Saturday, June 30, 2012

Then and Now 40 - Blood Lost

Then and Now 40 - Blood Lost
Time: Mid-2007, single and at the hostel.

One night, I was walking around the train station, enjoying the sights of a couple of stores and taking a nice walk. Near the end of my exploration, I came to a dead end. The ceiling was moderately high, and there were bright lights shining down on the floor, illuminating a fountain in the middle of the area, and a couple of businesses to my right. One of them had several people waiting in chairs outside, so I went to have a closer look at what was going on there.

It was a blood donation center. It had been around a month since I last donated and talked with the biker at my bud's aunt's place in Then and Now 29, so I knew it was about time to do my part again. I went in and got a few interested looks from the nurses there; apparently, they didn't get too many foreigners looking to help out the locals.

They tried to speak to me in broken English, but I switched our conversation to the local language, and peppered it with simple words when I couldn't find the vocabulary I was looking for. I told them that I wanted to donate, and they brought out a registration form that was written in odd English. I answered most of the questions well enough by checking "No" on all the boxes that asked if you were a leper, until I came to a question with confusing grammar. It was something like, "You haven't had gonorrhea, haven't you?"

I answered "No" because every other question had the same answer. But when the ladies got the paper back, one looked at me strangely. The other one smirked, circled the words "haven't you?" and asked in the local language if I had the disease. After I assured her that I didn't, she corrected the paper to say "Yes." We had a laugh, then I went to the next step of having my blood tested. Not only did they go for the blood in my finger, one of the most horrible places to get stuck with a needle, but they chose the ring finger on my left hand, one of the most sensitive spots on my body. I can still feel the pain as I type this. Shortly after, I climbed on one of the recliners, watched local TV while they took a bag or two, then got my cookies and juice. I thanked the ladies, then was on my way.

I walked a little back from the dead end and found some stairs leading out of the shopping area I was in, and followed them up and out of the station, into the dark night. I came out on a busy street with the station at my back, and a row of local stores in front of me. One of them was a convenience store with a beautiful girl working the counter, and another was a toy store run by a middle-aged man, still open at that hour. I waved hello to both of them, then headed down the street to see what else I could see.

As I walked down the road and past an interminable number of stores, the hour grew later and later. Soon enough, when I had left the vicinity of the station, the cars on the road had long disappeared, there were no lights in any stores, and I was navigating by the lonesome glimmer of streetlights. I came to a sleepy part of town where several darkened stores sat on either side of the road, with trees placed at even intervals on the sidewalks in front of them. I saw a local or two pass by on the other side of the street, but otherwise, I was all alone on that peaceful night.

As time drew on, I realized I was lost, and I didn't know the city well enough to gauge where the hostel was. I was also on a tight budget, so I really didn't want to hop a taxi or a bus to get back to where I was going. Using standard guesswork by deducing where the train station was, and where I knew the hostel was in relation to it, I picked a good direction to walk in until I could see something familiar. I turned right on one of the roads and walked up it until I came to the edge of an unfamiliar river. There weren't any bridges in sight to the east or west, so I started to feel even more confused about where I was.

The road in front of the river was a T. Behind me was the main street, and the T turned left and ran next to the river to pass by a gas station and some dark houses. On the right, I came across a good sight: it was a park, dimly lit by a single light. There was a slide, a swingset, and a jungle gym, all standing in shadow. I thought it was some kind of hidden underground army base, maybe because of the way the light glinted off the metal, or maybe because I was flashing back to that great night on the mountain in Then and Now 6.

Eventually, after taking a left on the road then walking northeast for as long as I could, I eventually came across a familiar street and found my way back to the hostel. It was completely quiet when I got back, nobody in sight. Ken was out, and May had already moved out, so I tiptoed down the hall to the guys' dorm and carefully opened my squeaky locker to get my toiletries, hoping I wouldn't wake up the one or two guys in there who were sleeping. A quick shower later, I hit the hay.

