In some ways, Marriott Insiders is similar to Facebook and Twitter as it pertains to keeping in touch with others. I wonder how many Insiders remember, or participated, in "Pen Pals", writing to people we usually did not know in another country. If so, perhaps you can remember how exciting it was to receive a letter, or card, from someone you befriended this way. However, you'll remember how long it took to receive a response via postal mail! By contrast, now we can not only enjoy instant communications, but even with "Face Time", "Skype", and other media, to actually communicate visually with people we know, or meet, in other countries ! I would never have even contemplated this when I was a teenager!
What about your experiences as a child with "Pen Pals"? Did you ever have opportunity to actually meet them?
I did indeed, and maybe it actually presaged my eventual interest in history and culture. I had a Canadian penpal in 6th grade, then in 9th grade I had a French penpal. In 10th grade (1968) things got interesting, and I evidently already had the seeds in me of the troublemaker I have become , because I purposely chose a penpal in East Germany (who I may have gotten in trouble by candidly writing back) as well as a group of three Czech friends right after the Russian invasion. I still correspond with the latter, and it was funny that even in 1968 when they wrote me how much they despised learning Russian, how thrilled they were when the Czechoslovakian ice hockey team beat Russia, etc. -- and I would get their postcards and letters in about 4 days (so the Russians were apparently succeeding in censorship in E. Germany but failing in then Czechoslovakia). We started out writing in German, because they were only starting to learn English. But it opened me to the astonishing world of languages. At the time German was my only foreign language (which despite great grades and many years I still can't speak well, unlike French and Italian. But they could read, write (and I assume speak some) Slovakian, Russian, German, Spanish, and the English they were starting. In the years since I've kept in closest touch with Hana, who always asked me to send her old copies of Newsweek and Time. She has since added French and Italian to her languages.
If I do ever get to Prague, I will definitely contact them. They live in Ustì nad Labem, not too far.
You really brought back memories. I do think of Insiders that way -- what an astute observation! I mostly hate social media, but since so many of us have common and shared interests, it's different on MRI.
I still remember getting the pen pal pamphlet and looking at the different countries I could choose from! I was in the 7th grade (I think ), and choose a girl in Japan, because it was the farthest location from me in Toronto. We wrote for a good few years and then lost touch. Never got the chance to meet in person, and I don't have any of her letters left. This was close to 40 years ago. Would love to be able to find her!
We were encouraged to do it as part of social studies (which back then I hated). I was actually a very repressed kid and teenager, so I took out my passive-aggressiveness in interesting ways. When my mother told me I should take French (guess she got the last laugh) rather than German, which she said would be too hard for me, I immediately took German and excelled at it (except when it counted, later, in Germany). Same with penpals. I was told I should pick someone somewhere in the US or Canada (hence my first penpal in New Brunswick, CA), but then I decided to go behind the Iron Curtain. It was very tricky figuring out ways to be passive-aggressive back when I didn't even know what that meant.
The one thing I do know is that when people tell me I can't do something, I set myself to prove them wrong. When I finally graduated college at age 29, despite where I went and my GPA, all the people around me told me not to consider grad school because I'd never get a job in that fully tenured era. I have them to thank for saying that to me!
So If any of you think I should go somewhere or do something (though it has to be financially feasible), you should tell me I can't.
You have me figured out, fschumpert. I was also defiant as a woman in grad school when other female grad students in the 80s told those of us incoming that we had to dress a certain way, not wear earrings too long, etc. Me and two other blondes in the first year of grad school defied them, and all wore strapless dresses and long earrings to the Christmas party. One elderly professor was heard to comment "they don't make 'em like they used to." Later, teaching my first class (of what turned out to be several years) at Wellesley, I wore a (short) skirt suit with leather boots. Combined with the blonde hair (keep in mind I was a lot younger then), I apparently made an impression. One of the students told me at graduation, "when you walked into the class we all looked at each other...then you opened your mouth and spoke."
I have found that being initially underestimated and confounding stereotypes (dumb blondes) can really help in one's career.
Far from it, fschumpert! I come from a lower middle class family and was the first to go to college let alone beyond. I give thanks to my dysfunctional family (as an only child I read books to get away from it all) and a fabulous public high school that made us read and write all the time. Even more than that it gave me a curiosity about the world that I only got to see beyond Philly and the Jersey Shore when I was 34 and moved to Paris to do my dissertation research for two years. The rest, as they say, is history!