Home NEWS A 50-year pen pal friendship that started with a message in a...

A 50-year pen pal friendship that started with a message in a bottle

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(CNN) — Robbinroger Beever was 15 years outdated and strolling dwelling alongside a seashore in Liberia, West Africa.

The yr was 1967. Beever’s household lived close to Monrovia, the place his diplomat father labored on the US Embassy.

It was excessive tide and the ocean had washed up seaweed and planks of wooden and strewn them throughout the seashore. Amid the particles, Beever noticed one thing glistening within the late afternoon solar.

“I am the kind of one who’s very inquisitive about what the ocean can deliver to individuals who have their eyes open,” he tells CNN Travel.

Beever acquired nearer. It was a whiskey bottle. Choosing it up, he might see one thing coiled inside. He tried to open the bottle, unsuccessfully.

It is most likely just a few sort of label, Beever thought, however determined to take it dwelling anyway.

Again dwelling, he confirmed the invention to his mom. They put it on the eating room desk and after a little bit of effort they managed to prise the cap open.

The one thing inside wasn’t a label. It was a letter — a message in a bottle.

Beever uncoiled the sheet of paper, and began to learn:

“I threw this bottle off a service provider marine ship passing over the Equator close to central Africa,” it learn. “My title is Gösta Mårtensson, I’m Swedish service provider marine.”

The letter was dated from 1965. Mårtensson had included a return deal with for his dwelling in in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Beever enthusiastically wrote again, introducing himself: an American teenager, one in every of two sons of a British-American father and an Austro-Hungarian-Dalmation mom from Trieste, Italy. He advised Mårtensson the story of how he’d stumbled throughout the bottle.

Mårtensson was thrilled his letter had discovered its technique to a recipient, however he was in his late 20s.

I am not the best pen pal for a 15-year-old, he thought.

However he had an thought: he’d introduce this younger letter author to his spouse’s sister, Saija Kuparinen.

Kuparinen, 14, lived in Finland. She’d had no thought her brother-in-law had thrown a bottle off a ship close to the Equator, however upon listening to the story she was keen to jot down to the boy in Liberia.

Kuparinen wasn’t assured writing in English, so she composed a message in German, writing about her college, associates, household and life in Finland.

She hoped she’d get a response, however her letter touring the world over felt like a longshot.

But it surely wasn’t. Beever acquired her letter and was delighted. He liked the thought of speaking with a woman in Finland.

He scrawled a response, and a connection was fashioned.

5 a long time later, the pair are nonetheless in contact, not solely pen buddies however shut associates who’ve watched one another develop up from afar.

In the present day, Kuparinen lives along with her household in Finland, whereas Beever, who’s frolicked in nations throughout the globe, now lives together with his spouse and sons in Germany.

“Our friendship by no means stopped, even after I had my life with my daughter and husband,” Kuparinen tells CNN Journey.

“Now we have been corresponding for nearly 55 years — from being giggly youngsters to older accountable adults,” says Beever.

“I felt actually, actually related to her.”

A globe-spanning friendship

Robbinroger Liberia ID card

Beever was 15 when he first began writing to Kuparinen. Here is his Liberia ID card from the time.

Courtesy Robbinroger Beever

Rising up, Beever’s household had been by no means in a single place for lengthy.

Following the three-year stint in Liberia, the household moved again to Washington, DC for a yr. For some time, Beever’s letters to Kuparinen got here with a US publish stamp.

He wrote in English, and, at first, she all the time wrote again in German.

Then his father began working for the US Company for Worldwide Growth and was dispatched to Vietnam to work as an advisor through the conflict. His spouse and sons based mostly themselves in Taipei to stay a secure distance from the battle.

Beever wrote to Kuparinen about his rising love of Taiwan, particularly the people artwork custom.

He additionally wrote candidly about his worries for the longer term.

“We had been rising up. We do not know what route our lives will go in. The Vietnam Struggle was raging,” he says.

“I all the time felt I might write to her. I had by no means met her, however I felt there was a sort of non secular connection between us.”

Saija in 1967

Saija Kuparinen was additionally in her teenagers when the 2 associates first began writing to one another.

Courtesy Saija Kuparinen

Beever started touring forwards and backwards to Vietnam to go to his father, and he wrote to Kuparinen about what he noticed.

“Among the experiences had been stunning,” he says. “Others had been horrendous, particularly after I noticed American troopers, who had been my age, combating a conflict towards individuals they did not perceive, within the nation that they had little or no details about.”

At 18, Beever needed to register for the draft. A few of his American associates served, however his quantity was by no means known as up. He was relieved.

Amongst these extra severe musings, Beever and Kuparinen had additionally bonded over a love of rock music.

They had been each followers of The Rolling Stones and The Mamas & the Papas. The pen buddies began to talk on the cellphone from time to time. One among them would play a file by the receiver, and so they’d dance collectively — separated by oceans and 1000’s of miles.

Already, Kuparinen had turn out to be a continuing in Beever’s life. He’d all the time made associates simply however shifting from place to put meant retaining these relationships was laborious.

Robbinroger Vietnam ID card

Beever additionally frolicked in Vietnam as a youngster.

Courtesy Robbinroger Beever

And for Kuparinen, receiving dispatches from nations she’d by no means been to was fascinating.

“After all, in my youth others had pen buddies too, however not the type [like] Robbie, who was shifting from one nation to a different,” she says.

Kuparinen all the time tried to make her responses inventive and fascinating. She used to make envelopes from pages she’d torn from style and nature magazines.

Receiving these, and seeing the care and a focus behind them, was a thrill for Beever.

“Then I knew she actually preferred me, though we had by no means met,” he says.

Rising up

Robbinroger letter to Saija back

This postcard from Saudi Arabia did not make it to Finland.