As for today...

I woke up at 8:30.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I drove to another school.
I taught students.
I went out to tutor students.
I came home to an empty house.
I played video games.
I prepared teaching lessons.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I did the dishes.
I showered my son.
I slept.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Then and Now 39 - Art Expo

Then and Now 39 - Art Expo
Time: Late 2007, single and at my apartment.

One day while wandering through the main city, I called up Tina to see if she wanted to hang out, and she did. In no time, I met up with her at a very busy intersection, a series of wide and tightly twisting roads with cars in every direction.

I had picked up a flier a little before, saying there was going to be an art expo for a few days, and it was somewhere in the area. I asked Tina if she wanted to go and see it, and she smiled and nodded without a word. Thanks to her, we found the place just a few minutes later: it was at a community center just a few blocks away. It was a very hot day that day, and by the time the two of us reached the center, we were both sweating like mad. I asked if she was doing all right, and she assured me she was ok.

We entered the center, and came into a massive hall that was several dozen feet high, with lights all over the ceiling. In front of us was a man directing people into a hallway in the back, where the expo was being held. I asked if I needed to buy two tickets, but he said it was free. Tina and I went in, and it was quite a bit darker inside. Some of the displays needed some soft light, but most of them were in little rooms to the sides and illuminated by a single light; the spaces between the art pieces were completely dark.

Just a few seconds after we entered, I saw a foreign girl talking with some locals in English. I saw the locals nodding at the woman as I began to walk past. When I drew closer, I heard the foreign girl proudly state, without a hint of self-awareness, "Yes. Art can look like anything." I stifled a snort.

Tina and I soon came to our first display on the left: it was a room with clear walls and a single entrance, filled to the waist with soft pillows. She went a little closer to read the instructions, and told me that we were encouraged to jump in and relax on the pillows for a while. I really wanted to, but I was so drenched with sweat that I didn't want to make the experience uncomfortable for whoever went after me, so I refrained. I asked Tina if she wanted to, but she didn't for the same reason.

The next exhibit was a wall completely covered in darkness, and some locals were scribbling on the side with some special pens, some kind of highlighter that could only be seen with a blacklight. Some of the people on the wall drew random circles and lines, some wrote "I love you" or other such things in the local language, and others doodled pictures of people or animals. The local man in charge of the exhibit saw me looking at the wall, said, "Do you want to write something?" in localspeak, and offered me a pen. I said sure, and Tina and I went up.

I drew a cartoon duck giving a thumbs up, and wrote "(This country) is number one!" I stepped back, then offered the pen to Tina, asking her if my writing was ok. She made a couple of adjustments, and a few seconds later, our message was complete. The man laughed and thanked us, then I gave the pen back, and Tina and I moved on.

There wasn't much else of interest that I remember, so I talked with Tina about how her college life was going as we went out of the art show. She was still pretty shy and evasive so I didn't get much out of her, but she seemed to be doing all right. When we got outside, the hot air blasted into us again like a sack of hammers, so I took Tina to a shop to get us some smoothies. We talked for a while about what we had seen, missing out on the pillow jump, and some fun things going on with her and her friends. A short while later, we got up and parted outside so she could go home and study, and I could go home to prepare for work the next day.

That night, I got an email from her. She apologized to me for not talking so much, and said she would try her best to speak up more the next time we hung out. I quickly replied, telling her that it was ok and I had fun hanging out with her, and I would see her soon enough. The next time we met up, she was quite a bit more talkative. But I'll save that story for another Then & Now.

As for today...

