Letter to Dad 8.29.2004

Good Morning Dad,

Thanks for having C. call me.  It had been ages since I’d last spoke to
her and it was good to have a chat.

It’s almost September now and the weather has become cool and a bit wet here
in Tokyo.  It’s a fitting season to be leaving Japan; a place where I’ve
developed so much and had my eyes opened a little more.  Everyday, I
struggle with the thought of leaving here and try to imaging what life will
be like in Vietnam.  However, I believe it’s the comfort of Tokyo that stirs
these fears since I have established myself quite well in this concrete
jungle.  Yet, I’m determined to go to Vietnam for a few main reasons:

4.17.2004 – E-mail to Dad

 
Good Morning Dad!
 
How is everything at home?  Is Mom’s brother still there?  How long will that last?  I know it must be a challenge. 
 
The semester has started here and we’ve just completed our first week of class.  I’m really going to enjoy this semester since they have revised the  curriculum.  There are now two core classes for each level.  There is the “A” class which uses the textbook, employs normal teaching methods and is the class most students have chosen.  I on the other hand, have chosen “B” which does not have a book, but centers around the writing of a theme.  We develop our themes and discuss them for the majority of class.  There are also days when we do grammar yet it is much more concerned with conversation and developing our speaking ability. 
 
Most students have chosen ordinary academic topics which tend to become boring after a while, but my theme is sure to spark controversy as far as the eye can see.  The title “Why America is the Best Country in the World.”  hahahahahahaahha.  I tell you it sure got the other students talking and I can’t wait for the lively debates it is sure to spark.  There is no danger of offense, because they all know me and I’ve explained my reasoning quite well.  One of my principal arguments is that anyone from any nation can come to America and become American.  Yet, for someone like me who tries to learn about other cultures and languages, I am always shut out or can only go so far in the culture.  I cannot become them, like they can become American as we are. 
 
They are all impressed that I can speak the languages I do, and my the thoughts and ideas I put forth in class most often amaze them, so there is no chance of causing offense since they understand my reasoning.  Further, I believe we put other’s mentality, intelligence and character before nationality in America.  Yet outside, it is nationality over the individual which is important.  Therefore, I will always be expected to act, think and speak like an American even though I try so hard to become like others so that I may understand them.  Thus, for my theme, I will think 100% like an American since it is precisely that which is expected of me.  They are in for a great ride during my tirades which are to come.   It should be fun to poke and jab while explaining that all good things, technological advancement and the salvation of the world time and time again are all from America. After all, if it wasn’t for us, they would all still be riding donkeys or in Japan’s case, walking everywhere right!?  hahahahaha 
 
I’m will mail you the tax information this week, I’m sorry about being late on that. 
 
 
One comment about the state of affairs in Ohio.  It seems that Ohio is in the news a lot lately for terrible things.  This morning I sat down and watched the 10 t.v. newscast and saw the beating on the bus and the video of the Ohio hostage in Iraq.  It made me very sad that they even put these images on T.V. for the public’s entertainment.  Yet it goes to show how decadent society has become since I well know that people will tune in and increase the ratings which is what the editor of the program is after.  These horrible images bring profit, and I don’t see why in the future a T.V. producer shouldn’t pay someone to beat the hell out of another, record it, and sell it to the savages known as the public.  OH wait,, they did that already didn’t they and it’s know as “ultimate fighting” or the wildly popular K1 here in Japan.  Why shouldn’t there be killing, beatings, death and a host of other atrocities in real life,,, it is what the public desires and entertains themselves with in a purley masochistic fashion. 
 
Ok, I was going on a tirade.  I’m writing all this down in a book I posted on my website if you ever have a chance to look.  Apparently a writer has woken up in me Dad, and I can only surmise that it is genetic.  I will find a job in business, but it is starting to be writing about my own thoughts and observations about which I truly feel passionate. Or perhaps, it is the “over-learning” of languages and cultures which has finally caused me to lose all my marbles. 
 
Thanks for everything Dad!

E-mail to Mai 3.3.2004

 
Hello Mai!
 
It’s been a long time and I’m glad we’ve remained friends.  I also write you first about Vietnam since it is with you that I wish to share my amazing discovery. 
 
I wish to live in Vietnam because the people are warm and beautiful.  A smile will always be met with a smile and this is something that has been lost in Ohio and in my experiences with people back home.  It is true that many will return a smile there but many will also assume you want something and put up a barrier.  If I wish to talk with someone I do not know, I will often be met with mistrust. 
 
In Vietnam I was able to feel something beautiful.  The people have nothing yet, I can feel their warmth and friendlieness.  I see so many children with scowls on their faces back home.  Yet, in Vietnam, my most amazing experience was not with women, money, or war but with a beautiful little girl by the ocean.
 
