Friday, March 8, 2013

Then and Now 60 - Odds and Ends 9

Then and Now 60 - Odds and Ends 9
Time: Before I got married.

For the sake of this Then and Now, I'm going to refer to my wife as my girlfriend.

I was at the underground mall one day on the path between two of the subway stations, and I came to a video game store. There were a couple of titles that I recognized, but most of the ones that I saw were completely new to me. There were games of all types: ones with cute characters on the front, ones with tough looking ones, ones with buildings, ones with cars. I didn't understand half of the titles, but I got the idea that I could buy one and play it at home to practice my language skill while I had fun.

I went home later to hang out with Nate and told him about my plan. I asked him what game he suggested to me, and he told me about a title that he played for years in primary school, then found a movie of it on the internet to show me. It looked kind of like a local version of Ogre Battle, and it looked really fun to play. I asked to borrow his copy, he found it for me, and I started playing a little on the weekends.

My girlfriend got pregnant shortly after and I lost the will to continue, but just thinking of the possibilities to combine two of my favorite hobbies, language and games, gives me fantasies of fun that I wish I had followed through on.


I took my girlfriend to the main station to show her around a bit, because as she said, "I live here, but you know this place better than I do!" After wandering a bit around the restaurants and stores inside, we went out to check out some department stores across the way. Outside one of the big ones, there was a huge truck with a long line of people waiting outside of it. It didn't take long to see that it was a bloodmobile, and the people were waiting to be the donor that saved a life.

With my girl's happy blessing, I waited in line to do my part. There was a camera crew walking around and shooting video of the people there, including me, and I wondered if they were a news crew. In direct, and therefore purposefully incorrect, localspeak, I told my girl, "Holy s***! I'm on TV! Hi mom!" She laughed for a long time and repeated my joke several times over the next hour.

About thirty minutes later, I was inside and donating. I watched local TV for a while while my girl chatted up the nurse, then when I was done, I got a chance to get a gift. I asked for the "blood donation socks," another purposefully direct, but incorrect, phrase, and everyone laughed again. Soon after, my girl and I headed out to take a nice walk through the city on a free day.


In the same general area as the bloodmobile, but on a different day, I was walking outside the main station to a huge intersection running across the massive street out front. There were hundreds of people waiting to cross, and I had stood there many times before. Out of nowhere, an old man walked up to me.

"You!" he said in English. "You! What... country?"

I grinned. "America," I answered in the local language.

He smiled a wide smile and his eyes went big. "America!" he exclaimed in English again. "President... Bush! Ah-hahahaha!"

I didn't know what to do, so I just chuckled nervously, waved goodbye and skittered away.


I went out to the main city to see a concert hall, which doubled as a museum filled with DVD presentations of the country's history, statues of local heroes, official and country-sweeping documents hanging on walls, and other assorted pieces of history. I wandered around the main area with the throngs of other people, then snuck around in an area that I wasn't sure was off limits to see a few empty conference rooms.

After I had swept the area twice for interesting sights, I went back outside to spend time among the locals out with their families and enjoying the afternoon air. There was a nice little pond and a couple of trees around it in the middle of a courtyard outside of the hall, so I went over to take a closer look.

A high school student came up to me on the way, and asked in hesitant English if she could do a survey with me about my time in the country. I agreed, and answering her questions, had nothing but glowing praise for her country and people as a foreigner. Where she couldn't find the right word to ask her questions, I helped her out in the local language so we could understand one another, and though she responded with nervous smiles every time, she seemed to get more confident as time went on.

After a few minutes, we were finished, she thanked me, and I went on over to the little pond to spend some time watching the fish.


Tim, Jessie and I had many classes together since I first met them while I was at the hostel. We continued our classes even after I had gotten a job and a stable source of income, and once my financial affairs were settled and I had a workable budget to carry me to my next paycheck (around early October of 2007), we had another class at an ice cream shop. It was on a street corner with an open entrance that let the warm night air in, and I got some kind of fruity shaved ice thing.

I told them then and there that I didn't want to take their money anymore, because I could support myself from then on. I thanked them graciously for their support during our tutoring, and said that from that point forward, we would meet as friends in a class-like setting. They said that they, like I, wanted to continue our class, but they still wanted to pay me somehow. They eventually came up with the plan to pay me in dinner at any restaurant I wanted to eat at. After living on nothing but the free lunches that my job provided for the previous month, I was only too happy to agree to the plan.

We ended up having our first, and last, dinner-for-English class at an incredibly delicious place that sold specially prepared local food. I wish anonymity didn't keep me from going into detail, but suffice it to say, that this place gave Mexican food an absolute run for its money. I had never eaten in a restaurant like this in my entire life, because my family never had the money to go, and I always thought it was an incredible waste when I had disposable cash, when the money I spent on one night of dinner could buy a video game, movie or music CD that would last my entire life. But that night, I had my chance: the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, the help was very accomodating, the place was brightly lit and full of beautiful pictures on the walls, and I had plate after plate of the most delicious local food I had had to that point.

Tim, Jessie and I didn't talk again after that night. I waited for them to email or call me for another class, but they never got into contact with me, so I played a little waiting game until they were ready.

A few months later, my girlfriend got pregnant, and T&J became the absolute least of my worries. They didn't enter my mind again until I had moved away from the main city and into this one, and I decided to clean out phone numbers on my phone. I deleted all of them, knowing that I would never see any of my other friends again. It was then that I truly realized just how many friends, adventures and opportunities I had lost to marriage.

As for today...

I woke up at 8:00.
I played video games.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I ate lunch.
I watched TV.
I played video games with my son.
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 played video games with my son.
I slept.

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