Monday, September 5, 2011

PenPal Interview: Anna Tang


This is our interview with Anna Tang. August 2011, issue 10 of our PenPal magazine.
 
Hello there! How are you doing? Tell us more about yourself, your hobbies, personal life, interests.
Hey everyone! My name is Anna Tang, I’m 17 years old and I’m live in North Carolina, USA! I was originally born in China, I moved to the US when I was four. Since then, I’ve been back two times, once in ’06 and in ’08. Life is never dull as I have a beagle named Elmo and a goldfish named Mister, I call him Mister Goldfish. My life revolves around green tea, and I swear by the Green Tea Frappuccino at Starbucks. 
My hobbies include reading and writing, listening to music, sleeping (it’s an epidemic in high school), writing to my penpals (of course!), and fashion!
My life revolves around my journal, it looks about as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and my books. I write and I write and then I scribble in my journal. My books define who I am so I try to buy new books as often as I can (I have boxes of books in my attic!). I read a lot of different books: last week, I started reading Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, before that, I was worming my way through Dante’s Inferno. Two completely different books, but both were interesting in their own way.
I don’t think I know a single teenager who doesn’t listen to some kind of music, everyone has an iPod or some music making gadget stuck in their ears on full blast these days! Anyways, I listen to music from a lot of different countries from Ayumi Hamasaki in Japan to Katy Perry in the US and Yulia Savicheva in Russia. I enjoy hearing music from different countries, it’s like being able to listen in on a different culture.
Probably my favorite hobby, sleeping. During the school year, it’s from August till June here, sleeping is something I wistfully wish for (and occasionally do) in class. It’s a symptom of senioritis, don’t worry, it’s not a terrible disease, it’s a state-of-mind that all rising seniors experience because they are just so happy to be leaving high school.
I’ll be writing about my penpals throughout this interview, so I’ll go ahead and skip that right now. I feel no guilt about it.
Fashion! Fashion! Fashion! I’m not a slave to fashion (it means I don’t wear it), I’m simply a follower. I have always loved clothes that are provocative and inspiring. Designers like John Galliano and Salvatore Ferragamo are my favorites, and Chanel and Ralph Lauren are classics. I have tried to design my own clothes, but in the end, they always look nothing like how I want them to look. I sketch my designs out and once I finish them, I like to send them to my penpals and ask for their approval. I read Vogue, W, Teen Vogue, Elle, and Allure.
If you have to describe yourself in only 5 words what would they be?
Only 5? I had to think really hard on this one, but here is my top five:
Parenthetical: I use parenthesis as a means of my “background voice.” It’s my way of telling the world that I talk a lot, because I have to use parenthesis to express my “opinion” on everything I write. Oh! And I almost forgot, there’s another meaning for the word parenthetical, I’m using my own definition of parenthetical (it means opinionated) here, the real definition has something to do with punctuation marks. 
Genuine: I am not another version of anyone else; I’m the first (and only, I hope) version of me.
On-the-Go: Ok, that’s actually three words, but for the sake of this interview, let’s just pretend that it’s one word. I’m always doing something at every moment of every day of my life (like now, I’m writing this interview).
Foody: I don’t think that’s actually a word, but I use this to describe myself. I cook and I cook and then I eat. I believe that food is a way to a person’s soul (hence: Soul Food!), so I always try to cook the best dishes for my friends and family (it’s not because I want to see into their souls, I can already do that, I just know that they are really hungry.)
Cheddar: Ok, another thing related to food. The truth is: my life revolves around cheddar, so I eat a lot of cheese. I guess this is my way of saying that I’m unique because this one time, I wrote a paper on the history of Gouda and the English teacher said that it was the only paper she didn’t fall asleep reading. (You should’ve seen the class’ face…)

Tell us something about your town, city or country.
I live in a small college town in North Carolina called Chapel Hill. It’s a relatively small town with some 30,000 people and 3,000+ college kids. Right in the heart of Chapel Hill is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and even though it is a public college (not private like Duke or Yale), kids come here to learn from all over the US and all over the world.
Chapel Hill is mostly famous for its basketball team, the UNC Tarheels. They got their name from all the tar pits that used to occupy NC back in the old days (and soldiers complained about their boots getting stuck in tar when they tried to move around.) Then, there’s the age-old rivalry between the UNC Tarheels and the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is another famous university that’s located near Chapel Hill. Basketball season is very popular among the locals (that’s me) and college kids alike.
Aside from all the colleges and sports, Chapel Hill has delicious Southern comfort food. I’m talking about fried chicken (very fatty, very delicious!), mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits and gravy (we eat a lot gravy down south!), sweet tea, and fried okra. There’s a lot more, I’m just naming my favorites! Most of the tourists are here for the food, and the fast food restaurants (think: McDonalds) don’t do nearly as well as the southern fast food restaurants (say it with me, Bojangles!).
 
