In letters to her South African pen pal, Ivy, Alexis Corbin writes of her playground activities, her love of drawing and her favorite restaurants in the city.
On Tuesday, Corbin, an 11-year-old from Marie H. Reed Elementary School, had a chance to demonstrate for her faraway friend another favorite pastime.
“This is a Gigapet. Everybody loves to play with this,” said Corbin, dangling the popular hand-sized electronic game from her hand. “You can use them when you are bored.”
As part of its 37th anniversary, the Peace Corps set up a video conference call enabling a group of Washington fifth-graders to speak “face-to-face” with their pen pals from Nebo, South Africa, a town several hours north of Pretoria. The students have been corresponding by mail for months.
Troy Boston, 11, holding up an American flag, used his time on the TV screen to explain the flag’s origins, colors and symbols.
South African students commented on the many types of trees - such as apple and avocado- in their land and asked what kinds of trees grow in the nation’s capital.
“We have palm trees and green trees and apple trees,” said Christopher Shannon, 11, adding after a little prodding from his teacher, “and cherry blossoms.”
Attending the event, Education Secretary Richard Riley fielded questions from a South African girl who asked if he ever had a pen pal as a child. Riley responded that he did not have one his age but exchanged letters frequently with his grandmother.
The South African students, dressed in uniforms, had their own show and tell for their American counterparts. One girl held up a long wooden spoon and described how she used it to make porridge. “Like this,” she said stirring the spoon in the air.
A boy from South Africa displayed a small conch to his peers. “It’s used to drink water and beer,” he said, causing a chorus of giggles from classmates on the screen behind him.
The children on both continents ended the meeting with short performances: The Washington group recited a poem called “Determination.” In turn, the students from South Africa sang their national anthem.