A huge NO for speed-datingIt seemed like a good idea at the time: friends covering speed-dating event for the paper, Cayce joins in the fun. But little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the worst afternoons of my life!!
From the very second we stepped into the boat, I knew it was a bad idea. Because it was almost Valentine's Day (not for a couple of weeks!! I guess the organizers were needlessly optimistic), they had the bright idea to decorate the small boat with bright!red!heart-shaped!balloons!! Of all sizes! Including balloons that said "Happy Valentine's Day!" "For My Lover" Everywhere you turned, Valentine's Day decorations were an assault to the eyes. While there was no sappy Valentine music, they made up for it for chinese techno music (feng tau?) which in my humble opinion, is the worst kind of music in the world. I hate it, I really, really hate it.
As people slowly trickled in, I thought to myself, this is a really bad idea, but tried to make the best of it by talking to one of the female participants. She initially wasn't so keen for me to sit at her table, as she asked worriedly, "is it allowed?" What? We're not allowed to get to know the participants of the same sex? Ridiculous! But I won her over with my charm and friendliness (he heee) and we passed some of the time, chatting.
We had to wait for over an hour for a couple of guys who slept in. I felt it was really inconsiderate for them to hold most of us up and perhaps the organizers should have thought of a contingency plan for late-comers.
I was really concerned when the room filled up and I could tell that all of them (excluding my friends) couldn't really speak English. I know, some of you are thinking - that's a harsh judgement to make, how do you know? You just KNOW. It's a Malaysian thing - I can't explain it without sounding rude. Anyway, I was also the only non-Chinese participant. No problem for me usually but it can become a problem when the rest of them could speak only Mandarin/Hokkien. Most of them couldn't even muster to speak Malay! Huge problem for me.
For "Bachelor 1", he could neither speak Malay nor English and I, Mandarin - so we sat there, facing each other in miserable silence. It was so embarrassing - especially the part where he had to give me a rose (???!!!) and apparently, "say something nice to make the girl happy!" - he ended up standing for the longest time, while the rest of the guys presented the roses to the girls, sat down and started chatting. I had to motion to him to sit down. He gave the rose to me silently, and we tried to communicate but quickly realized that it was fruitless. I was so embarrassed that I felt on the verge of tears, and I seriously contemplated on leaving. Seriously, I took one look around the room and EVERYONE was speaking in some Chinese dialect (mostly Mandarin). What the hell was I doing there??? The guy didn't look too happy either. Needless to say, it was the most uncomfortable, LONGEST six minutes for the both of us.
Bachelor 2 wasn't so bad - we spoke in a smattering of English and Malay but it was also so painful because we had nothing in common. I was grateful though that we were able to communicate so I smiled all the way through (and continued on for the rest of the event - you had to find the humour of it all). It was so bizarre though because ALL of the guys didn't understand what I did for a living - despite explaining it both in English and Malay. I should have just said that I was a teacher, and be done with it. After all, I just couldn't see myself hanging out with ANY of them after the event, even as just friends. The conversations were incredibly painful - and I'm someone who usually likes to talk!
There was this one guy though who had a reasonable command of English. He said the usual stuff I hear whenever someone finds out about my work ("but you're not afraid of the jungle? leeches? why not??? you're so brave" - me: why?). The conversation led towards the past tsunami disaster and we talked about how animals could sense an impeding nature disaster. I was thinking to myself, "ok, this isn't so bad" until he said seriously, "... just like the Red Indians!"
Apparently, he was quite taken by me (hee hee hee) because before his time was up, he handed me his card, and pointed out his cell phone number and e-mail address. Myself, I just couldn't see myself seeing him again because we didn't really have anything in common, he made the Red Indian remark (and didn't stop there, let me tell you), and he wanted to know what religion I was, which I felt was really unnecessary at this point. I told him anyway and he was so excited that we were both Catholics (me lapsed) and that "we" attended the same church - I told him that my parents went to St. Joe, and expectantly waited for him to pick up the clue - he didn't. He was just happy to meet a fellow Catholic (lapsed).
Tarlia made an astute comment: "I think the guys are intimidated by us". I could definitely sense the immediate shyness once they sat in front of me. I guess it didn't help that whenever my friends and I were together, we spoke in confident English, which usually intimidates locals who don't speak it as well. My friends, while Chinese, were not having a good time either because some of them don't speak Mandarin fluently and anyway, the gulf between us and the rest of the people was so wide. We didn't have anything in common with the rest of them, including the girls. We were seriously out of our element. I had questioned the guys and all of them had heard about this event through the Chinese newspaper. This was really unfortunate because it was especially billed as an ENGLISH-speaking event. I naturally wouldn't have signed up if I knew that it was going to be mostly Mandarin-speaking. The organizers mostly spoke in Mandarin themselves! Naturally, I expressed my unhappiness with the organizers later on, and while they were sympathetic, one of them actually told me, ".. but this isn't meant for you to find a boyfriend".
That's not the point!!! Aaaahh!!!...
(anyway, if so, why all the hoo-ha about Valentine's Day??? - we were given heart-shaped Valentine's mugs at the end - ahhh!)
First of all, I went for this, NOT thinking that I would find a boyfriend - sheesh! I just saw this as a fun avenue of meeting new people. I would be happy with the event nevertheless if I could actually communicate with most of the participants.
They offered me the next social event for free (sigh, I would have been happy with a refund instead - false advertising!!) and I told them that I would only consider it if they could guarantee that most of the participants had a very decent command of either English or Malay. Otherwise, it's a waste of time. It's not being snobby because anyway, I'm sure I've wasted the guys' time as well. We were completely in different mind-sets. I don't know how speed-dating is conducted in other areas but I would have expected that the organizers would have been more savvy in forming groups. I think in this case, they were just happy with whomever signed up, and they didn't care whether the participants were incredibly mismatched. Most of the men were working in blue-collared jobs, and could barely speak in English or Malay. I was seriously out of my element and I'm sure they weren't happy with me either. I mean, most local guys here, even with a college degree and being "white-collared" are already intimidated by my job. They can't understand it and they don't understand me. How could I expect a Chinese-speaking mechanic (there were a lot of mechanics!!!!) to understand me either??
Anyway, it would be nice to meet a local guy with the same mind-set but it seems so unlikely as the years pass. Ah well, I'm grateful for everything else in my life: loving (yet wacky) family, great friends, work I feel passionate about, my dogs, travel, etc.. Anything else would be icing on the cake.