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158. Penpal reunion

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

When I was a child I went to my local primary school in my parents village.


With Gabrielle Theriault


It was a good school but there was nothing particularly remarkable about it other than the fact it had an unusual ratio of foreign students to English students for such a small school. This was due to a local agricultural college which employed a large number of professors and other staff from abroad and had a large contingent of foreign students also. They all brought their families over with them and the kids were accommodated at our school.

Every morning we would do the register and have a number each assigned to us. We would then learn that number in the languages of our foreign students so I found I knew just one number in Chinese, in French and German etc. Our Nativity plays were also multicultural spectacles!

One of the girls who joined us when we were around eight or nine was a French Canadian girl called Gabrielle, who always wore her hair in plaits. We became friends and when she left after the year I was heartbroken. We decided to carry on with our friendship and stayed in touch, writing to each other whenever we had news to tell. I loved receiving her letters and can still vividly remember her beautiful handwriting.

As the years went by we lost contact but then found each other on Facebook and reconnected. In the way that only Facebook allows we've passively stayed in touch for the last 10 or so years, keeping an eye on what each other is doing, but never really chatting that much. So I was thrilled to little tiny pieces when she told me she had a layover in London while travelling to a conference in Europe and could we meet up. I invited her to stay and we spent a few hours this evening reminiscing.

She also very kindly brought some poutine ingredients and we ate like Queens. (Queens slightly more likely to die from heart failure but happy Queens all the same!)

Although a fleeting visit it was great to see her in person and hopefully we can start writing letters to each other again. There's nothing quite like a letter.


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