All for the Love of Maple Syrup

::Letters from Matthew - 1st Semester::


Dear mom,

Why did I agree to move into an apartment in America with Alfred? Or rather, why did I let him pick the apartment? I can't believe I thought this would be a good idea.

It's not a bad place. It's clean and in a good part of town. We've got a supermarket within walking distance and the college is just a bus ride away. The rent's decent too. Better than what we'd have to pay to stay in a dorm.

Our neighbors though… I don't know what to think about them.

Alfred's friend Kiku was the one who told him about this place. He lives a few doors down from us. Kiku's from Japan, so sometimes I have a hard time understanding what he's saying. He's really nice though. Super polite. I'm amazed he gets along with Al so well. (Al's loud and pushy and keeps borrowing my things without asking. It's really annoying.)

A Chinese guy and his younger brother live across the hall from us. They're usually pretty quiet and at least they can tell the difference between me and Al. Yao, the older brother, is a good cook. He brought us food when we moved in. The younger one goes by "Leon". I haven't had a chance to talk to him much. He's usually playing video games or listening to music or ignoring Yao.

It doesn't end there. Al and I are the only non-Asians on this floor.

There's a loud Korean next to Yao and Leon who keeps tackling me in the hallway. I have to keep sneaking out whenever I want to leave. A little ways down the hall, near Kiku, is this guy from Thailand. Across from him are two girls, one of whom is from Vietnam and the other whose parents were from Taiwan. Those two keep cornering me in the hall, begging to style my hair. At least they ask before they touch.

I don't like going upstairs. I've only had to once and I hope I never have to again.

Right above us is this really talkative Spaniard. I think I spent an hour trying to get away from him the other day without seeming rude. It wouldn't have been so bad if he could remember who I am. Do I really look that much like Alfred? At least he wasn't as bad that that Cuban guy with dreadlocks who nearly beat me up. I don't think I've ever been happier to see a fight break out in the hallway. I wasn't involved in it! Neither was Al. No, there's a guy from Greece and another guy from Turkey who ended up as roommates and they're always fighting one another. It almost makes me want to know how they ended up rooming together. Almost. I'm afraid to go back upstairs and ask.

There's one other person who lives upstairs, but I haven't talked to him aside from introducing myself. His name's Roderich and he plays piano. He has this accent that I can't quite place. He sounds German, but it's not the same as Gilbert and his brother's, so maybe he's from another German-speaking country. Unless he's been here for so long that his accent's starting to change.

Our landlord lives downstairs. He makes me glad to be Canadian and not French. So glad.

The rest of the people downstairs seem to be from somewhere in the U.K. They're all brothers. Brothers who fight. A lot. I think all of them except the youngest have drinking problems. They're drunk every time I see them in the hallway. Thankfully, they aren't really rowdy drunks, they just do really dumb things. Al thinks it's hilarious. He spends most of his time down there rather than helping me unpack.

I don't know how one building can attract people from all over the world. I hope the rest of the town isn't like this. I don't think I could handle that.

Hopefully we'll finish unpacking by this weekend. Do you think if I kick the doorknob hard enough it'll break and trap us in here until someone comes to fix it? Maybe then Al will stay here long enough to unpack more than half a box at a time.

I hope things are going well at home. Gilbert hasn't been bothering you too much, has he? I know how he gets sometimes.




Dear mom,

We finally got all of the boxes unpacked this weekend! Of course, I had to enlist the help of Kiku and Al's new friend Arthur to keep Alfred on task.

His friends are so… not like Alfred. I mentioned how polite Kiku is in my last letter, but all I knew about Arthur was that he was the youngest of the brothers from the U.K. He's kind of argumentative and moody, but he doesn't get distracted by everything and actually puts things back where they're supposed to be. I think he did more unpacking than Al.

Arthur also volunteered to cook us lunch.

We ended up going out to eat while waiting for the smoke to clear.

I introduced Alfred to maple syrup yesterday. Can you believe he's never had any? He's still pouring it on a bunch of different stuff. I might have to take it away if he keeps putting it on his hamburgers. So you might want to send down some extra maple syrup with your next package.

Oh! I found a place that sells maple ice cream! I was so excited that I ate a whole pint in one sitting.

Could you send me Gilbert's address in your next letter? I think I remember what it is, but I just want to make sure. I don't want to ask him because he'll make fun of me for not remembering. It's not like I've ever had to remember! He just lives down the road. His is the only house with a white fence splattered with bright colored paint, which is why I've never had to memorize the house number.




