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August 21, 2009

It’s A Smaller World After all

As a teenager, I remember having several pen pals.

I cannot recall how we originally connected with each other. The back of 16 Magazine or Tiger Beat, maybe?

There was certainly no Internet, Facebook or MySpace.

But, somehow I managed to reach out and touch a few other teenagers my own age, who lived in far off places like the France and Beirut.

Weeks, months, would pass before I would receive a response to my American-teenage-girl, drama filled letters.

I would instantly recognize the replies in the mail: the tattered, striped international mail envelopes, the very-slanted-to-the-right non-American handwriting.

It felt like Christmas, opening those pen pal letters, other girls describing their own teenage lives, cultures, in broken English. I treasured every page, and held on to many of the them, with their small crinkled photographs, for years.

Flash forward to this past May, when Michael, one of the tweenies who spent a chunk of his summer at my house, announced he and his family were relocating to Azerbaijan. (I had to look that up three times to spell it, by the way.)Azerbaijan map

If you’re like most Americans, if someone announces they are moving to Azerbaijan, you might look at them like they’ve just said ‘I have eight toes on each foot.’

I had no idea where that is located, except that it sounded a long way off, and nowhere in Texas.

Turns out, it’s near Turkey (the country, not the food), thank you Google.

Michael and my boys hung out all summer and eventually, he and his family packed up and moved, with promises to return to visit next year.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the living room Monday, only to hear my kids talking to Michael through X-box Live. There was his crackly little pre-teen voice coming through the our surround sound speakers.

As uber-connected as we are (I sleep with my head closer to the Blackberry than  the pillow on some nights, a terrible example, I know,) it never occurred to me that they would be chatting away with Michael from the other side of the world.

I just assumed he had moved to a place that sounded closer to Saturn than a TV and X-Box, and that we wouldn’t actually hear from him, Facebook updates aside, until next June.

In disbelief, I said, ‘Is that Michael? Coming through the TV speakers?"’

The kids barely looked up, ‘yeah mom, he’s 11 hours ahead of us, we’re good, we’re winning.’

I was amazed! I said, ‘wow, how cool is that, we’re able to stay in touch with Michael through the TV, from Azer-whatever (I can never pronounce it correctly)! Maybe we can all look up Michael’s new crib on a map, a GLOBE?’

Then they all looked at me liked I had eight toes.

Whatever. I tried.

I’m thinking this weekend I’m going to show my kids how to fill out the front of an envelope and affix a stamp.

Just in case they ever need to, you know, actually hand write a letter.


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