Penpalling & Letters

Friday, 28 January 2011

Tips on letter writing II

Once that you have decided to start writing letters and got involved in penpalling, have in mind the structure of a letter, learnt how to address an envelope and remember some tips to start with the first letter and some other general ones: Tips on letter writing I you find yourself in front of a sheet of paper... You shouldn't feel totally lost because you know you have help from the tips we have already discussed. At first there is a feeling of lack of practice for sure (doubts because you still do not know how to get started or what to write) but it will disappear as soon as you get immersed in letter writing and get confident and comfortable with your writing.

However, you should have in mind you have to write a clean, tidy, decent letter. No-one wishes to receive a scribbled letter in a torn paper. Be sure that if you send such a letter not only won't you get any reply but your letter will end up in the waste bin.
Cute stationery is one of those accesories that cannot be separated from the letter-writing world. However, if you don't have the possibility to get such kind of beautiful papers, don't worry! (Note: you can download and print stationery/writing papers/decorated papers for free by checking this link: Penpalling Connections and go to "Free Stationery"). After all it is the content which matters and not the papers on which the text is written! As I said before any kind of paper is fine as far as you are clean and tidy when writing a letter. The look of the letter definitely counts to cause a great impression to your new pal or just the opposite!
Do you prefer to handwrite a letter? Then make sure that your handwriting is readable and neat. If your penpal finds herself/himself trying to decipher your writing as it would be a hieroglyphic be careful! It is possible that she/he gives up at the first try. In such a case, I recommend you to try to be very careful and take the time and patience to write in a legible way... If not, you always can type your letter if this is a good solution for both your pal and you!
When writing check about mistakes and misspelling. Of course all of us do mistakes, especially if you are writing in a foreign language it can be difficult for begginners and non-natives sometimes, but a letter full of mistakes and errors is not nice to read at all, especially because of carelessness. Be sure it harms the eyes!
When writing a letter never use that chat slang which, sometimes, you can see online. For example, in English: Gr8 2 see u. I would never reply to a letter written like that and I am sure that many people out there wouldn't, either. Such way of writing harms the eyes as well!

So remember to be careful and organized when writing a letter. It is about to cause a good impression to your new pal and get a reply back! You will see how much joy and happiness it will bring to you!

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing".

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Mail Trivia IX

Did you know that...

the worldwide postal system comprising the individual national postal systems of the world's self-governing states is co-ordinated by the Universal Postal Union?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Meeting penpals after the existence of the Internet

The penpalling polls are a part of Penpalling & Letters since the beginning. Its purpose is to let readers express their opinion about certain topics regarding letter-writing. You can find them on the right area/column of the Blog while new ones are added in a regular basis. From time to time I will be going through them and posting results about a certain poll. You can find links to every poll results in the following post: Penpalling Polls.
In today's post we are going to review the poll about "Meeting penpals after the existence of the Internet". A while ago we had checked where we were meeting penpals before Internet was here. You can check it again in this link: "Meeting penpals before the existence of the Internet". Back to those times, possibilities to meet penpals were magazines, Penfriend Services, friendship books (FBs), summer camps, holidays, courses abroad to study the language... After Internet arrived, lots of new possibilities came up which lead to new ways of meeting penpals from far away countries. What some decades before seemed difficult to achieve, became easy to reach. With websites, forums, groups, social networks, blogs... spreading, getting in touch with people all over the world became an easier task. In the graphic above you can see that after Internet, the old ways to get in touch with new penpals became obsolete... Some of those still coexist with the Internet but some others, especially payment services, ended up disappearing (that was the case of "IYS-International Youth Service", which being unable to compete with the Internet had to close down in 2008 after 56 years of service). Taking into account the results observed in the plot it is clear that, nowadays, people prefer to use mostly the Internet to look for new penfriends.

This topic and some others are being discussed in the Penpalling & Letters group in Facebook, as well, so don't hesitate to join and participate.