Dear Mom,

Please send more maple syrup. I'm not sure if I can handle another trip to the other side of town. People around here are completely insane! I don't know if it's just this town or if all of America is like this. I'm not sure I want to find out.

Other than that, I'm fine. Though Alfred keeps stealing my shoes and then leaves one in the bathtub. I'm not sure why only one ends up in there. Or why/how it gets there to begin with. Maybe he sleepwalks?

Also, could you make sure Gilbert hasn't broken into my room again? I don't want to come home to find a thousand little birds and those pandas he keeps buying online all over my room.



P.S. You might want to send two boxes of maple syrup this time. Al continues putting it on his hamburgers.


Dear mom,

Sorry for taking so long to write. Al let a goat into the apartment and it started eating everything. I don't know where or how he got a goat and I'd like it to stay that way.

Anyway, I had to get a job to help replace what the goat ate. I know you want me to focus on school and I still am! It's only part-time. I work weekends mostly. And some evenings. Don't worry, I still have time to study and I'm doing well in classes. If I start having trouble I'll get a tutor and cut back on work hours.

Again, please make sure Gilbert isn't camping out in my room, stealing my stuff and leaving behind weird things to replace what he takes. If you could also figure out why I can't call him anymore, that'd be great. I keep getting "this line has been disconnected" and it's starting to worry me.

Thanks for all the maple syrup and pancake mix!

Alfred says "hello". He also wants to know if you want a goat. I just want to know when he's going to get it out of the bathroom. As nice as Yao (our Chinese neighbor) is, I still feel really awkward asking to use his bathroom. And I'm never going downstairs to talk to the landlord ever again. He makes me wish I didn't know how to speak French.

I'm half tempted to pack up some of my stuff and go stay with my friend Carlos for a while. (He's the Cuban guy who lives upstairs. He apologized for almost beating me up when we first met and then gave me some ice cream. We had a nice talk about how not like Al I am.) Maybe then Alfred will get rid of the stupid goat.

Then again, maybe I won't. As cool as Carlos is, he keeps mistaking me for Al and I'm getting tired of correcting him.

I miss home. At least there we don't have a bunch of insane foreigners for neighbors. Just Gilbert and his brother.

Looking forward to winter break, when I can go home! So long as I don't get snowed in. People down here are big babies when it comes to snow.






I don't care how funny you think it is.

I'm not running a zoo. We finally got rid of the damn goat! Now our bathroom's overrun by fifty or so fluffy yellow chicks! It was bad enough when I had to tell everyone my brother found a goat and brought it home, at least they believed me then! But then I try to explain that my best friend's an idiot and they all think I'm the one who went out and got the damn things.

You suck, Gil.




Dear mom,

The goat's gone. So are the chicks that Gilbert sent. (Finally!)

So what does Alfred do? He brings home a cat.

I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.

Okay, maybe "hate" is too strong of a word. But I'm really, seriously annoyed with him right now. And he used the last of my maple syrup! Now I have to go across town again!

Okay, so it turns out he didn't actually buy/find the cat. It belongs to one of our upstairs neighbors and he decided to "be a hero" and watch the thing while our neighbor is out of town.

Problem is, Al's been calling it "kitler".

Roderich, the owner of the cat, is Austrian and not at all amused.

Maybe I should bring Al home and introduce him to Gilbert so he can hear a real German accent.

No. Never mind.

The thought of those two meeting is far too terrifying.

In fact, I hope Gilbert never gets together everything he needs to come visit me. He'd get into far too much trouble. (And Alfred can forget visiting me at home. He shouldn't ever be allowed out of the country.)

Please don't tell Gilbert I said that. It'll only encourage him.

I miss you.

It's only been a few months since I got here and I already want to come home.



P.S. Update on Al and "kitler": He found doll clothes and decided to dress up the cat and then walk it around on a leash. I don't think I've ever seen our Grecian neighbor so angry. Which reminds me, why didn't Roderich ask Heracles to watch over the cat? Heracles loves them. Or they love him. Either way, I've never seen him without one or two.

P.S.S. Was Al dropped on his head as a child? Maybe I'll ask dad.


Dear dad,

Was Al dropped on his head as a child?

Or was it me? That might explain why I agreed to move in with him.

I'm sure you've heard all about the stuff going on here from Al, so I won't repeat it.

I promise I'll visit you when I get a free weekend. Maybe we can go to a hockey game! It might be interesting to see a game in America. My Maple Leafs are playing down here in a few weeks!




