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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Random Empathy

The term is over, my grades are in, and I'm being deliciously lazy after a slow crawl through marking oblivion. I've been disgustingly lazy for the last few days: sleeping in, watching movies, and (now that I got another care package from home) playing the superb Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Odd how I'm on the other side of the globe, and I have my GameCube and an English version of a Japanese game; I don't think I would have done this for any other game, I just can't help myself when it comes to Zelda.

Walking around town the other day, I came upon a sight that I looked upon with newfound empathy: the sad and sloppy drunken foreigner. His name is Angel, he's some Chicano from LA, and when he's sober he's a nice enough guy. Problem is, I always see him going to or coming from a couple bottles of TsingTao, and he gets sloppy. And it's a special kind of sad, to see this guy chasing Chinese women through hair salons or just stumbling into some restaurant, barking at people in (pretty decent) Chinese.

If you saw someone acting this way in the states, you'd walk away, avoid them as some kind of crazy drunk. He just puts out that vibe. I wonder, can the Chinese pick up that vibe? I can't seem to pick up on many Eastern vibes; guys holding hands and hanging on shoulders still rings the gay bell in my head, no matter how many times I see it here. I wonder if they can see his behavior for what it is, or if they just shrug it off as the unfathomable behavior of all foreigners.

He called Nicki, Mike, Shang, and I over once as we were walking along to the bank - "gui lo," he yelled, like he'd gone native - and he was just desperate for someone to talk to. He was talking in sloppy Chinese and unfocused, vaporous English, orbiting some kind of coherence, all glass-eyed and head bobbing to some unheard music, the Chinese ladies at the salon he was drinking in asking him (translated via Shang) why his friends were so nice and pretty and why he was so fat and ugly. To annoy a Chinese to such overt hostility is a feat, so they must've been really tired of him; we excused ourselves, he tumbled back into wherever it was he was drinking, and we got on the bus.

Being abroad, away from home and friends and those you love; well, it's not easy. Yeah, everyone chooses this; it's part of the life of an expatriate, from a lowly teacher in Zhanjiang to the big shit businessman who spends most of his days and nights in Shanghai hotels. I don't know much about Angel, but when I see him tanked, wandering around some dead-end cafe or fanguan, being loud and obnoxious and trying, desperately, to communicate with someone ... I just feel really bad for the guy. He must be so lonely. Maybe he left America to come teach here because he didn't fit in, and he was looking for his place. Maybe he took to drinking then, maybe he picked it up here; but he's lonely all the same, and the way he deals with that is a couple bottles of beer and talking to whoever'll listen. I've talked to him, and will, but it's no good when he's already drunk. It's sad, and I wish I could help him.

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