Finally, don't forget to keep an eye in the Polls Section of the Blog from time to time as new polls are coming up often!

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing".

Saturday, 15 January 2011

First Anniversary Giveaway Recall

Do you like cute writing papers? Do you usually write your letters on stationery? If you do you should go on reading as this post will probably interest you! Penpalling & Letters first anniversary was on the 1st January, 2011 and to celebrate it, a contest is running during the whole month of January. The prize is a goodie bag full of cute stationery! What do you have to do to get it? Just check this link to participate: "Penpalling & Letters is one year-old! Giveaway! ".

Above you can see part of the prize. It consists of lettersets showing different motifs (each letterset brings eight cute decorated sheets and four envelopes) as well as loose sheets showing different designs.

The contest, open worldwide, ends on the 1st February, 2011 at 00:00, GMT+1 Time Zone, therefore don't wait until it is too late! You can be the happy winner of a cute stationery package when February comes! And remember that surprises happen, so don't miss the chance!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Sandbook Penpalling Magazine Issue 3

Sandbook Magazine Issue 3 is online since the 11th January at Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site. As most of you know the magazine is produced by Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site and it is on digital format, which means that you can download it as a PDF file by going to: Sandbook Magazine - Issue 3. If you missed the previous magazines (Issues 1 and 2) you still can read them at: Sandbook Magazine Archive.

If you are interested in writing an article or participating in future issues check how to do it in this link: "What to do to participate in Sandbook Magazine".

The next magazine will be online on the 11th February, 2011 (Valentine's Day themed) at: Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site and surely we will read lots of interesting articles once more!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

"La Roja" is in my hands!

I have been a stamp purcharser since being little and even if I haven't collected stamps during all my penpalling activity for the past twenty years, I still kept some I really liked. It is only since 2007 that I started to collect some special stamps issued by Correos España because I liked the design or the mini-sheet where they are presented. I usually run to the website and check carefully all future issues and of course, keep an eye in the most interesting ones!

There are events happening in our lives which we remember even if time passes inexorably. We surely remember where and with whom we were at those times. I have always been a sporty person, following all European and World Championships in several sports as well as a big fan of the Olympics. I really like many sports and it is difficult to choose my most favourite one, surely I cannot decide myself for only one. When being a child and a teen I would listen to the radio every weekend and "watch in my head" football matches taking place in the Spanish National Championship. I really liked football then! However, as years passed, the continuous broadcasting of football matches all the week long and the financial issues (I mean, the huge amount of money spent by clubs to get players) killed the initial charm this sport had offered me and I stopped following it for a long time. To be honest, I am not much into it anymore but you cannot help knowing every football-related issue because news about this sport are every day on the media as if any other sport existed... However, that charm and enthusiasm was back many years later! It was in 2008, summer was about to come and the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship or Euro 2008 about to start. Guess that not many people had big expectations for this championship at first. However, a team worked hard, had wishes to play well, showed determination, effort, will and sacrifice and made people vibrate with emotion and feel the same enthusiasm children show the first time they discover something new. It was a great and fantastic feeling, and with the same encouragement showed from the beginning, the triumph in the Euro 2008 was achieved! Only two years later, this time in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the same feelings, in a stronger scale, were present, and also a new victory. Winning is important as winners are the ones who are remembered years later... but the most important are the feelings lived during all those championships long, at least to me. I'd wish that such values, sensations and appreciations: effort, encouragement, enthusiasm, sacrifice, determination, the wish to work well, harmony, good atmosphere... would make a difference in everybody's lives so we could live every day as the child who is amazed when observing something new for the first time and with a strong intensity. Those championships really made a difference to me: it does not matter how difficult the way it is but with enthusiasm, encouragement, will and strength it is possible to achieve whatever we intend to get.

