“Usha” – My Friend from Faraway
By Kaiyi Liu
“Now in Nepal winter season is coming near. A week ago here comes a earthquake. I thought it’s going to be more dangerous in Kathmandu and lots of people would died. Many people died in Sikkim. Many house had fall down. I hope in future this all not will happen.” - “Usha,” Nepal
Living in the safe summer haven of Singapore, it is only through my pen-pal Usha that I have come to understand the experience of harsh winters and earthquakes. My appreciation of my home stems from the words in her letters.
Usha has been my pen-pal for about six years. One of my mother’s friends was volunteering with ONE (SINGAPORE) and looking for a pen-pal for Usha, whose education was sponsored by ONE (SINGAPORE) through a programme called the Little Sisters Fund. With no idea of what to expect, I offered to write to her. On 22nd of August 2012, I received Usha’s first letter and this is how a friendship blossomed.
Usha’s letters arrive in neatly-typed envelopes with colourful stamps. Her letters contain updates on the seasons and weather in Nepal. (I only have summer to discuss with her, as it is the only season here in Singapore). She also writes me about the cultural and social activities happening in Nepal and her school life. As time has gone by, we have shared our joys and sorrows of growing up. She has told me about her interest in the English language and I have expressed my disappointment in my marks for Mathematics.
Usha’s beautifully-written letters, accompanied by lovely drawings, are a window to another world of different seasons and celebrations.
“Few days ago, there was a festival called Janai Purnima. In Janai Purnima, I went to temple with my friends. We put sacred thread in our right hand. We enjoyed very much. In this day all people ate Kwati, the delicious food made of beans this day. This sacred thread tied for the protection and some take it as good luck. We tie a yellow red threads.” -Usha
Usha’s school has special holidays dedicated to religious festivals, such as the Nepali New Year, which falls in April. Similarly, we have days off in Singapore for holidays like Chinese New Year. Through these differences, I have also learnt about the similarities around our world.
“We celebrated Gaijarta and Krishna Asthami last month. Gaijatra is a funny festival. In Gaijatra must of the people come with their cows or they paint their body by colour and they made cow in their body. In Krishna Asthma Hindu people take fasting and they go to the Lord Krishna temple and they worship Lord Krishna.” -Usha
In this world of advanced technology and social media, where I communicate regularly with my friends on Instagram and Snapchap, Usha’s letters on paper and ink have become something I treasure a lot.
Over the past few years of exchanging letters with a friend many thousands of miles away, I have also polished up on my written communication skills. I have noticed that Usha’s English and writing skills have improved with the longer letters too.
Being given the chance to be Usha’s pen-pal is truly a blessing. I treasure it very much. It is amazing to know about Usha’s life through her own words and drawings. I believe that our long distance friendship will last for as long as we wish, through paper and pen.
Kaiyi Liu, 15, is a student in Grade 9 at Hwa Chong International School. She has been corresponding with “Usha” (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy) since 2012. Usha recently completed 11th grade and has one year remaining until graduation. ONE (SINGAPORE) began sponsoring Usha’s education in 2009.