Marta Sargenti gives this PenPal Interview for Sandbook PenPal Magazine, August 2011, issue 10. You can download the magazine from the Archive section of our penpal magazine, or check the current issue of the magazine.
Hi everyone! My name is Marta and I am 29. I was born, bred and have lived all of my life in central Italy.
I am a freshman at the university again, studying Education part-time. I have always wanted to be a teacher, I was a kid and already forcing my younger sister to attend my lessons, but I studied social work instead as my first university choice. Still wondering why though. I love to work in the social field, but don’t much like the social worker job, too much bureaucracy and papers to fill in daily and too little face-to-face contact with people, with their real life. After a few temporary jobs with children, I decided to try my luck and apply for Education. I did it and have just finished my first year at the university. Studying wasn’t easy at first, after 4 long years since I graduated last, but I am now starting to feel at easy with text books again and I have two more exams to sit in September to call my first year done with.
I am also a part-time worker, because uni fees are high and because I have to start saving up for my own house and for a future. I work for my parents, that would drive anyone crazy, I tell you! We deal with tourism and sell religious items and souvenirs to some resorts not far from where we live. It’s crazy job from March to October, but it’s almost relaxing during late fall and winter months.
I am a dog owner, a proud one, and in my spare time I walk around or play at the park with my dog Rolly. He’s a bundle of joy and a great companion to my days!
The rest of my spare time is very limited, I volunteer at church together with my boyfriend. We are chief to a group of 11 year olds, our group meets on Saturdays from 3 to 4 pm. It’s hard job but I love it! Volunteering has enriched my life in the last couple years.
I also like to relax, of course, and my best way to do it is writing letters to my pallies (of course I am an avid penpaller, have always been one since my youngster years) and reading: I am a bookworm! Ihave a thing for TV-series and watch way too many, but I am being sensible and try to limit my addiction.
If you have to describe yourself in only 5 words what would they be?
I am a stubborn person, I would never give up a goal of mine and if I want to get something I will get it sooner or later.I am caring to those I love, I worry for my overworking parents and I am the one who cooks and cleans for the family. I can’t go without worrying everyone is ok, even when I am not at home.I must add picky to my description. I am picky with friends, I am picky with what I eat (mostly because I am lactose intolerant, so I have to be picky…), I am picky with my education. I am understanding, my friend Ilaria says it’s the social worker in me. I tend to see a good side in everyone and hardly judge people from the “cover”, but try to see things from their point of view, so as to feel empathy to them. Maybe Ilaria is right, deep inside I am still a social worker.I am sarcastic, even if italians don’t appreciate sarcasm that much and often take my sarcasm for snobbery.
Tell us something about your town, city or country.
I live in Perugia, a city in the heart of Italy, in a region called Umbria with no outings to the sea, but with an amazing landscape to fall in love with! The city counts some 170.000 inhabitants, mostly living in the suburban areas. Our old city hosts students coming from all over Italy and worldwide (I am proud to say that Perugia hosts the University for foreigners, so if you want to study Italian you have to come here and get your Italian Language Certificate here). I love to walk around the old city and I am proud of the history that old Perugia shows to the tourists that come every year, especially in July for the Umbria Jazz Festival.
We have a mean of transport that is pretty unique here, it’s called Minimetro and it’s a sort of an elevate metro. Tourists are enthusiastic with it! What I love the most of minimetro is that each stop hosts a “book-stop” green desk where people can leave their books for others to take home and read, following the real bookcrossing philosophy. You never know, great books may cross your way when catching minimetro to university!
Another event that’s worth mentioning is the Eurochocolate, nothing less than a real chocolate festival, where you can taste and buy chocolate of all flavours and shapes! They even hold a competition of statues made from big blocks of chocolate!
My experience with penpalling started when I was 12 years old, when our English teacher at school introduced us to foreign correspondence, giving each one of her students an English correspondent to exchange letters with. I was matched to an English blonde girl called Beth who sent me a first letter in purple stationery decorated with flowers. I was absolutely excited with her first letter and would show my whole family the photos she had exclosed, with her house and family! I guess my English skills must have been almost non existant because the girl quit writing after my second letter. Can’t blame her, I could hardly say much more than my age and a few phrases about my family! And that was already talked about in my first letter… I tried it with other few foreign girls because I loved the idea of being friends with someone from another country, but had to temporarily give up foreign correspondence because my English was a real disaster and no one would go further than letter number 2! Back then I was member of a book-club. We got a magazine every second month and in the magazine there was a penpalling section: kids could place an add there for pals. That’s what I did. I received 20-some replies to my advert, but only a handful of those girls who replied the add were to stay and became reliable pals. With one of them I wrote letters untill a few years ago when we lost touch when she left to Africa for volunteering. I was 15 when I went back to international penpalling. I got 4 addies from IPF service based in Turku, Finland. I wrote to those pals for years, and still have them in my contacts list on Facebook, even if they no more do penpalling.In 1997 I received a fb from one of my italian penpals and I seriously started penpalling and swapping! There was a moment when I had almost 40 pals! I am not proud of those days, because I was not a quality over quantity person back then, but then I was a teen and of course stationery and many letters would catch my attention the most. Over the years my attitude to penpalling changed a lot. I am now one of those who puts quality over quantity and I am now corresponding with a small group of 8 reliable girls living in Europe, Canada and the States. I consider them all dear friends and write them long letters stuffed to the brim with my life and hopes. I can no more think my life without them friends!
