Sunday, August 25, 2013

Then and Now 75 - Odds and Ends 13

Then and Now 75 - Odds and Ends 13
Time: Before I got married.

This is my final Then and Now, where I'll share my favorite little stories from each of my different times abroad.


In Then and Now 70, I described a building that my bud and I used as a compass to get around the city, but we actually went up to the top of it once to look around.

I don't think we actually planned on going up that day, but as we were walking past a shopping mall, my bud suddenly got the idea to go in and take a look. I agreed, and a few minutes later, we were standing at its base. There was a huge, dark pseudo alley (actually an outdoor part of the building) that led through some artificial ponds with a few fish inside. Beyond that was the building's main lobby, which was much more brightly lit and full of a gaggle of boring shops that sold nothing but cosmetics and jewelry. My bud and I went inside and took an elevator up this mammoth building, and walked past a scenic restaurant on our way to its very top.

The view was absolutely amazing. We could see the ocean from one side, and at another, the high rises of the city gave way to the more suburban parts beyond them. We took turns finding interesting things to point out below, including a tennis court on the roof of one particularly large apartment building.

After about twenty minutes of looking around and shooting the breeze, a group of older ladies came in. They were from a country whose language I had studied for years, but because I was so out of practice from studying the local language here, I could only understand what they were saying about the beautiful view; I couldn't converse. I probably should have tried, even if I looked like a fool, but I was still in my adjustment phase, so I ended up just smiling and waving.

After another half hour or so, my bud and I went downstairs to check out, then immediately leave, the restaurant with the absurdly high prices, then went back downstairs to get some grub at a more affordable (and probably more delicious) local place.


Near the middle to the end of my stay at the hostel, I had a much better understanding of the city than when I had first come. In fact, the bus route map and a second, unmarked subway map, the former given to me by Ken and the latter that I picked up at the station, were things I hardly ever used anymore.

One day, as I was looking around the lobby of the hostel and checking out some brochures and pictures, a new arrival came up the elevator. He was a foreigner like me, except he looked ready to take on the city: sun hat with strap, huge backpack, camo jeans, the works. I smiled, and decided to welcome him like Ken had welcomed me. I introduced myself, shook his hand, and asked him questions about his home country, showed him around the hostel, told him of some places he could see, the works.

He said he wanted to visit some old palace, and since it was still noon, that he was going to head there right then. I asked if he knew how to work the subway system, and he said no, so I offered to accompany him and show him around. He politely refused, but after a little insistence, he agreed to let me play tour guide, and we went down the elevator to go check out the city.

We talked on the way up the road to the junction station that I had used hundreds of times by then, and got ourselves down to the subway cars, where I showed him how to pay and board. When I was done, he said that he could probably take it from there, but I said that I had nothing but free time while I was at the hostel, so I could take him to the junction station to show him where to transfer.

He seemed grateful, and we kept on going, talking about sights to see and the like, until we came to the main station where almost all the cars met up. Since his destination was to the west, and I wanted to head north, that was where we parted. But before he headed out, I gave him both of my maps so he wouldn't get lost. He took them with reluctance, saying I might need them more, but I smiled and told him that if he spent a few weeks here like I did, he'd be an expert, too.

Then, repeating Ken's words to me, I said, "They'll save your life, too."

He smiled, we shook hands, and we went on our ways to enjoy our lives as single men abroad.


One day off from work, I decided it was time to be a tourist. I took a subway ride to a spot in the center of town, and came out at the station there, ready to see the sight for the day: an old mansion turned tourist spot.

I don't remember much of the trip there. There was only one little memory I had of the way in, and it was when I got a little lost about halfway there. I was standing next to a very large grassy median in the center of a ring of very tall buildings. The area was an absolute mess of twisting, car-glutted roads. I think almost every city in the world has a place like this: where all the main streets seem to converge in a huge, insane mishmash of traffic lights and winding streets. I zigzagged my way through several green lights before I made my way out of there.

Before I knew it, I was at the mansion. I don't know what happened to the family there, whether they all passed away, lost their fortune or just decided to sell/give their estate up to become a national monument, but there it was. The two entrances were both surrounded by little fountains and well-tended gardens of multicolored flowers. The stone roads that led in also split off in multiple directions, and there were awnings over almost every one of the little paths.

There really wasn't much else to see there. There were a couple of locals walking and looking around, but the stone paths that led all around the estate ended up in largely empty rooms. There were a couple of pictures and portraits of landscapes in a couple of them, and there was a DVD being projected in another about the history of the family, but otherwise, not much. Still, it was a nice enough walk, so I enjoyed myself.

