Monday, February 15, 2010

Penpal of the Week #35

This time, let's say hello to Nina from Switzerland!

1. Please tell us about you!

First of all I'd like to thank Julie for featuring me as Pen Pal of the Week! I'm really excited to do this and I hope you will enjoy reading my interview!

My name is Nina Chiara ("Kiara") and I'm a 22 year-old student from Switzerland. I'm currently studying Political Science and Anthropology but honestly, I don't think I'll actually graduate in these subjects. I'm thinking something a little more artsy might suit me much better!

On my 22nd birthday. I love this picture, it shows me at my best – laughing!

I live in a tiny village surrounded by forests, fields and the Swiss Alps. I absolutely love the nature and the view (I'm neighbors with a bunch of horses) but I wouldn't mind living a bit closer to Zurich, where I go to university, the movies, the opera, the theater, etc.

I still live at home with my parents and younger brother. Rent is incredibly expensive in Zurich and I don't have a job right now. Nevertheless, I'd love to move closer to the big city! I've lived in Barcelona and Vancouver so far and although I miss nature sometimes, I adore big city life.

View from our balcony.

My family is really crazy, we always say we should do a reality show like the Osbournes and we'd have tons of success :-D

We've got 5 pets, 3 cats and 2 turtles. I love cats very much and cannot imagine a life without cats in it!

I'm in love with music. I play the piano every day, I sing and sometimes I play around on my brother's guitar, although I really don't know how to play the guitar. I love music I can listen to with my heart and soul and I've found that in the music of Tori Amos. Of course I also like other artists such as Alanis Morissette, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Ani Difranco, classical and world music.

One of my biggest hobbies is writing letters, of course. I write about 4 letters a week when I'm on vacation and maybe one a week when I'm in university. Feel free to check out my Interpals profile.

Other hobbies of mine are drawing and painting – I can lose myself in a project for hours and really forget everything around me. I also love to go to the movies, the theater, concerts and operas. It's a pity that so few young people are interested in classical music!

Back when I still had long hair. Close to the opera house in Zurich.

I'm a big bookworm! My favorite author is Virginia Woolf but I read anything from Dostojewskij to Kathy Reichs. You could say that music and literature are two of my biggest passions in life.

I've basically been acting all my life. It's only recently that I've stopped because I haven't found a good drama group yet but I'm determined to keep theater arts in my life.

I'm a real globetrotter, mostly due to my parents who took me on a trip for the first time when I was barely 4 months old. I love discovering new and exciting places where I can listen to languages I don't understand and get to know people who lead lives that are very different from mine. No matter where I go in the world, however, I always find evidence supporting my most valuable conviction: that all people are the same. We might speak different languages, like different things, look different, lead our lives according to different religions and mores; but in our hearts we're exactly the same human beings longing for love and connections and a way to live our lives in a meaningful manner.

The country that has affected me the most is Kenya. It has shown me that happiness is not connected to anything material, it is simply a way of life.

The country that has given me most is Canada. Nowhere can I be myself the way I can with my Canadian friends and some day – sooner rather than later - I will move to Canada for good. There is nothing I'm more determined to do!

At least I certainly do!
Canada is my favorite country in the world, it's where I feel at home.

Another thing you might want to know about me – I'm a lesbian. Personally, I don't find it to be that big a deal but apparently society feels a need to condemn people like me. I had this epiphany a couple of months ago where I realized that I've got much more in common with my female friends in general than with the other lesbians I know. The aspects that unite us are much more numerous that the ones that set us apart. I really think love is love and I don't see a big difference between my straight friends and me. But some people are still very afraid of things they don't know and they make up the weirdest stories about homosexuals.

This summer I participated in the Vancouver Pride Parade.
It was an awesome experience!

2. Describe your personality in 10 words!

Private, emotional, intellectual, bookish, different, polite, interesting, musical, multilingual, geeky.

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

I'd say I've been pen palling seriously since I was 12 years old, for 10 years now, that is.

My first pen pal's name was Nula and she lived in Switzerland too. She responded to an ad I'd put in a children's magazine and we ended up writing to each other for about 4 years. During our best times I'd get a letter from her every Thursday and she'd get one from me every Tuesday. It was an incredible experience. We also met up twice, once at her house and once at mine. Our friendship endured her exchange year in Chile and mine in Canada and we were very close – we wrote about everything. Unfortunately when Nula started to go to university she didn't have time to write letters anymore and she suddenly stopped responding to mine. That was definitely a huge disappointment, not knowing why she'd stopped writing until I found her on Facebook where she explained it to me. Remembering the time we were pen pals, however, will always be very special to me.

Since then I've had many pen pals, my oldest right now is Katri from Finland. She's an awesome young lady and I feel like I've known her all my life. I hope we'll manage to meet up in person one day!

The Oberengadin. Isn't it just so beautiful? I love mountains.
I grew up surrounded by the Alps and whenever I'm somewhere
I can't see mountains for too long, I feel like something's missing.

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

I've got roughly 14 pen pals. They're form Switzerland, Scotland, Germany, Croatia, Canada, the US, Singapore, Sweden, Turkey, Finland, China, Trinidad and Tobago, Hungary.

I'm lucky enough to have a few long-term pen pals and others whom I just recently met on Interpals and am very excited to get to know better.

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

Generally I'm up for any topic. Nothing is really off limits for me since I love hearing other people's opinions, no matter how different they might be from mine. Sometimes, however, I'm a bit reluctant to write about difficult or painful things that might have happened in my life, especially when I'm not feeling too positive. In a good mood I'll write about anything and answer any questions my pen pals might have for me.

My "little" brother Lucca and I. We get along great and I love him to pieces!

6. What are you looking for in a penpal?

A friend.

