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01 October 2010

Palling around

Every time I have to go to the Post Office I start to feel nervous, because here you know when you go out and you never know when you come back. You can't really plan, there's always an obstacle on the way, be it a mistake you make, a rude word from the employee (or worse his ignorance), slow queue, general incompetence. I usually go to Slovenia to avoid all this, but I don't have enough time this morning. It has to be Trieste. So, big breathe and courage. They can do this!

After all, things have improved tremendously in terms of service. Cards arrive on time during the heavily Christams traffic, gifts aren't that stolen from parcels anymore, and the like. It's the impression that you're being offered a burger rather than a steak that hasn't changed yet. And honestly, only watching those boring, bored and lazy employees who should be better off cleaning streets, is unnerving. I've nothing against that job, for God's sake, but let's face it: you don't need communication skills when you're out cleaning. And, mainly, you don't need to know basic geography, do you?

No matter the neat and capital letters handwriting on envelopes, and the computer technology, The Netherlands as a destination can still arise many doubts (is that Holland?), Guyana can be mistaken for an African state and Trinidad and Tobago may sound a fascinating but uknown tropical country. But then again, computers solve everything. Imagine a determined girl back in the 80's, instead, willing to post about 23 items between letters and parcels from a rural Post Office in central Italy. I paralyzed queues, drove even the manager mad and created a sort of relief when I left. I smile  at the memory now, but boy, that was primitive!

Nowadays computers elevate them to standard efficiency level, but can't hide the puzzled look everytime I magically warily put an envelope in their hands. They don't dare asking about destinations anymore, but they want to make sure I agree with the price of stamps. Of course I do, the're still cheap after all. It's how I spend my money they must be questioning about. Yes, money. My family and friends always thought I was wasting it on stamps, for people I didn't even know and probably would have never met. Poor stupids! They didn't know I was investing in my future and that all those letters were leaving an imprint on my soul. So I never cared. So I kept visting the rural Office. It definitely paid back.

Because, you see, I'm convinced that I owe to my penfriends the person I've become. For a long time, books and letters were my only friends, they gave me glimpses of a world I wished to explore, made me undersand cultures I longed to live, improved my English and, least but not last, reflected my life views. I lacked role models, those I found in some of my best friends. Those people who, for the first time in my life, offered me chances to be myself and adfirm my independence. My parents tended to select friends for me, so my penfriends were someone they couldn't control and by chosing them on my own, I set up a freedom territory where being refuged was peaceful. Penfriends became my second family and nearly an oasis to me.

Thank you, every single one of you out there reading this. Old and new friends, I love you and you mean the world to me. Gosh, I'm pretty emotional now. Yuck! :)

Growing up, my passion remained. It wasn't a hobby, it has never been; it was a state of mind, a life attitude that I nurtured and tried to be as much connected to real life as I could. I started meeting the first penfriends pretty soon, it was so rewarding and each experience enriched me and ended up confirming that I wans't a weirdo unable to relate to real friends in real life, like someone suspected. Because that's the main question with people. They all think it's too peculiar to be sane, and that if you keep all these friendships alive, you surely have a crappy life or some ego unsolved messy problem.  Every pal out there had to face this at least once, so you know what I'm talking about, don't you? And how did you react? I soon realized the less I avoided talking about my pals and trying to express my feelings, the better. Nobody understood. Only my same penfriends, of course.

Then today everybody asks me  how come I'm so fluent in English and marvels at my asnwer. They can't believe correspondence helped me so much. Of course, you assholes. You don't learn with sporadic letters, you take advantage of it only after years of constant letter writing and you are in wonder now just because you weren't the one teased for your crazy travelling mania, who also kept in touch with about 55 people regularly. It's all about perspectives, isn't it? Mine wasn't that I should stop hanging about with all those undesirables.

"Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities." (Bertrand Russell)

"Experience - the wisdom that enables us to recognise in an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced" (Ambrose Bierce)

These are the quotes that I should have mentioned to them. But why do I still care? What is done is gone, everybody is free to pursue what and how he wants in life. I achieved every single thing I desired my way and felt free. The pleasure was all mine. 


  1. Amen, my dear friend! You are truly a gift! :)

  2. Just like spoken from my heart - except for the post-office staff: they're really nice here and they quite often ask me if I've seen the newest stamps etc. They're very curious/interested about my mail (they like the envelopes with stickers and nice stamps) and also when I was a child/teenager up north the post office staff there was quite good.
    Letters have definitely helped with my English knowledge as well and also when people ask me how come I know so many people all over the world they find it amazing that most of them are either pen pals or people I've got to know through my pen pals.
    Keep on writing! :-)

  3. I agree with Alberta: she said it short and sweet. My pen pals definitely helped me grow in different ways and they taught me distance is irrelevant when friendships are concerned. I do get some patronizing looks when I mention I write letters: like you, people think I am unable to make friends in real life and that I am a bit behind times. I too often have more in common with my pen FRIENDS than I do with my "real life" friends. And pen paling was never just a hobby for me either: it's a passion - otherwise it wouldn't have lasted through the years....

  4. How many times have I jumped from the chair at the sound of the door bell when knowing it was the postman's day to pass from my neighbourhood..... The anxiety to open the letter, parcel or turn the postcard and see who is it from and suck every detail and information it had to offer...
    I did too faced laughs and ironies about opening my heart and soul to people I only knew from a pic or maybe have spoken on the phone once or twice. I guess nobody understood...
    And 20 years later I may not talk or even see those people that mocked me but I have many of those people who opened their heart to me as well in my life and we still talk, we still laugh, we still cry together and share our problems, exchange recipes and plan the tour of South Italy.

    So, I laugh at those people! And still am able to open my hug to accept new people no questions asked cos we my friend, have learned to love unconditionally no matter the age, race, height or weight, nationality or religion. Cos we honey are the true citizens of the world.... The rest of you, shut up!

  5. ahha yes, postmen were our best friends, they brought happiness to our lonely, consumed and ambitious souls! i never waited to get home and open the envelope properly, i wanted to read it immediately! and now i never wait until some friend posts something here or on fb. i call them first! life is good when you're rounded by whom you want it to be only! yeah!

  6. We too had such mail office workers here in the 1980's when I mailed letters. They didn't have a clue where Martinique was. They tried to charge me extra.
    And I've also realized that talking about having penpals makes people think really weird thoughts like "oh how pathetic, she writes letters like some kids do" so it's better to stay quiet. :( It's easier to say "my friend in the USA" than "my penpal in the USA" - well, they are friends, but strangers don't have to know that we keep contact by letters, do they??
    Your friend Tiina :)

  7. pretty much so, tiina. nobody has a clue, so they better shut up for once,and not interfere before giving unwanted opinions and being so judgmental. grrr!


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