When I knew that special stamps would be issued to commemorate the triumph of the Spanish National Team (our "La Roja" or "Selección española de fútbol") in the Euro 2008 and later on, on the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I had to run to Correos España and get myself those commemorative mini sheets which you can see in the picture above. Aren't they great? I felt like a child with a new toy when both of them were in my hands and I am her proud owner now! Not to mention I treasure them as if it was gold dust! These guys rock!

Below I am enclosing links to explanations from Correos España about these mini-sheets:

Spanish National Team. Euro 2008 Champions
Spanish National Team. 2010 World Cup Champions

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

"Día de Reyes" or "Three Kings Day"

Under the Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background Section we have the pleasure to visit the American continent once more together with Erika. Erika comes from a country situated in the south of North America, the land of the Maya and the Aztec, which has a long tradition in the arts, cuisine and culture (first country in America in number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites with thirty-one), a country with a rich history and biodiversity, and which is also known because of "mariachis". Yes, we are in Mexico! And Erika will guide us through an important celebration which is taking place all over the country on the 6th of January!

¡Hola Erika! It is a pleasure that you are visiting us today, here, in Penpalling & Letters! Could you tell us how is the place where you live in Mexico?

Hi from Mexico! I'm from Mexico City, which is the capital of the country. It is a very crowded city (twenty million inhabitants approximately), located almost in the middle of the Mexican territory. It's considered one of the biggest cities in the world. It is all surrounded by mountains. It was founded in 1521 over the ruins of the former city of "Tenochtitlan", after the Spanish conquest in the same year. Some important landmarks are: "Floating Gardens of Xochimilco", "Ruins of an Aztec Temple: Templo Mayor", the "Metropolitan Cathedral" (the largest and oldest one in the Americas), "The Palace of Fine Arts", the "Main Square: Zócalo" and the "National Palace".

Erika, would you like to share with us your experiences about penpalling?

I started penpalling about eight years ago. My first penpal was a girl from Spain who I met through a website named "Ringo". She wrote the first letter to me and this is how I started to write letters! Besides letters, I also started to collect postcards because my penpals were sending some to me with each letter. I really enjoy everything related to letters but I really love stickers!

Are you looking for penpals at the moment?

Well, right now I have about twenty penpals all over the world, but I would love to have a penpal from Poland who could help me with Polish language. If someone is interested in getting in touch with me, just contact me at: dynia[dot]pals[at]gmail[dot]com. I like to write letters with chatty people around my age (I'm 25), girls (because some guys don't like to write long letters) who are sincere and friendly.

And now Erika is telling us what is happening on the 6th of January in Mexico:

I think winter holidays are the most popular among people, and usually after Christmas it seems that the holidays season is over. But in some countries, just like in Mexico, we have other celebrations - we have the "Día de Reyes" or in English "The Three Kings Day". This celebration started in Spain and from there it got extended to Latin America during the Spanish colonization.

The origin of this tradition comes from the Bible. According to the New Testament, The Magi or Three Kings (they can be also known as the Three Wise Men): Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar were a group of kings who came from the East, following the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus after his birth.

Día de Reyes is celebrated every year in countries like Mexico, Spain and all Latin America on January, 6th and this is the day when children receive some toys, gifts, sweets and treats coming from the Three Kings.

Everything starts on January, 5th when children in Mexico write a letter to the Three Kings asking for some toys or some goodies, and they attach the small letter with a string to a nice and colourful balloon filled up with helium. By the afternoon, children let the balloons fly up to the sky, so the Kings will catch them and know what presents the kids want to get the next day. If they have been good during the year, they will find their presents on the morning of January, 6th under the Christmas tree.

If kids couldn’t fly a balloon, it’s also common that they put their shoes by the window before they go to sleep. On the following morning they will find their presents inside their shoes or if the presents are bigger than the shoes, they will be placed next to them.

