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Pen Pals

By Patricia Rust

Day 1

Danielle could hardly wait for Felix’s flight to land. Her "pen pal" was finally coming all the way from Switzerland to meet her. She had loved tearing open his mail and reading about delicious Swiss chocolate that she could almost taste just from his description, and the majestic mountains of The Alps that thrust through cloud layers. She hoped to hike there with him someday. But first, she was going to take him to her favorite beach in Los Angeles!

Felix was everything Danielle thought he would be as he disembarked with a big smile on his pleasant face. Her mom drove them straight to the beach for their picnic. Felix could not believe his eyes as the waves crashed in front of him. "I’ve never seen anything like this! Wow! The waves really pound down hard — I had no idea you could hear them!"

"You’ve never seen a wave crash?"

"Or heard one. Not with all our lakes and rivers. They are usually still and surrounded by the snowy mountains. We can only swim in them in the summer."

"Because they are so cold?"

"Yes, but they are beautiful. That’s why people called Switzerland ‘as pretty as a postcard’ and so is this…but your waters are action packed!" In the distance, they could see boats sailing and surfers catching waves. The friends smiled at their discoveries. Then, it was time to eat.

Felix tasted his hamburger and said, "It’s delicious!"

"The sand makes it crunchy!" teased Danielle.

"In our country, we melt cheese in a big pot and dip bread into it," explained Felix.

"Yum!" sighed Danielle as she straightened their beach towels and stretched. "Let’s hit the water!"

"Try not to hurt it," said Felix, not exactly understanding Danielle’s slang. Danielle laughed as she pulled Felix up to his feet and they ran into the water.

Tomorrow: Felix and Danielle compare their countries.

Day 2

Yesterday: Danielle’s pen pal Felix came to visit from Switzerland. The beach was the first place they visited.

After their swim, Danielle and Felix walked along the beach. The sun was about to set and the sky glowed orange. Danielle pointed out the Santa Monica Mountains. Felix laughed. "You call those mountains? We call those speed bumps!"

Danielle laughed and told Felix a joke, and then he told one back. Danielle remembered a poem and Felix remembered one, too, though he had to translate it from German.

"I think it’s so cool that you speak so many languages!" said Danielle as they walked to the car.

"Well," said Felix, "We are in the middle of many countries so we use their languages and traditions as well as our own. We even have pizza in Switzerland because part of Italy used to be Switzerland. So, we also study the French, and Italian language, too!"

"What do you say in Italian?"

"Ciao! It’s like hello, goodbye, and have a nice day all in one word!"

"Chow sounds like food to me," laughed Danielle. "The world is so interesting!"

Back at Danielle’s house, they hunched over a globe of the world. "Countries change with history," said Danielle

"Our country is so small that you could fit it into California," said Felix. "I brought you photos of the castles and old churches that you don’t have here."

"Wow!" said Danielle, flipping through the photos, "Your country is so old that it makes ours seem brand new."

"Your country helped make ours safe for democracy when the United States fought against Hitler in World War Two. We owe them a great deal of thanks," said Felix.

Danielle smiled proudly. There were lots of flags around the house and Danielle gave one to Felix so he could have a souvenir of his very special trip to California. He smiled in thanks.

Tomorrow: Felix and Danielle visit Olvera Street and learn more about each other’s languages and countries.

Day 3

Yesterday: Danielle and her pen pal Felix compared their countries and languages.

Danielle’s mom took Danielle and Felix to downtown Los Angeles to see some of its old buildings and Olvera Street, where the cobblestone streets were peppered with candle shops, leather goods stands, and lots of food vendors. "Here’s a taste of Mexico," Danielle said over tacos. "We have people from all over the world which is one thing that makes us so exciting!"

"We do, too," said Felix.

"Let’s get a piñata for you to take home!" shouted Danielle as she ran to show him the faces of animals and other colorful shapes.

"That looks like great fun. I especially like the idea of candy inside! Let’s get this one," said Felix, pointing to a donkey-shaped piñata that was bigger than a suitcase!

"You would have to ride that home!" laughed Danielle.

