Today, I'm happy to announce that we have a very special person as Penpal of the Week: our first man! Do you remember last week's interview with Gaëlle? Here's her husband, Henry from Ireland.
Please tell us about you!
First of all, I want to thank Julie for giving me the opportunity to be on her blog and to prove that it is not only girls who make good penpals.
Hello, my name is Henry, or Kike as my Spanish students call me, and I’m a 33-year-old Irishman. I’ve spent most of my life in this country, and despite travelling abroad, I found myself returning home. After all, there is no place like home. Growing up, I loathed the village I came from. It was small, green, scenic and quiet, everything a teenager rebels against. Enniskerry is situated in the heart of the countryside, just 18km from our capital city but submerged in the type of natural beauty postcards were invented for.
Now, I mentioned that my students call me Kike, so you may have put your thinking caps on and come to the conclusion that I am a teacher, well done, that is true. Actually, I studied Engineering in college but my desire to travel opened new doors and I ended up becoming an English teacher. I currently hold the position of Head teacher or Director of studies, in the small private school I work in.
My family consists of my eccentric younger brother, bossy older sisters, and divorced parents. Throw in a couple of family pets and you have your very own dysfunctional Irish Partridge family!!
In 2002, I decided to leave the green, green grass of home and try to find myself and true love. You see, I have always been a romantic, sometimes a hopeless one, but a romantic nonetheless. Barcelona accepted me into her bosom like the good mother she is. Things were far from perfect in the beginning, but amidst the madness and mayhem, somewhere between despair and hopelessness, I found a Princess. Now I don’t know if any of you have ever dreamt of a person, an ideal person, and then met exactly that person, but that is what happened to me. My wife Gaëlle stole my heart the day that she stole that first kiss and I have loved her for 6 years, 8 months, 20 days and counting.
2. Describe your personality in 10 words!
Asking me to explain all the tenses of the English language, or to solve a complicated equation, would surely pose less of a task, than describing myself! Perhaps, the first word would be TALKATIVE. My mother used to say that if they could only harness the energy that I produce from speaking, we wouldn’t need fuels anymore. Secondly, I would say I am FRIENDLY and FUNNY. Both are important as a teacher and are some of my most important and best traits. Being Irish I can say without a doubt, I am SARCASTIC. They say it is the stupid man’s form of wit. I disagree and believe I prove that myth to be false. I’m STUBBORN and DETERMINED. The difference being that it depends on whether my forthright attitude is used for positive or negative reasons. ADDICTED to playstation and movies. PASSIONATE, about writing, about following my dreams, but most of all, about my wife and son. I love them with all my heart and soul and feel so PRIVILEGED to have them in my life. Finally I would say CRAZY. You have to be crazy to be a teacher and I love to make people laugh, be silly, funny, and goofy and just enjoy the life I have and the life I am making for myself.
3. How long have you been penpalling? How did you first start? Tell us about your first penpal!
I was a teenager at the time and I was shy. It seemed like a good way to escape into another world. Adventures, both small and great, are sought after by most. I remember the joy I had when I began. First, there was this uncertainty and clumsiness. My writings, or babblings were scattered and undefined. My first penpals were guys and after that, girls. I jumped between topics. Those of most teenagers. I love sports, hate school, no one understands me. To this day, I consider my penpalling as much a part of my adolescence as trying my first cigarette.
In time, due to school and acne, I lost touch with this great love, only to rediscover it in my early twenties. I've lived in three different countries, had relationships with girls from different parts of the world, and dreamt of travelling to places I never before imagined. All this was as a result of the seed of discovery, that writing gave to me.
I love, and enjoy many things. From the typical boyish passions of football and playstation, to writing poetry and walking in the rain, but if you asked me to choose between these things and writing to my friends from all over the world, well sorry SONY, but I'll have to stick with my paper and pen. I love to use nice paper and stickers. If I don't have any I borrow with no intention of giving back, from my wife. I love to scent my letters or put my initials in wax on the back of the envelope. I write 3-5 pages and ask questions, share ideas, my week, my life. I write from the heart and remember the things I have been told because if they meant enough for you to write them, then they mean enough for me to remember.
4. How many penpals do you have now and where are they from?
The number is in a flux state at the moment because, well I want more. I don’t think I would be on this blog if I had given up looking for new and wonderful penpals. Right now, I have four penpals, ranging from long time, to very recent.
My longest running, and most cherished penpal, is a Norwegian girl called Grete. Grete is 24 years old and like me, has embarked on family life. She is the proud mother to a wonderful little boy and in the 3 years that we have been writing she has always made an effort to write meaningful, pretty and thoughtful letters. She is there if I need her and I really hope someday that we can meet because I don’t consider her as a penpal, but as a friend.