I woke up at 6:00.
I played video games.
I went to work by train, and played video games on the way.
I taught students.
I came home by train, and played video games on the way.
I ate lunch.
I hung up wet laundry.
I surfed the net.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I ate dinner.
I started a load of laundry.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I hung up wet laundry.
I slept.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


About a month ago, I went to the park with my son and met a foreigner there. We started talking about several topics, starting off with the local language. I wasn't surprised in the slightest that he has lived here for longer than I have, but his local language skills are around the level of a pre-schooler. Not coincidentally enough, his desire to learn the local language evaporated shortly after he met his girlfriend, who also doesn't know the language. His child is going to school in a year or two, so he seemed to be a bit worried about how the kid would do there without being able to communicate. So, I told him exactly what I did to learn the local language in three months. He seemed to take everything I said to heart, so I hoped he could take a few months to become semi-fluent, then teach his kid what he learned.

(UPDATE: He first planned on moving back to America next year at great financial cost, and taking a job that doesn't pay much, in an effort to avoid learning the local language for his child's sake. This didn't happen, and it turns out that his kid was sent away from the local school to be homeschooled because he can't speak with the teacher or other kids. I expected nothing less than this kind of laziness from a married person).

Later, after he saw how well-behaved my son was, we talked a little bit about child rearing and how we could both improve our styles, trying to find the middle ground between corporal punishment and "letting them do their thing."

Then, he turned the conversation to politics.

I stood there, politely maintaining eye contact and nodding as he went off on a half hour tirade filled with swearing, exaggerated hand waving and yelling about Walker this, unions that, Obama this, Republicans that. At one point, he referred to a long-time friend of his, who happened to be on the opposite side of the political spectrum, as a "f***in' idiot," before he walked the statement back and called him "ignorant."

Two days later, I was watching TV with my wife at our house, and my mother-in-law made a surprise visit. She started yelling at the two of us for not picking up her phone calls thirty minutes earlier, and barked that it was absolutely unacceptable behavior for two parents. "What if your son was sick or hurt?!" she bellowed. "He's going to school in a few months! How can you two be so selfish?!"

So what do these two incidents have to do with marriage? For that answer, I need to rewind to nearly the beginning of my life, and the things I overcame to become the man I was before I got married:


Until I was 6, and still living with my father, he taught me to hate. I still remember being 3 or 4 and telling my younger brother that I wished Martin Luther King Jr. were never born, so "the blacks would still be our slaves."

When my mother got custody of the two of us when I was 6, she taught us the filth of those beliefs, and neither one of us followed them again.

Selfishness and Egotism

From around age 6 to 14, I was a snot. I refused to let my friends play my video games, I yelled at them when they made mistakes, and I relentlessly teased and insulted them because I thought it was funny.

When I turned 14 and my depression hit, I knew that I wasn't a good person. To fix that, I (erroneously) thought that there were only two ways I could deal with my depression: turn it outwards and become a bully, or turn it inwards and beat myself up for everything. I did the latter, and stopped hurting others as much as I could.


From around 14 to 21, I was a depressed and suicidal ball of self-loathing. I never did anything to improve my life, and blamed everyone except myself for not getting better.

When I turned 21, answering "Yes" to Leena's question, "Do you want to get better?" set me on the path to healing, and I never gave up forgiving those who hurt me, severing poisonous relationships and following my dreams until my depression was eradicated around the time I was 23 or so.

Religious Tribalism

When I was around 14 or 15, I rebelled against my non-practicing Baptist mother by becoming a hardcore Atheist. I blamed God for not helping me when I was in pain, internally screamed at the heavens for not doing something to support me, and got into arguments about how people were stupid to have faith.

From 17 to 23, I studied several faiths to find some peace with religion, and using the ideas they shared, was able to take bits and pieces here and there to form the tools I needed to crush my depression later. They also helped me to form my spiritual beliefs of today, and I now have nothing but respect for people who practice other faiths, or none at all.