I left the estate not long after seeing the last empty room, and headed away from the bustle of the busy streets to some place a little more relaxed. I wandered down a couple of narrow alleys between buildings, and knew I was on to something when the ground started to slope up. After passing a little garage and a smiling local working on his car, I came to the summit of the little slope: it was a wide field of grass that spread out as far as the eye could see to my left and right, and dropped sharply and suddenly to the banks of a tame river below.

I got as close as I could to the side to peek down, and the view was amazing. It was serene the way the sun glinted off of the water, and how wild, leaning shrubs clung to the grassy slopes for dear life on both sides with proud trees above them. On my left and right, running over the river, were a pair of suspension bridges. I watched a couple of cars travel over the both of them, and I started to really miss my motorcycle at that point. I knew I wanted to get another one while I was here, so I could visit more places in a single day than I could just traveling on foot. I was there for a half hour or so, then started the walk back to the subway.


I took a trip with a one-time internet friend to a town with a bunch of movie theaters and restaurants. She took me to a restaurant that sold really popular meat soup, and asked me to try some. I asked what was in it, but she refused to tell me until I was done eating. I figured out exactly what it was before I had my first slurp, but I played dumb and downed it all anyway, keeping my gag reflex in check until I was done. Then, of course, she told me it was entrails, I faked looking sick for a few seconds, and she laughed. It didn't taste that bad, actually. In fact, it really didn't taste like anything, but it had the texture of rubber, and that was kind of nasty.

The movie town was several blocks of the city closed off so that only pedestrians could go through it; my friend and I walked straight down roads that cars had driven on just a bit before. We walked past a bunch of movie theaters and crowds of high school and college kids, all of them trying to one-up each other with their fashion sense: long hair and loud T-shirts for the boys, heavy makeup and short skirts on the girls. Just like back home, I thought. On the edge of the movie town, there was a square clearing between a bunch of tall buildings, some that had movie theaters on every floor, others which were restaurants piled on top of each other. In the clearing were several people selling artsy things: pictures, CDs, movies and more.

A bit away, I felt my heart skip a beat and felt a little nervous. Next to a rack of used CDs was someone dressed as No-Face from my littlest sister's favorite movie of all time, Spirited Away. The costume was so well made that I thought it was real. The boss' white face slowly turned around the clearing, looking for customers to assist, and I felt even more nervous when the face looked directly at me, then turned away a few seconds later.

Nonetheless, I knew I had to get a picture of the boss and give it to my sister later, so I slowly approached from a blind spot to the side, and spoke up. "Excuse me," I said in the local language, and No-Face's face turned to look at me. A shiver went down my spine. "Can I take a picture with you?"

"Sure!" a girl's squeaky voice came out. I stifled a laugh, smiled a big smile, and the big chicken got his picture.


For my final Odds and Ends experience, I wanted to bring everything full circle and describe my very first experience coming here. There's nothing really special about that time, but the difference between that time and my eventual single life are very telling.

I didn't do much on the plane besides watch movies, but I spent portions of the flight nervously talking to a beautiful woman and got her email address, but I fell out of contact with her after a few weeks. When I arrived in the country, I told myself that I had to start putting out an air of confidence and I needed to start talking to more people. On the way through the airport terminal, I made an effort to smile and nod at other people, but I was still nervous, and it all felt so fake (it was just my old mind's way of trying to hold onto old habits). I went through customs and out to the front of the airport where I waited for my bud and his uncle and aunt, and they were about half an hour late, so I got nervous again about being stranded with no support. Eventually we met up, and I got into the car and we drove to his aunt's place, where I climbed the stairwell up to our room and dumped my stuff out.

It started pouring rain about then, but my bud and I went outside anyway so he could teach me how to change my money at the bank, and I picked up a couple hundred dollars worth of the local currency. While we were outside, I felt a little depressed because I wanted to start being a leader and work on my confidence, but there I was, just following my bud around like a puppy.

After that, we headed back to our room, where I felt absolutely exhausted from the jet lag. My bud warned me not to go to sleep until nighttime, and knowing he was right, we spent a couple of hours upstairs playing PSP together. Unfortunately, because he played copied games and I didn't, we played next to each other, but on our own. Night rolled around rather soon after that, so after PSPing and talking about old times for a few hours, my bud and I got ready to sleep.

