Remember that song everyone sang in childhood “Make new friends, and keep the old, some are silver and the others gold”?
Well, back in November, the pen pal I’d had for 40+ years passed away. I still miss her. 40+ years of letters back and forth from Australia, growing up, being teenagers (and all that misery), jobs turn to careers, getting married, I had kids, she became a Professional Extra (no seriously, in movies, she’d be one of those in the background, or maybe have one line), we’d send each other interesting stuff…well, after she passed away I felt like something was really missing. Not a giant hole like the one Himself left, but a hole nonetheless.
I’d found her address through a Pen Pal service set up by National Georgraphic, for kids like me to find kids like her and learn more about the world. Of course this was all pre-internet, and even after internet and emails, we continued to write letters, with stamps, that took a month to get there. We both enjoyed getting those letters so much. I kind of think we grew up together, even 10,000 miles apart.
So, in the interest of meeting new people from other parts of the world, I’ve joined a pen pal service. Now, lest you get all worried about The Vulnerable Widow Being Taken Advantage Of By Predatory Men, I’m not stupid about it.My privacy is soundly protected and I’m good at figuring out who’s worth my time.
So far, I’ve talked to people from Australia, Switzerland, Bangladesh, a couple of women in Canada, a retired train engineer from England,and several VERY brief conversations with men claiming to be Generals In the Army of America.
That’s right. I’ve been contacted by 3 Generals who don’t know English grammar nor spell properly. When they claim to be a General, I look up the Department of Defense records of who’s what, and wouldn’t you know it, twice the said General didn’t exist, and once he did exist (and profile picture matched on one on the penpal page) but since the one who existed is the Commander of the Korean forces, and he was claiming to he all lonely in Afghanistan, he got a brief lecture on lying and the felony that was impersonating an officer. I haven’t hear back from him. I did hear from someone military (who wasn’t claiming to be someone special) and asked him about it. He was alarmed that it was happening and said something about “Stolen Valor” I learned something new that day, but I don’t think the impersonators were American as their syntax was off.
Anyway, I’m meeting some people around the world and it is interesting. The Australian is a retired American who immigrated there and is traveling all over, taking pictures. The Swiss person is an inventor (I’ve looked him up), The Bangladeshi is a Human Rights attorney (he’s telling me hair-curling things, and says people in the US complain too much). The high-speed train engineer is a self described “old goat who likes to talk to people and wants something to do in the afternoons while his wife watches her stories” We talk gardening. There are a couple of women who are fairly recent widows (about the same time as me), and we talk our walk, and it’s lovely to have someone to discuss things with, and possibly share ideas and solutions. There’s a Japanese woman my age with whom I exchange recipes, and an Indian woman who likes to talk about kids.
You can tell when someone’s faking it. So don’t worry about me. I’m having a great time and collecting a long list of “People Blocked”. As long as they respect my privacy, and don’t get pushy for imformation, I will respect their situations and ask questions, learn new things, and get to connect with people all over the world.
My boundaries are expanding, and I love that. There are so many people, cultures, ideas, languages (the Japanese woman is teaching me some stuff), and yet, most of us are regular people who are interested in other people and places. The internet is an amazing thing.