Political Tribalism

Around 17, I became a hardcore Progressive, so I could blame the powerful for being corrupt and leaving scraps behind for the "downtrodden" like me. Around 21 or 22, after I started the path to emotional recovery, I became a hardcore Libertarian so I could blame the poor, weak and unhappy for not improving like I was. Six or seven years passed in total, where I felt seething rage or snapped when I heard words like "Bush" or "socialist," hated faceless millions of people for their ideals, and lacked the emotional control to treat people I respected like friends, instead of mortal enemies, when I learned that what they believed differed from my ideas.

Around 24, I knew I was sick. So, I spent time on both sides of the political aisle simultaneously, and realized how much either side suppresses inconvenient stories, cherry picks data, spins or outright lies to push their agenda. I realized then that I could never trust anyone to give me the whole story when something went on in the world, so I stopping listening to all of it. After that, I not only became more focused on my goals in life, but found a new kind of peace where I stopped viewing half of the world as evil or stupid.


From around 18 to 20, I was huge: 250 pounds of pure fat, no muscle to speak of. It was painful to be so unappealing to everyone around me, and it only made my depression worse.

A little before I turned 21, I cut my caloric intake from 4000 to 1000 calories a day, spaced those calories out over several meals, and hit up the gym every day until I dropped 70 pounds, and was able to bench 100.


Around 22, my depression became anger. I snapped at demanding customers at work, became heavily invested in politics so I had a faceless enemy to hate, and even started pointless, stupid fights with my first girlfriend.

After two years of this, I knew it had to stop, so I started exercising complete and total control over my thoughts. It was exhausting for the first few months, but after a while, I calmed down to the point where my optimism and happiness were automatic instead of forced.

Faithlessness and Complacency

When I first got abroad, I felt like slipping back into my old ways because things didn't get immediately better. I got lazy and moody, went outside only under protest, and spent my days playing PSP or watching TV all day.

Then I got my butt in gear, went out to live life, and became awesome in about a month.

So again, what does all of this have to do with marriage? Well, take the first two stories that happened in the past few days, and compare them to what I went through before I married. Then, a problem was me holding a scalpel blade to an artery in my arm. A problem was a borderline mother, whose destructive and ever-changing emotions were a constant mystery until the moment she was screaming in my face for something. A problem was going through three parental divorces before I was even in my teens, and having to move and lose my friends (and not to mention my emotional stability) no less than seven times before I was even in high school. A problem was knowing that around 16,000 children die every day of hunger, and trying to figure out, with the money I made, how I could make that 15,970.

But a problem for married people, and those intimately connected to them?

- You didn't answer your phone.
- You forgot your jacket.
- It's too hot.
- My sister is angry.
- I flip out every time politics comes up.
- I'm too lazy to learn something beneficial for my children.

All cause for colossal laziness, brooding depression or explosive anger, it seems.

I struggled for years to become an awesome person. When I was abroad and still not married, my mind was free of the concerns of most people, because I had the tenacity and persistence necessary to change my life for the better in every possible way. I didn't work around my problems and focus on my strengths; I stood tall over my problems until they cowered in the corner, pleading for mercy, and then I made them into my strengths.

And now, today... someone called me fat, throw a fit? The house isn't spotless, blow up and bark? Even married people that aren't in my family lack the strength to abandon poisonous political views, or crippling sloth, in order to improve. Marriage means extra, unending work to be sure, but for the things that could be put off until later, like the previously mentioned foreigner's politically charged emotional instability or his child's chances in school, they were things to continually put off until later. That is a married person's life: a thousand paper cuts, or endless procrastination. Sacrifice or complacency. Days without rest or laziness.

Do you want to know what this feels like? To overcome and destroy many, not just one or two, problems that would crush or paralyze other people, then to be imprisoned in the life of petty issues that I'm living now? It's like I spent a decade going through a punishing school system, then I graduated from a difficult college and graduate school, and once I had a few months to enjoy my new diploma, I was chained up in a kindergarten to learn my ABCs for the following 20 years.

My wife got upset about how I washed blankets. I used to be anxious about learning an entire language in months. My mother-in-law gets upset about what people think of me when I'm not dressed for cold weather. I used to worry about how I was going to live another day.