On January, 6th we eat "Rosca de Reyes" -"Three Kings Bread" in English- which is a ring shaped bread, made out of egg bread, decorated with dry fruits and sprinkled with sugar on top, and inside there are two or three small plastic dolls that represent baby Jesus. We serve some hot chocolate and a slice of this bread around 18:00pm in our "Merienda" which is something similar to "Tea time". The fun starts here, since everyone has to cut by himself/herself a slice of this ring. The ones who find a doll inside the slice of bread will be the Godparents of baby Jesus for "Día de la Candelaria" (Day of the Purification) on February, 2nd and they will have to make some "tamales" for everybody, as well (Tamales are corn bread filled with chicken or pork in a sauce or they can be sweet, with raisins or pineapple pieces, wrapped in corn husks).

So, as you can see, here, in Mexico, the holiday season is a bit longer, that is why it is common to see the Christmas tree still up in the living or dining room by mid January or even the first week of February. I truly believe that no matter what country we come from, we should keep our traditions and don’t let them to be forgotten through the years. They are part of who we are and what makes the world even richer when it comes to culture and traditions."

Thanks a lot, Erika, for participating in Penpalling & Letters and tell us how Mexico lives this wonderful and magical day! Wish everyone who will celebrate "Día de Reyes" an unforgettable day, especially to children!

Taking advantage of Erika's great article, I would like to add a few lines to tell how "Día de Reyes" is celebrated in Spain as well.

As Erika tells, the core of this festivity in all the countries in which this special day takes place is to celebrate the arrival of the Magi, the Three Wise Men or the Three Kings to Bethlehem in order to adore the Jesus Child and offer him their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. However, customs, traditions and celebrations vary from one place to another. Surely people from other countries where the "Three Kings Day" is celebrated could tell, but let me explain how this journey is lived in Spain.

Right after the New Year's all children get really excited. Why? Because they know that the Three Wise Men will be visiting them very soon and they will receive the presents they have dreamt of the last months! Before the arrival of the Three Magi, the children have to write them a letter so the Magi know what to gift to each child. They are getting old year after year but they know very well which presents correspond to every child! In the evening of January, 5th the Cavalcade of Magi takes place in every Spanish city. The Magi ride through the streets and together with their pages throw sweets and candy to all the children who are attending.

In the Cavalcade the most wonderful coaches and creatures can be seen. The Magi are accompanied always by their three camels, which also can be seen in the parade. When the parade finishes, the Magi speak to all the children and their parents. Those children who behaved well during the last year will get presents, while those who behaved badly are in risk to received coal (candy!) so they learn the lesson for the next year!
When the night comes, children have to go to bed very early, otherwise, the Magi won't visit them! The night from the 5th to the 6th of January each year is magical. The children don't sleep a wink in the whole night because they are very excited and adults feel the special atmosphere because of the children's thrill!
In some homes there are some traditions previously to the visit of the Three Kings. Children leave their cleaned shoes in a visible place (usually next to the Christmas tree or next to the windows) so the Magi can leave them the gifts. Some food is prepared for the Magi, camels and pages, too. The night is long and surely they need to get their strength back with so many visits in one night! The Three Kings only leave the gifts when they know the children are sleeping.
On January, 6th, very early in the morning, children get up and run to the Christmas tree. They are very excited to see which presents the Magi gifted them! It is a special morning full of joy, laugh and happiness. They finally can play and enjoy the so awaited presents! Usually, the Magi also leave a little gift in the houses of other relatives: grandparents, uncles and aunts... The children have to hurry up and enjoy their presents as the school will start soon!

In Spain it is also eaten the "Roscón de Reyes" or the "Three Kings Bread" or "Kings Cake", mainly for breakfast in the morning of January, 6th. It is baked and prepared in the same way as it is in Mexico. Inside the pastry there are two small trinkets: a bean and a little figure. The person who finds the figure it is said to have good luck throughout the year, while the one who finds the bean will have to pay for the "roscón". The tradition says the following (it is written as a rhyme in Spanish):

"He aquí el roscón de Reyes, tradición de un gran banquete
en el cual hay dos sorpresas para los que tengan suerte.
En él hay, muy bien ocultas, un haba y una figura;
el que lo vaya a cortar hágalo sin travesura.
Quien en la boca se encuentre una cosa un tanto dura,
a lo peor es el haba o a lo mejor la figura.
Si es el haba lo encontrado este postre pagarás,
mas si ello es la figura, coronado y rey serás".

