On the Aurelia I’d befriended Ella and Dale in a T-group—an encounter group for the students in our program—led by the ship’s recreation director, Jane. The idea was to give us an opportunity to share our feelings about the adventure we were embarked on. The experience was eye-opening for me from the outset because I was astonished that what I could do easily seemed so hard for others–that is, talk about your feelings. (As I’ve said, I’ve always been better at big talk than small talk.) In the group dynamic that developed, Dale and I emerged as the leaders among the participants—and she slapped me on the fanny after the first session. Dale was lanky and tan, with frosted streaks in her hair, Ella a pear-shaped bleached blond. While Dale was charismatic, comical, and had an air of easy confidence, Ella was droll, companionable, and accommodating to a fault. They lived with a widowed senora until Dale decided she wanted to move into a dorm with Spanish girls—then Ella moved into the “residencia” where I lived.
At the end of a letter to Jane, I wrote about one of my first outings with Ella and Dale:
“It’s 2:00 in the morning, and I’ve GOT to go to bed. But first I have to tell you about our adventure of the weekend. Dale and Ella and I went to the Parque del Retiro to spend a peaceful (?) afternoon rowing on the lake. We had been out about thirty seconds when some guys, sixteen to eighteen years old, collided with our boat. We didn’t pay much attention to them until they started to follow us around the lake. Soon another boat joined in hot pursuit—and another. Before long we were surrounded by six or seven boats and we couldn’t budge. The boys yelled and tried to climb into our boat—we yelled back and shoved them away. There was some splashing—we got drenched; then they stole our oars. Finally one or two guys started manhandling us—pinching and sticking their hands up our dresses. At this point I got mad and slugged one of them. In the midst of all this, a boat pulled up with a girl and three very handsome older boys who helped us into their boat as quickly as possible and rowed us to shore. Our heroes! Well, I’m going to stick this letter in an envelope right now, and if it isn’t coherent—to hell with it. I miss you.
“P.S. I’m rich—a $500 check arrived in the mail—some kind of scholarship.”