I have always thought mail was fascinating; hand written letters that were meant to communicate? So old fashionably cool! Don't even get me started on the history of mail! Of course, there was also those boring bills and stupid advertisements that we would get, but I would still get excited because a letter would come to our house and be possibly meant for me! I was always so disappointed when they were all for my parents.
Sometimes I would mail a simple letter to one of my friends in hopes that we could start a letter relationship, but alas that failed. Why? Well because we saw each other everyday and constantly hung out with each other, there was really no need for such things.
In the sixth grade, our teacher presented our class with a letter from a student in another state; I forget where and who it came from. That student was our age and simply asked for our response with who we all were and things like what Wisconsin was like. (Cows and cheese really if you ask me.) So of course we all responded, and then our teacher had the brilliant idea of assigning us to pick a school and send our own letter in hopes of finding a pen pal. I decided on a lovely school in Montana and was so excited to hear what life was like there. A couple months later there was still no response. No one had received a letter back except for one- and boy was I jealous of him.
A couple years later I finally decided to try and really obtain a pen pal. My mom (and myself-I admit) were a little weary about finding a random person to mail without all those little alarm bells going off. How are you suppose to find a trust worthy person that a young girl can communicate openly and freely with while giving away the home address? Well, that's when fate intervened.
A family friend on Facebook mentioned how they have been mailing a soldier in the army through Adopt A US Soldier. This site allows you to sign up and assigns you an active soldier were you once a week, send a letter to them. It can be about who you are, what you like, and any stories you have. The site does declare that even though you may be sending them mail, that they may not have the opportunity nor ability to write back, and if you are under the age of 18, they match you with the same gender so as to be safe (making both my mom and I happy). Also, the idea that some one in the military could use my letters as an outlet really got to me.
I was assigned to an amazing soldier, who for privacy concerns-will not name. She was on her second tour in Iraq and was returning home in less than a year. I told her of my family and she of hers and she even mentioned to me a little of what she was doing.
After she finished her tour, we no longer mailed each other. It was kind of sad, I really liked having someone I didn't know but could trust that I could talk-well, write to.
I began more research and through many sites and research later I came across a great and reliable website- and for free! This site was called Sassociations and it's entire website was dedicated to finding or advertising people for pen pals. Sassociations is basically like dating site but without all the worry about trying to find someone who you may end up meeting or getting together with. You can choose between male or female, many different age ranges, and even from different countries. People post ads about themselves so others can "browse" and look for someone with common interests or even different opinions so that they can have something interesting to write about. These ads are completely safe and so people can contact you without knowing where you live, you can give your e-mail address. The people who e-mail give a little bit of information about themselves and then if you feel like you would want to be there pen pal, you can give them your address-or, like in my case, they give you theirs.
After much searching, I decided that I would submit my own ad. Nearly four hours after I submitted my ad I had within ten people e-mail me about being pen pals. It took me a while, but I finally decided to respond to three people with similar interests and who sounded awesome to get in touch with. They were from England, Sri Lanka, and Sweden. Unfortunately, I never got past the second letter with my Sri Lanka and England pen pal, but I have been going for almost two years now with my Sweden pal.
We share our current problems, talk about life experiences, our families, and our hopes and dreams. We are not friends on Facebook and have never talked through e-mail save for the first time we connected. Of course, there are many people out there that would prefer the way of the internet for communication, but then you are almost always talking and with letters, you have a few weeks to collect yourself and never run out of topics.
So if you are currently trying to find a pen pal (maybe your first), my advice to you is this:
1. Always think about your safety. The internet is a very sketchy place and some people aren't as kind as you think they are.
2. Share your information cautiously. Be careful with who you are sharing your address with. If you put this on an "ad" then the whole world can see it and problems may arise.
3. Snail it up. People may say that they would prefer e-mail as their favorite way of communication, but the entire idea of pen pals is to write. Not to type. And it makes everything so much more personal and enjoyable when you receive a hand written letter in the mail for you!
4. Don't be afraid. Just because there is some cause for caution with pen pals doesn't mean that you think it's not for you and throw the idea aside. Be courageous! You can great people from all around the world and become friends. Who knows, maybe you can get to visit them in their homeland!
Pen pals; it is a horribly old-fashioned and romantic idea that I just can't seem to get enough of. One can learn so much about the world and other cultures and places by becoming a pen pal. Not to mention, having a "pal" across the globe is such a great life experience; it's like traveling to meet people but without going further than the end of your drive where your mail lies.
So get out there! And make a snail mail pen pal my friend!