So close…

When I was eight we did a class project at school on Canada. It largely entailed making a totem pole out of cereal packets and shoe boxes and learning that a moose and a mousse were two different things, but as part of the project our teacher got in touch with a school in Niagara on the Lake in Ontario and arranged pen pals for everyone in the class.

I can still remember sitting cross-legged on the assembly hall floor as the first batch of letters were handed out,¬† and particularly how envious everyone was of my letter. It had been written at Christmas time, so my correspondent had written each alternate word with a red and green Biro. But what was more impressive was her festive letter was written in an elegant, joined-up script. We had been allowed to exchange pencils for Berol handwriting pens only weeks earlier and had just been taught how to join up letters (don’t ask me how I remember this rubbish, I wish I could remember useful stuff this well), so my friends and I were in awe of this Canadian girl, who was obviously much cleverer and cooler than we were.

Soppy childhood reminiscing aside, my pen pal, Nicole, and I sent each other snail mail every couple of months or so for about ten years (until we discovered emails and Facebook). To me, Canada was such a distant country that I never thought I’d ever get to go to see where Nicole lived. That’s why this street sign, and my last couple of days of my trip, have been special:

street sign

Yep, I went to my pen pal’s house today. The only flaw is she’s buggered off to Costa Rica for the summer to go surfing and learn Spanish.

It’s not as unfortunate as it sounds – I had known she wasn’t going to be there, but I went along anyway and had a smashing time with her mum, Lise. She took me around the town and into the country and showed me the landmarks and places where Nicole hung out as a kiddie-wink. I’d always known she lived close to the beach (I used to think she was so exotic because she always wrote about going kayaking), but I never imagined she would live quite so nearby. It was kind of surreal watching the amazing¬† sunset over Lake Niagara knowing Nicole had no doubt hung out there countless times. I assume I have pollution from Toronto to thank for the funky colour of the sun….

Anyway, it really meant a lot to go there, and I hope I can go back some day (or maybe to even to Costa Rica, eh Nicole?!) to finally meet her. xo.

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