How did you start penpalling? When was that? And why did you decide to start Penpalling?
I first started penpalling when I was a sophomore in high school. I started out wanting just one or two penpals from Russia because I had recently become fascinated with the country. But I would’ve been fine if someone from another country, say Finland, wanted to be my penpal. Looking back, I didn’t really know much, if anything at all, about penpalling. But now I know there’s more (a lot more!) to just writing letters, it’s about making a connection.
It was a bit scary at first because I didn’t really know how I would start. Typing the introduction to my profile at a penpalling website alone was harrowing. But after a while, I got used to the idea of messaging people and introducing myself. It got easier and finally, after a lot of trial and error (and some time in the Spam Box), I did find penpals whom I’m still friends with today.

What do you like / dislike about Penpalling/correspondence?
I like writing the letters to my penpals and frantically searching the aisles at stores for presents to put in my letter. I HAVE to include something in my letter; I’ve been doing it ever since I started writing to my penpals. It’s a tradition with me that has never (never ever ever!) been broken.
When I’m writing a letter to my penpal, I feel like as if time has stopped. I can write as fast as I want or as slowly as I want, it doesn’t matter. It’s very low-stress and low-key. On the other hand, when I search for the “perfect gift,” that’s when the stress begins. I always want every gift to be special and a representation of something special.
What I don’t like about penpalling is when I’m writing the address on the envelope and halfway, I mess up on a letter (or once in my case, a whole line!). I don’t want to send the letter that way because it’s got a huge blotch of white out on it and when it’s on a manila envelope (yellow!), you can so totally tell. So I have to get a whole new envelope and rewrite the entire address over. That’s my ultimate pet peeve of penpalling.
Another thing that bothers me (ever so slightly) is reading a letter in which the person put in absolutely no effort to write. It leaves the reader (you, me, and all who read their penpal’s letters) with a very down feeling followed by a period of resentment. I spend on average three hours (and counting!) writing and working on each penpal’s letter because I believe that every letter should be special and of some significance.
I’m not too picky, am I?
How do your friends react when they discover you are into Penpalling? Are they also into it or they give you the “strange” faces?
My friends are neutral when it comes to my penpalling habits. Two of my friends have their own “version” of penpalling, they write to their friends that live in other states (as in, they moved and communicate with their friends through letters). I was actually the first one to mention to my friends that I did penpalling. They were shocked at first because I told them that I met them on the Internet. There was (and still is) this big policy at my school about Internet safety and this elaboration that no one online is who they claim to be. I think that’s probably a big reason why my friends were cautious about my penpalling, because of how I met them. But after I showed them pictures of my first (and current!) penpal, they calmed down a bit and started doing their own penpalling.

Do you still stay in touch with your first penpal? Tell us about your first penpal even if you have lost touch with them. We might be able to help you locate him/her.
YES! I am still in touch with my first penpal! We have known each other for over two years now, and there’s never been a dull moment. She’s from Russia and five years older than me but we still have so much to talk about. We met on a language exchange website called italki. Most people on there are looking for someone to practice a language with, I don’t think anyone on there is solely concentrated on penpals. Anyways, I sent her a message commenting on how exotic her profile picture was, she replied, and we’ve been friends ever since. We talk to each other about everything: her university, my beagle, her love for languages, and my outrageous scribbling abilities.
It’s only been about a year and half since my first penpal and I started exchanging letters. I was a bit nervous about the idea at first, but I learned that it was just as good, even better, than sending messages to each other all the time through email. We also recently started using Skype to communicate. We send each other instant messages through Skype and (with the permission of my grunting parents) we also have video chats. I have a fondness for video chats because it feels like you are actually meeting your penpal since it feels like as if they are in the next room talking to you.

How many Penpals do you have? Where are they from?
Don’t laugh, but I only have 5 penpals. Two are from Russia, one is from Italy, another from Hungary, and the last one is from England. I am really close with all my penpals as we have known each other for over a year now (save the first penpal, that’s two years), and I write letters to them on a daily basis (once or twice a month, depends on the mood of my local post office).
Back when I first started penpalling, I went wild. I had met a lot of people, and we agreed to write letters to each other. But after about a letter or two, someone usually lost interest, and for that reason, we stopped sending letters to each other. At one point, I had over 30 penpals that I wrote to. It was really hard to keep track of all of them, so if one or two didn’t reply, it took a while to notice. I had penpals from Brazil, Argentina, Spain, France, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Finland, Belarus, Austria, Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Israel, Qatar, Thailand, Australia, and Scotland. It was fun while it lasted and if I could do it all over again, I would.
Are you searching for new Penpals? If yes, please give us some contact information that we can publish in the magazine so that people can write to you back.
Haha, that’s a good question. I think that I am still looking for penpals because I’m always looking to learn about new people, their lives, and their cultures. I like getting to know new people, and for that reason, I always try to find new penpals.
My email address is youqi2004@yahoo.com
And finally, my Skype is lolanna21.
What are you looking for in a penpal?
Oooh, another tough question! I don’t have anything specific that I look for in a person. I’m looking for someone who is willing to share their culture openly with someone else, who is a loyal friend, who loves to talk and make new friends, and who has an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Well, maybe not the last part so much, I just like people who are inquisitive.
Really, I just look for people who are adventurous, that’s what penpalling is all about, it’s an adventure.

