Friday, August 26, 2011

Fact or Factoid? Curious or Criminal?

There wasn't just a single letter.

After graduating from college in 1991, I went to Israel and lived on a kibbutz for several months where I participated in an "Ulpan" – a Hebrew language and cultural education program. The students in the ulpan hailed from all over the world – France, England, New Zealand, South Africa and, of course, several from the US of A.

Now, keep in mind that those were the days before the Internet and email and instant messaging via Facebook. Those were also the days when unlimited long distance and international calling didn't exist and it was crazy expensive to make international calls. So we (gasp!) wrote letters.

At that time, which, truth be told, wasn't that long ago, air mail letters could be written on separate sheets of incredibly lightweight paper sometimes referred to as "onion skin" or they could be written on single sheets that were folded and sealed with tabs.

My Dad wrote to me ... gosh ... virtually every day, I'd say. A prolific writer and avid storyteller himself with unintelligible longhand, at some point Dad started writing on the outsides of the tabs, eager not to have me miss a single detail of what was going on "across the pond."

If memory serves, after watching some CNN newscasts, Dad started putting little "quizzes" in the space afforded by the tabs used to seal the letter closed. The brain-teasers, such as they were, all began with the same words, "Fact or Factoid?" I really enjoyed them.

Unbeknownst to me, other ulpan students were enjoying them too...

You see, in an effort to maintain as cohesive a group as possible, all the ulpan students lived together in two or three buildings. Because we all roomed with each other, our mail was bundled together, too. Typically, one person would pick it all up from the post box and then distribute it to the lucky recipients.

Now, in the US, there are all sorts of laws regarding opening someone else's mail. But from what I can gather it is not illegal to read someone else's open mail. Then again, I wasn't in the US, but old habits die hard...

So you can imagine how surprised I was when, one day, one of my classmates – a strapping guy from New Zealand – came up to me, cocked his head, gave me a look and said, "So Daphne, what's with this 'Fact or Factoid?'"

I didn't know whether to be vexed that he was reading my mail or impressed that he could decipher my Dad's writing.

This was written for the BFF Inspiration #117 - The Letter.


  1. That was a sweet thing for your Dad to do. Ah...the memories.

    My Dad's handwriting was indistinguishable as well, but I could read it, even if other ppl couldn't.

    Very enjoyable blog! Thanks for blogging with us.

  2. Letters. Real letters. They are becoming a lost art. In another generation, there will be people who don't remember stamps. They'll have gone they way of 'records'.

    Your post brought back good memories. :)

  3. This is a great post!! Letter writing--was so much fun back in the day--but I have to admit I like the ease and convenience of emailing and messaging across facebook.

    I think it is wonderful that your Dad kept in contact that way! Kind of a strange feeling though having Strap Boy from NZ rummage through your personal letters! :O

    Cheers, Jenn