Before I drifted off, I took a picture of myself as a "Before" photo, knowing that at the time, I wasn't a very attractive guy in any sense of the word. It wasn't a bad picture, but it certainly wasn't anything special: my hair was really short, I had a nervous smile on, I was about twenty pounds overweight and my eyes told the world that I was afraid.

A little over a month later, I took the internet profile "After" picture of myself at the hostel: spiked hair, confident "bad boy" smile, perfect weight and piercingly direct eyes. It took a little time, but I had arrived.

When I first got on the plane in June of 2007, I had no idea that I was going to be heading to the place where I would spend the best six months of my life, and I think my Then and Now posts really bring that out. I also had no idea that I would cap that experience off with marriage, which would destroy everything I had ever worked for. I should have thought things through and realized what I had, instead of believing the metric tons of tripe that society and the media had fed me about the non-existent benefits of this ruinous institution. All I have left of my old days now are my memories, and the fourteen year wait until I can have that life again.

As for today...

I woke up at 6:00.
I played video games.
My son woke up, so I turned off the game.
I played video games with him.
I prepared teaching lessons.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I ate dinner.
I roughhoused with my son.
I watched TV.
I played video games with my son.
I started a load of laundry.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I played cell phone games with my son.
I hung up wet laundry.
I slept.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Then and Now 74 - Last Christmas

Then and Now 74 - Last Christmas
Time: Late 2007, dating my wife.

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

This is the final transition of my single time, from dating to marriage, and is also the final time I had as a free man while dating my girlfriend before my entire life turned into the married gruel that it is today. Because this particular Then and Now was the last period of my life before I ended up shackled and beaten down into the married loser that I am today, this time holds an especially warm significance to me.

From the time of my birth to the day I left my family for the final time, my mother, siblings and I had never missed a Christmas together. Even through my mother's first three divorces, several family troubles, moving almost a dozen times and everything else, we always had that one day of the year to be with one another. In 2007, after I had conquered my depression, moved to a foreign country, lived on my own and met my excellent girlfriend, I wasn't about to let this be the year that our family was missing one. I had left a child, and I was coming back that Christmas a man.

Speaking of traditions, it was also tradition in my family to blow your entire first paycheck on something for yourself. And so, that's what I did: I saved up about $2000 for my plane ticket and money to buy pizza and stuff for my friends, and brought along a sack of video games to sell so I could go back abroad again with a little scratch. Truthfully, it was hardly necessary: I was making so much money before I got married that I would have been able to save up my emergency money goal of $5000 in about three months, and started giving to charity by mid-2008, so I wasn't all that concerned about my finances at that point.

My last Christmas took place over two solid weeks of absolute fun. It started at the airport with my girlfriend, and we had a final meal of Burger King, which I hadn't eaten since I entered the country. She couldn't believe the way I liked to eat the hamburgers there, by placing rows of french fries on the patty before eating. When I had checked my bags, she couldn't stop kissing and hugging me as I was on my way out. I protested fakely and hugged her back, then we finally waved goodbye and I was on my way to the plane.

My hair was spiked and I was dressed very nicely for the trip back home, because date, work or plane trip, I liked looking my best no matter where I went. I chatted with a couple of the people aboard the plane, then when they settled into their seats and got quiet, I pulled out my freshly charged laptop and PSP to play some video games. Thanks to them, and the movies playing on the little TV on the seat in front of me, I was back home in no time.

My mother met me at the airport, and it was getting on in the day. Luckily, my favorite Mexican restaurant was still open, so she took me there to get some massive, oily, creamy bean and cheese burritos covered in their exquisite sauce. Then, we went home, where hugs, kisses, handshakes and everything else waited for me from my family. As soon as I could, I put up scads of my video games up for auction on the family computer, and over the following two weeks, I saw bids coming in from all over the country piling up on them. I made close to a thousand dollars from sales, and ended up taking back a good chunk of the money than I started with.

I took a long walk back to my grandma's house from my mother's on my second or third day there. It was the middle of the afternoon when I left, and it took an hour or two to walk all the way, but it was such a great day that it felt very relaxing. The air was crisp with the chill of winter, and having spent six months in the cramped cities of this country, it was refreshing to be back in America, where the houses were big and the roads were wide. As I walked through the business section of town, I noticed dozens of stores that were run by locals of this country who had immigrated to America. All of the signs were written in both the local language and English, but where the local language signs had mystified me as a boy, I was able to read and understand most of them that day.