Translated to English:

"Here it is the Three Kings Bread, tradition of a great feast
in which there are two surprises for those who are lucky.
There are, very well hidden, a bean and a figure;
the one who is going to cut it do it without mischief.
The one who finds in his/her mouth something a little bit hard,
in the worst case it is the bean, in the best one the figure.
If you have found the bean you will have to pay this cake,
but if you have found the figure, you will be crowned and king."

Just as Erika described above for Mexico, the holiday season is also longer in Spain. Spaniards don't feel that the Christmas period is over until January, 7th when getting up in the morning. This is when we realize that the holidays are gone and the daily routine is here again. In the last hours of January, 6th it is time to say goodbye to Christmas, remove the Christmas tree, the nativity scene and all the decorations and wait all the year long until the next one comes!

If you would like to read more interesting stories don't forget to check the links you can find at the following post: Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background and at Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site and the Sandbook Magazine.

Let's meet again soon! And ¡"Feliz Día de Reyes"!

If you are interested in reading more articles related to the Christmas time and New Year's, check the following:

- Sinterklaas
- The Saint Nicholas tradition
- The Christmas Season in Spain
- New Year's Celebrations
- The Three Kings Day or "Día de Reyes"

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Penpalling & Letters is one year-old! Giveaway!

It is exactly one year today that I decided to start this Blog about penpalling. Penpalling & Letters is my first incursion in the Blogger-world and, after 365 days, the experience is highly positive! I could not imagine that a year later Penpalling & Letters would have received so many visits from so many different places all over the world! Even if I always think that you cannot take anything for granted, you expect visits from certain countries (large countries with a large population, lands where there are many people interested in letter-writing...); however, I am still surprised that P&L got visits from some unexpected places as Guam, Kiribati, Maldives, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines... All places and all readers mean the same to me, even if I might get more surprised to receive a visit from Bolivia rather than one from the USA. Why? I guess this is a story for a future post... But coming back to the heart of this post, I just want to thank all the readers that visited, whenever you kept visiting once and again or you just passed by, to all the encouraging messages received in the last year, and to many lovely people I had the chance to meet through P&L!
And just to celebrate Penpalling & Letters first anniversary I am giving away up to 500 grams of stationery (in the pic you can see some of it) to a lucky P&L reader!

How to enter this giveaway?

It is very easy! Just go on reading... The only imposition on my side is that any "anonymous" won't be taken into account. If possible "I would like to know you". How? Just sign with a Blogger, Twitter, Facebook... profile. Or at least, leave your name and tell me you are in Facebook, Twitter, any social network, website... If I cannot find you anywhere, I am very sorry but cannot take you in. I don't think I am asking too much. I simply don't want to send a prize to a "ghost". And this is what you have to do to participate:

1. Leave a comment in this post and tell me (remember to leave a way to contact you):

- How did you discover Penpalling & Letters?
- What keeps you coming back to Penpalling & Letters?
- What do you like most in Penpalling & Letters?

Please, notice that if you would like to participate in this contest, your reply has to be written here, in this same post (under comments). Comments in Facebook or any other place around Internet won't be taken into account. Also, only one entry per person is allowed, so chances to get the prize are the same to everyone.

Taking part in this first anniversary giveaway is very easy! Everybody is welcome to enter and if you feel like it, tell your pals and friends as well. It is a good chance to get some cute papers from P&L! Deadline will be the 1st February, 2011, at 00:00 GMT+1 Time Zone. I will announce the winner a few days later. Good luck to all participants and let me use this first post of 2011 to wish everyone a wonderful New Year!!!