Tania was my best friend at University. She was a lovely girl from a very nice family. She lived with her parents and an older sister. I always envied her a bit as she had such a warm, supportive and loving family – something I did not have by then…
Tania studied German at University. One of the local newspapers offered a free opportunity to find penfriends overseas. I thought that it would be a good chance for Tania to put her language skills into practice, so for her 17th birthday I put a free ad in all German newspapers for German-speaking penfriends interested in art and nature.
She got a few nice letters, but then … I was sitting in a big auditorium waiting for the Genetics lecture when Tania came in laughing loudly.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“What ad did you put for me in Germany?” she asked.
“Nothing extraordinary – just something about a girl looking for German speaking penfriends interested in art and nature.”
Mrs Grumpynova who was teaching genetics entered the auditorium and the lecture began.
“Guess what I got the other day,” whispered Tania. “I was sitting in the living room with my mum and sister, when my mum gave me this envelope with pictures of flowers and butterflies. The art bit looked very pretty. So I opened the envelope and here came the nature – a picture of a naked middle-aged man fell out. You should have seen my mum’s face when she saw that. Surely enough just at that moment we heard my dad’s footsteps. “Hide this photo somewhere quickly,” shrieked my mum in horror, “If your dad sees that, you’ll be banned from having any penfriends from the West.” I quickly pushed this photo under the carpet just a second before my dad entered the room. My sister could not help it and burst into laughter rolling on the floor. “What’s the matter?” my dad asked with a puzzled look on his face. I tried to keep my face straight. “Nothing, darling,” said my mum with a smile. “Just shared a little joke,” and she gave him a kiss.”
Tania got the photo and passed it to me. I could not help it and burst into laughter. A girl sitting next to me grabbed the photo from my hands and started laughing as well. Other girls started passing this photo along the rows and soon a Mexican wave of laughter engulfed the auditorium with all 150 girls bursting into laughter one after another. Mrs Grumpynova stopped her lecture.
“What’s the matter?” she asked. Everyone just kept laughing. Mrs Grumpynova went to the last row and got the photo.
“Who brought this photo here?” she asked angrily.
Both Tania and I stopped laughing and raised our hands. Mrs Grumpynova promptly kicked both of us out of the auditorium and continued her lecture:
“What will you get when you cross yellow and green peas?” she asked the audience.
“What will you get when you cross hedgehog and a snake?” whispered Tania standing next to me by the door.
“A few metres of barbed wire,” she chuckled.
“Be quite”, – I said to Tania. “I want to listen to Grumpynova. We’ll have a test next week – don’t want to lose my scholarship if I get her peas wrong.”
I moved closer to the door and peeked through the key hole. Just at that moment someone opened the door.
“Ouch,” I shrieked. My right eye started turning black. “You know, Tania. As the Bible goes, ‘If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away…’ …. Don’t you ever bring such photos again to the University. I can hardly see with my right eye now – don’t want to risk my left one …”
Tania laughed. A few weeks later she put an ad in all English-speaking countries for English-speaking penfriends interested in Shakespeare and Dostoevsky – that was her present for my 17th birthday…