What do you like / dislike about Penpalling/correspondence?
I love penpalling because I feel completely at ease with a paper in front of me, rather than having to talk face-to-face with someone. I am a shy person and find it terrible to open up with new people. Instead through letters the whole friendship building process is easier for me. Of course I also love to meet my pals, once we are close enough to trust eachother. I already met afew of my pals. One wasn’t a pleasant experience, to tell you the truth. It was with a male pal of mine and it made me say “no more male pals for me from now on”! But it didn’t keep me from meeting pallies again!I met twice my former italian pal and we exchanged summer holidays at eachother places for some years. I also met my bestie once and we’ll soon meet again, in November, when we’ll go on holidays together in London. Penpalling means a lot to me. My penpals are my friends, my penpals are with me on good and bad days, my pals support me, they love me for the person I am with good sides and faults. I think that’s enough said to explain why penpalling means that much to me!
How do your friends react when they discover you are into Penpalling? Are they also into it or they give you the “strange” faces?
This one makes me giggle, indeed! Of course some of my aquaitances know that I am a penpaller. And very few of them pretend it’s something they consider normal. Most of them just make pity faces toward my direction and I am sure they think I am wasting my time and being childish. That’s what my dad used to tell me. There was a period when I only wrote letters when alone at home, so that parents wouldn’t see me and blame me for wasting my time! Now I no more hide, of course. I think they got used to letters being delivered to me and to my habit of sitting down at my desk with paper and pen and staying there for hours writing. My boyfriend also didn’t get it, how I could find it funny to write letters. But then I introduced him to Bonnie when she was here in my city studying italian and told him about my meeting with penpals and he’s now more understanding about it. Still he says it’s something he would never consider doing himself. My sister tried to start penpalling when a teen herself, following my example, but she didn’t like it enough to go on with the years. I think there are not many italian pals around nowadays, we are rare species here!
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.
I am no more in touch with the English girl Beth. And I would not be able to locate her nowaday anymore, because I don’t remember much about her. I was able to locate most of my old pallies thank to Facebook and I am in touch with them again thank to it. My eldest pal is my best friend Eva, from Hungary. We have been writing letters to eachother since 2001, that makes it quite a long time. Our letters are long and detailed, full of questions and we also send eachother books we read and want the other one to read. We met first time 3 years ago when she was in Italy for a collector fair and I reached her in Verona. It was our first time in the city and we enjoyed sightseeing and talked a lot! We were like old friends and we grew even closer after our meeting! We’re now ready to meet again in London in November. We’ll be sharing a room in a hostel there and spend 5 days together sightseeing and browsing through second hand bookstores.
I am writing to 8 girls at the moment. They are around my age, some are younger than me, a couple aged 2 and 3 years more than me. All of them are bookworms like me. All of them love to write long letters. With some I share my love for some tv-shows and writers, with some others we share our love for travelling. Each one of them is special for me, everyone gives me friendship and shows me a part of the world through their letters. My pallies are from Hungary, Finland, Germany, England, Denmark, Scotland, Illinois and Canada.
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.
Even if I am very tempted to meet some new long letter pals I can share a lot with and become good friends with, I know I cannot take on more pals than those I already write to. I am busy all day both with school and job and I would not be able to keep in touch regularly via snail mail if I had more pals. That’s is why I have to say “no, thank you. I am not looking for new pals right now”.
What are you looking for in a penpal?
Of course I am looking for real friends in my pals. I want to share the same idea of friendship with my penpals. It is not necessary to be sharing all hobbies or favourites, but it is useful to share something at the beginning, so that the conversation keeps going from the very start and it’s easier to grow closer then. When looking for a penpal I am asking for them to be reliable, regular with their replies and caring with me, as much as I am with them. Friendship is a mutual feeling. And friendship is what I look for in a penfriend.
Where do you find new Penpals from? Do you rely on FBs or Facebook or other websites/blogs.