Passing through the lines of shops, I left my lower-middle income city behind and headed through some rich towns to where my grandma lived. The more I walked towards her house, the more trees there were growing on the sidewalk, down the road medians and in front of houses and offices. The air, already refreshing from December's frost, was cleaner than I had ever breathed abroad.

When I got to my grandma's house, I was happy to see that her car was there. I knocked on the door, and she surprisedly let me in, where I gave her her angel doll present that could plug in to make it light up. We talked for a good hour or two, and she told me about some health scares that she had had, what she had done with my old room there (storage room), and showed me some gardening that she had done outside. I even learned a surprising fact that day: she was as into the WWE as I was back then.

After getting some lemonade from the lemon trees she had out back, I said goodbye and walked on. With every couple of minutes, the day was getting darker and darker, until it was almost pitch black in my childhood town. There were very few streetlights in the city, and with the towering, dark trees lining the roads everywhere I went, and a lack of cars on the roads, it soon became a place of peaceful solitude.

My best friend lived very close to my grandmother, maybe a fifteen minute walk away, so I went to his house next, snapping blurry pictures of Christmas lights all over the place as I went. When I got there, though, he wasn't home, so I left a note on his door to get into contact with me later. An hour or two later, I was back home.

On another day, I walked to my bud's house, who lived relatively close to my best friend, so I could bring him his present and apologize for my lazy behavior in finding us housing abroad. His mom let me in the house and called him down, and I said sorry. Cool as ice, he let me know that it wasn't a big deal, and he and I made plans to get together with my other best friend later.

When we did, my best friend had brought our mutual friend Oscar, and six other friends we had all made on World of Warcraft a few years back. While I was gone, my best friend and his WoW buddies had all gotten to know one another even better, and we all decided to have a big bash at Medieval Times while I was in town, so we could meet up for the first time. On the way there, I got to know one of the WoW guys, Sid, a long-haired guy with an amazing sense of humor. He was very quiet when we first met in my best friend's car, but I kept up with my self-effacing humor, experiences abroad and general good nature so well, that the ice between us was broken in a matter of minutes.

I met another of my former WoW buddies when we arrived at Medieval Times: Elaine. She was incredibly nice and very cute. When she first saw me with my spiked hair standing next to my best friend, I smiled and said, "Hey, Elaine." She looked back at me warily. "Who are you?" she asked. I smiled wider and told her my Troll Hunter's screen name. Her face lit up in an instant, and she shouted my real name as she ran forward to hug me tight.

That night was an excellent night of feast, sport and action. Our knight lost, but I got to hold an Excalibur replica at the shop later.

Another day, Oscar brought his PS3 and Rock Band to my best friend's house for rotating groups of us to play together, while the others smoked, drank and ate pizza. As luck would have it, I had bought a PS3 and Rock Band while I was abroad, so I was excellent at guitar, great at drumming, and halfway decent at singing. There were several awesome people at the party, and I got to know two pretty well:

Ed, a hilarious, larger than life guy with long hair, was Sid's brother. He was amazing on the vocals, and always had hilarious jokes to tell. I learned the term "spank bank" from him.

Henry was someone that you might think, from the looks of him, was a completely average person. But he was anything but: he was sharp and quick-witted, and while we were all outside between songs and smoking, he led several interesting discussions. One was an interesting observation that animals feel euphoria before they die, and it served no biological purpose, so that might be evidence of a creator. Another was a "Would You Rather" game, where everyone in the group unanimously picked being paralyzed, getting a sex change operation or having their testicles eaten by a shark (my choice) over sleeping with Rosie O'Donnell. He was a great drummer, too.

During Rock Band, everyone was amazed by how well I was playing the drums, especially when I took us through Cherub Rock on Expert, but even I wasn't good enough to beat Paranoid; Henry and Sid had to take turns pressing the foot pedal for me. One of my favorite moments was when I was playing a guitar solo while smoking, taking hits of my cig from one side of my mouth and blowing the smoke out the other side while I kept up the strumming nearly perfectly. It felt cool, though I know it was geeky.

Yet another time at my best friend's place, we all did some screwdrivers and smoked a little pot. I was a bit nervous, because the last time I smoked, I was a depressed teenager in college. After I had smoked then, I was scared to death that everyone around me was staring at me and judging me, I had hot and cold flashes, and I had pitch black tunnel vision for several hours after. Even when I went home and slept, I was still out of it for another day.

