Monday, September 28, 2009

Penpal of the Week #16

This week, let's hear a big round of applause for Samantha from Mexico!

1. Please tell us about you!

Hello readers! My name is Samantha M., “Sam” for friends ;)

I was born in Mexico City in 1985. That same year there was a tremendous earthquake that almost destroyed the city, so, we moved out.

I’ve always lived in Mexico, but in different cities. I’ve lived in the mountains, in the jungle, in the desert, at the beach, in big and small places in between. Moving out a lot at a young age was challenging, especially being an only child, but it gave me a chance to experience different lifestyles.

Hello Internet World, this is me. I came back from German class that Saturday and although I had a thousand things to do, all I wanted was to read that book.

I’ve finally settled in one place! I’ve been living in Puebla for 9 years now. Puebla is a “small” charming city with solid family values (entire families still go for ice cream on Sunday) and an exciting and constant growth.

I have a BA in English Language Teaching and Translation. I went into this area almost by chance, but I am glad I did. Learning other languages gave me the chance to broaden my horizons and, of course, to meet some of my best friends!

I am currently working as a Spanish Language Teacher for foreign students. I enjoy my work as it allows me to share my culture and my language.

Me (in pink with the blue umbrella) in a fieldtrip with my students and a couple colleagues. My job also allows me to travel a bit!

Besides teaching, I also continue to study. I study German on Saturdays and soon I will apply for a MA program. I am simply in love with knowledge.

When I am not teaching or studying, I spend as much time as I can with my tomatoes (I am a gardening enthusiast) and my pets. I have the cutest little bunny (Cone), a loud and flirty cockatiel (Coto) and a very timid Betta fish.

2. Describe your personality in 10 words!

My personality, I believe, is still work in progress :) hehe

I’m considerate with other people’s feelings so I try to be polite and amiable.

Sometimes I’m anxious (in a funny, Woody Allen way) for no reason and spend hours at a time brooding. I am, however, loquacious and even flamboyant when I talk or write about the things I love or when someone or something sparks a dormant interest of mine.

That reminds me: I jump from rock to rock. I’m eclectic and curious which is both a blessing (boredom is, thankfully, rare for me) and a curse (I have such a hard time finishing projects, I am sadly a procrastinator).

Besides leaving everything for later I am also really lazy, but I try to convince myself that laziness is the price I have to pay for creativity. I am creative and constantly creating “artsy” stuff. I am absolutely obsessed with music too. I even get withdrawal pains when I am not near my iPod!

This is my morning sky. I see this everyday when I am getting ready to go to work. And I listen to Zero Seven most of the times (Red Dust).

3. How long have you been penpalling? How did you first start? Tell us about your first penpal!

Good question! First of all, I should tell you that penpalling in Mexico is almost non-existent. None I know has this hobby and I have only seen ONE Mexican address in the many FBs I’ve signed.

So, penpalling was a lucky accident ;)

When I was 16 I was collecting stickers for the Panini “Harry Potter” albums and I joined a yahoo group for collectors to swap these. In this group, I met a woman from Spain and another one from Italy, and soon, besides exchanging stickers we began to write short messages in our e-mails. One of them asked me if I had any penpals and I had to google that. I came across a small website and posted a clumsy and non-descriptive profile there. Some time after that a girl from Germany contacted me.

She was actually married to a guy from Colombia and she had lived in Latin-America for a while. She also wrote amazing travel journals.

Unfortunately, my old, trusty mailman retired and the third letter of my first penpal got lost. She also got a very demanding job right then and we just lost touch. In order to continue to penpal I had to hire a PO Box (my current mailman is evil), find a larger website and write a proper introduction.

Me in front of the Cathedral of my city. This is one of the biggest ones in Latin America. A must see!

4. How many penpals do you have now and where are they from?

I think I have somewhere between 15 and 20 penpals… hehe, how’s that for math! They come from the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Thailand, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Rusia. They are all very different (although four of them are in the language teaching-translation area) and I am thankful for that diversity, since it’s what I was looking for, you know, to somehow understand life in different places and under different circumstances. Out of these penpals, only one is a boy. Boris who is actually the boyfriend of another of my penpals (Cate) and I am glad I met both of them.