Courtesy Robbinroger Beever

As the 2 graduated into younger maturity and moved away from dwelling, not each letter efficiently made it to the recipient.

However each time mail acquired waylaid, the pen buddies would persevere till they acquired maintain of the fitting deal with.

Beever continued to journey extensively into maturity, working in Taiwan for some time, earlier than taking a job in Saudi Arabia.

He nonetheless has a postcard he despatched from Riyadh that was returned to sender.

“How is your loved ones?” he wrote within the never-received dispatch. “Are Gösta and his household nonetheless in Sweden?”

Photo of Robbinroger at one of his favourite places in Saudi Arabia

Beever, pictured throughout his time in Saudi Arabia within the Eighties.

Courtesy Robbinroger Beever

Gösta Mårtensson, the service provider marine who’d kickstarted this letter-writing friendship, was delighted his sister-in-law and the finder of his message in a bottle had stayed in contact.

“He was very comfortable and keen on it,” says Kuparinen.

Years handed. Their lives continued to maneuver on, however the correspondence continued.

When Beever met new individuals and advised them about his friendship with Kuparinen, he referred to her as one in every of his greatest associates.

He reckons the bodily distance between them helped the emotional closeness.

“I all the time felt I might write to her. I had by no means met her, however I felt there was a sort of non secular connection between us.”

Robbinroger Beever

“It gave me reflection time after I was writing,” he says.

“Generally she requested me very deep philosophical questions: The place do you assume you can be in 10 years? Are you married but? What are you doing now? Do you continue to have wanderlust? When are you coming to Finland to go to us, we have been writing for thus lengthy?”

With the daybreak of the web age, the duo started interspersing their snail mail with emails.

Sending hyperlinks to music they liked was simpler, and attaching images was a bonus.

And a long-awaited in-person assembly was lastly deliberate.

Assembly after 35 years

Robinroger & Saija in a field of summer flowers near Suomenlinna on the coast near Helsinki

The 2 associates met for the primary time in individual in 2003, years after they’d first beginning writing letters.

Courtesy Robbinroger Beever

Kuparinen met Beever for the primary time in individual in 2003, at Helsinki Airport. She greeted him along with her husband and daughter in tow.

At first it was surreal — none of them was fairly certain what to say. They launched themselves. Moderately formally, the pen buddies shook arms.

“I am Rob,” he stated.

“I am Saija,” she replied.

They acquired within the automobile and drove to Kuparinen’s dwelling.

“She invited me in, and he or she stated, ‘Rob, I am comfortable you are right here,'” remembers Beever. “We had some espresso and a few cake, and issues acquired significantly better after that.”

As for Kuparinen, she says she really did not imagine Beever would really go to till she noticed him in individual.

It wasn’t that she did not belief his phrase, it is simply the assembly was so lengthy anticipated that it was laborious to imagine it was lastly occurring.

Speaking in individual turned out to be simply as pure as their years speaking by mail.

“It was like we had [been] talking on a regular basis,” she says. “We had been so particular associates. We simply continued in actual life.”

The go to was characterised by walks alongside the coast, trying to find the midnight solar and lengthy chats over scorching espresso.

Kuparinen’s daughter and her husband shortly fell into a straightforward camaraderie with Beever too, cooking him a conventional Finnish meal and displaying him the way to take pleasure in a Finnish sauna.

“All of us preferred this huge American man quite a bit!” says Kuparinen.

“it was a really good time collectively, I might really feel the constructive power,” says Beever.

After the go to got here to an finish, Beever stated his goodbyes. Again dwelling, he acquired a name from Kuparinen.

He’d by accident left behind a sweater.

She stated, “Let me preserve it right here, so you must come again.”

Over a decade later, Beever visited Kuparinen for the second time. Extra time had handed, he was married with two twin boys. His household got here alongside too.

It was a special expertise, however simply as particular.

“All of us acquired alongside very effectively collectively and that was beautiful,” says Beever. “We went mushroom selecting, we went berry selecting.”

On the finish of the day, the households would unwind with a Finnish beer, reflecting on their lives and Beever and Kuparinen’s friendship.

Reflecting on friendship

Saija and Robbinroger in Lahti, a city north of Helsinki

Beever and Kuparinen are nonetheless in contact in the present day.

Courtesy Robbinroger Beever

In recent times, the 2 associates have switched to video calling. They nonetheless sometimes ship bodily letters within the mail, however electronic mail has turn out to be the default.

“I feel one thing has been misplaced and gained on the similar time,” says Beever.

E-mail and video name are fast, straightforward, he says. However there’s one thing magical about snail mail.

“There’s nothing extra thrilling than to obtain a letter in a lovely envelope, properly folded, with birds and flowers, and open it. And really, it is part of the individual that comes.”

This previous yr, grounded at dwelling in Germany within the wake of the pandemic, Beever began correctly sorting by the piles of letters, ID playing cards, souvenirs and momentos from his life, saved in his storage.

It is a treasure trove of reminiscences, and so they’re all tied up in his friendship with Kuparinen.

“Now we have been corresponding for nearly 55 years — from being giggly youngsters to older accountable adults”

Robbinroger Beever

“I take a look at the addresses and I learn the issues that we did 40 years in the past, she in Finland and me in one in every of a dozen nations I used to be in, and it is simply one thing I actually take pleasure in,” he says.

“It provides me time for reflection, how a lot I’ve lived, how far we have are available in life. And in addition, the conclusion that there is extra behind us than in entrance of us. So, reside for the second, and share your love with your loved ones and associates and actually present them that.”

“I typically take into consideration our historical past,” says Kuparinen.

She would not have all her letters anymore — some have gotten misplaced alongside the way in which. However the reminiscences stay.

“We will keep good associates on and on and on.”

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