Friendly Correspondence. How do you like this term? It was another popular hobby for the youths of my era. Although I had to depend on a limited amount of pocket money, I spent much on buying stamps and letter writing pads with envelopes. Yes, I had over the years a whole lot of pen friends from different countries, and this hobby generated another – stamp collecting. It was natural, of course, since I have always loved art and every stamp that I had was scrutinised. There were days, I remember, when I would spend time getting rid of the glue. It was a delicate job, cleaning, drying and then putting them according to the countries in the many albums I had. Today, these albums of stamps are still with me.
My pen friends hailed from countries near and far, and although I also wrote to locals there was never the idea that we should meet. Those were the days. No phone calls. No meetings. But we would write and what did we write about? I can hardly remember. From this you might deduce that we did not have intellectual debates about this or that topic. What would teenagers talk about? I wonder. . .
But there were some pen friends whom I got to know better. One of them was an Australian girl by the name of Christine. She used to send me her Literature notes and I did likewise. Our notes helped us to get through our English papers then. She also made it to Singapore after many years. On her way to Russia and then India, she dropped by and put up with me for more than a week. On her return journey, a year later, she came again and this time she stayed for another week. We got to exchange our stories, and she allowed me to read her travel journal. Then, after her return to Australia, we continued to stay in touch, and the years went by. Finally she got married and when her first baby arrived, I had the joy of seeing a newspaper cutting of both mother and child. She had many other children. Wonderful.
Then there was my East German penfriend by the name of Karl Ulbricht. He sent me photos of himself, and at that time, it was not usual for boys to have long hair. Karl had fairly long hair but he looked good. I am not sure if I still have that photo of him by the river Rhine. I was in Secondary Three then and when it was my birthday, I remember receiving a parcel from the postman. What was it? A cute little teddy bear! Would you believe it? I still have that teddy bear in my possession. Is it not a marvel that this should be so? I have, after all, moved several times and some things are just no longer in my possession. . . But this is another story.
Those days I remember how it was to wait for the postman each afternoon. The feeling was simply delightful! The postman became a friend of sorts as he would hand me a whole stack of letters all bundled up. The envelopes were hand written. I could tell from the handwriting whose letter had arrived.
How much time did I spend sharing my life with people I never met? I guess that was a real solitary hobby, just like my reading. I wonder if that was totally understandable seeing how I was such a solitary person. In those days it was uncommon for us to have a television set. I did not even own a radio. Things were really so different. . . But those were the days, and today they are only memories to share with the younger generation. Praise the Lord!