Where do you find new Penpals from? Do you rely on FBs or Facebook or other websites/blogs.
When I started penpalling, I found several penpals on the language exchange website, italki. I found my first penpal there. I still use italki, but I also like to use studentoftheworld, it’s my #1 website for finding a penpal. I would definitely recommend studentsoftheworld to anyone new to penpalling, there are so many nice people on there! I met the majority of my penpals on there! Other than those two websites, I don’t really use any other websites.
I rely on Facebook for keeping in touch with my friends when we aren’t sending letters to each other. For my penpals who don’t have Facebook, I like to use email, it’s as good as Facebook, and even though I have had more than my share of time in the Spam box, I enjoy communicating by email.
Tell us a funny/interesting story from your Penpalling experience?
I think the funniest thing that ever happened was the one time I sent my driver’s license to my penpal. (In the US, it’s possible to get a license at 17, some have gotten theirs at 15.) I had to deliver a huge box to my penpal (it was a Christmas present), and the lady at the post office asked to see some ID. At the time, the box wasn’t sealed, so I handed her the driver’s license and when she was done, she put in on the box. At that moment, I was getting cash from my purse so I completely forgot about my driver’s license. After I finished paying her, I shook the box a little (don’t ask why, I don’t know!) and behold! The driver’s license fell through the crack and into the box! I didn’t know that I had sent my driver’s license to my penpal until she called me and ask why I had sent it to her! I had to get another one.
How do you keep track of your mail? Share your tip on how to organize ourselves.
I have a set of decorative boxes that I use for the letters that my penpals send. I try to create a special box for my penpals and I keep the boxes in special place in my room. It was a lot of work making and decorating the boxes at first, but it was worth it in the end. Now, I don’t have to worry about misplacing or losing a letter because I put lids on the boxes. Then I stack them on top of one another so they don’t take up too much space in my tiny room. So in one corner of my room I have these really wacky designs practically shooting from the floors.
Do you swap things? Do you like sending gifts to friends? If yes, what is the funniest gift you have ever sent/received?
From the first letter that I have ever sent to my penpal, I always put some little gift in the letter. It’s like my tradition and it’s never been broken. I guess because it’s a tradition with me, I like sending things to my penpals.
The funniest thing that I have ever sent was a board game. I sent the game “Mouse Trap” to a penpal for her birthday. She wrote back and told me that she had a good time setting up the mousetrap and playing the board game.
I once received a report card from a penpal. It was really funny to see that in Italy, the grades were in numbers (1-10) while here, the grades were letters (A,B,C…). I could just imagine an American kid going home afraid that their parents would see a bad grade on their report card only to open it and find that it was a number instead!

Have you met a penpal? If so, let us know how the meeting went.
Unfortunately, I have not met any of my penpals! I will definitely try to visit all of them, sooner or later. I love to travel, so I think I will meet all of them.
What do you usually like writing/reading about in the letters?
I like to write about my life, my highlights, my dooms, myself, and my increasing desire to get my hands on a box of calissons, a delectable French candy made exclusively in Aix-en-Provence.
I write about daily happenings from a cute boy that I saw in the hallway at school to the upcoming presidential elections. There’s no one specific topic that I focus on, I try write about as many different things as possible. Sometimes, I would have endless conversations about one specific topic with a penpal, other times, I would just mention it and they would comment on it and that would be the end of it.
Reading-wise, I like to read about everything that the penpal has to say. There’s no limit as to what to talk about, I’m really interested in knowing about a new lifestyle, custom, or just a different opinion. Who knows? I may find a new topic refreshing and exciting and new! But most importantly, I think that the idea that I’m reading something from someone who is so far away and at the same time so close is enough for me.
When it comes to making cute and personal letters, everyone has his/her own style. Tell us your trick how to make a letter/envelope unique? Do you decorate it? If yes, how. Give us some tips on how to make the letters more interesting.
Oooh (I do that a lot!), was I supposed to decorate the letter? I believe that while we should not judge a book by its cover, we also should not judge a letter by its envelope. I usually mail my letters in a plain manila envelope. I guess that’s my unique trademark: an ugly envelope in the mail.
I don’t really decorate the outside of my letters nor the actual letter itself. That’s another trademark: a letter written on notebook paper. I like to keep it simple because it’s distracting (to me) to read a letter that has flowers and puppy dogs swimming all over it. My “style” comes in when I make the gifts that I send to my penpals.
I love fashion so I sketch my clothing designs on paper and I send those to my penpals and ask for their approval and what they think. Also, I like to include things in my letter from my daily life like school newspapers, fashion magazines, sketch books, fruit roll ups, Jello and pudding mix, and origami paper. And of course, I try to be extravagant and spoil my penpals when I send things like teddy bears (Build-A-Bear!) and perfume (D&G anyone?). My goal is to always keep my penpals guessing on what I will send them next.
Where do you buy your stationery supplies from? Do you prefer traditional shops or e-shops? If so, give us some links.
I can usually get most of my supplies from a local office supply store. I get my art supplies from a specialty crafts store called Michaels, they have everything from stone to cotton balls! In this sense, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to shopping for things for my penpals. Of course, I get my gifts from a multitude of stores, department stores and boutiques. It all depends on how I’m feeling (and how much money I saved up from my allowance.)
I have never bought anything online before for my penpals, not yet. Currently, I have my eyes set on Janet Store, they have the cutest things, and I’m coveting their things right now!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

