Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Then and Now 57 - Odds and Ends 8

Then and Now 57 - Odds and Ends 8
Time: Before I got married.

While this Odds and Ends post will probably be less interesting than other tales of my single life, I think it really illustrates perfectly the difference between life as a single man, and life as a married one. I'll save the explanation for the end, and hope the stories themselves are clear enough to prove my point.


Because I had spent so long finding a job, and spent so much time messing around in the hostel and enjoying my newfound freedom, I had to extend my visa before I found a job. There needed to be a certain amount of time left on it before my company would offer an official contract, then I could apply for a temporary ID. Unfortunately, I did the latter step first.

On my way to the immigration office, I got lost. I had some basic directions and assumed there would be a sign or two that would direct me there, but no such luck. I ended up wandering around a park for a little while, which was on an entire city block surrounded by small, quiet streets. It was shaded and peaceful, but there weren't many people around. I walked through a few trees and past some slides when I saw a local family walking on the sidewalk with their little girl. I used my developed skill at the local language to ask where I could find the place where "I can get my passport and ID done," and they pointed me down a large street just a block away. I thanked them, and went on up.

The street was very nicely designed: there was a long and raised median running between streets running in either direction, and it had a long row of trees lining the entire street all the way down on it, all with colored banners running down the street through their branches.

In no time, I was outside the immigration office, which was a floor down and glutted with people of every color and nationality. I took a number and surreptitiously listened in on a few conversations, but while I could understand one or two, the vast majority of them were, to me, just so much jibbajabba.

When my turn came, I talked with the lady there about filing my paperwork and turning in my contract to finally get my temporary ID, but because my visa was going to expire in a few days, she absolutely refused to apply for the card, then directed me to a place several towns over where I could do that first. "I can't help you," I remember her exact words being.

I took my things and left, trying not to grind my teeth in frustration at yet another bureaucratic roadblock that seemed created just to encourage me to leave and go home. Still, I settled down after a few minutes, and decided to take a walk around to turn this failed task into something more interesting. After an hour or two of seeing some local businesses, the mountains in the distance, a few bus stations and some residences, I felt at peace again and got myself to the subway to get home, then prepared myself to get that authorization as soon as possible.


One day, I had to head to the embassy to do something or another with my passport, and though I don't remember exactly what it was, it was urgent. I had an appointment at 3:00 or so, but I soon found that I had left my house too late to get there on time. I took the bus directly there on advice from my girlfriend, but I had no idea that the traffic would be so horrendous from my apartment to the main city. As the bus inched along packed highways and through squeezed streets, I kept looking at my cell phone, praying time would go backwards. 2:30... 2:33... 2:40... until finally, the scheduled time came and passed.

I was in deep trouble. If I didn't take care of this problem, I might have gotten booted out of the country, or at the very least, had to file some expensive paperwork.

On the way, an older gentleman saw me constantly pulling my phone out and checking the time with looks of anxiety, and he asked me what was wrong. I smiled nervously and told him that I was late for an embassy appointment, but he just smiled and said I would be ok, and then asked me some questions about myself to keep me calm. I didn't really believe his reassurances, but by the time the bus had arrived, we said goodbye, I sprinted to the embassy and I got myself into the interview area, even though I was about fifteen or twenty minutes late, my number still hadn't been called.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and mentally thanked that kind man for trying to keep me calm about something that turned out not to be a problem at all.


Before I took my trip back to America for my final Christmas, I decided to have a travel agent help me find the cheapest flight back, so I had more money to spend on presents and fun when I got back. My boss told me about a friend of hers who worked for a travel company in the main city, and after a quick introduction over the phone, I went on over to get my ticket ready. The trip to and from the travel agency, and the time spent there, weren't too special. I got a bit lost outside of the agency and had to ask the security guard in the local language where it was, and there were some cozy shops behind rows of trees around the area, but after getting my ticket, that was about it.

It was what I saw above the big street a few blocks away from the travel agency that made me laugh out loud: Big Mac. Not the hamburger, but the cool moon in the sunglasses and suit that I hadn't seen in decades. I smiled and laughed at that blast from the past, interested to see some classic American culture making waves around the world.


Continuing from my failure to get the temporary ID, I had just taken the subway to the main city and was approaching the immigration office. The subway led out on a large street that dipped far, far down towards some office buildings, and there were several people hiking up and down the daunting hill.

A really nice woman in her 30s saw me meandering around out there, checking a map, and asked me if I needed help finding something. I told her I was looking for the visa office, and she smiled and showed me where it was on my the map. I thanked her (probably should have asked her to dinner, too), then went down the hill and turned left onto a large street to get to the office.

There was a large wall to the side of the road on my left, and it was obscuring some sort of warehouse district or government building, but the trip wasn't as interesting as the pottery shop I saw on the way there. After finishing my business at the office, I came back to check out the wares inside: statues, jewelry, crafts, pictures, stylized furniture, and even T-shirts pointing out the foibles of the country, it was an amazing little shop. Though I didn't have any money to spend on anything that day, I did really enjoy myself looking around at the intricate and well-built wares of an obvious artisan.


I don't remember what I was looking for this day, but it had something to do with my job or taxes or something. I headed out in the same general area as when I started wandering around after the temporary ID rejection, but in a different direction. This area was under more construction than the rest of the town, and I walked under several overhangs that protected pedestrians from falling debris from towering, but not yet built, office buildings.

Across from a bus station, I came across a foreigner with his local girlfriend. He was extremely built and she was cute as a button, but unlike today, I had no jealousy in my heart then: my time would come to find a great relationship, and I was going to be the reason I succeeded. As they got closer, I noticed something odd: the foreigner had a horrendous, snarling look of rage on his face, and the girl was smiling happily as if nothing were wrong. They held hands as they passed, and even though I smiled at them, the foreigner ignored me, and the girl just looked away.

Were they teasing me? Was it the Dark Triad in action? I have no idea, but that guy's face is still burned into my mind to this day.

I continued on to a towering office building that I thought was the place I wanted to get to, but it wasn't. The security guards, obviously unused to seeing a foreigner, much less any visitor at all to the deserted place, met me outside, and we talked in the local language. They gave me good directions to the next place, and I even got a bottle of water from one of them when I told them how long I had been walking.

It started to rain after I left, and because I forgot my umbrella, my hair gel was coming off my spikes and leaving my hair a matted mess. After I finished my business, I figured that was as good a time as any to head home, so back I went to my apartment to shower and enjoy the soothing hiss of the rain outside of my cozy pad.


So that's the end of this Then and Now. While I did have a common thread of nice people helping me through most of these stories, the point I was trying to describe was what linked all of these stories together: paperwork, errands and other bureaucratic things that nobody in their right mind enjoys doing. Imagining these times as the married man I am, I have pangs of nostalgia. Even when I was doing nothing more than visa runs or applications, my life as a single man was still much, much more adventurous, interesting, varied... and most importantly, free... than my life is now.

As for today...

I woke up at 6:30.
I played video games.
My wife and son woke up, so I turned off the game.
I took them to the arcade, then we went home.
I surfed the net.
I watched TV.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I fixed the computer.
I slept.

No comments:

Post a Comment