Let’s face it I really would be happy as a clam in my apartment with my nose buried in my computer all the time. It’s always hard for me to convince myself to go out and play tourist. Of course, once I do, I always enjoy it. I try to make sure that my apartments are a good distance away from the market, so that I am forced to get out more, or things end up like in Medellin, where the market was two block away, and I spent three months deep in video games.
Even harder for me is getting out and socializing. I have always been very good at striking up conversations with complete strangers then passing on my way, never to see them again, but to join a group and keep going back has always been a problem for me.
That being said, I do understand that other long term travelers might love to socialize and look forward to joining groups in their temporary homes. I have found that even for someone like me, finding social events while traveling is very easy nowadays. In Ecuador, using the website Meetup, I found a language exchange group, which meet once a week quite close to my place. I also found an American expat Thanksgiving dinner though an expat website. In Mexico and Colombia, I didn’t socialize though I chatted with my neighbors a lot.
Warsaw was wonderful, because not only did I spend a lot of time with my friend, she was always bringing other friends with her. When we couldn’t get together she sent me notices of various events around town. I really took advantage of the free wine tastings, where I keep running across the same folks. It as fun to walk into one and be greeted like an old friend.
As I traveled, I took advantage of the various expat websites. Not often for socializing, but to get information about living a more normal life wherever I was at the time. I forget what I was looking for, in Arequipa, but I wasn’t having much luck with the expat sites, when I got the idea of looking for expat groups on Facebook. I had recently been joining groups focused on my interests, to push certain people so down on my news-feed so that I wouldn’t see them. (I am trying not to block people because of their religion or politics.)
I quickly found two groups for Arequipa. Expats Arequipa and the other also called Expats Arequipa. I really haven’t figured that one out yet. Both pages have been interesting and informative. I have received a lot of help from folks, about extending my visa, finding restaurants, and even understanding why there is often wood smoke in the air. Every week I saw an invitation to attend a Board Game night. Every week I thought about going.
I had been in Peru for over 90 days when the organizer of the board game night asked if anyone would be interested in a language exchange. I was all over that. Quickly others responded that they too were interested. Socializing is much more interesting to me if I have a non-social reason for going, like bettering my langrage skills, having a good meal, or getting free wine.
One the night of the first language exchange, I headed out early because I had decided to walk. I figured that I could always flag down a taxi if it got too dark or if it started to rain. As I walked the clouds became darker and darker, until they were black with ragged bottoms. When the first drop of rain hit me, I looked to my right and saw that one of small shops had a stand at the door filled with s/15.00 (about $4.50 USD) umbrellas. I bought one and headed on my way.
Though it was quite dark, I really didn’t feel the sort of fear I used to feel after dark in certain areas of Honolulu. There was no one sleeping on the sidewalks, and the streets were quite busy with foot traffic. I had the location of the meeting programed into my phone, but I really didn’t look at it until I got to the part of the city with lots of random little streets. It wasn’t long before I was peeking though a window into a bright and cheery bar.
It was good to get out of the rain and into the Nowhere Cerveza Artesanal. (Read Nowhere Brew Pub). I was there too early and I was hungry. The food was pub grub, but it had been a while since I had had a burger and fries. While I waited for the others, hoping that the rain wasn’t keeping them home, I ate one of the best hamburgers I have ever had in my life. Even if I wasn’t sitting in a charming bar in South American it would have been wonderful. I am always complaining about not being able to get good fries, but this night I had nothing to complain about.
The bartender spoke perfect English, which was sort of disappointing, since I love forcing locals into giving me impromptu language lessons. My meal and two 12 oz glasses of sour set me back $14.38 USD. I got to meet the brewmaster, and told him just how much I liked the sours.
The meeting was fun. After we had all become tired of language practice, the socializing began. Time flew and before I knew it, everyone was lining up to settle their tabs. As we waited our turn, a dog, which I guess was the owners’ was dashing around with a ball. Everyone was kicking it for him. We tried to kick it out into the courtyard, where he would chase it down and return to the bar. I was a lot of fun.
I walked part of the way back home with one of the women. After she turned off to make her way home. I continued to my place. As I walked, I realized that in the dead of night, the streets looked very different. I still didn’t feel uncomfortable. The few people I saw looked like middle class folks heading home after drinks with friends. I was worried that without the stores being open with displays on the street I might not recognize my turn. Then I realized that If I overshot I would find myself at the corner with the hairdresser, and that sign I would recognize. The only thing I was worried about was crossing the railroad tracks, as I had seen some very large stray dogs in that area. I guess that all the dogs were settled in for the night.
Once I had gotten to meet everyone, it made it a lot easier two days later to attend the board game night. I was a little disappointed that it was held at a cafe and not a bar, but having the children there was a lot of fun. I normally love other people’s children.
None of the games I had ever heard of, but this one was a speed matching game with some interesting rules. I finished last, but had a great time.
The second game at my end of the table was one where you used a timer while you arranged shapes on a card. I finished next to the last with this one, and felt very accomplished.
After a couple of games we changed places at the table and I found myself playing with the rest of the dutch family. This card stacking game was a lot of fun.
The second game I played with the family was one where you had to read a bit of Spanish. The other games I played that night were for younger children, so no reading needed. The children were very familiar with the game and were correcting their parents game play a lot.
I was really looking forward to the next language exchange night. The weather was much better, and I didn’t get there too early since I knew just how long it would take to get there now that knew just where it was. Again we had a nice turnout. There were some new faces. It was a good time. I was having such fun talking, that I didn’t take any photos.
Again, the night was over too soon. I walked with one of the gang to his bus stop then headed off in the direction I thought I needed to go. When I found myself at Plaza de Armas, I knew I had gone in the wrong direction. It was a lucky mistake. Late at night the plaza was beautiful. There were plenty of folks enjoying the rain free evening.
I pulled out my phone and set it to take me home. I was pretty sure that I knew how to get home from the plaza, but it was too late for any more detours, as much as I enjoyed the plaza at night. The lower road is far quieter, than the one I had walked over on. It was almost spooky.
I was glad to find that even out in the residential areas the streets were well lit. Though I had always carried a flashlight at night in Mexico, I hadn’t thought to buy one here. As I walked, I saw many street vendors still selling food to passerbys. People were out walking their dogs. They all exchanged quiet greeting with me, as if they were being careful not to disturb the folks in nearby apartments. When I was about home, I passed a group of young professionals, who hearing my accent greeted me with “Good afternoon.” It was nice to get to correct someone, rather than being corrected myself.
I was really looking forward to the game board night, but after spending the day filling out forms for moving my last remaining possessions from Hawaii to Texas, I had a headache, so bad that wouldn’t even let me lean over to put on my shoes. Why do people think that crookedly scanning a printed form into their computer and emailing to you is a good idea? I had to deskew it and add all the text fields before filling it out sending it back, as a flattened PDF.On top of everything it was filled with shipper’s jargon, which I had to keep looking up. I hope I can make it to the game board night next week.