Thursday, November 17, 2011

Then and Now 22 - Skate Museums

Then and Now 22 - Skate Museums
Time: Mid-2007, single and at the hostel.

I met Tina on the internet, like a lot of the other people I hung out with before I got married. Our first meeting was at the main station, and when she walked up to me, I could tell from her averted eyes and smile that she was incredibly shy. When we started to talk, and she basically just let me take command of the conversation while she listened, I knew I was right. She wasn't just shy, but almost paralyzed with fright. That wouldn't stand with me, because she had nothing to fear from the man I was, I wanted to entertain her, and I wanted to make new friends. So I decided to take her to one of the local stops I wanted to go to, which was a skate park.

We talked quite a bit on the way, and as we did, I noticed that she really liked to walk on my left. Every time we turned a corner and I switched sides, she would slow down and go back to the same side every time. I asked her what was up, and she said she just always preferred it that way. I chuckled and said, "Cool," and let her take her usual spot.

The skate park was just a little place that skaters could go to to do their ollies, flips and all that other stuff I have no idea about, but when we got there, it looked incredibly run-down. The sides of the little park where people used to grind their boards were worn down, there were dead leaves in little piles here and there, and there was even a little grass growing in cracks in the floor. I looked around at the sad little sight for a little bit, cocked my head a little to the side and furrowed my brow with a bit of a half-cocked smile. And when I looked over at Tina, I saw that she was making a similar face. "Sorry about that," I said. Tina laughed a bit and said it wasn't a problem.

Then I looked past the skate park and saw a stadium. "Let's check that out," I proclaimed, and beckoned Tina to come after me. She smiled and obliged. We went through a decently-sized tunnel and onto the outskirts of the playing field, like we were players ready to go out and entertain the crowd. Unfortunately, the stadium was closed down, and whether for the season or for good, I don't know. It looked like it was made for soccer because I didn't see any evidence of goal posts or nets for football or tennis, and it didn't seem big enough for baseball.

I was about to suggest that she and I sneak in to go check out the field for ourselves, but at that moment, I caught a distant glimpse of a local man walking the tunnels that went around the stadium. It looked like he was wearing a uniform, so I got us out of there before we got yelled at.

"Well, that kind of sucked," I said to her. "Sorry to bore you. Let's go find someplace fun to hang out!" She smiled and said ok. In truth, I thought it was kind of fun to be exploring the pseudo-ruins of this town, but I know not everyone likes to go poking around old stuff like I do. So to try and entertain my travel guest better, I took my subway map out of my pocket and unfolded it for her to see. I pointed around the general area we were in, and showed her some of the places I hadn't seen yet. It didn't take much time for her to point out a park that was in walking distance, and soon, we were off.

On the way, we walked down some pretty wide roads that ran between a small forest on one side, and the shops and houses of the town on the other. Passing by several signs, I asked her how to say "The sign says" in the local language, in case I got lost and needed to ask someone. She told me, and I spent the next few minutes reading signs like a little kid and jokingly cheering my (sincere lack of) skill. She thought it was pretty funny.

The park had several people exercising near some stairs for an outdoor auditorium, and there was a calm fountain in the middle of the park. It was a great sight, and we were surrounded by trees, clean air, and just overall quiet away from the city's traffic. Tina took us over to a tiny building off in the corner, the place she wanted to show me: it was a memorial museum for a massacre that occurred in the country's history. When I got inside, the local lady who was running the place offered me a little audio device and an earphone. I don't know if it was an MP3 player or something, but it apparently used some kind of radio signal to tell where in the museum I was, then offered a translation of the exhibit I was looking at through the earpiece. It was all pretty complicated and I wanted to let Tina tell me what things said, but I politely took the thing and pocketed it anyway.

There were some old newspaper clippings, a couple of paintings, some sculptures and several other pieces of art and history detailing the event. I listened in interest to Tina telling me of how the massacre started over something trivial, and ended up with many deaths. After about an hour, we left the little museum, and I thanked her for showing me a little of her country's history. "Definitely a lot more interesting and important than that dumb skate park," I said. She smiled.

We took a little walk around the park, and talked about her studies at college, my time at the hostel, our personal plans for the future, and other small talk. She was still pretty shy so it was kind of hard to pull stuff out of her, but it was still a very relaxing time. After a bit, we found ourselves by a pond with another fountain in the middle. There were a few fish in the water, and there was a ring of flowers running the length of this beautiful little scene. Across the pond was a group of students from a local high school, no doubt there on some kind of field trip. I asked Tina if they were heading to the museum we had just visited, but she said no and pointed to another museum, a very large building a little off in the distance. "Wanna see it?" I asked with a smile on my face. She grinned slightly and quietly nodded.

It was a museum detailing the history of the indigenous people of this country, and contained all manner of artifacts. There were old tools, spearheads, reconstructed tribal wear, and even a few movies running on projectors showing descendants of the old peoples doing traditional activities in modern times. I didn't know anything about these people until that day, and I was very happy to know more about my new country.

Later, Tina and I went out and headed in some random direction to find something to do before she had to go home. We ended up wandering into a little market sandwiched between two very wide streets. It was so small that the shops were facing only a few feet away from one another, with only a little path between them to get through. People were bumping into one another left and right, to the point where I felt more like a pinball than a shopper. Tina and I didn't get anything from this little market, because she wanted to go get a sandwich from Subway instead. So we walked a few blocks over to one, had some sandwiches and a nice conversation, then I took her back to the main station to go home.

All of this comprised about three hours of time. I don't remember who I met up with next that day, maybe Nell or someone else, but this peaceful, exploratory time was just a small fraction of one day in the life of an unmarried man.

As for today...

I woke up at 5:00.
I played video games.
My wife and son woke up, so I turned off the computer.
I watched TV.
I ate lunch.
I took a nap.
I woke up.
I watched TV.
I took a nap.
I woke up.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I started a load of laundry.
I ate dinner.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I hung up wet laundry.
I watched internet movies with my son.
He fell asleep.
I played video games.
I slept.

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