Hello everyone, my name is Manuela and I am a 22 years old student from Italy. I come from a little town in North West part of Italy, in Liguria’s region which is famous for some traditional dishes like that green sausage made of basil called “Pesto” and for that kind of pizza, but without sausage called “Focaccia”. Liguria is also famous fro the beautiful beaches it has and also for Genoa (the main town) and its “aquarium”, one of the biggest in Europe. So, I live in a little town which is in a valley and it’s exactly in between the Alps and the beach. I can easily go to the beach on summer, it’s only 30 minutes away (or less) by car from where I live. But since I live in a valley, I also have to face the though Winters fulfilled with snow, but I must admit, I love it!
I am a student at my 3rd and (hopefully) last year at university and I am studying “Languages and Tourism Science” in Torino, a big town in Piemonte region, famous for the FIAT car company group and the football team Juventus (which I loooooooove!). Torino is 2 hours away by train from where I live. I was used to live in Torino for one year but then I decided to go back to my parents’ house and so I am a so-called in Italian “pendolare” which is someone who travels daily (or almost daily) to and from the work or study place. I loved living on my own with four of my friends, but it was all too expensive and I wasn’t able to handle all, so I decided to come back and travel. I don’t like travelling on the train very much, there are always weird people in it, but I have to do it, because I couldn’t drive on the crowded city of Torino! Actually I am on the train right now, with my little laptop I decided to start writing my interview and so I have the feeling that the time goes by faster!
So, I live with my parents and my cat in a flat and I love my place. I am only child and I missed having a brother or a sister during childhood, but right now I am ok like that. I have two beautiful little cousins that I love till death and I am proud of them, and I consider them as two little sisters.
Then, least but not last, my greatest hobby is penpalling though I don’t consider it an hobby at all (I’ll explain you later), photography, scrapbooking, card and envelopes making, carving rubber stamps, collecting many things such as postcards, stamps, stationary, scrapbooking stuff, deco tapes, bookmarks and sooooooooo on!
In my spare time I like to go to the gym or swimming, going to the cinema and spend time with my boyfriend, reading (romances!) and so on. I like to create paper thins and taking photos, but I’ve already said it! My favourite colours are light blue, lilac and violet and I love fairies, elves, gnomes and all the woodland characters, butterflies, ladybugs, rainbows, cherries, strawberries and so on, believe me, I’d fill many pages only telling what are my favourites! I only have an “enemy”: cheese! Yes, cheese, I only eat cheese on the pizza, that’s all. I hate it. The smell, the shape…call me mad, I probably am, but that’s it!
If you have to describe yourself in only 5 words what would they be?
I have never thought of me in just 5 words, I am too fat to stay in 5 words only, and it changes depending on my mood, by the way, I could be define with these following 5 words: SUNBURNT (I am saying that because we are in summertime, I’d never say that during a cold and snowy day in Winter!!) because I love getting tanned and being at the beach, I just love the colour of my skin getting darker and thank God I have a skin that gets dark quite easily! Then, PENPAL, it’s not an hobby, as said before, for me it’s a way of being. I surely couldn’t be the Manuela I am today without being a penpaller. This helped me a lot and I am endlessly thankful. What else? Uhm, CHOCOLATE, it’s partly connected with the “sunburnt” world, as I love having a chocolate skin in summer, and also, I love chocolate so much, and I definitely eat too much. Any kind but not dark chocolate is fine for me. CAKE, I love baking cakes, biscuits and sometimes other things. I am trying to cook something every week, just to entertain myself, and I love seeing my beloved ones that eat my things and smile. It makes me so happy and proud of myself. Then the last world would be a quite general and difficult one: LOVE. I try to love and be loved in many ways, I mean, I try to find love in everything, I try to smile and have a positive feeling about all the things in life, though it’s not always so easy, but I keep strong!
Tell us something about your town, city or country.
