Coffee with Marina

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I received this postcard from Marina, a graphic designer from Lisbon who drew my name through the postcrossing.com grab bag, several years ago. I really liked the card and her so asked if she would be interested in further swap.  I also saw another card on the site that she had sent that I coveted. She agreed and sent me an envelope stuffed with cool cards that included the image I had requested.

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Marina was a busy lady between job and family, especially with a small child so she didn’t have lots of time to spend writing letters. Our lives were very different and yet we had a common bond through mutual love of the vintage,  Marina’s taste leaning more towards advertising images.

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We exchanged post only occasionally but it was always Marina’s style to send a pile of great cards in an envelope. I would say that it was these cards with their human connection, that drew me to finally visit Portugal.

After finding my ticket and arranging accommodations through Couchsurfing.org, I sent a message to Marina suggesting a meet up.  I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was going to happen and here’s why. I have learned from my experience in Postcrossing, that most people participate strictly for the writing and or cards but may not be interested in making friends up close and personal. It’s just out of their comfort zone to meet up with strangers.  I understand that my sense of adventure fueled by intuitive confidence is somewhat rare. I could feel her hesitation written between friendly lines so I held no expectations, just some positive hope. If it happens great, if not, such is life.

Towards the end of my first week, I got a message from Marina and happily we were able to make a plan for coffee. I was staying very close to where she lived so it was an easy meeting. I can’t believe I waited 6 months to write about this day because now so many of the details are fuzzy.  I think it was raining but I remember having the umbrella more than the rain.  I didn’t know what she was going to look like but she was the only woman waiting outside the cafe. Did we just have coffee or eat breakfast too? Most of our conversation is lost to me now. I remember her telling me about how difficult things were with the economic crisis and how hard it was to keep on top of just the basic living expenses. She told me about her family  and some things about her job. I don’t remember anything that I might have told her about me. I didn’t even think to take a picture of her! At the end of our time together she admitted to me how nervous she had been about meeting me. She worried about her English which to me was great but I think it was the burden of carrying the conversation in a language she rarely had the opportunity to practice.

Maybe it doesn’t matter that I don’t remember all the details of our conversation because what I do recall most clearly, is the way I felt at the end when we were saying goodbye. We  were looking each other straight in the eyes, saying how great it was to meet and really meaning it. I felt like something very important had passed between us. It was similar to the feeling of getting goosebumps or the pinprick feeling on skin but in a spiritual sort of way. Like when you realize something important for the first time and the truth of it radiates out the top of your head. Something happened, the barrier of discomfort broken and the result was hard to describe but very real. The feeling was larger than the facts there to support it. An emotional mystery. It was the purest example of the unmet friend discovered, it’s beauty condensed into one 2 hour meeting. And of all the great things Portugal had to offer, meeting Marina was in many ways, the highlight of my trip.

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4 Responses to “Coffee with Marina”


  1. 1 Tori April 22, 2013 at 3:43 am

    Your writing always makes me smile. Miss you so much!

  2. 3 Una April 22, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Great article and so representative of “theunmetfriend”!

  3. 4 Isa June 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    well, you should come to the Bielefeld meetup one day. 😉 50 Postcrossers in 1 house for 4 days! FUN!!!
    (I was in Antwerp last weekend and thought of our meeting there about 4 years ago and the meeting around Christmas in Cologne 5 years ago. 😉 I still don’t smoke. 😀 😀 :D)


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