Dear Gilbert,

No, I won't address my letters to you as "Gilbert the Awesome".

I'm still annoyed with you, by the way. Though I have to admit that the picture you sent of your brother glaring at your collection of yellow birds made my day. It's nice knowing I'm not the only one who has to deal with a brother with severe ADD.

Speaking of brothers with ADD, Al dragged me out to play catch with him yesterday. I hurt so bad today that it really isn't funny.

Never play catch with Al.

It okay though. I'll get my revenge when I teach him to play hockey this weekend. Remember when I tried to teach you? Good times…

Don't worry. I won't put him in the hospital. Though really, that was entirely your fault.

And our English neighbor from downstairs just set our kitchen on fire again. (Not on purpose, of course. He just has really bad luck with cooking.) Maybe I should put Al in the hospital. It might give me a break from the craziness around here. On second thought, I don't really want to deal with Al in pain or on pain medication. He's bad enough as it is.

I'll give you a better update later. I have a fire to put out.



Dear mom,

Alfred called me from inside a Laundromat dryer today. Yeah.

I left him there. His friend Kiku went and got him out. Al then came home, stole my shoes, and left for the arcade, all without talking to me. The only reason I know where he went is because Kiku was kind enough to tell me. He'll be over it by the time he gets back.

I took him to the ice rink the other day and taught him how to play hockey. He picked up on it surprisingly fast. I think he was having fun up until I checked him into the wall. Don't worry, he's okay. No permanent damage, just some bruises and a bloody nose. (He keeps telling people it's broken, but that's a lie. I don't think anyone believes him anyway.) At least now he knows to pay attention when I have my hockey stick.

Gilbert's been quiet for a while. He hasn't done anything too reckless, has he?

Winter can't get here fast enough! It's getting cooler everyday. I hope it starts snowing soon.




Dear mom,

Al's dragging me to a costume party this weekend. I really don't want to go, especially not if he makes good on that threat to put me in a maid outfit. It's not one of those stupid French maid ones, but there is no way I'm wearing a dress of any kind.

I wish he wouldn't spring this sort of stuff on me last minute. If he'd warned me a week ago, I could've asked you to send one of my old costumes to me! Maybe I can get away with buying a white sheet and cutting eye holes in it.

Enough about that. I figure it's time to give you an update on the crazy things that have happened this week.

This week, Al got stuck in an air vent. I wish I was making that up. Getting him out involved a lot of butter. The next day, he got locked on the roof of the apartment building. I had to go downstairs and deal with the landlord hitting on me so I could get the key to go up there and get him down. (Somehow I get the feeling that it was the landlord who locked him up there. Do you have any good ideas on how to get rid of stalkers? Especially stalkers who own the building you live in.)

Surprisingly, that's all the trouble Al got into this week. It's almost tame compared to some of the other things he's done.




Dear mom,

Alfred broke my hockey stick today. On top of that, he finished off my last bottle of maple syrup!

We've also started fighting over the thermostat. Alfred doesn't like the cold. I've taken to sneaking in his room at night and opening the window. In response, he gets up once he starts shivering, closes my window, then cranks up the heat. If he keeps it up I'm going to make him pay the excess cost for the heating bill.

We're also not talking to each other, which might be a good thing. I might hit him with my broken hockey stick if he tries.

Gilbert really hasn't gotten into trouble lately? I hope he's not sick.



P.S. There is some good news. It started snowing today! It was just a little bit though. Not even enough for a snowball fight.


Dear dad,

Canadians can so play football! It's just a little different from what you're used to. Hockey's better anyway.




Dear Gilbert,

You know it worries me when you take so long to write back. I'm glad it was just because you've been so busy with class, work, and helping Ludwig with the dogs.

Me being worried for you doesn't mean I've forgiven you for the chick thing. I'm still finding feathers. I'm not angry at you anymore. Just mildly annoyed.

Al broke my hockey stick last week. I finally found a replacement for it the other day. It's not the best, but it'll work until I can get back home for winter break. No amount of snow could stop me from coming home! I really need a break from Al and dad. They're scarily similar.

Don't plan too many crazy adventures for us. I'm looking forward to relaxing and kicking your ass in a snowball fight like I do every year!

I'll give you some warning before I come home so you can put my room back the way it's supposed to be. I know you've been in there, so don't even pretend you haven't.


