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  • In the summers of 1990 and 1991, I made friends with a bunch of kids my age in Belarus (or Byelorussia as we were calling it) and the Ukraine. Though I spent just one formative month in 1990 traversing the countryside of Belarus, we spent the next years writing letters back and forth. About anything and everything that teenagers write letters about. In that time, I learned to read and write Russian longhand as well as my own grandmothers' handwriting and kept up these friendships over thousands of miles and across the great divide of the Cold War's slow demise.

    That month spent bouncing around between Moscow and the Polish border at Brest-Litovsk turned into stacks of letters and souvenirs. While the Soviet Empire slowly perestroikaed itself into pieces we wished each other Happy Birthdays and New Years and Christmasses and talked about U2 and INXS and Depeche Mode and whatever else seemed cool at the time. Our letters become fewer and finally stopped sometime before email and facebook were easy ... and so our friendships became frozen in time.

    The letters have all gone missing over the years ... but, somehow, I ended up with four of the Soviet airmail envelopes that I had been using to keep in touch with my friends. These envelopes are blank, empty, and have never been sealed. They cost me 50 kopecks each from a postal service that doesn't exist any more. So, probably, they aren't good for anything now.

    But I can't bring myself to do anything but keep them in a tidy stack on the corner of my desk. Like I might come to suddenly know my long lost pen pals' addresses and respark those friendships now so long past.
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