Marriage has hobbled me in every possible way. Every last scrap of strength I accrued for myself, and wanted to use enjoying life and helping people, has been transferred to my family. And yet, after all I've given up, and knowing full well that I need to make over a half million dollars in the next fifteen years to pay for all of the expenses of my married life, it's not me who blows my top at my family; it's the exact opposite.

Living a life of complacency and sloth in marriage sounds like a dream, but it's not. Even though it was a pretty tough road to get there, I can say without hesitation that I was happier abroad, before I got married, than any other moment of my life, and it was worth the struggle. And I didn't become a great person then because I was born genetically better (I had health problems growing up), or because my parents were rich (three of the five were poor, two were middle class), or because I was lucky (you make your own luck). It was because I decided to do it, then didn't give up until I did. If the schmuck I was could do it, anybody can.

Then I got married, and my evolution stopped. Everything I was, and could have been, has been given to my family.

How awesome was I? It's easy to answer that question by talking about what kind of son I have, because he's the one who got nearly everything I worked for. He's a mini-celebrity around here, and it's not just because he's cute. He's still a toddler, but he's more polite than most middle schoolers. He's multilingual, polite, intelligent, inquisitive, adventurous, well-behaved, and diplomatic, just like his dad was five years ago. And honestly? He was worth the sacrifice. He went from tantrums as a baby, to the good boy he is today.

But my wife and mother-in-law? More of the same. They have no incentive to improve their bad behavior and tendency to drama, because I have no leverage over either of them:

When my son's bad, he loses out on trips, toys and a happy dad.

When my wife's out of order, she directly controls our sex, indirectly controls our money through the threat of divorce, and knows it's best for our son that we stay married, so she can just keep on acting up when she pleases. Even when I punish her for her nonsense with less monthly payments or ice cold apathy, she just comes back harder, or she promises to do better, then acts like an a-hole again a few months later.

When my mother-in-law goes ape, I know she has a large influence over my wife's emotional state, which in turn affects mine, so I can't get her to behave, either.

If I hadn't married my wife, she would still be the same woman that she really is: the one I dated five years ago, and I would hardly ever talk to her mother. My wife would also be on her best behavior, because she knew how many other women I knew who were waiting for a guy as great as I was to sweep them off their feet. And of course, I would be on my best behavior, because any and all girlfriends I would have dated would have deserved nothing less.

Marriage was completely unnecessary for me, as a strong man, to have an excellent child and life. I only went through with it because my son needed a stable environment to grow up in, and I didn't want him going through divorce like I did as a boy, much less several. But marriage has only complicated and ruined everything it's touched in my life, when it wasn't even needed in the first place.

I've read statistics that show that children of married couples grow up to be more happy and successful than those from single parent houses. But unless the child is already coming or born, I don't think that's a good reason to get married. To be perfectly frank, I think single parents fail their children so often because single parents are, by and large, unfit to parent.

How many of them are horrible people who push away the other parent of their child, and then turn that bad behavior on their kids? How many are the kind of person who is inherently attracted to irresponsible, abusive losers because of non-existent thought control and poor mental health, then get abandoned by the loser, and then turn their mental issues on their children? How many work hard for their kids, but when they get home, they refuse to spend time with them because they have no desire to get themselves up for their kids' sake, and instead leave the childrearing to the TV, their own parents, or their children's friends?

People who are married, just by nature of staying in that vampiric institution, have already proven that they have the ability to sacrifice. This bodes well for their children, which in turn is why their kids do better. It has nothing to do with the marriage contract, and everything to do with the parents' personalities.

My point is that marriage is unnecessary baggage, sacrifice and strife that doesn't need to be put in place for a kid's sake, provided that their adoptive parent, or parent through surrogate mother/donor father, has the financial strength and emotional well-being to take care of all of their child's needs. Getting married to prove that you will be a good parent is like testing a bulletproof vest's capability to stop a bullet... by wearing it while the gun is fired. It's a punishing shortcut to non-existent happiness and security, but the most insidious thing is that the price is unfathomable until you get into it, and realize what you gave up for no good reason.

