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Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Lost Art....

When I was young, we used to get a TV program called "Big Blue Marble". At the end of the program, they encouraged their viewers to get a penpal from around the world to get to know your neighbour. My first penpal was an American girl called Susie O'Grady. I wonder what happened to her. She was actually the penpal of my best friend, Gina. So I eventually got my very own penpal. A Norweigian girl, called Gro Aaserod. And from then, came Lilyane from France, and Ron from Sweden. According to Wikipedia, this was a gentle form of multiculturalism, encouraging cross cultural communication.

All my life, I had had penpals. The rise of emails have significantly, taken away from the art of letterwriting. Although slow, there is this pleasure one gets from physically holding the letter in one's hand. The stamps used, the cancellation stamp, even the envelope made a difference.
Some people decorated the outside of the envelope as well. It really shouldn't be a surprise that I also collected stamps, no, not the rubberstamping kind, the postage kind. Part of acquiring the penpals was so that I could increase my collecton of foreign stamps. I used to have an Australian penpal that would regularly send me Australian coins so that I could trade it for Malaysian dollars to send to him. After the 11th package, I got tired of being his very one personal moneychanger and stopped sending the cash back to him. I remember getting a very nasty letter in the mail, accusing me of being a thief and being dishonest. I stopped accepting his mail.
My greatest pleasure (after writing the letter) was to carefully select a commemorative stamp to place in the top right corner (right over how much it cost to mail the letter). Also, mustn't forget the ubiquitous blue Air mail/ Mel Udara/ Par Avion sticker to indicate the mail should go posthaste. And last of all, don't forget to say a quick little prayer to St. Anthony to make sure the letter makes it to its destination.

So, I wondered with much sadness if penpals still existed- and much to my surprise, they do. In this instantaneous world, with breakup text messaging being the norm, and instant messenger, emails, Blackberrys and cell phones, people still have penpals. They still write letters, send and exchange bits of memorabilia and decorate envelopes. So, the internet, although has changed much of the landscape of correspondence, has allowed anachronistic white elephants like myself to connect with other like minded people and actually still exchange bits of our culture, and ourselves with people halfway across the world.

I guess I better go finish those inchies I need to get out tomorrow- the mail from Canada to the US is notoriously slow.

2 comments:

Honour said...

missy, this is a beautiful piece. lovely. i really enjoyed it ... you've taken a topic and really just allowed us to sink back into the act of writing letters. i don't say these things lightly - but this would be a strong story slam piece. love, roxy

Kimmie said...

What a cool commentary! I remember using "onion skin paper" for all my overseas mail to my cousins in Israel.

I plan to assemble a pen-pal list from the who's who swap .... too bad postage is going outasight