There was a time, however, when I got at least one snail mail a week, sometimes even two. They were the highlight of an otherwise boring week.
These letters came from Germany, France, Finland, Spain, Austria, Brazil, Greece, and Switzerland. They were my windows to a world I knew only in movies and books, written by boys and girls my age who were very much interested to learn more about my world and my life as I was about theirs.
There were so many things I learned from our exchanges -- things I probably would not have learned had I not met them. Somehow, I even learned to guess where a person is from based only on his handwriting and on his last name.
The only one I correspond with today is the one from Germany. We have been friends for twenty two years! Her name is Maike and she and I met in person when we were both 19. She stayed in our home for three weeks, before moving on to her sort of around-the-world trip after graduating from her A-lever. She is now my son's godmother and we continue to send each other Christmas gifts. Our correspondence now is a mix of Facebook, email and snail mail.
I have lost touch with the others but I am still hoping I'd stumble on them online. I still and forever will remember them and love them as my friends.
|This is an example of an address slip that IYS used to send students who requested for penfriends.|
It came along with tips on letter writing,-- a great help!
I got my penfriends from IYS (International Youth Service), an organization based in Finland. My best friend's teacher gave my best friend a registration form and we both signed up to use their service. IYS, after promoting the exchange of culture and the value of learning new languages closed down in 2008. The internet has become a venue for people to meet friends around the world that the number of students who were interested in penfriendship has greatly decreased.
IYS used to charge only 1 US dollar per address and guaranteed a reply. If the potential penfriend did not reply to your first letter, all you had to do was to inform IYS and they would send you another address, free of charge.
You'd end up with a penfriend from a country of your own choosing, with a gender of your choice and who shares your interests. Their system made sure of that. Once registered, the "member" can even receive surprise penfriends free of charge.
So actually, the cost was nothing compared to all the benefits one would get. Most of all, it helped build friendships that lasted for life. I felt really sad when I learned that it had closed down its operations after helping teachers and students for years. How is my son going to get his own penfriend now?YS
ill be closing down this summer, by 30th June 200e has been
I owe a lot to IYS, and so does a lot of us who benefited from the service.
Without IYS, I hope there was another way for the young generation to enjoy what we have enjoyed.
Exchanging letters with people of different cultures and backgrounds leads to a better understanding and acceptance of these differences, which could ultimately lead to peace. Most of all, it is really so much fun!
This post was inspired by the post of Emma about snail mails.