1. Please tell us about you!
My name is Gaëlle. I am a 25-year-old French girl living in Ireland. I am originally from a small town called Chambéry, the Alpine heart of France. It is a beautiful little town surrounded by mountains and France’s largest natural lake. The reason why I am not living there any longer is in fact because in 2002, while living in Spain, I met Henry, an Irish man who stole my heart from the very first kiss we shared. I knew straight away he was the ONE, my one true love and I had to be with him to feel complete. So, off we went to the emerald island after so many years of travelling back and forth between Spain, France and the green pastures of Ireland.
My husband, Henry and I while on vacation in Valencia, Spain. It is not a country that I would go back to live in but it has given me amazing memories such as this one.
We made our love official by getting married in January 2009 and shortly after that… on the 17th of February, I gave birth to our little warrior, Killian. He is now 5 and a half months old and he keeps me pretty busy… let’s say… all day long…! But somehow, I still manage to find the time to write letters to my penpals.
During my free time… which doesn’t happen that often when you are a mom… I enjoy writing, scrapbooking and studying. On top of being the best mom for my son and working, I am also doing a distance course through a French university. I study languages and intercultural studies in order to, one day maybe, become a translator / interpreter, my dream job. Languages are my world. I’d learn so many different languages if only I had the time to do so. So far, I only speak French, English and Spanish. I started learning Russian on my own before I got pregnant but I was dedicating all my free time to my university course, so I had to give up on learning this incredible language. I am planning on getting back to it as soon as possible though.
If you’d like to know more about me… and trust me, there’s quite a lot to say about myself and my life (but… I don’t really want to be responsible for people dropping like flies from reading my “About me” section), then just email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll happily write back. As well, you can find me on Facebook with that same email address. Just don’t forget to mention that you are contacting me in response to my penpal ad!
2. Describe your personality in 10 words!
Now, let me tell you a little bit more about myself as a person… or at least I’ll give it a try as the way people see me and the way I really am might differ greatly. First of all, I would say, Shy. I’m not the first person to speak, usually people have to work to get me to feel comfortable but I’m worth the effort. Intelligent & creative. I love to write nice letters, do crafts and take photos. Caring, loving & passionate. All of which relate to my love for my husband and our lovely son. Family-orientated. I love my mother with all of my heart, my nephew Ludo is like a little brother to me and of course, I love the family I have begun myself. Diverse. I’m good at languages, I’ve recently discovered that I have a good eye for photography and I’m a dab hand at organising whether it is at home or at work. Addicted. Referring to my shows, at the moment it is LOST and to my books. Honest. I’m a truthful and loyal person.
3. How long have you been penpalling? How did you first start? Tell us about your first penpal!
To be honest, this is something relatively new to me. I’m 25 years old and in many ways I feel like I was only born when I moved out of France and left to start a new life in Spain. While there, I met my husband and my adventure began. It was Henry, my husband who helped me discover this hidden world previously unknown to me. He had been doing it for years and his stories made me inquisitive and determined to find my own way on the paper trail of penpalling.
My first penpal was about 5 years ago. She was a young Russian girl, a year or two younger than me, shy, quiet but with many hopes and dreams. We shared thoughts, experiences and our passions in life. Although we are still in contact, our lives have drifted in different directions and she is too busy to write regularly due to university and her love life.
4. How many penpals do you have now and where are they from?
I have to admit that it is not always simple to find the right penpal and too often, people stop writing after the second letter due to their hectic life. For this reason, I have now one penpal. His name is Orlando from Oregon, USA and he is by far the greatest penpal I have ever had. We have been writing to each other for a little bit more than a year now and I am always so excited when I find his letter in the mailbox. He writes long letters with plenty of illustrations when he is explaining something that I have no clue about. In his last letter, he even included two CDs for me to listen to and before that, he sent me many postcards, poems, and newspaper cuttings. We recommend each other books to read and then we discuss it in our letters or via email.
In addition, I have recently met a few penpals through Interpals and they seem to be pretty interesting people, so hopefully they will keep making an effort to write regularly.
Some letters and postcards I recently received. In the lower right-hand corner you can see some illustrations drawn by my penpal Orlando when he was trying to describe Tinikling, an indigenous dance from the Philippines.
5. What are your favourite topics to discuss in letters?
Unlike my husband, I prefer to talk about my daily life rather than answering or asking specific questions. I guess for me penpalling is a way to connect with another person the same way I would if the person was here in my life. I like to share my thoughts, dreams, but most of all I like to share the daily highs and lows of my life and understand theirs. That is not to say I don’t ask questions. In truth, I ask a lot but as I write on average 5-7 pages per letter, it is done in a way that doesn’t feel so direct to the reader.
Right now, my top things to talk about are my son, my relationship with my husband and going back to work after 6 months on the side lines due to the birth of my son. Photography, culture, music, movies, dreams, books, languages, fears, problems and all things in-between are up for discussion in my letters. I guess I just enjoy writing about anything in my letters, I am pretty open-minded so all topics are always welcome.
To sum up, I don’t really have favourite topics. I just enjoy talking about anything and everything that will come my way.
I have recently found a new passion for photography and thanks to my perfect models, I am able to take great photos.
