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Greetings from Germany

WHEN I was a kid, during the days when postal mail was still pretty much the only way to go about sending greetings cards and letters, Decembers were a month to wait by the window for postmen, bearing messages. In my world, they were like Santas. During Christmas seasons, I looked out for them, postmen, with Christmas hopes, and, at other months, I awaited letters from my pen pals.

In the late 80s, early 90s, there was a system where you can mail-order a pen friend. You could decide on a person's age, sex and country by paying a small sum, and the company/ agency found you a match accordingly. I ordered my first pal through this service when I was 12. Some weeks later, I received a mailing address of an Italian boy around my age by a Milano surname. Mail ordering him was exciting, but somehow, when I finally saw my deal printed on a paper, I lost all interest, and ended up not writing to him.

Months passed, and one day, I received a mysterious blue envelope, with my name written in fat, unusually curly handwriting. A foreign stamp was on it, and, there was a Par Avion sticker below. At the back of the envelope, the sender's address was written and underlined. Blaubeuren, Deutschland, Germany, it said. Confused, curious and excited all at the same time, I opened to see its content. It began with Greetings From Germany, and continued with paras of more curly words to explain the writer. It turned out, when I was busy ordering myself a boy-friend, 13-year-old Sonja Gurrath from Germany, was looking to find a girl-friend to share her thoughts and interests with! From then on, began a friendship via letters, across continents, that saw both of us through our teens.

A holiday photograph of 16-year-old Sonja in Greece
In many ways, Sonja and I grew up together. We wrote to each other as soon as our letters reached us. In average, it took about two weeks for her letters to arrive, although sometimes it took longer. We began by writing about our common interests, one of which was collecting stamps. It sounds strange now, but, during that time, collecting stamps was a real hobby. Many kids did it, and I had two albums of some rare ones. So we exchanged stamps, and wrote about our schools, lessons, friends, families, holidays, values, ambitions and...crushes!

As we got closer, our letters became fatter. Sonja wrote me at least 5 to 6 pages of letters each time, and the biggest subject of interest was, of course, boys. We saw each other through the thick and thin of melodramatic,hopeless and exciting teenage crushes. That boy at school, or that someone she met during a holiday, or that other boy who was also interested in her, were stories I looked out for from Sonja.In comparison, my stories to her were dim in the boy sector, but I had a hopelessly romantic side in me that wrote love poems. So I shared those with her, and she was always encouraging.

Ten years passed by with hundreds of letters between us. I received my last letter from Sonja in 1999. She was studying to become a teacher,and, had moved in with her boyfriend. By then, I was absorbed into my new found freedom when I left home for university. There were also other distractions along the way, and slowly, I put Sonja's letters back.Before I know it, another decade had passed. I don't know if she had tried to contact me over the years since we've had a change of address, but I'm thinking of sending her a card this Christmas season, with the hope that it reaches her.

This time, it will begin with Greetings From Malaysia.


  1. Did you try looking for her on Facebook? I used to collect stamps too....

  2. I did but can't find. Maybe I shld look up in German.
    Do u still hv your stamps ?

  3. Did she reply? I'm curious.. I never had any of those foreign pan pals because my parents wouldn't allow it :(

    I collected stamps too!

  4. Thats such a nice story in a way Jaya, i wonder if you will be in contact now as adults?. It is so much easier with fb and Skype to stay in touch. But it also means we have no private time. I read an article that critisized the ability to stay in touch with our past . The article suggested that it held us static and stopped us seeking out new people and things. I met a girl when i was 14, we started a letter writing relationship, but she was from a strict Indian family and her parents began to intercept her messages. Soon she started calling me and asking me to come to London to see her and i panicked. I was just a stupid kid not ready for such things, i think she thought i was more sophisticated, i think i over emphasised my worldy personality. She swore at me on the phone when i said i wasn't travelling up and i still feel bad. In an odd synchronicity i made a friend who lived in London and she knew her tangenitally. I got my friend to ask about her and if she still remembered me and was told she called me a bastard.

    1. thanks for stopping by here :) i dont know if we will ever get in touch. i did look for her in FB but not sure if it's the same person ? but we did have a good friendship. i was a quiet kid and letter writing was perfect. true dat. with so much connectivity now, there tend to be no private time. i think our past will always be a part of us but we are also constantly seeking out for new things. sometimes due to certain experience (in the past) , seeking out in future could have a big influence from that experience.
      hahaha. at 14, the mind is young. but to call you a bastard after all these years...hmm, well, i would have just laughed it off.

    2. Dear JJ
      I have found your site because i am looking for old classmates of mine and i think you are looking for Sonja Gurrath. If you look at Facebook, contact me or Jens Wiedemann who is in Charge of inviting everyone to a Meeting with our ld classmates :) I hope we can find her, would like to Chat with Sonja too, we used to Play with barbie dolls together :)

      Jennifer Liane


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