Friday, June 17, 2011

Then and Now 5 - Beach Town

Then and Now 5 - Beach Town
Time: Mid-2007, single and at the hostel.

Ken is the other person I met at the hostel, along with May. May was the local girl with a penchant for adventure, but Ken was the first, and one of the only, foreigners I've met abroad that truly gave me a brother's welcome.

On the street outside of the hostel, when I was going up to it for the first time, I felt the last of my fear and uncertainty leave me. Even though I was essentially homeless and without support from that moment on, I distinctly remember telling myself that everything was going to be all right. Nobody knew the scrub I was back home; this was my moment to finally put everything I worked for to use. At my bud's aunt's place, I spent an entire month practicing and training to be the man I wanted to be, and now, I was going to truly be him. My spirits lifted with every floor that the elevator climbed, and by the time I reached the hostel's reception area, I was shining brighter than I ever had before. I wasn't just acting like the man I wanted to be; I was him.

When I arrived at what would be my new home for the next few weeks, I took a look around. There was a reception area staffed by an older local lady, and her desk was covered with, and surrounded by, pamphlets and maps that detailed hundreds of spots around the country for people in the hostel to check out. To my left were a few more couches and a table where people ate and studied at all hours of the day and night, and behind them was a large window that provided an amazing view of the sleeping city at night.

After I finished checking in and paying for my bed, the hostel boss, a nice local woman in her mid-40s and a strong Christian, asked Ken to come over and say hello. It was pretty late, so he was kind of quiet and pretty tired, but he was still very welcoming and cracked several exhausted smiles. When we had gotten to know one another well enough, I took pity on the poor guy and let him go to sleep. I went to my dorm room, locked my stuff up, and went to sleep myself.

The next day, Ken and I talked again, and the awesome guy needlessly apologized for being so taciturn the previous night. I told him not to sweat it, and that I was glad to hang out with him. Soon, we went downstairs to get lunch, and he taught me some of the local language that he knew while we were eating; I learned "cheese" that day. Over the next few days, I had some great adventures and fun times, a couple of them with Ken. But this Then and Now is going to focus on the best time I had with my good friend about a week or so after I arrived at the hostel.

One day, I woke up to a phone call from Ken, telling me that he and several other of his friends from around the world were all going to go to the beach that day, and he wondered if I wanted to come along. I did of course, so in no time, we met up and he introduced me to four new friends at the bus/train/subway station:

- Harry was from America, and reminded me of an old roommate I once had. He was a funny, outgoing music lover with a bunch of stories to tell.
- Vicki was also from America, and she and Ken ended up getting together later. She was a religious girl with a confident and kind flair.
- Yuri was a hilarious guy from a neighboring country with a brilliant smile and ever present laugh. We talked a lot over the next few hours.
- Elle was a beautiful girl from another neighboring country. She was a bit quiet at first, but opened up the more we talked.

With introductions done, the six of us hopped a train to the beach, and we were off on a fun train ride. Ken, Yuri, Harry and I, being ever the gentlemen, stood for the entire long ride and let the ladies sit. They stood up too, because they felt embarrassed at relaxing while we were up.

Yuri and I talked a lot on that ride. He talked about how he liked the local girls of the country we were in, and how the girls in his home country were selfish and flaky. I laughed, and of course prodded him to give us some horror stories, which he happily provided. This was one of the first conversations I've had with a stranger that didn't consist mainly of awkward pauses and stupid topics I couldn't get off of. The mountains and trees outside whizzed by as Yuri and I shot the breeze, with Ken and Harry providing their own funny two cents here and there. The hour or two we all spent together felt like flowing along with a river, just kind of following it on its twists and turns to our destination. It was a new and remarkable sensation to me. With nature flashing past outside us, and the talk we had going on inside, I felt an incredible sense of simultaneous peace and excitement.

We got to the beach in no time, and everyone except me and Elle rushed ahead to get on the sand. I took the time to get to know her better, but her beauty was very distracting and made me talk like a bit of a goof. It was pretty funny.