Picture life as a cold mountain, with snow, biting winds, and sharp, rocky handholds all up the side of it. At the very top is an unexplainable, lush garden of beauty and relaxation, but you must climb to the top to experience it. Shangri-La, if you will. Being unmarried, responsible and honorable means climbing that mountain every day, taking the chilling winds and exhausted muscles until reaching the very top. And it also means learning to love the climb, because not only does pain show you that there are things you can improve on to become even better, but when you reach the top, you'll know that you earned your great life.

Marrying means finding a damp cave a quarter of the way up, going inside to light a dying fire, wrapping yourself up in itchy animal hides, and feeling content that at least it's better than the cold outside.

My problem four years ago? I climbed ten miles yesterday, and I'm exhausted.

The problem of married people? These hides smell funny.

I should have realized that I wanted kids, not marriage, before it was too late. I should have realized that kids fulfill, and marriage drains, winners like the man I was.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Zoo trip

My wife, son and I took a trip with her company to a petting zoo. We were out for thirteen hours:

6:00 - 7:00 - Waited for my wife to get ready.
7:00 - 8:00 - Drove to the bus station.
8:00 - 8:30 - Waited for the bus.
8:30 - 10:00 - Rode the bus.
10:00 - 11:00 - Stood around during orientation.
11:00 - 1:00 - Sat around and ate.
1:00 - 1:30 - Stood around while my wife shopped.
1:30 - 3:00 - Actually pet some animals with my wife and son.
3:00 - 4:00 - Sat around and ate.
4:00 - 4:30 - Got on the bus and waited for it to leave.
4:30 - 6:00 - Rode the bus.
6:00 - 7:00 - Drove home.

Thankfully, my wife kept the drama and nonsense down to a just a few instances during the trip. The worst thing that happened was when she came off the bus with three bags in tow, and because I didn't immediately grab two of them to carry around for the rest of the day, she narrowed her eyes in anger at me, sharply nodded her head towards the bags in her hand, then scowled. It's the same look my mother used to give me when I was a kid. As for me, I should have talked with her co-workers today (even though the topics are always boring and about marriage and work), but by the time I started meeting up with them, five hours of waiting and driving had passed, and I just wasn't in the mood. Still, I expect better of myself, so I'll endeavor to speak up more in the future.

At home, I watched DVDs with my wife, then out of nowhere she started ragging on me. The conversation went like this:

Me: "Boy, what a great movie, huh?"
Wife: "Mmm. Say, have you noticed that you never listen to me?"
Me: "What?"
Wife: "You always say no when I ask you to do something."
Me: "For example?"
Wife: "Like fixing your glasses. You never listen to me on that."
Me: "I told you three or four times before, it's because we don't have money now. I'll fix them when we have cash."
Wife: "It should only cost $50 or $100."

I weighed my options for a reply:

Me, Choice 1: "In the past four years of our marriage, you've spent fourty to fifty dollars every single day of the monthly $1200 I give you, without fail. These expenses don't include payments to your mother or the rent, because your paycheck handles that. They don't include pending college payments, bills or taxes, because I pay all of those. How could our food and clothing budget run us over $1000 every month? If you would stop spending fourty dollars every single day for just a single, solitary day, I could have fixed my glasses three months ago."
Me, Choice 2: "We were just watching DVDs and having fun. Can we talk about this another time?"

I chose the latter, she got quiet, then we soon went to bed, another long, pointless day of marriage waiting for tomorrow to be experienced.

UPDATE: Provider loser me picked Choice 2 because I thought it would lead to her bothering me less, but as previously explained, this did nothing to stop her. Choice 1 ended up coming later, to great effect.