It gives me happiness knowing that I can figure out the calculus derivative of the velocity of a ladder falling down, you know? And the other day, I was just sitting on a bench, thinking about all the nuances of muscle tissue which have to work concertedly to bring about the slight facial expressions that we can all read.” Diana looked up from her hot chocolate and gave me a quizzical look, relieved when I wholeheartedly agreed.

“I know!! Just like when we’re going through the jungle, I wonder how many cubic liters of oxygen is simultaneously being produced by all the respiratory process of plants, and I wonder about the Kreb cycle.

Yes. We’ve bonded over the fact that, when left to our own devices, weird thoughts make us cheerful. Over educated young women of the modern yuppie generation. But what camaraderie. After so much Central America and Latin-ness, it felt wonderful to come back home to Chiapas, Mexico, and finally talk to an American girl’s girl again, and from that we both started talking about our past. It was remarkably similar.

Diana is intelligent, beautiful, feminine, and strong. In fact, I could imagine her recast as Keira Knightly in Pride and Prejudice, but now–like me–she’s slung back in an oversized sweater and old sweats, without makeup a swept up hair. It’s our deliberate attempt to uglify ourselves in a place where we don’t want that sort of attention. It’s something men never have to worry about, that is, having to put effort to make ourselves look worse than we do, in order to project the exact image of the public treatment we desire. But she’s a good friend, and I can say she’s honestly beautiful.

She grew up in Romania and eventually finished John Hopkins pre-med program in neuroscience and economics. She told stories about working in India, about Eastern Europe, and wanting a child who speaks ten languages. We then talked animatedly about Krygystan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. “Oh I know a really fascinating girl who grew up in Kazakhstan, I’m going to meet her, we should all go.” The girl talk slipped into Spanish, then English again.

I couldn’t help being amazed at how unrecognizable we were from our parents’ generation, three college-educated city girls transplanted from ex-communist cultures (Kazakhstan, Chinese, and Romanian) into the First World (Munich, New York, and Los Angeles) finding common ground doing social work in one of the poorest states in Mexico, swapping books and personal stories over scented hand creams, congregated in an elegant three-story house, and still being girly. As women, our lives could have been much more limited, but we’ve all come alone to places off the beaten trail in other countries. We enjoyed each other’s company for hours. We watched Arrancame La Vida, and apart from all the Mexicans who thought it to depict life really accurately, Diana and I had a gringa response:

What’s really Latino about Mexicans, I think, is that everybody cheats on each other and has these fits of passion where it just overrides logic. Did you see how he just started at her for three seconds and suddenly the next scene they’re in bed naked? Who was that guy anyway?! See, that kind of stuff, you can’t really translate into other cultures. Or like, the general somehow just officially marries a young girl from a poor family just because she’s beautiful. Doesn’t happen in US films…it’s so Latino. Haven’t you had a guy talk to you for, like, an hour and suddenly go head over heels for you and really seem intensely enamored? I had a Colombian guy wanting to marry me after two days of knowing me. I mean to us, it seems like they’re false or exaggerating, but seriously I think somehow they fall passionately in love in fifteen minutes, and it’s a stereotype but it’s true: if you hear the songs, love seems like some horribly irremediable flu that Latinos get, and suddenly people are desperate and dying and so overly melodramatic.

Yes! I know!! And we started talking about how weird it was that women just have seven or ten babies from different fathers and somehow keep doing it even though it’s making them poorer and poorer and highly increases transmitted diseases. What exactly is going through their thought process anyways?! I mean, make a mistake once out of passion, but isn’t the tenth time getting a bit ridiculous? Other poor uneducated people manage to control themselves. And don’t give me that bullcrap about contraception being too expensive, too unavailable, and lack of education or that the Catholic Church does not condone abortion. Even someone extraordinarily stupid would have to learn by the third accidental child–if not by personal experience, then seeing all the blaring warnings around her—that (a) the mistake of having an unwanted child is far more expensive than the contraception, so you can’t say you can’t afford contraception (b) the mistake of having an unwanted is far more hassle and bothersome than contraception, so you can’t say it’s not easily accessible, (c) I’m sure that regardless of the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion stance, I’m sure they also promote abstinence. So bad excuse: why are people suddenly all pious and religious AFTER they get pregnant and not from the start?

“Yeah, so if women are being impregnated by several men, and men are going to several women, wouldn’t it be kind of hard in these sort of places to draw a Family Tree lineage thing?”

“No, over here, trying to do ancestry would be more like a Family Brush.”

“A Family Hedge. With lots of lines connecting. Like a Family-Chain-Linked-Fence.”

Ever more so, like Western Europe, many middle to upper class Mexicans now don’t believe in marriage or the idea that love lasts. Only cohabitation, hence several siblings all fathered by different men. And that’s okay! I think it’s a form of cynicism in society. Yet American neighbors to the north, I find that we are far more conservative, still clinging on to traditional notions of spirituality, long-term commitment, (and, um, not populating the earth with bastard children. We agreed that some aspects of another culture, we’re never going to understand.)

…But what I’m looking for in a relationship, is a sweet guy who wears the pants in the relationship, someone who’s got spine and makes decisions,” continues my house mate after we ranted about the Indian caste system and how horrible it was for women in some of the regions, when we’re traveling to underdeveloped nations, it’s like they always ask my boyfriend what we’d like and ask him if he wants any food or drink. Like I don’t even exist.”

To be fair, amiga… you’re highly educated, you’re the only jetting off to Bangladesh and here we are, making plans to explore Tajikistan or remoter parts of South America by ourselves. I mean, we’re not normal girls. Most guys in America would be intimidated to just do what you’ve accomplished.

True,” she conceded. (Related Article: Nice Guys Don’t Have To Finish Last.)

And the conversation drifted. We talked about what sort of mothers we’d like to be, about how strange this Latin culture was that they seem to be often oddly overtaken by bouts of passion and emotion, and how–unlike Latin America–females raised in certain Old World cultures had the advantage of being expected to achieve just as much as males in the educational arena.

And in a long silent pause, my mind slipped into thinking about the vibrating soundwaves that reverberates in our room.


Spanish Words of the Day: cajetilla” cigarette packet | “calabobos” light drizzle | “apostar” to bet, to wager | “noviazgo” engagement |