In addition, I have a really great penpal from Italy who makes me laugh and is a great listener. There is Jenny from Canada, who although has not been writing to me for long, has connected with me in a way that makes me feel comfortable as if we have known one another for a very long time.
5. What are your favourite topics to discuss in letters?
Oh anything! I mean why limit yourself to one topic, I believe that true friends can talk about everything and anything. I try to talk from the heart and tell my penpals about my life, my fears, my worries and my aspirations for the future. The reason we write is to get to know people and where they are from.
Now I’ll be honest, I do enjoy asking questions. Perhaps this is the teacher in me, but if I don’t ask things, I won’t find the answers. At the moment, my life is racing before my eyes. I’m getting older. One year ago I was in a relationship and a teacher. Now I’m married, the Head teacher and father to a wonderful son. These explosions in my life take centre stage in my writing but are only the skeleton of the body of work I like to contribute in my letter writing.
6. What are you looking for in a penpal?
In the past, I might have thought someone with the same interests or like me would be what I am looking for. However, through years of writing and penpalling, I have come to the conclusion that what I am really looking for is someone who wants to get to know me, share a part of themselves and make an effort to writing long, nice letters. Male or female, 18 or 80. If you are nice and you believe that I might be the type of person that you would be happy to get to know then I would love to hear from you. Friendships are like relationships, you have to try them and then work on them to make them last. That’s how I feel about penpals, I want to work at being a great one.
7. What do you like the most about penpalling?
I love opening my mailbox to find a letter waiting for me. The foreign postcodes, unusual stamps, the handwriting, even the scent on the pages. They all contribute to a magical experience, which I believe has been lost due to the Internet and phones. Ok, maybe letters take time, maybe they are slow, but all good things to those who wait.
Getting to know someone, finding out what makes them happy and sad, this is wonderful and I love decorating a letter, or stamping it with wax and my initial. Sometimes I try to imagine the faces of my penpals when I send over a long and well-crafted letter. I only hope that I give them as much pleasure as they give me.
8. In what language(s) do you correspond?
Sadly only English. It would be lovely to be able to speak and write a higher level of Spanish and French than I currently have. Only time will tell on that one.
9. What are some of your habits in regards to letter writing?
Quickly, would be the first word I think of. Now don’t get me wrong, I do think about what I want to say and write from the heart, answering everything that has been asked of me as well as sharing from my own heart. However, I do write back the same day or the next and as a person who is very determined and quick thinking, I tend to sit at a desk or the kitchen table, open my drawer, full of paper, pens, stickers and all required for letter writing, and I simply let the words flow. Perhaps it is the ex-engineer in me, but I like arranging the stickers, cutting the paper and making the letter look pretty, as much as I like writing the letter.
10. Has anything strange/funny ever happened to you since you've been penpalling?
Well, before I met my wife I went through a long time of singularity and loneliness. This is no excuse for accepting a penpal’s offer to visit their country, but no one is perfect. In September 2000, after just 3 months of corresponding, I accepted an offer to visit America. At the time, I was under the impression that I was simply being offered the chance of a holiday, a once in a lifetime trip, but nothing more. Upon my arrival, the red carpet was rolled out and the world was my oyster. This false hope and promise disappeared within days and in some kind of real fairytale, the kind that involves poisoned fruits or misleading gingerbread houses, I fell hook line and sinker, into the trap. Cornered one sunny afternoon, my PENPAL made her intentions and her disappointment, very clear. You see, she had invited me, not as a friend, but because she was interested in me. She wanted a relationship and felt hurt that in my three short days I had failed to reciprocate those feelings. The next two weeks were, uncomfortable, to say the least, and I spent the rest of my holiday hanging out with her younger brother, whom I am still friends with, some 9 years later.
11. Have you met any of your penpals?
Well, I believe I’ve answered that one with my horror story. The only other penpal I met was a Swedish penpal who came to visit me here in Ireland. I would happily meet all of my penpals if I could.
12. Are you currently looking for more penpals?
Of course! There is always room for more friends and my love of letter writing has not diminished in the 17 years I’ve been doing it. So come one, come all. If you are looking for a friendly, funny, talkative penpal then I hope you will keep me in mind. As they say for puppies, a penpal is for life!!
If anyone wishes to get to know me and become my penpal, then, just email me at: email@example.com or alternatively add me as a friend on Facebook with that same email address or check my Interpals profile here.
Thank you for such a wonderful interview, Henry!
If you're interested in being featured as Penpal of the Week on my blog, just leave a comment with your email address!