This is another hard question. Italy is a big country and it’s fulfilled with events, dates, monuments, places which are worth be mentioned all by one. So I think I’ll skip this part and be fair toward ALL Italy, and just describe a bit the place where I live. As said before, I live in a valley called VALLE BORMIDA (Bormida is the river that crosses the entire area), in the North West (N-W) part of Italy. The own where I live has 15.000 people living there and it’s the perfect number I think. Not too small but not too big either. There are many facilities (a hospital also) and I like the place where I live, despite the polluted air caused by the factories. We also have many woods all around and it helps the ecosystem to balance the pollution percentage. Both my parents work in factories and even my boyfriend, so I must say (sadly) that it’s thanks to these that I can simply….live.
I can easily go to the beach in less than 30 minutes and I always go there in summer. I can also go quite easily in France (though I don’t go there often), because I live only less than two hours away from the borderline! I am totally unable to ski so I never go to the mountains, but for the ski lovers it’s also easy to go to the mountains, in less that one hour you can be there on the Alps. Living in a valley also means having very hard Winters fulfilled with snow. It’s a big mess when the roads ice; and the air is so cold, but I must say that I love snow, especially during Christmas time. We also have fog and I really have it, but it’s not that bad as in more northern parts of Italy. I just like this living “in between”.
Well, I can’t tell a precise date or year about when I started penpalling because all happened so slowly and in different ways. Let’s say that I started when I was 15 year old, in the years between 2004 and 2005. I went on a group-holiday in Wien and Prague in summer 2005 and in that group I met a girl and after the holiday we kept in touch via snail mail letters but it only lasted 3-4 months and then we lost contact. Then I started buying those “girlish” magazines and I found some addresses on there. I start writing to some Italian girls but most of then didn’t even reply, and I exchanged letters with only 2 girls. Soon after, I realized that I didn’t have many things to say to them, I had the feeling that they were too “similar” to me, I mean, they didn’t have anything to tell about their culture, way of living, lifestyle and traditions, because they were Italians, like me, so we always ended up talking about the weather and nothing more. This was pointless, obviously. Both of them suddenly stopped writing to me giving the reason that they were too busy for penpalling and after that I wasn’t sure about going on. The big “kick” was given to me by my second cousin Stefania who is 9 years older than me and is into penpalling for more than 18 years now. She showed me her “world” fulfilled with tons and piles of letters, postcards and so on, and she suggested me to try and start writing to foreign people. She suggested me some penpalling websites such as “studentsoftheworld.info” and “penpalsnow.com”, and there I “met” the one I consider my real first penpal, a girl from Finland. We wrote each other for more than 1 year and then we lost contact but it gave me the “go” to continue penpalling, and while I was penpalling with her, I found many other penpals which I wrote with for several months. Then I discovered “Interpals.net” and my life changed.There I met wonderful friends and I am proud of having them in my “crew”! I also had some bad experiences, but it is history, I am just happy with the ones that remained (not a lot) and the ones that wanted me as a penpal. That’s maybe the best feeling, being chosen instead of choosing. Besides, I also re-tried with Italian penpals and I had a great luck that time. I replied to an “FB” address of a girl that lives less that 2 hours away from me, and we met many times already since 2006, and another one that lives a bit far but she writes deep letters worth to be read. I am so happy like that I couldn’t ask for more.
What do you like/dislike about Penpalling/correspondence?
Well, it’s a question that need time to think. I think in general I don’t like dishonesty. I try to be a regular penpal ans I don’t like when people are slow in replying. Well, I don’t want to mean that I am too picky and can’t stand it, I just don’t like when people disappear for 2-3-4-5…. Months and then they send a LONG letter telling everything as we’ve never stopped writing. I don’t like that. I can wait for a letter, I can even wait one year, ONLY IF in the meanwhile, I keep in touch with my penpal through Facebook, Interpals, E-mails. I always inform my pals when I send and I receive a letter, so that it helps to not have bad episodes of lost letters. The main thing I like is when I get a long letter and from that I understand that my pal really thought about me while writing it. Believe me there’s a difference, a big difference. Letters can be so long but superficial, and also so short but deep. And another thing I don’t like is when people are greedy and always ask and ask for things, but I am referring to a bad episode, indeed.
