Friday, May 20, 2011

Then and Now 2 - Awakening

Then and Now 2 - Awakening
Time: Mid-2007, at my bud's aunt's place.

When I first got abroad, I was still kind of a mess. I wasn't as bad as I was back in high school with the crying, whining and suicidal tendencies, but it was hardly a pretty sight. I guess I figured that after all the work I had done, physically, emotionally and financially, that all my efforts would be rewarded the second I got off the plane. I would be surrounded by girls, job offers, friends, fun times and everything I was looking forward to as soon as I arrived.

Of course I didn't really believe this, but I thought things would immediately change upon arriving in my new country. Instead, I was still the same man who got on the plane in the first place.

I spent the bulk of my first week or two of my new life, I'm ashamed to say, holed up in my bud's aunt's place. I just sat around, watching TV or playing PSP, and only went out when my bud dragged me outside to look around. Even when we went out together to eat with his family or something, I acted like an idiot. I distinctly remember faking illness at dinner one time, so I would have the opportunity to go home early and spend more time wasting time. Like I said, it wasn't as bad as it was in my scrub days, but it's still embarrassing to mention now.

This Then and Now is about the moment I decided to take matters into my own hands for the final time in my life. After this moment, every bit of success, every friend I made, every sight I saw and every last red cent I made was through my own persistence, hard work and boundless optimism. I never let another moment go to waste after this, until my wife got pregnant.

One day, my bud and I went out to a local hospital to get our health checks done, and I was itching to get back to our house to lounge around like a giant slug for the rest of the day. We walked down a very large and busy street with trees going down the median, and the road was filled with the bustling of people and cars going to and fro. After a few minutes of walking, the two of us cut through a huge park filled with winding roads, trees and a few mini-lakes full of mosquitoes. When we noticed the swarms, we sped up and got out of there as soon as possible and to the hospital, where we finished our health checks and started to head back.

I don't know what changed at that point. Maybe I was finally tired of living like my old self, maybe the excitement of the mosquito park was an inspiration, I'm not sure. But when we were walking out of the hospital, I asked if my bud wanted to walk a bit farther past the hospital to see what there was to see. It was scorching hot, so he refused, and we headed back to our house. But when we got there, I said goodbye and decided to go exploring on my own.

This was the first time in my life that I was on my own, looking around and adventuring for fun by myself, and without a parent or friend at my side. In all honesty, it felt weird and uncomfortable at first.

I walked past some towering apartment and business buildings, which cast very much appreciated shadows along the road that provided excellent shelter from the sun. After a few minutes of wandering aimlessly, I felt thirsty, so I stopped off at a convenience store just outside of a park. I got a soda, then sat down outside the store to watch what was going on around me. I had a relaxing look at some parents and their little girl running around the grassy park with their dog, and just did a little overall people watching. I started to feel a little more relaxed about being out on my own, but it still felt weird. Finally, when I finished my drink, I continued on.

On the other edge of the park was a wide field that was surrounded by tall fences that didn't allow any looks to the inside. After a few minutes of walking by the fence and finding not a single crack to allow a peek in, I finally got the bright idea to jump as high as I could and take a picture of what was there, and it was an amazing picture. It was almost like a jungle in there, from how thick and high the grasses were. Questions began to flood my mind: "Who owns this place?" "What are they building?" "Do wild animals live in there?"

This was the beginning of the best time in my life. It was just an abandoned construction site, but just the sight of it and the wonder it evoked kickstarted my desire to see more of the country I was living in, and to start to be a more interesting and curious man.

I passed by the construction site and in the distance, I saw a familiar sight: there was a ferris wheel sitting atop a huge building off in the distance. My bud told me it was some kind of amusement park a few days earlier, but it wasn't until that moment that I suddenly had the desire to go see it for myself. After almost a half hour of winding through streets and passing by the glistening waters of a nearby river, I finally made it there: it was a combination department store/shopping mall/amusement park. I was in awe of the place, and even as I still felt slightly nervous from my old life nipping at my heels, my poor language skills and the change I was noticing in my desires for my life, I still proudly went inside to look around.

The lobby was a massive, open area dotted with stores and restaurants. While the first floor was mostly clothes and stuff, I did find a coffee shop snuggled slightly in the back, and went in to quench my thirst. There, I noticed a local couple sitting down and having a drink. I still feel a bit stupid for what I did at that point, but I was trying to live a new life: I went over to them and asked if I could sit down and chat.

What a pair these two were. Not only were they welcoming to this dumb stranger who just came out of the blue to talk with them, but they were incredibly patient with my horrible language skills while I stumbled out the few words I knew to communicate. I remember trying to explain that the guy's name, Leo, meant "lion." But I didn't know the local word for lion, so I had to settle for "big cat in Africa." I got blank stares, then friendly smiles, because these two were just that awesome. After a good twenty minutes or so, I finished my drink, bid them farewell and moved further up the store.

On one of the middle floors a couple stories up, I came upon a store selling crystal sculptures. The owner was kind enough to let me take about a dozen pictures of the glistening items, and I thanked her a month later by buying a sculpture of the country as a thank you gift to my bud's aunt. I've never seen such exquisitely carved pieces in my life, and was glad I made the trip to this place to see them in person.

Finally, after wandering around for another hour or so (and getting scolded for taking pictures of things I shouldn't have been photographing), I went to the top floor to see the amusement park. I didn't have enough money to ride anything at that point, but I was still in awe of the many rides they had available. There was the ferris wheel, of course, which was visible for miles around the city. But in addition, they had a carousel, a swing ride, and even a roller coaster to enjoy. After several minutes of watching the people having fun up there, I decided to get some more cash and come back to ride those rides some day.

When I left the building, the sun had almost completely set. The burning orb was sinking over the river, and the ocean it led out to, and splashed a hundred colors of every hue across the rolling waters. Following that amazing sight, I headed up the road in the direction of my bud's aunt's house, hoping I could make it before night set in and I got lost, but I got home without too much difficulty. When I returned, my bud looked a bit intrigued at the new, sunburned, grinning man who stood before him. And believe me, with a guy as unflappable as him, that's saying a lot.

I know this doesn't sound like the most exciting day I ever had, but it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one that would lead to the happiest (and briefest) period in my life. I felt like a new man. I was acting like a new man. And I had six more months of this exploration, fun times and friends on the horizon.

As for today...

I woke up at 10:30.
I went to work.
I ate lunch.
I taught students.
I came home.
I started a load of laundry.
I played cars with my son.
He fell asleep.
I played video games.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I hung up wet laundry.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I slept.

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