Friday, August 3, 2012

Then and Now 42 - Odds and Ends 5

Then and Now 42 - Odds and Ends 5
Time: Before I got married.

One Monday night off of work, I was walking home from my second job teaching kids at another school branch. It was about 9:30 or so at night, and I came to the part of my town where a large canal split off the northern side of town of banks and houses from the southern, which had many schools and stores. I came to a large gathering of locals having some food and drinks outside, and they were watching a local drama being played out by fully costumed actors in a little mobile theater set.

I watched the actors for a while, a guy and a girl playing out a little love story, when a local came up to me and started talking to me in English. I felt a little embarrassed, because at the time, I had the flu and I felt a bit dizzy and tired (especially after the ten hours of work). My hair was also too long, and my spikes were drooping down, as if even they were trying to show how tired I was. He said hello and we made small talk about America and this country for a while, and after a bit, he offered me a coke, and we watched the drama play on.

Soon enough, his daughter came home from English school, and he called her over to say hello. She was only eleven or twelve, and was extremely nervous talking to me. I tried talking to her in both English and the local language, but she just stared at her feet the whole time. Her father teased her and said she should practice English more.

When it was time for me to go, I opened my wallet and took out a $2 bill that I had brought to this country to show my students. I checked to make sure it was ok with the girl's father, then I gave it to her as a thank you for their hospitality. I told her it was a rare bill, and she should hold onto it to show off to her friends. She took it hesitantly, and her father gave me a present in return, but I forgot what it was. It would be really cool if that girl still had the bill, and an interesting story, about the foreigner who came to say hello one day.


I was walking up to the junction subway station where I met Tim and Jessie in Then and Now 33. I went up and down that street at least a hundred times during my time at the hostel, and I can still walk its length in my mind's eye. I got to the part where there was a road underpass just ahead with a small park and computer store to my right, when I saw a local woman coming towards me and staring at me oddly.

For a brief moment, I had forgotten that I wore my stupid T-shirt with a tie painted on it, just because I felt in a goofy mood. When the woman got closer, our eyes met, and she laughed. "Are you going to a party?" she asked in the local language.

"Looks good, huh?" I answered, and she laughed again. We said goodbye and continued on our separate ways.


Another day at the underground mall, I was window shopping a bit until I walked by a video game store, which was in the center of the two walking paths that led in and out of the center of the mall. Outside, they had a few consoles set up with some games to try, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had Guitar Hero 3 set up on an X-Box. I had only ever played the series on the PS2, but when I got closer, I saw that the guitar was almost the same as the one I had used for several years.

So, I picked it up, and ran down the song list, noticing that almost every one had only three stars on it... except for Cherub Rock, the song I picked to play, which had the full five. Apparently, someone else had played this song before and thrashed it. I started playing, hitting almost every note in the song, until I completely smashed the record that had already been set. Unfortunately, there were two problems: first, the volume was set really low, so it was hard to hear the song from farther than ten feet away.

Second, when I surreptitiously turned around to see how many people were checking out how awesome I was, there was only one local standing there, who clapped, smiled and gave me the thumbs up. I smiled and thanked him, then looked over at the other demonstration console to my left, where some locals were playing a 2D fighting game. There were two guys duking it out, and about thirty people cheering loudly behind them. I chuckled, set the guitar down, and moved on.


My bud and I went out to get dinner one night at his aunt's house, just me and him. We went to a Mexican restaurant a couple of minutes walk away, and it was pretty dark when we got there. The outside looked kind of like a cozy old log cabin, but the inside was furnished very nicely. We got seated by a waitress, and as we were on our way to the table, I saw an older foreigner with his local girlfriend at a seat next to the entrance. He looked my way almost immediately, and right after I smiled a hello, he jerked his head to the side to avoid getting into a conversation. I knit my eyebrows in confusion, not having gotten used to that kind of behavior yet, and my bud and I had a seat.

I got a bean and cheese burrito, a quesadilla and a Sprite, and my bud got a bowl of beans and rice; it had been a while since either of us had had Mexican. We shot the breeze about our experiences abroad, things we could do the next day and life back home until we were full, and on our way back home. It was a nice night.


It was the first night at my apartment. My boss helped me finalize the paperwork with my landlord Nate, then he and his girlfriend Annie walked me up to the place that I would be living in for the next year. I unpacked my huge luggage bag and put everything away: clothes on my new clothes stand, electronics on my rolling TV tray, toiletries in the bathroom, and the rest of it in the sliding door cabinet in the guest bedroom. I felt great. I had had an amazing time with my bud at his aunt's place and at the hostel, but now I was not only employed, but living in my own digs.

This was one of the few times I had ever lived in a room by myself, and the absolute first time in my life that nobody lived around me in another dorm room or bedroom just down the hall, playing music at all hours of the night, stealing things from my room, yelling at me to clean something or anything like that. It was just me, and my new apartment.

After I was unpacked, I decided to get the lay of the land, so I went outside into the night to see what I could see. It was 11:00 or 12:00 at night, and there were almost no cars on the road. I walked up north through the main business section, and past a lot of darkened stores and quiet windy streets. It was a kind of peace that I had seldom experienced before.

I passed a quiet traffic light and watched a pair of cars pass by, and I soon found myself on a tiny street between two rows of very small houses. I had been walking for about thirty minutes, so I decided it was about time to make a wide curve back to the southwest, then cut back to my apartment, having seen one corner of the area around my apartment. The tiny street turned to the side and went between one of the rows of houses, and past a house with a very wide yard. I walked for a little bit until I found a pair of streetlights illuminating a road that headed in the direction of my apartment, then went down it.

Almost immediately, I saw some shadows move. The silhouettes of several dogs perked their heads up, then looked straight at me. I heard growling, so I started to back away slowly. I turned, and almost bumped into an old man, who was walking calmly down the street. My local language skills were still pretty poor so I didn't know how to warn the man, so I just stood back and watched him go straight towards the dogs. They started barking at him. I remained at the end of the street, balled my hands into fists and every muscle in my body tensed as I prepared myself to rush forward and fight the dogs off of the old man.

But there was no need. The dogs barked, but they didn't advance, and the old man just kept going. Not quite having the balls that he had, I turned around and went home on the same street I had walked up.

As for today...

I woke up at 7:30.
I surfed the net.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I ate lunch.
I watched DVDs with my wife and son.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I started a load of laundry.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I did the dishes.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I hung up wet laundry.
I slept.

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