I like people who are different, who are artsy, have opinions and plans and, most of all, who have a positive attitude towards life. We all get depressed from time to time but to maintain a positive, optimistic attitude about it all is vital and essential for me. Pessimists just pull me down and I find life too precious to have a negative outlook on it.

A very important criteria for a pen pal of mine is that they take letter-writing seriously. I'm not expecting my pen pals to write letters of 10 pages or to write once a week. But to really get to know someone it's important that you keep talking to them regularly and fairly often.

What I like most is to hear about the daily lives of my pen pal. Some people might find that boring, but I do enjoy reading about what my pen pal has been doing the day she is writing a letter to me. Then of course I also like to hear about their work/studies and anything else that is going on in their lives. A letter only bores me if it is only about the weather or very superficial. Fortunately I've only read very few superficial letters in my 10 year career as a pen pal.

Corsica. One of my favorite places on earth.

7. What do you like the most about penpalling?

There's nothing quite like the feeling of opening your mailbox and finding a handwritten letter from halfway across the world in it. I think it's wonderful to get to know people you would never have meet otherwise. And the thought that someone takes the time to sit down and write a letter to you, a stranger (in the beginning), making an effort to get to know you, is wonderful.

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

I correspond in English, German and Spanish. I'd love to have a French pen pal so as to practice the second of Switzerland's 4 official languages.

My best friend. :)

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

For a few months now I've been writing my letters at my new big desk in my room. I like to respond to a letter I've received as quickly as possible. This past semester, unfortunately, I've been a bit overwhelmed by university; therefore it took me a lot longer than usual to write back. For this next semester I'm determined to use my time more wisely, thus being able to respond to letters much faster than before.

I usually use nice stationery, but not always. Although I enjoy beautifully decorated letters, I really think it's more about the content than the appearance. As long as I can read my pen pal's handwriting, I'm happy, and I always try to keep my letters as legible as possible.

From time to time I like to swap little things like tea or post cards. I've never been a big swapper, but lately I've become interested in it.

The box I keep the letters of my current pen pals in.

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

I've got this wonderful pen pal from Turkey, Seda. In every letter she sends me little gifts from Turkey. Key pendants, post cards, sweets – it's great!

I once had a pen pal from Kenya; she was the daughter of the hotel receptionist where I stayed with my family in Mombasa. In the beginning writing to her was great but then she started asking me for money, which I actually sent but she claims she never got it. Things got a bit confusing from then on with me receiving letters from her with Swiss postage on it and gradually we lost touch. That was weird.

I also had a pen pal from Sri Lanka when I was about 15 years old. Again, at the beginning it was all good but then he seemed to be under the impression that I was interested in a romantic (letter?) relationship with him. Yeah, no.

My cat on my bed. He seems to be under the impression that he actually owns it.

11. Have you met any of your penpals?

I've met four of my pen pals in person, so far. My first pen pal, Nula, I've already told you about.

Then here's Millie from Canada, who was my e-pal for a while and invited me to stay at her house when I went back to Canada a couple of months after I'd gotten home from my exchange year. I had a great time with her but the funny thing is that today I'm friends with her sister Sadie and almost don't hear from Millie anymore. But I'm grateful that I know them both and I consider Sadie to be a very good friend of mine.

Last summer I also met Narisa, another Canadian pen pal of mine. We spent two wonderful days together and she showed me an incredible dessert place called True Confections where they make the most amazing cakes ever! Spending time with Narisa is really interesting; she's lived in very different countries due to her dad's profession and has some funny stories to tell.

My pen pal Narisa and I in Vancouver.

The third pen pal I've met in person is Lavinie from the French part of Switzerland. The first time we met was at a piano recital by Hélène Grimaud in Lucerne. It was fun to see her in person because I felt like I knew her and at the same time I didn't. In January I went on a spur-of-the-moment kind of trip to Vienna, Austria, where Lavinie is doing her MA, and she offered me to stay at her apartment. We couldn't spend that much time together because she had to go to university every day, but we did go see an opera together and we also went for coffee. I enjoyed myself very much in Vienna.

Like I said above, I'd love to meet my Finnish pen pal Katri in the near future. I just have this feeling that we'd get along great face-to-face as well.

I'm happy to say that this summer my pen pal Lucy from the US is probably coming to Switzerland and I'm very excited to meet her in person!

12. Are you currently looking for more penpals?

I am, especially male pen pals. I only have one male pen pal and although I know there are some really interesting guys out there who love writing letters, so far I haven't been lucky enough to meet one. But everyone is welcome, as long as you're open-minded and have something interesting to say!

Thank you, Nina!

If anyone is interested in being featured on my blog as Penpal of the Week, just reply to this post!

Julie xox


  1. Oh wow....what a lovely & awesome interview of a quite interesting & open-minded person :-D

  2. what a greaaaaaat blog!!! Love it!! Being into penpalling myself, this blog feels like a treasure chest ound!! I read a few profiles, managed to skim a few more....there is sure soooo much to read about...If i go through all people's profile's I might come across someone I know too :)
    I might participate as a penpal of the week too (if im eligible)....its just that im not very fond of being i dont really have pictures of myself, but if thats not a huge issue, you can count on me for participation :)

  3. OMG that view from Nina´s balcony is gorgeous. Switzerland is simply amazing and it was a lovely interview with someone who clearly has got lots of interesting hobbies.
    Green with envy she has lived in Canada :)

  4. Great interview and lovely pictures. I've been to Switzerland and it is truly a gorgeous country!

  5. Wonderful Interview! I love learning about her and loved her passions. Switzerland looks beautiful! I like how open-minded she is and how she is not afraid to be who she is! Kudos to you Nina! Nina seem's like a very nice but passionate person! I would love to learn more about her!