I’ve also had penpals from the USA, Canada, Australia, Greece, Egypt and South Korea, but we either lost touch or our letter exchange wasn’t entirely successful. It’s sad that this happens so often in the penpalling world, that is why I cherish long-lasting friendships.

I enjoy the friendship of all of my penpals, but with some I feel a stronger connection. If you follow this blog closely you may remember Lisa from Germany. She doesn’t know I am doing this questionnaire too and I would just like to say that she’s too the sister I never had.

Meet the loudest bird in the planet. She has a very punk hairdo and attitude, don’t you think?

5. What are your favorite topics to discuss in letters?

Oh! I will discuss most topics! The first thing that comes to my mind is childhood. I always ask my penpals what they did when they were kids, what kinda toys they had, what kinda cartoons they watched. I also love to ask about celebrations and festivals in their countries, FOOD, traditions, sayings…

Some “sensible” topics, such as politic views or religion, I prefer not to discuss, especially if we seem to have a very different view on the matter as I have no way of knowing if the topic will cause a strain on our relationship, and to me, neither of these topics makes a difference on who I am.

And, of course! I also like to write and read about goofy things! I always discuss my dreams (as in night dreams) with my friend Anya and for some reason Sarita Conchita and I always talk about ghosts, scary stories… and astronauts ;)

The apple of my eye! The furriest and cutest creature I know. (Besides my aunt Gerta... joke!)

6. What are you looking for in a penpal?

The first thing that comes to my mind is a penpal who knows how to balance their life: I like friends who do interesting things but still have time to write about them. Some penpals have a lot of hustle in their lives and cram a ton of activities in 24 little hours, and then, when they get around writing they go on complaining about how busy they’ve been.

I also like meaty letters. Some penpals don’t do much out of the every day routine and write just one page with this as an excuse. Me, I don’t have a life full of crazy adventures, but that is never an excuse to write a short or boring letter. There are many, many things to write about even if you don’t jump out of a plane every weekend! So, a big no-no is an impersonal and short letter.

But, I guess what we all want is honesty and kindness. I want that too.

Moi and the famous Cone.

7. What do you like the most about penpalling?

What amazed me from day one was the kindness of these people I hardly knew. People who ask you how are you doing, how’s your family… Friends who actually care and wish you lots of luck for all of your plans, friends who even offer their help. That’s what really amazed me and continues to surprise me.

So, I really love how two people who never met before can grow so close and feel empathy for each other. I truly worry for my penpals when they are not doing very well, and I’m glad to hear their good news. My mom’s very involved in this whole thing too. Sometimes I gasp or laugh or comment out loud on a letter and she asks what’s going on. Sometimes she even asks, so, how’s Lisa? How’s Sarita? And she’s always happy to know that Cate said hi.

May be completely unrelated, but this picture is one of my favorites because it fully represents my favorite afternoon. A good conversation, coffee, cake and twilight. This inspires me to write.

8. In what language(s) do you correspond?

English! I love writing my letters in English as it was one of the reasons why I liked the idea of penpalling (practicing the language I was learning back then).

Of course, I do write in Spanish to Cate and Boris, who are both Italians and in the language area. I wouldn’t mind writing in Spanish to more penpals if they wanted to practice the language or had any questions.

And German, well, I understand full letters in German (with my trusty dictionary by my side) but it is painfully difficult and slow for me to write in German just yet. Someday, I hope.

This is me, writing about a children song in Spanish for a friend in Austria.

9. What are some of your habits in regards to letter writing?

I don’t really have a routine when it comes to letter writing. Back in Uni I would read and answer my letters at class (if the class was particularly long and/or boring). Now that I have more time I can afford to sit in a clean and well-lit place. I usually choose the kitchen table and turn the TV on just for background noise.

Time - a touchy topic for a procrastinator. Well, it depends upon the length of a letter. I have received 40+ pages with tiny, precious handwriting and that of course takes me weeks. I don’t even try to answer at one go anymore since most of my penpals write meaty letters. Only very short letters get answered in one go.