I already said that in the past I used to look for new pals via IPF penpal service or books magazine and, later on, trough Fbs. Nowadays I am no more into swapping Fbs and mostly look for pals through Interpals, where I have got a profile and where I met most my present pals. I used to think as reliable long letter ladies also. And that’s where my bestie Eva and I found eachother 10 years ago. I am member ofPenpalling&Letters group of Facebook, a group that’s too fun to be part of and that I kindly reccomend to any pal who’s reading this and is on Facebook.
I think the funniest thing that happened to me recently with penpals is when I met online my pal Bonnie. She is an American girl, whose profile I was amazed with. I kept checking her profile again and again but couldn’t come up with something interesting to say to catch her attention. Finally she moved the first step and contacted me. We exchanged a few private messages and agreed to be pals via snail mail. She said we’d to still go on with email for a few months longer because she was moving to Italy soon. We agreed we’d have exchanged addresses when she knew her new address in Italy. Well, to make a long story short: she moved to Italy and guess where exactly! Yes, she studied italian in Perugia, of course we met and had some chances to hang out together and I introduced her to my mates here also. She’s still in Italy and now traveling around the country, so we’re not penpals technically, but we did start as potential pals.
How do you keep track of your mail? Share your tip on how to organize ourselves.
I keep track of my received and sent letters thank to listography, where I update my page everytime I get or send a mail to my pallies. It’s a useful place where to place your lists and keep yourself organized and neat, without worries of wasting your paper lists! I also keep a journal where I write a list of topics I talk about in each letters, so that I know where my previous mail stopped at and can easily update my pals with my latests without missing anything or writing something twice. I keep all my letters in a box, and number them as they come.
Do you swap things? Do you like sending gifts to friends? If yes, what is the funniest gift you have ever sent/received?
I love to spoil my pals and send them the odd gift with my mails. Nowadays that postage insanely increased in Italy (as if the service offered had improved at all!) I send gifts on special occasions mainly, such as Christmas and birthdays. The funniest thing I ever sent to a pal was a handmade cheese pie we traditionally eat on Easter day. My grandma made and baked it and Iwrapped it carefully and sent it in the mail. We were lucky that the pie got delivered safely and it was still good when my pallie opened the parcel. She even liked it! That was the most original gift ever sent. Doubt I could do it now, as they check parcels often now and I know you’re not allowed to send food.
Have you met a penpal? If so, let us know how the meeting went.
As I already said I met a few pals in the years. I met my Finnish pal Outi in Italy when she was here on holidays. We agreed to meet in Rome and spend a day together there. We met at the train station and it was easy to find eachother there, thank to our mobiles: we’d been texting eachothers all the way to Rome. We spent the morning walking around the city, and trying to save ourselves from the heat by hiding in some bookstores and dvd shops every now and then. Finally, we gave in and spent the rest of the day sitting in an amazing park, on a bench under a tree, talking. We had fun together and it was a lovely meeting!
What do you usually like writing/reading about in the letters?
In my letters I write about my everyday life, my hopes and dreams, my projects, my sorrows and disappointments. I write about my studies and job, about my family, my boyfriend. I write about books I read and tv I watch. I talk about my travelling and I write about italian traditions.I ask my pals to be as open with me as I am with them in our letters. They of course can talk about anything and everything. There’s no particular topic I love to talk about and some that I can’t really stand. Whatever comes to our minds soon becomes a favourite topic to talk about.When it comes to making cute and personal letters, everyone 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.
My letters are pretty colorful I think. I mostly write on lined or squared paper because I am useless without lines. I like to write in black ink or purple sometimes. I underline questions, so that it makes the letter colorful and it makes it easy for my pallies not to miss any questions when replying. And I sometimes decorate my letters with stickers, especially the back of stationery, that’s usually blank.
Where do you buy your stationery supplies from? Do you prefer traditional shops or e-shops? If so, give us some links.
Most of my stationery comes from Janet Store, that is absolutely cheap and selling quality stuff. Yet postage grew for Janet as well and it is now worth it only if you place bigger orders, that I cannot afford at the moment. I have got stationery enough to still go on for a couple years still. I have some Diddl pads left from my 2009 trip to Germany and aHello Kitty pad I bought in a shop downtown before it closed down. Not thatI am nuts for Hello Kitty but it’s an ok pad still. I think I will buy my stationery when travelling abroad from now on. Unluckily you can’t find quality paper in Italy and not at all in Perugia, so I am quite unlucky here.
I thank you for giving me the chance to take part to this penpal interview! I had big fun writing about my pal experience!
Greetings from Marta!
Your contact information:
1) Your Emailmartjsmail(at)yahoo.com
Any other profile or way you want people to contact you.