PenPal Interview: Marta Sargenti


Marta Sargenti gives this interview for August 2011, issue 10 of SandbookNet PenPal magazine.

 1.     Hello there! How are you doing? Tell us more about yourself, your hobbies, personal life, interests.

Hi everyone! My name is Marta and I am 29. I was born, bred and have lived all of my life in central Italy.
  
I am a freshman at the university again, studying Education part-time. I have always wanted to be a teacher, I was a kid and already forcing my younger sister to attend my lessons, but I studied social work instead as my first university choice. Still wondering why though. I love to work in the social field, but don't much like the social worker job, too much bureaucracy and papers to fill in daily and too little face-to-face contact with people, with their real life. After a few temporary jobs with children, I decided to try my luck and apply for Education. I did it and have just finished my first year at the university. Studying wasn't easy at first, after 4 long years since I graduated last, but I am now starting to feel at easy with text books again and I have two more exams to sit in September to call my first year done with.
I am also a part-time worker, because uni fees are high and because I have to start saving up for my own house and for a future. I work for my parents, that would drive anyone crazy, I tell you! We deal with tourism and sell religious items and souvenirs to some resorts not far from where we live. It's crazy job from March to October, but it's almost relaxing during late fall and winter months.
I am a dog owner, a proud one, and in my spare time I walk around or play at the park with my dog Rolly. He's a bundle of joy and a great companion to my days!
The rest of my spare time is very limited, I volunteer at church together with my boyfriend. We are chief to a group of 11 year olds, our group meets on Saturdays from 3 to 4 pm. It's hard job but I love it! Volunteering has enriched my life in the last couple years.
I also like to relax, of course, and my best way to do it is writing letters to my pallies (of course I am an avid penpaller, have always been one since my youngster years) and reading: I am a bookworm! Ihave a thing for TV-series and watch way too many, but I am being sensible and try to limit my addiction.

2.     If you have to describe yourself in only 5 words what would they be?

I am a stubborn person, I would never give up a goal of mine and if I want to get something I will get it sooner or later.
I am caring to those I love, I worry for my overworking parents and I am the one who cooks and cleans for the family. I can't go without worrying everyone is ok, even when I am not at home. 
I must add picky to my description. I am picky with friends, I am picky with what I eat (mostly because I am lactose intolerant, so I have to be picky...), I am picky with my education.
I am understanding, my friend Ilaria says it's the social worker in me. I tend to see a good side in everyone and hardly judge people from the “cover”, but try to see things from their point of view, so as to feel empathy to them. Maybe Ilaria is right, deep inside I am still a social worker.
I am sarcastic, even if italians don't appreciate sarcasm that much and often take my sarcasm for snobbery.
  

3.     Tell us something about your town, city or country.

I live in Perugia, a city in the heart of Italy, in a region called Umbria with no outings to the sea, but with an amazing landscape to fall in love with! The city counts some 170.000 inhabitants, mostly living in the suburban areas. Our old city hosts students coming from all over Italy and worldwide (I am proud to say that Perugia hosts the University for foreigners, so if you want to study Italian you have to come here and get your Italian Language Certificate here). I love to walk around the old city and I am proud of the history that old Perugia shows to the tourists that come every year, especially in July for the Umbria Jazz Festival.
We have a mean of transport that is pretty unique here, it's called Minimetro and it's a sort of an elevate metro. Tourists are enthusiastic with it! What I love the most of minimetro is that each stop hosts a “book-stop” green desk where people can leave their books for others to take home and read, following the real bookcrossing philosophy. You never know, great books may cross your way when catching minimetro to university!
Another event that's worth mentioning is the Eurochocolate, nothing less than a real chocolate festival, where you can taste and buy chocolate of all flavours and shapes! They even hold a competition of statues made from big blocks of chocolate!

