Monday, March 5, 2012

Then and Now 31 - Odds and Ends 3

Then and Now 31 - Odds and Ends 3
Time: Before I got married.

Just a week or so after I got to my apartment, I was walking from the subway station outside of my town back to my place. I had taken the trip by bus from the main city to my house several times, but that day, I wanted to try hoofing it. It was a very hot day that day, but I was extremely happy with the view from the bridge over the river. Where I had to look around the heads of dozens of people and through less than clear windows from the bus before, I was free to check out the huge, sparkling river from my vantage point that day.

There was a huge line of green on both sides of the river. The area I was heading from was still part of the main city, and it was a huge line of shining buildings that sat opposite the more humble buildings of my town. When I got to the end of the bridge, I began to wander the city in search of my house, not quite realizing at that point how huge my town was. I was actually just north of the park, but not knowing where I was going, I wandered from store to store asking people how to get home.

The people were really nice, and bit by bit, I not only found a line of computer stores to find some stuff I needed later, but I was slowly able to piece together an idea of where I was, then finally got home to shower and enjoy a day in peace and quiet.


A week or so after I came to this country, my bud and I were taking a walk around town on a very hot day. He pointed us to an Airsoft store across the road, and we went inside to talk with the owners there. I wasn't interested in the guns, and they were speaking completely in the local language (which I still didn't understand), so I tried to pick out pieces of what they were saying with my limited ability. I heard a couple of key terms related to buying and selling.

When they were done, and my bud and I were outside, I saw half a dozen locals waiting at the red light to cross the street, and between them was a cute little brown dog. I watched in amazement as the pup waited at the light with everybody, then when the light turned green, he crossed with everyone else with a big panting grin on his face. I couldn't stop laughing.


This next memory from my hostel days is incredibly hazy. I remember being out with a group of friends, and we were taking a walk through a market area to see what there was to see. I don't remember any of their names or faces, but I remember us laughing and having a great time weaving through a couple of outdoor clothes stalls and alleys as we blundered our way back to the main station. There was nothing on the horizon for me that night: no chores, obligations or people waiting for me to take care of something. There was just me and my new friends, wandering around aimlessly and talking as we had a nice walk in the night air.

I haven't had a day like that in years.


One night at the hostel, I was up late at about one or two in the morning and talking with May on the couch in front of the receptionist's desk. Although she and I were keeping our voices soft with how late it was, we were suddenly surprised by a foreigner bursting out of the only single room in the establishment. Red faced and wild-eyed, with his local girlfriend cowering behind him, he glared straight at us.

"Hey, it's really late and I'm trying to sleep," he growled. "Do you see these walls? They're paper thin." He then clenched his hand into a fist and pounded the wall several times, as if either May or I, sitting outside, would understand how our voices sounded from the inside.

I smiled. "Sorry, man," I said. "We'll keep it down." He scowled, then stormed back into his room, slamming the door behind him. I looked to May and said we should probably head to bed, and that I'd see her the next day. She looked a bit rattled, but agreed, and we went to our rooms.

Five years before, I would have shut down and looked at the floor while I apologized, then felt sore about it for weeks. Two years before, I would have insulted him in an effort to provoke a fight. But that night, I only thought, This guy's probably having a rough time. I hope he feels better soon. At that moment, I was very proud of the great strides in life that I had made, to truthfully think so well of someone acting so primitively. I also think that that coolness was a factor in May starting to like me in the coming weeks.


One weekend off from work, I went to the big city with an unfortunate situation waiting for me: I had booked three friends that I had met on the internet for a hangout time at the exact same time, and I didn't realize it until it was too late. On the bus and train ride over, I wondered what I was going to do. Would I hang out with some people the next day? If so, who would I hang with that night? When I arrived at the station where I was going to meet everyone, I decided I was going to meet everyone at the same time and host a little mini get-together for my new friends.

Rick, a funny and very nice guy, came early and was waiting for me when I got to the exit where everyone was meeting up. When I told him my plan, he said it was a great idea, and called another of his friends to come with us.

Alicia came next, a very tall and very overweight girl who absolutely refused to smile. When I told her my plan, she seemed to be ok with it, and I apologized by saying I would handle the bill.

I got a call on my cell shortly after from Jay, a quieter but nice guy, who was also in the station, but a little lost. He agreed to the party plan too, so I excused myself from Rick and Alicia and sped off to track down our final buddy for the night. I found him quickly enough, and he had brought his girlfriend, who was extremely quiet, but quite cute. We shook hands, then started planning where we could go that night.

When we all returned to the meet-up point, Rick was waiting for us, but Alicia was gone. I asked what happened, and Rick said she suddenly had some business to take care of. I felt kind of bad that she had left so early. I knew it was because I didn't call her earlier and tell her of my new plan, and that she either felt too shy in front of too many strangers, or because she wanted to date me, and having others there was proof that I just wanted to make a lot of friends.

In any case, after Rick's friend Kyle came by, our new group of five headed out to a restaurant, and we sat down in a V-shape. I was sitting with my back to the wall on a couch, and between the two tables where everyone else was sitting. Rick and Kyle were at the table on the left, and Jay and his girl were at the table on the right. It was quite a challenge for me to play host that night. Not only did we speak in a mix of the local language and English, which caused some communication problems, but Rick and Jay's groups weren't talking to each other at all.

I played mediator for about fifteen minutes: telling Jay that Rick was studying business, chatting up Jay's girlfriend while those two were talking, switching over to Kyle and talking about his favorite sights in the city, going back to Rick when his and Jay's conversation ran out of steam, and so on. It was tiring, but very fulfilling, to talk with those four at the same time. Eventually, everyone started talking to everyone about school, work, life at home and dozens of others topics without me having to pair everyone up.

The food was delicious and filling, the drinks were sweet, and the company was, of course, the very best part. I never heard from Alicia again, but Rick, Jay and I hung out one-on-one later. I don't know for sure, but maybe one of them was in that group of people walking through the markets that I mentioned earlier.

As for today...

I woke up at 6:00.
I played video games.
My wife and son woke up, so I turned off the computer.
I ate lunch.
I watched TV.
I went out for job training.
I came home.
I took my son to the arcade, then we went home.
My wife took him to his grandma's house.
I played video games.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I showered my son.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I did the dishes.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I slept.

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