Finally, we were on the sands and heading to the water. I went swimming out by myself for a bit while everyone else hung out on the beach to rent some umbrellas and stuff. Out in the ocean, I met a group of locals who were taking turns tossing one another into the water. I swam over to say hello, and with big smiles on their faces, they grabbed me, counted to three, then tossed me, too. When I surfaced, we were all laughing our butts off, they asked if I was ok, then we exchanged a couple of high fives before I went back to my friends. They were laughing too, saying how all they heard were some locals counting, then they saw a giant white shape fly out into the water.

After a few minutes more of joking around, I looked over and saw some other foreigners sitting and talking together, so I excused myself from the group to go say hello to them. Unfortunately, they were pretty shocked that a stranger would come up to see them, much less a fellow foreigner, so they were pretty hard to converse with. It felt like I had to pull every last bit of dialogue out of them, and after a few minutes, I just didn't have the patience to do it anymore. So, I said goodbye and headed back to my friends. After a bit more talking, we all went swimming in different spots for a bit, just kind of enjoying the waves and people around us.

We were all in the water for a while before we all headed back to shore together to play some volleyball. We took over one of the nets and began to play together: me, Ken and Elle vs. Harry, Yuri and Vicki. Awesomely enough, after a few minutes of playing, a group of locals came up and asked if they could play, too. We said of course, and had a huge six on six volleyball battle until the sun began to set. The locals thanked us for the good time, we exchanged hugs and handshakes and took some pictures, then my friends and I went off to the showers to clean up.

During that time, either Harry or Ken got the idea to speak only in the local language between all of us. It was a great idea, and we actually shocked a couple of the locals (one of whom asked us in English where we learned how to speak so well). I was still a neophyte at the language, so I was struggling to keep up with the others, but I took the compliment anyway.

Now it was Harry and my turn to talk. Walking by the trees and down the winding path of the park/shower area, we discussed music, clubbing, drugs, pretty much typical college kid stuff. It was very insightful, including an outsider's perspective on a really nasty marijuana episode I once experienced back in college.

The sun had completely set then, so the six of us hopped another train out to a beach town nearby where we could get something to eat. We kind of meandered down the darkened streets for a while, until eventually, we stumbled into an ice cream/drink shop, and just settled for some tea and coffee. I started feeling a bit sheepish at my poor language skills while a few of my friends were fluently conversing with the shop owner. Still, everyone was very forgiving and patient of my poor skills, and I vowed then to do my best to reach their level of language soon.

We were all pretty dog tired after the drinks, so we hopped another train back to the main city. Vicki took one of the rotating seats that could be swiveled around to talk to the people behind you, and accidentally slammed it really hard into the locked position and raised a huge clatter all around us. Despite our embarrassment, we all thought it was pretty funny, but I'm guessing the other passengers were a bit miffed.

Vicki and I talked about movies and stuff, and she was pretty shocked that I hadn't seen the bulk of the 007 library of movies. I told her that I fell asleep during Moonraker and saw some of the Pierce Brosnan ones, but she insisted that I see Casino Royale as soon as possible. Everyone else agreed and looked at me like I was some kind of alien. Elle fell asleep soon after, and it was a very quiet ride back to the main station. When we got back, the six of us hugged, handshaked, all that good stuff, and Ken and I headed back to the hostel to hit the hay.

I never saw Elle or Yuri again after that, but this day wasn't the end of the fun time between me, Ken, Harry and Vicki. I'll get to that story soon enough.

As for today...

I woke up at 10:30.
I went to work.
I ate lunch.
I taught students at this job for the last time.
I came home.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I played video games for about three minutes, then my son started throwing a tantrum, so I yelled at him and took him to bed to sleep early.
My mother-in-law yelled at me for yelling at him.
I ignored her.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I started a load of laundry.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I hung up wet laundry.
I played video games.
I slept.

No comments:

Post a Comment