4.     How did you start penpalling? When was that? And why did you decide to start Penpalling?

My experience with penpalling started when I was 12 years old, when our English teacher at school introduced us to foreign correspondence, giving each one of her students an English correspondent to exchange letters with. I was matched to an English blonde girl called Beth who sent me a first letter in purple stationery decorated with flowers. I was absolutely excited with her first letter and would show my whole family the photos she had exclosed, with her house and family! I guess my English skills must have been almost non existant because the girl quit writing after my second letter. Can't blame her, I could hardly say much more than my age and a few phrases about my family! And that was already talked about in my first letter... I tried it with other few foreign girls because I loved the idea of being friends with someone from another country, but had to temporarily give up foreign correspondence because my English was a real disaster and no one would go further than letter number 2! Back then I was member of a book-club. We got a magazine every second month and in the magazine there was a penpalling section: kids could place an add there for pals. That's what I did. I received 20-some replies to my advert, but only a handful of those girls who replied the add were to stay and became reliable pals. With one of them I wrote letters untill a few years ago when we lost touch when she left to Africa for volunteering. I was 15 when I went back to international penpalling. I got 4 addies from IPF service based in Turku, Finland. I wrote to those pals for years, and still have them in my contacts list on Facebook, even if they no more do penpalling.  In 1997 I received a fb from one of my italian penpals and I seriously started penpalling and swapping! There was a moment when I had almost 40 pals! I am not proud of those days, because I was not a quality over quantity person back then, but then I was a teen and of course stationery and many letters would catch my attention the most. Over the years my attitude to penpalling changed a lot. I am now one of those who puts quality over quantity and I am now corresponding with a small group of 8 reliable girls living in Europe, Canada and the States. I consider them all dear friends and write them long letters stuffed to the brim with my life and hopes. I can no more think my life without them friends!


5.     What do you like / dislike about Penpalling/correspondence?

I love penpalling because I feel completely at ease with a paper in front of me, rather than having to talk face-to-face with someone. I am a shy person and find it terrible to open up with new people. Instead through letters the whole friendship building process is easier for me. Of course I also love to meet my pals, once we are close enough to trust eachother. I already met a  few of my pals. One wasn't a pleasant experience, to tell you the truth. It was with a male pal of mine and it made me say “no more male pals for me from now on”! But it didn't keep me from meeting pallies again!  I met twice my former italian pal and we exchanged summer holidays at eachother places for some years. I also met my bestie once and we'll soon meet again, in November, when we'll go on holidays together in London. Penpalling means a lot to me. My penpals are my friends, my penpals are with me on good and bad days, my pals support me, they love me for the person I am with good sides and faults. I think that's enough said to explain why penpalling means that much to me!

6.     How do your friends react when they discover you are into Penpalling? Are they also into it or they give you the “strange” faces?

This one makes me giggle, indeed! Of course some of my aquaitances know that I am a penpaller. And very few of them pretend it's something they consider normal. Most of them just make pity faces toward my direction and I am sure they think I am wasting my time and being childish. That's what my dad used to tell me. There was a period when I only wrote letters when alone at home, so that parents wouldn't see me and blame me for wasting my time! Now I no more hide, of course. I think they got used to letters being delivered to me and to my habit of sitting down at my desk with paper and pen and staying there for hours writing. My boyfriend also didn't get it, how I could find it funny to write letters. But then I introduced him to Bonnie when she was here in my city studying italian and told him about my meeting with penpals and he's now more understanding about it. Still he says it's something he would never consider doing himself. My sister tried to start penpalling when a teen herself, following my example, but she didn't like it enough to go on with the years. I think there are not many italian pals around nowadays, we are rare species here!
  
 7.     Do you still stay in touch with your first penpal? Tell us about your first penpal even if you have lost touch with them. We might be able to help you locate him/her.

I am no more in touch with the English girl Beth. And I would not be able to locate her nowaday anymore, because I don't remember much about her.
I was able to locate most of my old pallies thank to Facebook and I am in touch with them again thank to it.
My eldest pal is my best friend Eva, from Hungary. We have been writing letters to eachother since 2001, that makes it quite a long time. Our letters are long and detailed, full of questions and we also send eachother books we read and want the other one to read. We met first time 3 years ago when she was in Italy for a collector fair and I reached her in Verona. It was our first time in the city and we enjoyed sightseeing and talked a lot! We were like old friends and we grew even closer after our meeting! We're now ready to meet again in London in November. We'll be sharing a room in a hostel there and spend 5 days together sightseeing and browsing through second hand bookstores.