How do your friends react when they discover you are into Penpalling? Are they also into it or they give you the “strange” faces?
Uhm, not all the people I know knows about my passion, I don’t go around saying “I DO PENPALLING!”, I mean, I don’t talk about it with everyone of it’s not important in the speech I am doing. But I have no problems telling I do it. My parents (mostly my mum) is enthusiastic and she loves this. When she goes on holiday with my dad, she always buys something Extra for “Manu’s penpals”. And when I have to do swaps, she always encourages me and helps finding the items I need. Money is the only problem I think.
My boyfriend seems to like this, too. I admit at first when we met, I wasn’t sure about his reaction to this, but it was 101% positive. He’s also a bit like my mum: he helps me finding new things for my pals and so on. My friends all knows about it and guess what, 3 of them started penpalling thanks to me! One ended this “experience” soon after, because she didn’t find the ones perfect for her I think. Another one has her 2-3 regular penpals and she’s ok with this tiny number, and the other one started, then stopped (she also had some bad experiences) and some weeks ago she re-started! They both want to keep a good English-speaking and this way they also meet beautiful people! They are so thankful to me for that.
Do you still stay in touch with your first penpal? Tell us about your first penpal even if you have lost touch with them. We might be able to help you locate him/her.
As many of the penpallers, I don’t keep in touch with my first penpal anymore. As said before, my very first pal was from Italy and I “met” her on a magazine. We wrote for some time but then the letters became a list of things and not a real conversation, so we slowly ended up until she said she was busy with her job. I even searched her on facebook but I can’t find her and honestly, looking back to her letters, we didn’t have much in common, so it’s ok. I have good memories though.
How many Penpals do you have? Where are they from?
I think I can count my penpals in 20 beautiful girls, but I surely have more. Some doesn’t write regularly, some got lost and some only do swaps with me, but we keep in touch via Facebook so I consider them a kind of penpal as well. And then some only send a greeting card for Christmas. Anyway I have penpals mostly in Europe, especially after the Post Reformation of January 2011 which made the cost of Stamps raise up and it became too expensive sending outside Europe, even if it’s only a letter or even a postcard! The costs doubled and I was so fed up and sad about it.
Are you searching for new Penpals? If yes, please give us some contact information that we can publish in the magazine so that people can write to you back.
At the moment I am happy and ok with the ones I already have. Anyway we can be facebook or email penpals so you can write me at email@example.com or add me on Facebook.
What are you looking for in a penpal?
Well, as I said before, I am not a picky person, so I can’t make a list of things I want, or don’t want. Of course I don’t want my pals to be racist, greedy and dishonest. And all my pals are so nice and sweet and I can say I am very lucky! I am looking for spontaneity and I want to create a real conversation with them. They also have to be open-minded because the topics in my letters can be many and about different topics. And I am also looking for regularity. We all have our main things to do (work, householding, school, kids….), but I always try to find some time for my letters, it must be a pleasure and not an obligation. And when they can’t reply back, I would like to be informed as said before through Facebook, or Interpals.
Where do you find new Penpals from? Do you rely on FBs or Facebook or other websites/blogs?
All penpals I have I found on Interpals.net and some on the Postcrossing Forum. I think Facebook isn’t the best place to find pals, or well, I have never had good luck with Facebook groups. There are people that collect friends. I have put announcements on these groups’ walls and I saw that there are people that send the same copy-pasted message as a comment! How can they do that? I mean, when I search a penpal, I try to have clear ideas. I think some people do only want to collect penpals, and nothing more.
Tell us a funny/ interesting story from your Penpalling experience?
I think the most funny thing I’ve done was sending a letter cut into puzzles pieces! I sent it to some pals and they all got surprised about that. I think I am a creative person (sometimes!) and so I like to put a smile on my pal’s face by creating something funny and unique.