They picked out a small angel, which Danielle said was the symbol of the city of Los Angeles. Danielle had told Felix Los Angeles was Spanish for "The City of Angels."

"Mexico has been wonderful to California! We love its friendly colorful people!"

"And I love their food," Felix said while eating some cactus candy. "We have many cultures in Switzerland, so each offers something special."

Then Danielle told Felix something that really surprised him, "We have a school in Los Angeles where 126 languages of origin can be found in the students! We are a city, state, and nation of so many countries!" Danielle felt a lot of pride when she said, "And we are also the country people come to when they cannot stay in their own country. That’s why The Statue of Liberty welcomes newcomers!"

Felix frowned. It seemed as though they were in a competition as to which friend had the best country.

Tomorrow: Danielle explains about the freedom the United States offers to its citizens.

Day 4

Yesterday: Felix worried that he and Danielle were competing to see whose country was best.

After visiting Olvera Street, the family took Felix out for ice cream. Felix had forgotten their argument, but Danielle was still thinking about his words. She wanted to show him that her country was better than his.

"I think that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of speech," she said.

"You didn’t make that up!" said Felix.

"I did so!" said Danielle with her chin stuck out and a drop of ice cream on it.

"Danielle! Tell the truth please," said Danielle’s mother. "You did not write that. You can believe it, but you did not write it."

Felix added, "I learned that in my school when we studied American History. It’s called the First Amendment."

"I don’t care what you call it. I wrote it and I said it." Danielle stuck her chin out even further! Danielle’s brain told her that she had made a big mistake by stealing the exact words of someone else. "Well, I wrote them, I did." Then she thought better of it. "Maybe I should have said I was quoting the U.S. Constitution?"

"Yes!" said Felix, then they all had a good laugh.

"She thinks she’s George Washington," teased Danielle’s mother.

"The first President of the United States?" asked Felix.

"Only then could she have said those words. We must never steal the words of others. It’s called plagiarism and can hurt many people. We can repeat these words so long as we give credit to people who wrote them," said Danielle’s mother.

"I COULD become our president though," bragged Danielle.

"That’s right. You could," said her mother.

"Could I?" asked Felix with a laugh.

"No," said Danielle. "You would have to be born in this country. But it sounds like you know our history well."

"The Constitution, baseball, and jazz are my favorite American inventions!" said Felix with a smile.

Tomorrow: Felix and Danielle visit Universal Studios.

Day 5

Yesterday: Danielle told Felix about the U.S. Constitution and the Statue of Liberty.

The next day, Felix and Danielle headed outside into the bright sunlight. "Lights, camera, action," Danielle teased. "It’s time for our studio tour."

Felix loved the movie posters with cowboy western stars like John Wayne. He pretended to be one when he said, "Hey, partner, this town ain’t big enough for the two of us!"

"Come on," Danielle said, grabbing her movie-star friend to feed him a bite of an American hot dog.

"We have sausages!" Felix said.

"It’s not the same," Danielle said as she wiped the mustard off of her friend’s left cheek before they continued their tour.

They got on a cool shuttle bus that took them past a haunted house, a flood that looked real, and the jaws of a great white shark that looked alive and scared them both!

After the shuttle tour, they went on a ride that made them feel as though they were flying. Danielle explained, "We are the entertainment capitol of the world."

"I never would have known that," Felix said, joking. He and Danielle liked to joke.

Felix looked around the movie set and said, "Maybe I could become president of this!"

That night at dinner, Danielle’s parents asked Felix what he thought of their country. "I wish the whole world would be the same country! It would make life so much simpler to understand."

Danielle’s mother dished out more mashed potatoes to Felix and said, "You would still need to study history and geography to understand it all."

"Being kids means we have to study, doesn’t it?" Danielle asked.

"Being PEOPLE means we have to study…for a lifetime… but it’s so worth it! Think about all the things you’ve learned as pen pals!" Danielle’s mother said.

"But there’s always more," Danielle said. "I can’t wait to visit Switzerland."

All text on this website copyright
Patricia Rust Productions (2003)

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© Power for Kids, Inc., 2003