10. Has anything strange/funny ever happened to you since you've been penpalling?

A few months after creating a profile in a website I began to receive e-mails from men who said “I am older than you but young at heart…”, “I wanna marry you and go to your land…”, “Send me nude pics plz!” and the like. I simply ignored those; the only message that did tick me off was from a gay man. He said he and his partner were looking for a surrogate mother and that they could “pull me out of my life of poverty”… excuse me? They didn’t know anything about me but immediately assumed that I was in dire need of money. I hope they had luck with their search, but I couldn’t help feeling slightly insulted.

I am glad I have a PO Box. Although the main reason why I have it is because mail delivery in my area is impossible, it’s always comforting to know that even if someone a little cuckoo finds my address, that person will only find a big, cold, office building and I’ll be blissfully ignorant of this.

You’ve got mail baby, yeh! This is my PO Box. Notice the lovely Lillebi keychain, courtesy of my dear Cindy.

11. Have you met any of your penpals?

*Big sigh* Nope. I haven’t met any of my penpals yet, although several have expressed their wish to come to Mexico and I surely wanna meet all of them!

I’d need a small fortune to travel to Europe right now, and although I work hard, my education takes the most of my cash. I do have a wonderful idea; since I am tiny I will crawl into someone’s bag and sleep my way through the flight. Once I land somewhere in Europe I’ll hide in those oversized women’s purses from train to train until I make it to Rostock. Or I will build a canoe and sail to ol’ Thailand. Or maybe I will join an international mariachi band and tour around Europe, playing one night in every major city!

My penpals all know they are welcome in Casa Samantha. We even have plans (seeing turtles, bungee jumping, girls’ night in with funky hairdos, karaoke singing, horseback riding, stalking locals boys with our cameras, playing pranks, TESOL conference…) and I hope to be able to share these moments with my friends.

If I had to make a bet, I’d say Sarita’s gonna be the first one to come.

Welcome to my hood! Lol! This is my neighborhood (700+ houses that look the same). BTW, VW bugs are very common in Mexico.

12. Are you currently looking for more penpals?

It’s really hard to say no, but I wanna spend enough time writing to each of my penpals, and as always I prefer quality over quantity.

I do want to meet friends from specific countries. Since I watched “Fado” I wanna meet a penpal from Portugal, and my love for Bollywood makes me wanna meet a friend from India. I am also very curious about countries like Finland and Iceland.

I would also love to try different things. I would like to meet someone who would wanna record the letter in a cd or cassette instead of putting it in paper, I think it may be interesting to listen to a penpal instead of reading for a change. I would also love to try postcard penpalling. That is, cramming as much as we can in a postcard, that would be challenging!

In any case, anyone who reads this and feels the need to write to me (hehe, how pretentious of me) must do it! Introduce yourself here: s.macuil at

Thanks Julie for the chance you’ve given me, answering these questions taught me a lot about myself and made me smile lots of times remembering my good pals :) I hope this wasn’t too horribly boring to read!

Not boring at all, on the contrary - thank you for such an entertaining interview, Sam!

If anyone would like to be featured on my blog as Penpal of the Week, just reply to this post with your email address or get in touch with me!

Julie xox


  1. Awe, great to see someone from Mexico at last !
    Such an interesting interview Sam, glad to see there's someone else in our country who still enjoys letters :)
    Most of the time, it's "outdated" and even viewed as "dumb" where I live (Mexico City) So I'm very glad there's at least someone else like me :D
    Thanks for another interesting interview, Julie.

  2. Yay for Sam! I'm one of her penpals :D

    - M from Thailand ♥

  3. Hola Mesha! Yes, indeed!
    I often have to put up with the postal workers who look very much confused whenever I send a letter. "Why don't you send an e-mail?" Good Lord!
    Buena suerte y no dejemos morir este pasatiempo!

    Sam M.

  4. Hey, if you're ever stuck for someone to be penpal of the week i'd love to do it. I haven't been penpalling that long though. If you like you can email me at playground_princess_ [at] hotmail [dot] com
    PS, one of my penpals was penpal of the week a few weeks back (that's how i saw it).