As I stood by the waves, I saw a little girl about 2 years old with her mother.  She was looking at the ocean splashing gently upon the beach and looked at it with such delight.  When I saw her it made my heart melt and I could not help but spread a smile from ear to ear.  When she noticed me she smiled so big and took some little steps to hide behind her mother.  She kept peering from behind her mother as they both smiled and it broke my heart to think of the pain that was caused to these people not so long ago.  Her mother rolled up her pant legs so her little tiny feet could be caressed by the waves and I could see the pleasure in her eyes.   It was then I realized that I wanted to be successful there so I could help as many as I could.  I did not only see this beauty in a small child but also the adults smiled back at me just as warmly and without alterior motives.  I could see the child in the poor beggar in the road who still is able to celebrate life. 
 
I feel that many back home have been corrupted by consumerism, money and the opinions of others.  Even though many live in big houses, they remain unhappy and mistrustful.  I do not get a good feeling when I’m in the midst, like they are judging me by the clothes I wear or how much money I make.  Many of the girls I’ve dated at home pay more attention to how intelligent, or how much money I have to offer.  In Vietnam the people will be extremely happy if I just sit and talk with them.  We sat a bunch of poor kids down trying to collect money and bought them all cokes and cookies.  We played games of slap hands, and junken and their eyes became so bright.  I found true happiness in this. 
 
It is my plan to reject the desire to be wealthy and be looked favoribly upon by my peers back home.  Their opinions of me have vanished with the smile of a child by the sea.  I am going to live there and I’m certain that with my knowledge of business, language ability and connections I can be successful.  I want to take whatever wealth I gain to help these people and I must admit it is for my own selfish reasons.  For when I see them smile and their eyes become bright I’m filled with such happiness of which I cannot begin to describe.   
 
Most people from wealthy countries will only see poverty and the bad aspects of the city.  What they fail to see is the beauty of the people.  If a person calls out to them and ask them to buy something, they will automatically put up defenses.  Yet, if they would simply sit and talk with the people and open themselves up, they could see how truly special the people are.   
 
In their smiles, I can easily sacrifice the time away from my family and friends.  I reject the idea that making money and being “successful” is the key to happiness.  My happiness will be making the Vietnamese happy and I will get to know them and will integrate as much as I can. 
 
I know we talk little, but from our discussions, I can sense your worry about the future and the pressures that are put upon you almost daily.  Life is all in our perceptions, yet these life pressures all too often form these perceptions.  My own perceptions have been radically altered from where I was mentally only a few years ago to where I am now.  You are a beautiful person and I can still remember the Mai from High School so full of life and aspiration.  Even though we talk little, I sense that maybe you have become a little unhappy, mistrustful of people and their intentions.  Maybe I am wrong, but I only wish to be a strong supporter of yours and hope one day to see your beautiful smile.  So if life’s pressures ever get you down, please remember that there is someone even though an ocean away thinking wonderful thoughts of you and who believes in you even though we have never met.  Even though you cannot see me and we may never meet, I’m am always right here. 
 
Your Friend,
Mateo

E-mail to Newspaper 7.20.2003

Hello Barbara,
 
  I’ve never written a letter to a journalist about their article before but I just wanted to let you know that I found your story “Their Dream to Build Life in America Shattered,” exceptional.  I really feel terrible for Hilda and her family and hope that your story puts pressure on the right people to correct things.
 
  As for me I’m a Columbus native and have lived / studied in a few countries.  I’m currently in Japan and looking at the current course of the American government is a bit scary.  Sept. 11 rattled the country so much that it has almost become an impenetrable fortress that does as it wants without consulting our allies let alone the rest of the world.  I know safety is of upmost importance but I can’t help to feel terrible when I see corn fed immigration officer boy grilling the poor old Japanese women about their business in America and then getting LOUDER and impatient when the ladies don’t understand.  This is after they make them take off their shoes, hat and empty their little purses.   
 
  Everytime I come back to Columbus I suffer from severe culture shock.  I used to believe Columbus was a tolerant place to live but the events of the past few years have changed that.  My Mexican friends there tell me about the ungracious attitude they sometimes receive at restaurant establishments.  One of my very good friends from the Philippines who has lived there since the 2nd grade was once told to go back to “India.”  I myself also commited a faux pas the day I arrived in Columbus to visit family when I spoke to an Asian at the door of a club.  I believed her to be Chinese (ancestory) and from 2 years of living in Tokyo and greeting people in different languages, the words “Ni hao” which is “hello” in Chinese just popped out of my mouth.  She then called me a very bad  expletive.  I had forgotten that I wasn’t in Tokyo anymore and Columbus, as much as I love it, isn’t exactly the cultural hub of the world.  People are still very sensitive about race / culture issues there. 
 
  I hope you continue to write stories like the one about Hilda in the hopes that they will help other Ohioans to understand that people from other counties / cultures are just trying to get through life like the rest of us.  We have treated people from “the less favorable” countires poorly for too long.  I also pray that your story will be able to help Hilda and her family.  Keep up the good work!
 
Yours,
 
Mateo