Sunday, April 7, 2013

Then and Now 63 - Odds and Ends 10

Then and Now 63 - Odds and Ends 10
Time: Before I got married.

One of my first trips outside of my bud's aunt's house was a few days after we got there, when we went out one night to look around and scout out the Mexican restaurant that we went to in Then and Now 42. We were out for a while, walking among the darkened streets in the warm summer night, and actually ended up blundering right into the place just a few minutes into the walk.

Once we knew where it was, we continued on to see what else there was to see, and we found a great sight: in the still of the night, completely dark except for some a neon cross upon it, was a church. And although I was still in the throes of the worst of my adjustment phase, I snapped out of it just long enough to admire its beauty, like a symbol of peace in an unsure world. I told my bud that it looked really nice and we should head in sometime to look around, but he just joked that I wanted to go in to convert.


I got an email from a girl, Laura, who wanted to hang out one day. She sent a picture and she looked pretty cute, but regardless of her charming appearance, I was going to meet her in my quest to be the popular man I wanted to be.

I met up with her at dusk outside of the main station, under a winding freeway overpass. She was very, very assertive, spoke directly and always had something to share or talk about. In fact, as we walked to a nearby restaurant, I noticed how difficult it was to get a word in edgewise. When we arrived at the restaurant, we got a few looks from other locals, though whether it was because it looked like we were on a date, or because of my new friend's chattiness, I'm still not sure.

Laura spoke for a long time about her college life and her friends there, about her dream to travel the world and model in as many as she could, and other inspiring tales of her future success. I wasn't quite as charming, content to let her speak and enjoy her enthusiasm. We ate heartily that night, and though I offered to pay for the meal, she insisted that she be the one to pay, stating that her family was somewhat rich and that it wasn't any trouble for her. Her pride was infectious.

After we ate, we headed straight back to the main station, where I finally got to tell her about my time in her country, sharing stories from my time in her country and my eagerness to explore. She seemed happy for me, but her tone and body language throughout the night told me the complete story: at first, she met up with me because she was looking for a boyfriend. The walk over, she was still interested in me. At dinner, I became a friend. On the way back, I had the strong impression that I wasn't going to see her again.

And I was right; that was the last night I saw her. It didn't matter much to me because there were other friends to make, and it was a fun night regardless of whether we ended up together, whatever the meaning of the phrase.


I don't remember where this place was, or how I got there. I get the feeling that it was a part of Then and Now 43, but the overall look of that part of the city, in my mind, looks different.

I came out of an industrial area full of factories and warehouses, and crossed over some railroad tracks to a place with a lot of schools teaching language, music, art and other subjects. There were a couple of quiet apartment buildings with a few grassy fields and trees about, and there were a lot of parks about the area. Everything there was so quiet and serene, that although I had no particular plan to see or anything do that day, I felt content knowing that there was no chores, work or other problems for me to take care of that day. It was just me and my travel.

I passed by a little ice cream store and would have bought some, were it not for my money troubles. I smiled, knowing that in a month or two, I would be back in the black, and returning to sample some of the delicious dessert.


My bud and I were taking a walk around his aunt's place one day, and we were out for a long time. We headed out around noon, passing by many wide streets and through construction zones, just wandering around for the sake of wandering. The construction was long and packed with ripped up roads and the skeletal frameworks of buildings still in the process of being made. After a block or two of this, we went down an alleyway to shave some time off of our trip. Just a few minutes later, we made it to a general store where I bought the notebook and lead pencil I would use to copy local words from the dictionary to become the semi-fluent speaker of the language that I eventually became.

After hours of wandering, we headed back to the general direction where his aunt's place was, and we walked by an ice cream shop. I saw some purple liquid in the pictures advertising the stuff inside, and I suddenly felt hungry and thirsty after the long trip. We went inside and both got a cup, and though the dessert wasn't as sweet as I imagined it to be, it was still a refreshing end to a long and free walk.

Moments later, we were home to watch B-movies and play Guitar Hero, then we were off to sleep.


A month or two after I had settled into my new apartment, job and life, another friend from America told me that he was in the country, and we set up a time to meet. He and his girlfriend took a train and bus to get a few blocks away from my house in the restaurant district, and I went to pick them up and take them to my pad. The first thing I welcomed them to was a platter of Mexican food, complete with my precious and irreplacable hot sauce that my mom sent from America. They both shouted, "Burritos!!" and ran in to snarf. Apparently, they had been away from America as long as I had.

My friend and I talked for a long time about old times, our college lives, what our old friends were up to, basically all that fun catch up stuff. I also talked with his girlfriend about her life and the things going on with her, because the last time I saw her was early 2007, where the three of us had a goodbye dinner for me before I headed abroad. She encouraged me then that I was going to be popular when I got to the country, and though I was still working on myself and my dented psyche back then, I was still appreciative of the vote of confidence, even if I didn't believe her then.

After a few hours, the three of us went onto my roof with the little garden there, and had a very peaceful smoke in the warm night, staring out at the distant lights of the windows of a thousand shorter buildings all around us. My friend's girlfriend smiled as she looked over the little garden, and my friend and I spent a half hour pointing out distant landmarks and wondering what everyone at them was doing.

It was a Saturday night, I remember. My work was done, I was happily enjoying my time with my old friends, and I had an entire Sunday coming to explore more of my new country.

As for today...

I woke up at 10:00.
I took my wife and son out to eat breakfast, then we went home.
I hung up wet laundry.
I played cars with my son.
I took him out on a big trip to the mountains where we drove around, saw a temple and ate at McDonald's, then we went to the arcade, then we went home.
I played cars with him.
I played video games with him.
I started a load of laundry.
I played video games
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I did the dishes.
I hung up wet laundry again.
I slept.

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