I love browsing in bookstores. Do you? To stroll their aisles picking up books on favorite subjects, scanning their pages, well, that’s my kind of fun. And I’ve noticed with the passage of time more and more types of books are appealing to me. I think this is partly due to the great variety of people I come to know through The Art of Letter Writing. Let me explain with one example.
On my last bookstore visit I stumbled upon a book about Hawaii. Though I had never been interested in Hawaii before, on this day I paused, picked the book up, and took great delight looking through its pages. Why this interest in Hawaii now? For years when friends would announce their travel plans to the Hawaiian islands I could not get excited for them and I certainly had no desire to ever visit Hawaii myself. Was it the long flight that didn’t appeal to me? No, that wasn’t it. Long flights never stopped me from traveling to Italy, France or Spain.
Perhaps I was just not an island person, but yet I was crazy about Bermuda. Ah Bermuda, its formality and English influence, its tea houses serving crumpets and scones with Devonshire cream, its men dressed in sports coats, ties and those cute Bermuda shorts. Oo la la!
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Hawaii just never appealed to me, that is up until I met a Hawaiian native who became a pen friend. She changed everything. Because of her I learned a lot about the Hawaiin islands and I began to appreciate them so that now when I see a book about Hawaii I stop and take notice. After all, maybe the book will contain pictures of something my friend had mentioned in one of her letters.
I met my Hawaiian pen friend through The Letter Exchange, the letter writier’s organization that continually connects me to interesting people from all around the world.
My Hawaiian pen friend is called Primasita, Sita for short. She was born, raised, and still lives in Honolulu. As I get to know her and learn more and more about her homeland I find myself becoming more and more interested in Hawaii. After all, you can’t love what you don’t know and I admit to have known little if anything about Hawaii before Sita came into my life, but as I’m getting to know Hawaii more and more I’m really starting to like her.
With pen friends living here, there, and everywhere, that big world of ours becomes a friendly neighborhood. Our correspondents become not only good friends, but also fine teachers and ambassadors for their homeland We become ambassadors for our homeland too..
Let me tell you a little about Primasita. She’s a senior logistics manager in the Pacific for The United States Army. It is her responsibility to see that soldiers are supplied with food, clothing, and am-munitions as well as keeping their supplies in good repair. Her area of responsibility spans from Korea and Japan to Alaska. Now that’s a big job!
I don’t meet many, actually any Hawaiian senior army managers, so you can see why knowing someone like Primasita is very interesting to me. Her world is so different from mine, and since we have only one life to lead, knowing lots of people sharing very different lives helps us experience much more of life.
In the months we’ve been corresponding I’ve learned many things about Primasita, her army work, and Hawaii. Did you know Hawaii is a missionary state and therefore no gambling is allowed there, not even bingo? Primasita says Hawaiians interested in gambling flock to Las Vegas.
I learned that Hawaiians adopted the Oriental custom of removing their shoes before entering someone’s home; that Boys and Girls Day is celebrated in Hawaii just as it is celebrated in Japan. I learned so many things from Primasita. Did you know that Chinese New Year in Hawaii looks like Chinese New Year in Shanghai or Peking, how on that day you see people wearing red everywhere on the island. Fireworks used to light up the Hawaiian sky on Chinese New Year, though recently those fireworks have been banned. I wonder why. I’ll have to ask Primasita.
Letters taught me there are lots of Hawaiian holidays. Did you know that? There’s the two – week – long September celebration of the ancient “Makahiki” festival. It’s called “aloha Week”, and a King and Queen of Hawaiian ancestry are selected. There is a parade with eight Ra’u riders, each wearing yellow, the island color, with leis around their necks, leis composed of the colors and flowers of all the major islands. Of course Sita sent me pictures of this parade because all letter writers know one picture is worth a thousand words.
Through my correspondence with Sita I learned all about the Volcano Goddess, a native spirit. Tourists laugh and call natives superstitious, but Sita swears that she encountered this Goddess on the Big island of Hawaii.
Sita said the Goddess appeared in a photograph above her head as she was looking over the Halema’uma Crater at Volcano National Park. Legend has it that the Goddess appears before an eruption, so Sita was getting “chicken skin” (that’s the Hawaiian version of goose bumps) just thinking about this.
Most of us imagine Hawaii to be a blissful, heavenly place, but I was told it has its problems too. I was surprised to learn that Waikiki Beach has a huge influx of homeless people with mental issues. Sita says these people are not Hawaiians. Locals think that other cities such as San Francisco send these people to Hawaii with a one-way ticket.
As you can see, Primasita’s letters are filled with information, information I find very interesting. She is teaching me so much about Hawaii. I might have been able to learn some of these things from books, but without knowing someone in Hawaii firsthand such books never reached out to me. Now, knowing Sita, they do.
Are letters intellectual? You bet they are! Pen friends make learning fun as they share their worlds with one another. Pen friends help us cultivate curiosity for subjects we might never encounter any other way. To know a great many people with diverse backgrounds, living in faraway places, can only help us become more tolerant and appreciative of other cultures.
I enjoy having lots of letter friends like Primasita. I hope you do too. We are told to love our neighbor, but we can’t love who we don’t know. We also can’t love a world we haven’t encountered. Join The Letter Exchange (www.letter-exchange.com) and discover the world through the eyes of your pen friends. The process is fun, friendly, and can be quite an intellectual experience.
“We are all connected in the great circle of life.” Mufasa, The Lion King
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” Woodrow Wilson