Saturday, October 6, 2012

Then and Now 47 - Odds and Ends 6

Then and Now 47 - Odds and Ends 6
Time: Before I got married.

Nate, Annie and I got to know each other pretty well over the course of my stay at my apartment. We were all about the same age and had a lot of the same interests regarding media and travel, so we always had good times together, either in my place or theirs. One day, the two of them invited me to go out with some of Nate's cousins to visit an outdoor market, so we all took the subway to go adventure a bit.

There were three or four cousins there that night: one of them was in grade school, so I wasn't much more to her than a novelty foreigner to practice English with. The others were about my age, but they were extremely shy, and no matter how much I tried to talk to them, they shyly responded for only a few seconds before going back to Nate in the local language.

That night, we all went into a combination restaurant, shop and arcade, where the top floor sold clothes, but an escalator went underground to the eating and play areas. We all sat down to get something to eat, and talked for a bit. Going back up top, we walked past some food carts until we came to a sausage vendor. They sold these incredibly thick, foot long sausages wrapped in paper, and Nate said I had to eat one. I bought it and we took a picture of me staring at it in mock shock, then we walked back towards the subway to say goodbye.

I nibbled on the dog for about an hour before and after I rode on the train, then met up with Nell near my apartment. By the time we got together and headed out into the night to pick up some stuff for my apartment, the dog was still half-uneaten. Finally, after she and I finished shopping and we set up a time to have a real meet-up, I could take no more and ditched the super dog in a trash can. I did give it my best, though.


My first "date" in this country was with a girl who messaged me on the internet, and I met up with her just a day or two after I first got to the hostel. We met up at a bus stop near my new place, then we took a walk through her college campus on our way to have some coffee.

The campus was extremely small, barely bigger than one or two city blocks. I imagined it was either just the dormitory area, or I had missed the rest of it on our night walk. We walked through a wide courtyard with some basketball courts to the side, and all around us rose a ring of buildings with scattered windows lit up and students studying inside. We went to a coffee shop not far away from the Mexican restaurant where Sammi and I had our date in Then and Now 28. It was a very nice place, with glass windows showing the night streets just outside, wide open aisles and very comfortable seats. It almost felt like a 50s diner.

One of the first things this girl said to me was that she absolutely wasn't interested in dating at the moment. I told her that was fine; to tell the truth, I wasn't really interested in her, either. But once she had stated that, it became much easier for me to relax and treat her as any of my guy friends, joking about some of the things I had seen at my bud's aunt's place and complimenting her country, and she told me of some things I could go an see while I was in the main city.

After about an hour, I walked her back to her campus, then went home to talk with May and Ken.


Walking through the rainy streets of my first city at my bud's aunt's place, my bud and I kept under the overhangs of the businesses next to us as best we could. The rain was so heavy, that just a few seconds outside in it, and we would have been drenched for hours. We came to a group of young kids kicking a ball around, and right when we started to get close, one of them kicked it straight to me. I stopped it with my foot and looked at them, and they seemed to be shocked, like they had never seen a foreigner before.

I kicked the ball up into my hands, then tossed it to the boy in front with a "Here you go," one of the first things I learned from my studies of the local language. The kids all got excited and ran towards me, surrounding me and peppering me with questions that I could not yet understand. I laughed, smiled, waved goodbye and kept going with my bud. "Don't get a big head," he scolded me, and I laughed again.


My boss at my first job told me one day that we were going to have a party. I asked her why, and she said it was because we had just welcomed our 100th student into the school. I'll get to the story of me getting this job later, but for now, it's just important to mention that I was the first teacher to teach at this school, which was a newly built place. My boss said that they couldn't have done it without my help, and though I humbly accepted the praise, I knew she was right. I was an excellent teacher because of my five years of experience in America, and that plus the fact that most other foreigners who come here:

A) Don't care about their jobs as teachers
B) Don't know how to teach, and refuse to improve
C) Both

...made me the teacher that I was, especially in comparison to others. That, and more importantly, the extensive experience and efforts of the staff there, made the school the success that it was. So as thanks, my boss took everyone to the hotel that I saw in Then and Now 38, which, fittingly enough, I first saw as I was leaving an interview for another school.

It was a mammoth place up close, colored red and gold and standing dozens of stories tall on a mountain peak overlooking several valleys around it. The lobby was grandiose, and the staircase leading up to the rooms was fit for royalty. We went to the bottom floor and had some lunch at a fancy restaurant down there, and I got the chance to practice the local language with my boss and two co-workers. I told some jokes, and they thanked me for my hard work. It was a very fun time.

After lunch was done, they drove me back down the mountain so I could go to the subway station and start the day's travels.


Taking cues from Ken and the warm welcome he gave to me at the hostel, I greeted another foreigner who came from an entire world away. Although his body language hinted, and speaking with him later confirmed, that he was condescending, picky and annoying, I still made it my happy mission to give him the welcome that I had also received. He talked a little about his home country, but most of our interactions came a little later near midnight, seated at the table near the window of the hostel situated a dozen floors above the city, while I attempted to teach him some of the local language.

Our impromptu tutoring session started when he told me that he was a vegetarian and wanted to ask the locals not to add meat to his meals, and he asked me if I knew what to say. By then, I had learned several hundred words of the local language and "I don't eat meat" was a set of simple words that I had long since mastered. After I told him, he kept saying the words wrong time and time again. It was such a simple phrase; I knew the only reason he kept messing it up was because he knew nothing of the local language.

But rather than get frustrated and chalk him up as yet another in a long string of disrespectful foreigners, I patiently repeated the phrase and gave him tips until he was able to speak it correctly. Once that was done, I gave him a quick and dirty primer on the language, its grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, and how to use mnemonics to cut study time by a factor of ten. I used his pencil and notebook to make note after note for him to study later, but he remained emotionless and uninterested throughout the lesson. In fact, he seemed a lot more interested in reprimanding me for accidentally breaking his pencil lead two or three times.

An hour or so later, when I had given him all he needed to know to master the language in months, he said it was late and went straight to bed, with no show of gratitude or any kind of sign that he would study what I had told him. Despite this, I still hold the hope that he ended up using that knowledge to his advantage to fully enjoy his time here, and avoided marriage like the plague it is.

As for today...

I woke up at 5:00.
I played video games.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I drove to another school.
I taught students.
I went out to tutor a student.
I came home to an empty house.
I ate dinner.
I surfed the net.
My wife and son came home, so I turned off the game.
I prepared teaching lessons.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I did the dishes.
I played video games.
I slept.

No comments:

Post a Comment