8.     How many Penpals do you have? Where are they from?

I am writing to 8 girls at the moment. They are around my age, some are younger than me, a couple aged 2 and 3 years more than me. All of them are bookworms like me. All of them love to write long letters. With some I share my love for some tv-shows and writers, with some others we share our love for travelling. Each one of them is special for me, everyone gives me friendship and shows me a part of the world through their letters. My pallies are from Hungary, Finland, Germany, England, Denmark, Scotland, Illinois and Canada.

9.     Are you searching for new Penpals? If yes, please give us some contact information that we can publish in the magazine so that people can write to you back.

Even if I am very tempted to meet some new long letter pals I can share a lot with and become good friends with, I know I cannot take on more pals than those I already write to. I am busy all day both with school and job and I would not be able to keep in touch regularly via snail mail if I had more pals. That's is why I have to say “no, thank you. I am not looking for new pals right now”.

10. What are you looking for in a penpal?

Of course I am looking for real friends in my pals. I want to share the same idea of friendship with my penpals. It is not necessary to be sharing all hobbies or favourites, but it is useful to share something at the beginning, so that the conversation keeps going from the very start and it's easier to grow closer then. When looking for a penpal I am asking for them to be reliable, regular with their replies and caring with me, as much as I am with them. Friendship is a mutual feeling. And friendship is what I look for in a penfriend.

11. Where do you find new Penpals from? Do you rely on FBs or Facebook or other websites/blogs.

I already said that in the past I used to look for new pals via IPF penpal service or books magazine and, later on, trough Fbs. Nowadays I am no more into swapping Fbs and mostly look for pals through Interpals, where I have got a profile and where I met most my present pals. I used to think as reliable long letter ladies also. And that's where my bestie Eva and I found eachother 10 years ago. I am member of  Penpalling&Letters group of Facebook, a group that's too fun to be part of and that I kindly reccomend to any pal who's reading this and is on Facebook.

 
12. Tell us a funny/interesting story from your Penpalling experience?

I think the funniest thing that happened to me recently with penpals is when I met online my pal Bonnie. She is an american girl, whose profile I was amazed with. I kept checking her profile again and again but couldn't come up with something interesting to say to catch her attention. Finally she moved the first step and contacted me. We exchanged a few private messages and agreed to be pals via snail mail. She said we'd to still go on with email for a few months longer because she was moving to Italy soon. We agreed we'd have exchanged adresses when she knew her new adresse in Italy. Well, to make a long story short: she moved to Italy and guess where exactly! Yes, she studied italian in Perugia, of course we met and had some chances to hang out together and I introduced her to my mates here also. She's still in Italy and now travelling around the country, so we're not penpals technically, but we did start as potential pals.

 

13. How do you keep track of your mail? Share your tip on how to organize ourselves.

I keep track of my received and sent letters thank to listography, where I update my page everytime I get or send a mail to my pallies. It's a useful place where to place your lists and keep yourself organized and neat, without worries of wasting your paper lists! I also keep a journal where I write a list of topics I talk about in each letters, so that I know where my previous mail stopped at and can easily update my pals with my latests without missing anything or writing something twice. I keep all my letters in a box, and number them as they come.

14. Do you swap things? Do you like sending gifts to friends? If yes, what is the funniest gift you have ever sent/received?

I love to spoil my pals and send them the odd gift with my mails. Nowadays that postage insanely increased in Italy (as if the service offered had improved at all!) I send gifts on special occasions mainly, such as Christmas and birthdays. The funniest thing I ever sent to a pal was a handmade cheese pie we traditionally eat on Easter day. My grandma made and baked it and I  wrapped it carefully and sent it in the mail. We were lucky that the pie got delivered safely and it was still good when my pallie opened the parcel. She even liked it! That was the most original gift ever sent. Doubt I could do it now, as they check parcels often now and I know you're not allowed to send food.

15. Have you met a penpal? If so, let us know how the meeting went.

As I already said I met a few pals in the years. I met my Finnish pal Outi in Italy when she was here on holidays. We agreed to meet in Rome and spend a day together there. We met at the train station and it was easy to find eachother there, thank to our mobiles: we'd been texting eachothers all the way to Rome. We spent the morning walking around the city, and trying to save ourselves from the heat by hiding in some bookstores and dvd shops every now and then. Finally, we gave in and spent the rest of the day sitting in an amazing park, on a bench under a tree, talking. We had fun together and it was a lovely meeting!

16. What do you usually like writing/reading about in the letters?

In my letters I write about my everyday life, my hopes and dreams, my projects, my sorrows and disappointments. I write about my studies and job, about my family, my boyfriend. I write about books I read and tv I watch. I talk about my travelling and I write about italian traditions.
I ask my pals to be as open with me as I am with them in our letters. They of course can talk about anything and everything. There's no particular topic I love to talk about and some that I can't really stand. Whatever comes to our minds soon becomes a favourite topic to talk about. 