But this time, I got giggly. Everything everyone was saying was absolutely hilarious, but when we had our two DDs take us to Denny's to get something to eat, I tried to keep myself under control. Still, I remember that when my best friend ordered the "Super Bird" sandwich, I couldn't stop snickering at the name. After I had a burger and fries, I got up to go to the bathroom, and I felt a little dizzy. I started to think that everyone was looking at me and judging me again.

So? I thought to myself. Let 'em stare. I gotta take a leak.

On another day, my family and I went back to my favorite Mexican restaurant to get more burritos, but this time, an aunt that I hadn't seen in about ten years and her husband came with us. I was charismatic, funny and interesting the whole time, which I guess was a shock to my aunt, because the last time she saw me, I was a long-haired, depressed, scowling loser. I took a picture with her outside, bright smiles on the both of us. My hair was spiked, I was wearing my favorite black shirt and blue jeans combo, and I had a bit of a beard growing: my favorite look. It's the last picture I have of myself before my girlfriend got pregnant, and I still can't believe how lively I looked back then.

My littlest sister and I spent a lot of time playing our favorite video games together, ones that she watched me play over several years as she fell asleep in my room nearly every night. We played every one of those games together over our vacation. I directed her on how to pick up Poshul, her favorite character from Chrono Cross, showed her how to beat quick enemies in Castlevania - Symphony of the Night, and advised her on upgrades to buy in Rock 'n Roll Racing while we played together (and I let her win half the time). The last game, Elemental Gearbolt, was one that we had played for years together, and had never beaten. It was during that vacation that we finally downed the final boss together, me on the controller and her on the gun, with stunned looks of disbelief on our faces.

My other sister and I went out to get lunch at Subway, but otherwise we didn't hang out that much. She grew up faster than all of us, and she had a huge network of friends and club activities to take care of during that vacation. She's awesome.

My brother and I hung out in my room, watching Fenslerfilm's G.I. Joe PSAs, sharing internet meme Youtube movies with one another, and swapping stories of near death experiences from the time we both rode motorcycles. He had to head out to join the military pretty quickly after Christmas, so we didn't hang out that much either. He's awesome, too.

Christmas day was as excellent as ever. We tore open our gifts and thanked one another for our swag, told stories, ate candy and laughed a lot. I made out like a bandit, with several DVD sets and a couple of wanted video games to take back to my apartment.

When it was time to go, I said goodbye to all my friends and family, and my parents took me back to the airport to say farewell. I played video games on the flight back, and arrived just a few hours before work started, when my girlfriend picked me up and took me back to my apartment. When we got there, we had sex almost immediately.

Matching up the dates to her eventual birthing of our son, I'm pretty sure that that's the moment I impregnated her. How ironic it was to cap off such an amazing vacation with the action that would ruin my life.

As for now, my current Christmas days are somewhat relaxing with my family, and certainly a great time for my son. My family and I open presents, get something to eat, then go back to our usual routines for the day. I think it's telling, though, that the first of my wife and I's major fights took place during Christmas vacation in 2009, two years after my last Christmas vacation as an unmarried man, and that I really don't remember much of the others besides the smiles on my son's face as he opened presents.

And yet, the last Christmas I had before I married still sits fresh and unspoiled in my mind.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Then and Now 73 - First Date

Then and Now 73 - First Date
Time: Mid-2007, single and at my apartment.

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

This is the third transition period of my life, from my life as a single man with a respectable bank account and his own apartment, to a dating man with a sizeable amount of money, an excellent sex life, and more free time and activities to enjoy than I knew what to do with.

My girlfriend and I first met over the internet, as one of many girls (and some guys) who had written to my internet profile. From what she has told me, she had no intention of dating me when we first met up together; she was just interested in getting to know some people from abroad and practicing her English skill.

After I got her email and we set up a time to meet, I had a very long day of work to get through. It was a Friday, one of my worst and busiest times of the week, because after my ten hour shift was done, I had another three or four hours of teaching to do the next morning at another school. It's a common feeling for anybody in the workforce: two shifts are spaced so close to one another, that when starting the second shift, it feels like you never left work. Because of that, I didn't sleep on Friday night. I went home at around 10:00, did my showering and all that, then spent the next nine hours just playing video games in my apartment. When the sun's rays came through the cracks in my door, I showered and went directly to my next shift of work, and got through it as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, I underestimated my ability to counteract the lack of sleep, so when I went to the train/bus/subway station to meet up with my girlfriend, I was exhausted. My vision faded in and out, I was off my game, and I felt a bit too giggly (when I wasn't spaced out). I met her near a restaurant in the station, and a friend was with her. But as soon as I arrived and introduced myself to the two of them, her friend left, and my girlfriend and I went to a coffee shop to hang out for a while.

