Another one of the important characters in my upcoming adventures is The Penpal.
In my second last year of University I took an elective Japanese language course. I liked it so much that I wanted to continue with another Japanese course in my final year of school. My biggest concern was losing my language abilities in the 4 months between semesters. Winnipeg has a very small Japanese community, so I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to find language partners in person. Faced with a challenge, I turned to the internet for assistance.
Searching for foreign language exchange partners brings you to a wide array of websites – some legit language exchange sites, many more for finding foreign spouses. I would promote the website that I used, but it has now been replaced with a straight up dating website.
I signed up for an account and created a profile explaining that I was looking for someone to practice Japanese with. In my profile I specifically mentioned that I was a big fan of Radiohead, Pixies, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and the Beatles. In short order I ended up with penpals from Japan, Korea and the Philippines. One of my Japanese penpals decided to write to me because she shared the same taste in music. She was about the same age as me, and lived in a city called Numazu in Shizuoka prefecture. Like many other Japanese people, she had studied English in school but didn’t have a lot of opportunity to practice in daily life. Out of all of the penpals I got on the website, she and I had the most in common and wrote each other weekly in English and Japanese.
One of the highlights of our email exchanges was when I made a mix CD to send to her. The CD included Queens of the Stone Age, Moist, Our Lady Peace, Frank Black and other music that I was into at the time. Out of the CD, she particularly liked Moist and Our Lady Peace (go Canadian bands!). Not having a CD burner, she responded with a mix cassette. Her cassette included Shiina Ringo, UA, Love Psychedelico and Number Girl. I had never heard of any of them before, but quickly became a fan.
To be clear – I was not looking for a girlfriend. I already had one of those (The Ex). She also had a boyfriend at the time. We were both honestly looking for a language partner, and we both ended up finding a friend. From here forward I will refer to this person as “The Penpal”.