Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Then and Now 20 - Old Town

Then and Now 20 - Old Town
Time: Late 2007, single and at my apartment.

This is a fragmented memory of my unmarried days, and I have no idea what brought me to this place. My memories of this trip start sort of suddenly, and no matter how many times I turn around the day in my mind, I still can't pinpoint why it was that I came. Though I can't say for certain, it's probably self-explanatory that my memories of the foreigner section of town started at a food store.

This was the place where I picked up refried beans to cook burritos at my apartment. Ever since my mom had sent me a tortilla maker and beans in the mail, I had eaten Mexican for several nights at my apartment, and cooked burritos for many friends, neighbors in my apartment complex, and even my young students. But because of my obsession with a little home cooking, I was quickly running out of beans. I think I came to this place because I heard of a store in the foreigner section of town where they sold stuff from North America, and I was coming to see if they had anything I knew.

The store was a little hole in the wall, independent convenience store. In the center of it sat an enclosed freezer that held several different kinds of foods, and there were shelves that ran around the entire place with even more things to eat on them. Not only did they have beans and large tortillas, but they had boxed cereal, peanut butter & chocolate candy, and other things from America that I hadn't eaten in quite a while. It was quite a nostalgic moment for me.

As I was looking around the place and checking out the Frosted Flakes, Vlasic pickles and (yes!) Rosarita bean cans, a middle-aged, balding foreigner walked in with a local woman. He was talking to her about something involving school or classes, and though he seemed to be trying to impress her, she looked somewhat disinterested. I said hello to the man. He locked eyes with me for a fraction of a second, then he brushed past me, not pausing his speech in the slightest to respond. I was pretty used to that kind of behavior from other foreigners by then, so I just left without another word; I had found my beans.

While I was up in this area, I decided to keep going in the direction that the bus was headed when it brought me there, just to look around a bit. I didn't actually know that this was the foreigner section of town until I started to walk up the streets there. But after a while, I really started to notice a lot of them walking past me down the street. I saw an older gentleman standing in a dance studio and talking to a local woman, a few standing in line at a bank, and a couple getting on and off buses on the road beside me. I said hello where I could, and the smallest fraction of the foreigners answered back. The rest of them quickly jogged away or pretended not to hear me. I felt a bit smug, knowing how self-conscious these chubby, bald old men felt around the confident, handsome young guy who just wanted to say hello.

The first stop I got to was a massive park. It was shaped like an outdoor sports stadium with stair-seats in a semi-circle on the far end. In front of the stair-seats were a bunch of foreigners, their local wives, and a ton of kids just running around with balls and dogs all over the place. One of the kids blasted a ball straight towards the road behind me, so I ran after it to make sure it didn't go into traffic. He looked nervous as I scooped it up, but after I launched it back to him, he smiled and waved.

I left not long after, and went up the road to an odd entrance of sorts. The road descended from a humble mountain before me, and went around in a circle around a miniature grassy median. On either side of where the road went up into the mountains were two tall office buildings, standing tall and firm like the legs of the Colossus of Rhodes. It was a great sight, so I decided to go up and see what I could see. The road was on an incline going up the little mountain, and there were trees running down a median in the center. When I started up it, the skies were getting kind of dark, and one by one, the lights of numerous shops lining the streets in front of me began to light up.

Most of the other shopping centers I had been to were filled with clothes and food, and not much else. They were still exciting to visit, of course, because every store had its own unique music, bosses, products, layout and so on. But here, the shops were something else. Here at the end of the foreigner section of town, this place felt like old town did back in America: there were many classically shaped stores, all selling beautiful, traditional art pieces, detailed statues, crystal sculptures and pottery, that all lent an air of tradition and history to the area. Some of them had art pieces that were strewn about the store in piles here and there, while others had lines and lines of shelves that held them in place. Either way, I snapped a lot of pictures of the many things that I saw up there. It was a warm, peaceful night of walking all the way up that little mountain, seeing every shop from the outside and admiring the beauty within them.

I had little luck talking with other foreigners on the way back down, so I just went back to the food store to get a dozen or two cans of beans. Then, I made my way back to the bus stop, took it to the subway, headed back to my city and went home to watch TV and sleep.

As for today...

I woke up at 9:00.
I watched TV.
I went out with my wife and son to get lunch, then I took my son to the arcade, then we went home.
I read to my son.
I watched internet movies with him.
I watched TV.
He fell asleep.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I surfed the net.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I slept.

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