So, I am active on Couchsurfing. I love the site, and I’ve really met some amazing people through it. I’ve also had lots of fun from it. Since I started hosting in Delhi, I’ve met and hung out with about four or five fun people and hosted three Colombian guys, one of whom integrated so well into my life I was tempted to keep him. forEVAR. The next surfer I expect to host is Chinese.
Now, with my profile, I usually get requests from southern Europeans and Latin Americans. So I was surprised to see this Chinese guy write, but he seemed normal and once he figured out his dates I said ok, I’ll host you. He asked me if I have Whatsapp so we could keep in touch, and then began to text me. It’s actually super convenient when people have it because then no international texts or calls are necessary. Anyway, we chatted desultorily about what he was expecting to do, etc. I was impressed by his English, he was surprised I know where canton is, and so on.
Then last night, he texted to say: I am preparing some gifts for you. do you have some special likes?
It is actually quite normal I have discovered, for surfers to get their hosts a present. It’s a very sweet gesture but I don’t really expect it and it embarrasses me mildly. So I said no, you don’t have to. He said no, I want to. I said okay, I like fans and I LOVE green jasmine tea. He said: Sure. i will bring that for you. I said: Awww. Thank you. And then things began to get a little creepy.
Him: feeling excited to meet me?
Me (slightly disturbed): Haha it should be fun :)
Him: did you meet any Chinese guy before?
Me (alarm bells begin to ring): Nope
Him: now you have the chance
Me (completely nonplussed at this point): Haha
Him: I could accompany you for drinks haha
Me (freaked out): Well that depends. Okay, I gotta go.
So here’s the thing. With SuperSurfer, that’s exactly what we did. We lay around my house drinking desultorily and having insane conversations. I consumed an impressive amount of alcohol with him. But there was no creepy. With the other two guys also I went drinking. Going drinking is my usual proposition! Sometimes I take them to Flamenca’s concerts. So what he proposed wasn’t unnatural in the least. Why did it ring all my alarm bells?
I was talking to (of course) The Bride about it this morning and I realized that maybe it has something to do with language. As someone with a highly developed sense and use of language, I tend to associate certain traits with various levels of facility with language. I try and consciously not do that, and make an effort with people to bridge language gaps, but undeniably, sharing a language just elevates the experience. Of all the Spanish speakers I know, only the truly bilingual SuperSurfer managed to connect with my friends the way the rest connect with me. So when someone who does not the ease I expect from a certain kind of interaction, I am a little reserved. The kicker here, though, is that he sounds EXACTLY like an I-want-to-make-fraandship type. And that’s just plain scary.
Again, I wonder if it’s really fair even to those types. I mean, the Hag used to date this Spanish professor friend of mine and when they broke up she said that it was because it was impossible to have a conversation with him beyond a point because it was hard to take someone seriously when they sound autistic in your language. to which I replied, but he has no problem with language! We talk all the time! (See where this is going?) And she fixed me with a stare and said drily, yes, you two talk in Spanish. So maybe the IWMF types are superbly intellectual and articulate in their own languages but sound like douches in English?
When I think of Flamenca too, who is such an insanely mad person that most of the mad friends should love her, they can barely relate to her because they won’t make the effort needed to bridge that gap, and she’s trapped with her personality all piebald and peeling in this language that is not hers. And mind you, she’s a tour guide so her English is decent. It’s just not as good as her Spanish. And, again, as I often find with Spanish, it’s frustrating to keep trying to articulate something when you are accustomed to seamless articulation in your own language and you keep having to use not the best word and you just know you could SAY IT BETTER. So I’d say you definitely don’t shine at your best in a foreign language (even if it is one of the eighteen official languages of your country…).
But then how much does this actually end up colouring things? Should I just slam the door closed and say bye bye to Chinese guy? That’s what I’d do to okc guys or random desi guys I meet who are like that. Or to Latinos I’ve met who are like that in Spanish–by which I meant giving me creepy vibes, like the desk clerk at Tayrona who wouldn’t let go of my hand and said oh hod how can your boyfriend allow someone as beautiful as you to leave his sight, and Indian women are so sensual and so on. Or should I give the guy a chance–it’s only one night and I can release the killer G-Jams on him. Do you think that if he is essentially creepy it will come through regardless of language, while interesting or not might not?