I love the speed and convenience of email, but there’s nothing better than receiving a personal letter through the post.
Yesterday I received a letter from my Mexican-American penpal, Alberto, who lives in San Francisco. We’ve been writing to each other for about 13 years now.
When we were both 16 or 17 years old our English teachers did an international exchange and swapped countries and classes for a year. Our American teacher encouraged us to write a letter to our US counterparts which would be matched up with an appropriate person. For some weird reason I requested a female penpal. A while later I was given his reply, which said that we had so much in common that he had to write to me (I was learning Spanish and studying music at the time). Since then we’ve written to each other quite regularly, and hung out when I visited San Francisco in 2004.
We write to each other in Spanish, which is the main way that I’ve kept up my Spanish since I studied it years ago. We normally write about our careers, life goals, families, love-lives and creative pursuits. He plays guitar and listens to Latino rock music.
He always uses the same kind of envelopes, so I smiled with recognition when my mother handed it to me. Although we could easily correspond via email, for me at least there’s something about knowing that a letter has been handwritten, folded and placed in an envelope, posted and carried on an international flight before it could finally reach my letterbox.