How do you keep track of your mail? Share your tip on how to organize ourselves.
Yes of course otherwise I’d go crazy! I do have a book and inside I keep 4 separated sections: one I about my penpals, they are alphabetically ordered and everyone has it’s own place. I write name, surname, address, birthday, email, where and when we “met” and I also put a photo. Then there’s the “how much” section, where every penpal has her own table of numbers and every letter I get from a pal has a number in order to not get lost with all mail and create a “story” of letters. Then I have a section made by plastic folders, where every pal has her own one and inside those I put things I have to send in the following letter. The fourth part is miscellaneous, I keep the things I send to every penpal (to avoid sending the same items to the same pal) and also some papers I send to pals and they send me back, in which they write their favourites.
Do you swap things? Do you like sending gifts to friends? If yes, what is the most funny gift you have ever sent/ received?
Besides being a penpaller I am also a swapper though I had to cut down in swapping because of the actual cost of Italian stamps. And I like to send gifts to my penpals of course! I prefer spoiling them, I mean sending unexpected things when they don’t expect it!! 😉 I try to send a little something for Birthday and Christmas though it’s not always easy due to lack of money! Being a student is hard sometimes!!! Hehehe
I think the most funny item I sent was a pack of female menstrual pads, just to show how were those in Italy!! And the most funny gift I have ever get (but so useful!!) is a banana-container I think.
Have you met a penpal? If so, let us know how the meeting went.
Yes, I’ve meet one of my two Italian penpal some years ago. She came in my town by train and we spent the whole day together. It was so nice and funny day and I show her my place. Then I also met a foreign penpal as well (though we aren’t penpals anymore due to our studies, we kept touch on Facebook though). We met in Bruxelles. I won a Contest in 2007 at high school. I wrote an essay about European Union and won 5 days to Bruxelles with 29 other students from my region. And there I meet my Belgian penpal. It was a beautiful meeting though it lasted for just 1 hour because it was late evening. She as with her parents and we talked a lot. It was beautiful and I have sweet memories of that evening.
What do you usually like writing/reading about in the letters?
I don’t have favourites, my pals can tell me whatever they want, I read and write everything really. The only think I like is when the letter seems like a real conversation and you have the feeling that the person really put an effort writing it down.
When it comes to making cute and personal letters, every one has his/ her own style. Tell us your trick how to make a letter/envelope unique? Do you decorate it? If yes, how?! Give us some tips on how to make the letters more interesting.
Decorating a letter (and the envelop mostly) is one of my favourite hobby so I try to make every envelope personal and made for “that” person. I spend whole evenings (especially in Winter) decorating and creating new envelopes. Other things I made with letters was writing the letter, then cut it into puzzles shapes and send it. It’s so funny to get it and make a puzzle before being able to read it! I also decorated letters with interesting places from my place a short explanationbelow, or I decorated it with a precise topic, such as fashion, make up, or nature and tea. I save magazines cuttings and gift paper to create unique envies.
Where do you buy your stationery supplies from? Do you prefer traditional shops or e-shops? If so, give us some links.
Luckily, I have some great pen pals and swappers that help me every now and then to make my paper collection bigger. In Italy, and where I live, it’s hard to find letter paper. Diddl is rare here and when I found it, it was soooo expensive. Kawaii or Hello Kitty stationary doesn’t exist at all. So, I started to collect stationary thanks to swaps I’ve made actually. And I only bought paper 2 times from the web. I bought Diddl paper on papiton.de and some kawaii from penpal junkie. Anyway it was from the Netherlands and loved all the things. I have always had bad luck with e-bay. When I go to new paces I always ask for letter paper at bookshops and/or paper shops but in general I don’t always have great luck. Some old paper shop, still have very old letter paper, and I buy it if they discount it to me. Unluckily, here penpalling is considered old-fashioned and not many people keep letter paper anymore.