Another Letter to My Cousin in Spain

If the nude bodies on the Spanish coast aren’t much to look at, then I suppose that Meditteranean diet does not help much afterall?

Well, the diet that we have here in the States isn’t great. This weekend, for instance, was a huge smorgasbord of Chinese food. The second aunt made her famous chicken with flat rice vermicelli on Saturday evening – pizza for the kids. (I helped myself to both.) Sunday brunch was a classic variety of Chinese cuisine: salted fried squid; Kung Pao scallops; braised shrimp; shitake mushrooms and sea cucumbers over bitter melon; beef chow fun; fried tofu cubes; etc. My belly is plump from the amount of food that I ingested over the past couple of days.

I did not know that Madrid was like a Western metropolis. Yes, I suppose I should’ve guessed since that city is a huge tourist attraction. Wow… to see a Starbucks in Spain! Did you get a grande? How’s clubbing in Madrid? What kind of music did the club play? How were the men and women? Were the Spaniards any more or less forward than the men here in the States?

Tell me about the hostel. You said it was semi-gross. Does that mean it wasn’t well kept? Were there “questionable” people who stayed there? I hear that hostels are cheap, and that those places are very economical for people/students who are traveling the world.

What in Madrid’s flea market history made it so infamous? Is there a lot of crime? Did you buy anything neat?

Thanks for the affirmation on my desires to travel abroad. I talk to L about it, but I can’t help feeling like she’s threatened when I do. If I lived far away in a place like China, where there’s nobody who would corroborate my fidelity (like my parents and relatives), I could very well cheat on L and not get caught. “What goes on in China, stays in China…” (a slight variation to the old saying, “What goes on in Tijuana, stays in Tijuana.”) Of course, I wouldn’t do anything of the sort – but it doesn’t stop L from feeling uneasy.

Perhaps it’s not the shadow of infidelity that troubles her? Traveling abroad is a life-changing experience. You can attest to that. If I stayed in China or some other Asian country for a year, I might change so much that L no longer knows what to make of me. My way of thinking might be so different that we would no longer be compatible.

Johana felt this way when I went to college. When we talked during the evenings, I told her about all the new things that I was learning and the new people that I was meeting. My mind was just teeming with ideas I just learned from my university courses. It intimidated her. She confessed in a letter how she would spend hours afterschool at the library researching the stuff that I talked about the night before. In the end, she broke up with me because we grew too far apart. In an email she sent me several years after our break-up, she said that she did not want to hold me back like how her ex-boyfriend held her back.

You were right on the money when you said that you travel so you won’t be another “sheltered American.” I don’t want to be that either, and thus I have one more reason to live in another country for an extended period of time.

We are young. I have to remind myself of that often. This Western upbringing makes me feel like I’m racing against time – and I’m always behind! It’s like I’m constantly chasing something ahead of me on the river, and that something (money, love, success, happiness) is just out of reach. Time is keeping it ahead and if I paddle just a little harder, move a little faster… I’ll get it. How can one adopt the European time-is-a-lake perception?

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