvin.

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