P.S. Hey, this is Alfred, Mattie's twin. I snagged this letter before he could send it off so I could ask you a favor. I'm putting some money in this envelope so you can change it to Canadian money or whatever and buy something for Mattie. See, I know he likes polar bears, so I want you to go out and buy the biggest, fluffiest stuffed toy polar bear you can find and then send it down here to him. If you need more money, send me a letter.


Dear Gilbert the Awesome,

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you!

You are the greatest, most awesome best friend in the whole world! I know it wasn't entirely your doing, since Al acted really weird when I got my gift and didn't make fun of me for hugging a giant polar bear and squealing like a girl.

I know you didn't say it was from you, but the dog tag on it's collar read "Kumajiro" and you're the only one who knew about that. I can't believe you still remember!

I guess this means I forgive both of you. Just don't do it again.


P.S. We got a foot of snow today and then Al was dumb enough to challenge me to a snowball fight. Time to teach him that you can't beat a Canadian when it comes to snow!


Dear mom,

This semester is almost over. Everyone's getting all hyped up for exams, except for Alfred who doesn't seem to really care. I think he's one of those people who crams at the last minute. Only problem is, Kiku and Arthur are refusing to talk to him so they can study a little at a time and finish up final projects, leaving me to deal with him on my own. Meanwhile, I've got two final projects to finish, a final exam in every class, and a hockey game to play with this Russian guy I met while going across town for maple syrup. (I'm nervous about that. He looks like he could really do some damage out on the rink. Hopefully I'll be fast enough to avoid most of it.)

I've learned there is no escaping Al when he's bored and has no one else to distract him. The only reason I'm able to write this letter right now is because he's in the shower. He can't sing very well. Once he gets out he wants to go bowling or something. It doesn't sound like it'll be much fun if it's just the two of us. Maybe Leon (Yao's younger brother) will go with us? It's the weekend, so he doesn't have school. Yong Soo (the Korean who keeps tackling me in the hall) might go with us too. I should go ask them before Al finishes with his shower.

I'm already regretting going across the hall to ask.

Francis, our landlord, was over there talking to Yao and overheard me asking Leon if he wants to go bowling. One thing led to another and now all three of them, Yong Soo, the Spanish guy from upstairs, Kiku, Arthur, and Arthur's Scottish brother are all going with us.

This won't end well.

Just a few more weeks until I come home! I'll let you know the exact date in my next letter.




Dear mom,

My last exam is on December 9th, but dad and Al want me to spend a week or so with them after that. Something about "male bonding time". Knowing dad and Al, it's probably going to be something stupid or dangerous. So unless I end up in the hospital, I'll be heading back home on December 17th. Hopefully I'll be there before it gets dark.

We're getting more snow as I speak! Thankfully, this place is pretty good about plowing roads. It seems that unless it's to the point you can't see two feet in front of you, everything stays open. It's almost like being back home!

Al's kind of pathetic though. He's sitting on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and a heating blanket cranked way up. Maybe I shouldn't have dumped snow down his coat earlier.

Can't wait to come home!



P.S. You don't need to pass along any message to Gilbert. I'll take care of that.


Dear Gilbert,

You hoser, I don't say "eh" that much! And you'd better start putting my room back together! I'm coming home on December 18th. If there are any yellow birds or pandas in there that I have not personally accepted I will make sure you're never able to visit me in America. I don't know how I'll do that, but I'll find a way.

I already got you a gift, but you'll have to wait until Christmas just like everyone else. You and Ludwig are both invited over on Christmas day, just like every year. I know you don't need to be told since you drop by whenever you feel like it, even if when you feel like it is three in the morning, but I figured Ludwig would like a formal invitation.

Actually, I did find a hockey buddy down here. (Not Al. He's way too into football.) He's kind of intimidating and a lot of people are afraid of him, but he's a great hockey player. I'm pretty sure I startled him when we played our first game together! Guess he wasn't expecting me to be so aggressive. I'm going to need another hockey stick though. I nearly broke mine the last time we played.

Gotta go finish a final project before Al gets bored studying with his friends. Next time you hear from me, I'll be at home and able to shove snow down your coat when you piss me off.



Dear mom,

I hope this reaches you quickly.

Dad's going out of the country for Christmas, so Al's coming home with me.



End 1st Semester

Matthew = Canada
Alfred = America
Kiku = Japan
Gilbert = Prussia
Gilbert's brother/Ludwig = Germany
Arthur = England
Yao = China
Leon = Hong Kong
Yong Soo = South Korea
The creepy landlord/Francis = France
The Spanish guy (Antonio) = Spain
Carlos = Cuba
Roderich = Austria