6. What are you looking for in a penpal?
Good question!! Well, I suppose that the first thing anyone should look for, myself included, is a penpal who writes regularly, is honest, makes an effort to get to know me and share themselves, doesn’t mind decorating or writing nice letters and of course, someone who has something to say. In saying that, I don’t expect or need my penpals to write on cute papers, as really I don’t mind if they use plain white papers. In the end, what they say matters more than what they write on. After all, it’s not the tools that make the masterpiece, it’s the artist.
For those of you reading this and who genuinely love writing, you will agree that there is nothing worse than having a penpal who writes 2 pages and within those 2 pages, they talk about their job, the weather and what their cat ate. By the time they get to the third letter, some 4 months later, they have forgotten half of what they told you and begin to repeat it. Why bother if you don’t care to write or care for the recipient.
I’m mainly interested in snail mail. I think it is much more personal and when someone has to sit down to write, they usually take the time to make an effort too. Email is too easy and as such people usually just ramble rather than speak from the heart.
Common interests, similar age or ideas about life is also great. Male or female, no dogs allowed (difficult to read paw prints!!!) ^_^
Scrapbooking is another one of my passions. Here is a photograph of a diary I made for my husband as a present for our 6 years anniversary.
7. What do you like the most about penpalling?
What is not to like. Getting to know another person, their thoughts, dreams, aspirations, likes and dislikes, where they are from, what they have done and who they want to be. In addition, I love sitting down, getting the paper ready, my pen, stickers and other important tools, and just pour out my soul. No one can tell me that opening the mailbox to find a pretty, colourful, scented letter from another part of the world is not special. It is like a little Christmas. You wait patiently for it to happen and then frantically tear at the wrapping to discover the surprise beneath. As a language lover, getting to know the cultures and languages of the world, is like a dream come true. I can stare at a postcard and imagine being there. It is truly wonderful.
8. In what language(s) do you correspond?
Primarily in English as it is a common language and the language which most of my penpals communicate with. Having said that, being a French girl I can of course write in French and I have an excellent level of Spanish after 3 years in Spain and years of studying the language too.
9. What are some of your habits in regards to letter writing?
When it comes to letter writing, I find that inspiration comes best to me when I am surrounded by silence, so I sit somewhere quiet and I choose a time when I know I won’t be disturbed by anyone.
I like to choose the perfect writing paper depending on my mood and state of mind and I will choose my pens accordingly. I am a girl and as such, I love girly letters with glitters, stickers, photos… If I choose a plain paper, then I will decorate it as much as possible. One of my favourite pastimes is scrapbooking, so I tend to use quite a lot of my scrapbooking supply on my letters to my penpals. I have a mammoth collection of stickers, so I use plenty of them. My personal touch: I usually sprinkle glitter and scent my letters.
I try to reply as fast as I can to my penpals, but it takes me a few hours to write letters, so I usually spread it over a week and write a little bit every night.
Letter writing is a passion and I like to send a little piece of myself with every letter. I always include little gifts, whether it is as simple as a postcard or a map of my town, or something I know will make my penpal happy. I always send little gifts as well for Christmas, birthdays & special occasions…
10. Has anything strange/funny ever happened to you since you've been penpalling?
I’m not sure if you would class it as funny, God knows I wasn’t laughing about it at the time, but you could call it strange that’s for sure. About a year and a half ago, my well-meaning husband decided to put an ad up for me on a web page. Now the photo he chose was not bad, it just wouldn’t have been my first choice. There was nothing special about it. I did look quite tanned and there was a bit of cleavage but nothing else.
Anyway, I got a few “normal” responses and that was fine, but then one day I received a letter that seemed, STRANGE. First of all, the postal address had State Penitentiary which I had to ask Henry what it meant. He looked surprised and told me it was from a prison. I read page after page as this man told me how “SPECIAL” and “STUNNING” I was and that he would love to be my friend and someday meet me. My skin became pale and my eyes fixated on each word. Then, he told me that he was a “MISUNDERSTOOD MURDERER” and that he would be getting released within 8 months. Now you have to remember, I was pregnant at this time and I had these visions of a big, scary, bald, tattooed prisoner turning up at the door with flowers in one hand and a knife in the other. Needless to say I never replied. In fact, we burnt the letter in some kind of cleansing ceremony and we moved!!!!
I’d like to say it was a one-off but in total I received about 25 such letters from prisoners from half the states of America!! Since then, the ad has been removed and my mailbox is reserved for NICE penpals. ^_^
11. Have you met any of your penpals?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had that chance yet, but I certainly would love to meet my dear friend Orlando. We really get on well and I feel there is a great friendship blossoming between the two of us.
I think that if I had a penpal from India or Russia, I would jump in the first plane to go and visit them. The whole world of India and Indian way of life is so interesting to me. It would be a dream to get to visit India and Russia, two countries and cultures I have always been fascinated by and with.
12. Are you currently looking for more penpals?
Oh yes! ^_^ No matter where you are from, as long as you are sincere and caring, I will be more than happy to get to know you. I recently registered on InterPals in order to find new penpals. There I got in touch with a couple of girls so only time will tell if we stay in touch, become friends (fingers crossed ^_^) and feel a connexion between us.
I rarely turn down an offer for new penpals unless they don’t say much about themselves.
Thank you Gaëlle, merci beaucoup! I hope you will find as many wonderful new penpals as your heart desires! :)