Monday, December 26, 2011

Then and Now 26 - Odds and Ends 2

Then and Now 26 - Odds and Ends 2
Time: Before I got married.

I have an odd memory that starts and ends abruptly. The first thing I remember was walking down a dark street at night, and passing by a little shop that sold ice cream. The road was a wide and normally busy one, but it was so late that I was the only one there.

I walked through the peaceful night all the way up to an intriguing sight: the road forked in two directions and houses lined both sides of both roads, and above them were awnings that looked like they had just been put up. Judging from the abundant number of trash bins and the tons of closed stores all around, I figured it was some kind of outdoor shopping market, or the awnings might have indicated a wedding party had been thrown there shortly before.

In any case, I arrived there when everything was closed and nobody was around. When I walked down the streets and peeked into the stores here and there, I felt like I was exploring a ghost town that had cleared out overnight. It was not only a peaceful night for me, but a little mysterious, too.


A day or two after I first arrived at the hostel, I was talking to the daughter of the owner in the local language. I wanted to get to know her better, so I invited her out to get lunch with me downstairs. She refused without hesitation, and being surrounded by foreigners who probably asked her out on a daily basis, I didn't blame her.

I assured her that I didn't have any intentions of starting a relationship, and that I just wondered if she wanted something to eat. She perked up suddenly and agreed, so we went downstairs to get two boxed lunches and bring them back to the hostel to eat. Up there, she, her friend who had come by and I talked for a while about the things I could do and the places I could visit while I was in the main city.

A bit later, I went downstairs and bought my first bottle of hair gel, specifically asking for the strongest brand they had. After I bought it, I went back upstairs and spiked my hair for the first time in my life, and I couldn't believe how handsome I looked in the mirror. I went out to the front desk to ask the owner's daughter what she thought, and she said it looked really good. Ego buffeted, I went downstairs to go walk around the city for a while, rocking my new look.


For the first few weeks at my bud's aunt's place, I was still a bit overweight by maybe twenty or thirty pounds, so I decided to go on a very low calorie diet. But to make sure I didn't get sick, my bud and I went to a nutrition store so I could buy a big bottle of Centrum. I didn't know much of the local language, and my bud wanted me to learn by immersion, so I stumbled out what I could to buy the vitamins. Speaking very slowly and clearly, the workers there helped me find the best deal for the most vitamins to suit my diet. When we found a good bottle, I bought it, thanked them, then my bud and I went home.

I went back just a day or two later to say thanks for all their help, and I tried to use simple words to ask if they got a bonus if I became a member of the store, because I wanted to pay them back for their assistance. I ended up saying something like, "If I go together with your store, will your boss give you money?"

I guess I didn't say the right words, or it was too simple, because all I got were blank stares and nods that didn't mean anything. I thanked them again, and walked out of the store, red-faced but smiling, to join up with my bud. I looked back to see them all laughing nervously and waving goodbye. Foolish or not, I'm glad my poor language skills were enough to give them a story to tell about the dumb foreigner who came in and couldn't yet speak a lick of their language.


One time at the underground mall near the subway station, I was walking by a couple of stores and taking in the sights. I was drawn to a few of the electronics shops, being a huge nerd and all, and was seeing what I could see of the games that the locals enjoyed and played. I'll never forget walking by the card and miniatures shop where some local guys were playing a card game: they were as scraggly and heavily overweight/underweight as the nerds I knew back in the card shops I used to go to.

But even more, I noticed the smell. Worlds away and experiencing an entirely different culture, and the funk of unwashed nerd BO was exactly the same as it was back home. That reek made me think of home, though I really wish it hadn't.


As I made more and more friends on the internet from my apartment, I started getting many peoples' phone numbers and email addresses to contact them. Another thing I got were dozens of peoples' screen handles for different chat programs. I gave them all my information, then logged onto chat every few days to see who was on.

Every single time, I was suddenly bombarded with eight or ten messages from people wanting to talk with me. It was tiring talking with so many people at the same time, especially since I was making so many friends and acquaintances that I couldn't remember half of who I was talking to. I actually started avoiding going online just so I wouldn't be furiously typing stories and jokes to a dozen people more than a few days a week. But I still tried to find time to say hello to everyone online when I could, and spent at least an hour chatting every time until my hands twisted into claws from typing so fast and much. I met up with a couple of them and they became good friends during my single life, but most of them were internet-only acquaintances.

One of them, Yvonne, was an eighteen year old local girl, fresh in college, and super cute. We talked online several times a week about the experiences of foreigners in this country, and whether or not she would date one. I cracked a joke that she shouldn't, because most of the foreigners here were fat, old, bald and smelled like cheese. She was on video cam for that chat, and I saw her laughing uproariously.

We also talked quite a bit about sex: sex before marriage, her period, dating foreigners, all kinds of topics. I probably would have pursued something more with her if I didn't start dating my wife a month or two after I moved to my apartment.

As for today...

I woke up at 9:00.
I played cars with my son.
I roughhoused with him.
My wife woke up.
I talked with her.
I ate lunch.
I took my son to the arcade, then we went home.
I watched TV.
I played cars with my son.
He and my wife took a nap.
I played video games.
My wife and son woke up, so I turned off the computer.
She went to work.
I played cars with my son.
I played video games.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I ate dinner.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I folded and put away a mountain of dry clothes.
I did the dishes.
I slept.

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