We talked about the history of her country, its leaders, its culture, things like that. The strangest part was when we discussed one of their folk villain/heroes, but since the tale involved incest, I'll refrain from going into detail. All in all, I felt that I wasn't as good a friend as I could have been, and fully expected this girl to make this our last meeting. But surprisingly enough, she asked to hang out again, so we did.

The next time we met was a week later to go eat and see Invasion. I was still in the financial red at that point, so I had to sheepishly have her pay for the food and the tickets, but she assured me it wasn't a problem. It was a fun time, and she impressed me by saying how she liked the look of the cars in the movie. We went to our separate homes as soon as it was over, but not before she gave me a sudden shoulder massage in the subway station.

And so we come to the day of our first date, just another week or two later. It didn't start out that way; she just wanted to take me to a tourist spot with some historical sights, that's it. We took the subway all the way up to the tourist spot, and went to get lunch at McDonald's. She seemed very nervous to be going there, and when I asked her why, she told me that she wanted to go somewhere more local and authentic to show me what her country had to offer. I was fine with it, of course; delicious food is delicious food.

When lunch was done, we hopped a bus to an abandoned fort that was converted into a modern day museum. Everything in there was as it was when the fort was first built: there were cannons on the parapets, the garden inside was still in great shape, and even the bedrooms were still kept (old beds, desks, books and all) in the same way as before. I took quite a few pictures of the place, and even some of her. In every picture, she had this deer-in-the-headlights look to her, because she was very nervous for some reason.

We passed by a tour group of English speakers, so I kind of dragged my girlfriend over to them to say hello. After our introductions and a bit of small talk, they moved on, so I got my girlfriend and I to shadow them so I could translate some of the things they were saying, and so she could understand better. After that, we hung around for an hour or so, taking pictures and looking around the historic landmark, until it was just about time to head back. After a quick bus trip, we were back on the subway... and this was where she fell for me.

It wasn't for a good reason at all, either. The subject of my chubby friend asking me to date her came up, and when my girlfriend asked if I would do it, I said no. I explained that barring a very rare physical problem or disease, people were fat because they were either lazy or had poor self control. And fat people tended to be not only out of control with their eating habits, but with their emotions as well; almost every fat person I had met was either overly happy to mask the sadness inside, or terminally depressed because of their condition. For the record, I was the latter for about two or three years in college.

Because of that, while I would certainly be friends with any fat person (and even go exercising with them if they wanted help with their weight), I wouldn't want to become a fat girl's emotional caretaker as her boyfriend. I was too afraid that one or both of us would get hurt in that kind of relationship.

Just like with Nell, this rude statement was met with positive feedback, even though I didn't think this way about fat girls only because I was concerned about their feelings, but also because I didn't find them physically attractive. I even told my girlfriend this. Still, she focused more on the former reason, saying I was a very good guy who cared about the feelings of others, and left my more shallow reason by the wayside. In any event, that's what caused her to fall for me: just some random discussion about overweight girls.

When we got back to my apartment, I showed her around my spartan place with very little furniture, played a couple of her favorite songs on Guitar Hero, showed off a couple of pictures from my travels... then we made out for about an hour.

And with that, she went home. Things only got heavier and more interesting between us as time passed, and at that moment, when she officially became my girlfriend, I was filled with a kind of dread. Was she going to be the only girl I dated abroad? Was she the one? Were my traveling days over? If I had to break up with her, could I do it in such a way that I wouldn't hurt her? I didn't follow these thoughts through enough to the source, that marriage is a bad idea and I should have avoided it and pregnancy at all costs. I'm paying for that mistake now.

But at the time, even as I was stricken with a sense of confusion and fear at what was going to happen with my girlfriend, I was a whirlwind of several other emotions. I was happy that I was in a relationship. I was eager to know where it was all going. I was excited to be with someone so kind, funny, smart, cute and adventurous. I was unsure of what would happen in the coming days and weeks, and that made me even more excited. I felt that life still had surprises in store for me, even after all I had experienced. Whatever happened, things were going to get more interesting from that point on.

Three months later, I would be eating those words. But at least, at that time, I was happy.

As for today...

I woke up at 5:00.
I surfed the net.
I played video games with my son.
I took him to school, then I went home.
I played video games.
I ate lunch.
I took a nap.
I woke up.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I did the dishes.
I started a load of laundry.
I played video games.
I hung up wet laundry.
I slept.