17. When it comes to making cute and personal letters, everyone has his/her own style. Tell us your trick how to make a letter/envelope unique? Do you decorate it? If yes, how. Give us some tips on how to make the letters more interesting.
My letters are pretty colorful I think. I mostly write on lined or squared paper because I am useless without lines. I like to write in black ink or purple sometimes. I underline questions, so that it makes the letter colorful and it makes it easy for my pallies not to miss any questions when replying. And I sometimes decorate my letters with stickers, especially the back of stationery, that's usually blank. 

 

18. Where do you buy your stationery supplies from? Do you prefer traditional shops or e-shops? If so, give us some links.
Most of my stationery comes from Janet Store, that is absolutely cheap and selling quality stuff. Yet postage grew for Janet as well and it is now worth it only if you place bigger orders, that I cannot afford at the moment. I have got stationery enough to still go on for a couple years still. I have some Diddl pads left from my 2009 trip to Germany and a  Hello Kitty pad I bought in a shop downtown before it closed down. Not that  I am nuts for Hello Kitty but it's an ok pad still. I think I will buy my stationery when travelling abroad from now on. Unluckily you can't find quality paper in Italy and not at all in Perugia, so I am quite unlucky here.

I thank you for giving me the chance to take part to this penpal interview! I had big fun writing about my pal experience!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Penpal Interview: Bev Sykes


Bev Sykes gives this PenPal Interview for Sandbook PenPal Magazine, August 2011, issue 10.

 
Hello there! How are you doing? Tell us more about yourself, your hobbies, personal life, interests.
Thank you for asking. I am a bit warm today because the temperatures are in the mid-90s, but I am enjoying the fan here on my desk. I am Bev Sykes, retired from medical office management but writing theater (not movie) reviews for the local newspaper here in Davis, California. Walt and I have been married 46 years and raised 5 children. We have 1-1/2 granddaughters (baby due in September). I love writing, reading, TV, movies, theater, photography, PhotoShop, mucking around on the computer, travel and giving friends tours of my hometown, San Francisco.

If you have to describe yourself in only 5 words what would they be?
Fat, funny, sarcastic, loyal, affectionate.

Tell us something about your town, city or country.
Davis is a medium sized town, 60,000 people (it has doubled in size since we moved here nearly 40 years ago), located about 80 miles east of San Francisco and about 20 miles from Sacramento, the capitol of California. It is a university town, with one of the best veterinary medical schools in the US. The terrain is very flat and bike lanes are very wide, so lots of people bike and we are known as the City of Bicycles.

How did you start penpalling? When was that? And why did you decide to start Penpalling?
I had my first penpal, a girl in England, when I was in grammar school. I think I just read an ad from a Mrs. Chegwidden (seriously) who offered to find penpals for girls who wanted to write to someone of the same age in England. Sadly, I no longer remember my pen pal’s name. I have always written letters but kind of switched to e-mail for a long time, being a person who likes instant gratification. But I miss the actual writing of a letter (though I type, rather than hand write my letters because even I can’t read my handwriting). I went search on the internet last year, to find out about connecting with penpals and discovered this whole huge community, which I am enjoying exploring.

 
What do you like / dislike about Penpalling/correspondence?
I love the interaction with people, learning about other lives and other countries. I haven’t been back into official "penpalling" long enough to have made it past the initial "getting to know you" phase and into perhaps deeper discussions. But I am enjoying the whole process. Nothing, really, that I dislike about it. Yet.

How do your friends react when they discover you are into Penpalling? Are they also into it or they give you the "strange" faces?
My friends and family always think I’m a little strange.

Do you still stay in touch with your first penpal? Tell us about your first penpal even if you have lost touch with them. We might be able to help you locate him/her.
As I said, that was a long time ago–maybe 50 years and I don’t remember her name. We probably wrote to each other for a year or so.

How many Penpals do you have? Where are they from?
At this point too many to count (I always was an overachiever), but I can sense that some of the ones I have will fall off the radar in the foreseeable future. I know that some will remain and it would be nice to have a couple of dozen good penpals to keep indefinitely. There are probably more from the US than anywhere else, but also from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Canada and perhaps one or two other countries. I have a few email penpals who are from Germany, England, and Russia.

Are you searching for new Penpals? If yes, please give us some contact information that we can publish in the magazine so that people can write to you back.
I would never say no to someone who wanted to exchange letters with me. My address is: Beverly Sykes, 539 Villanova Dr., Davis, CA 95616 USA
What are you looking for in a penpal?
Someone who will write regularly, without too horribly long a gap between letters, who is open to exchanging ideas, even when opinions differ, who won’t try to convert me to any sort of ideology, but who can respect my ideas as I would respect hers (would prefer not to correspond with men).

Where do you find new Penpals from? Do you rely on FBs or Facebook or other websites/blogs.
I don’t think I’ve found any from FBs or Facebook. They have come either from Sandbook, from SendSomething, from LWA (Letter Writers Alliance) or from one of the many penpalling blogs I follow. I also write to two soldiers in Afghanistan, with whom I connected through Soldiers Angels.

Tell us a funny/interesting story from your Penpalling experience?
The only story I have is perhaps more odd than funny. I got a couple of names from a site for people who like to write long letters. My letters usually run about 3-4 typewritten 8-1/2x11 sheets of paper, which I think of as relatively long. But I was not prepared for the thirty typed page letter of introduction that I received from one of those long-letter people! I responded (4 pages) but have not heard back from her. Not sure if I will!


How do you keep track of your mail? Share your tip on how to organize ourselves.
I do everything on computer and type my letters, so I have copies of what I have written. Each person has a separate file and I keep track of the dates of incoming and outgoing letters, what stationery and/or envelope I used, and what (if anything) I sent off to each person. Incoming mail right now is kept in a plastic sleeve in a binder. Each pen pal has one sleeve and I just put all the mail from that person in her plastic sleeve. I can see that as I keep at this, I will have to switch to a better system, especially for incoming mail!

Do you swap things? Do you like sending gifts to friends? If yes, what is the most funny gift you have ever sent/received?
I have sent a few things along with letters, like postcards and stickers and occasionally some stationery. I sent one penpal a book because she was interested in the subject matter.

Have you met a penpal? If so, let us know how the meeting went.
I had an e-mail relationship with a woman in Australia, starting in about 1999. She was a friend of a friend, but we clicked and began writing to each other daily. In 2000 she came to the U.S. and spent 6 weeks with us (she said "if it doesn’t work out, I can always get a bus tour somewhere"). It worked out better than either of us expected and 3 years later, I traveled to Australia to spend six weeks with her. We still remain in contact.

What do you usually like writing/reading about in the letters?
I write about what’s going on in my life (like everyone else) and especially like to write about oddball things that have happened, like something unusual that I saw in the theater or read in a book, weird things the dogs have done, places we have visited, etc. I love hearing that same kind of thing from other people, and I sometimes ask questions that will help elicit a response. I also like being asked questions because it lets me know what the penpal is interested in reading about.

When it comes to making cute and personal letters, everyone has his/her own style. Tell us your trick how to make a letter/envelope unique? Do you decorate it? If yes, how? Give us some tips on how to make the letters more interesting.
I just learned how to make envelopes and am going crazy turning every oddball piece of paper into an envelope. My favorites were a Trader Joe’s shopping bag, a coffee bean bag from Peet’s coffee, and an air sickness bag from China Air. Theater programs are great material for making envelopes, as are old calendars and I always seem to have an inexhaustible supply of both. As for the letter itself, I don’t have much of a creative gene, so I often use pre-printed stationery, or decorate plain pieces of paper with stickers. Nothing really creative.

Where do you buy your stationery supplies from? Do you prefer traditional shops or e-shops? If so, give us some links.
I have a ton of stuff leftover from other projects many years ago, so I haven’t had to shop much, but have bought things from Etsy, mostly from sites that I read about on blogs. And of course, I’m a sucker for Michael’s.

Friday, September 2, 2011

PenPal Interview with Gabriele


By: Rachel Brazeale

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview my pen pal from Lithuania, Gabrielė. We chatted via IM on SKYPE.

Rachel for the Lime Green Giraffe: “Where is Lithuania on the map?”
Gabrielė: “:D It is in central – East Europe, near Poland, Belarus and Latvia. There were some calculations and it is certified that the centre of Europe is in Lithuania!”

R: “What is school like in Lithuania?”
G: “Um. Our classes start at 8 am and we have from 5 to 8 classes everyday which last 45 minutes. After each class we have 10 minutes break. Unfortunately, our school system tends to be more theoretical, if you understand me? We don’t have a lot of practical works. In my school every year students are directing a big musical! This year it will be ‘Grease’. I’m very excited about it.”

R: “What do you mean by you “don’t have practical works?”
G: “It’s just that we learn from the books and not from the practice.”

R: “Ah, okay. What is your favorite Lithuanian food?”
G: “It has no translation to English but it is a cold beetroot soup. It is in such a lovely pink colour! We call it “šaltibarščiai”. It is eaten with hot potatoes. In fact, all our traditional dishes are from potatoes.”

Read the whole interview on Rachel's blog or by download the issue 10, August 2011: SandbookNet PenPal Magazine from our website.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...