Meeting new people…I’m pretty good at it…I think. Nobody has run away upon meeting me yet so I must be doing something right…right? But I’m not too good at meeting strangers, especially big groups of strangers…so of course I decided to go to a ‘Meet Up’ group.
If you’re not aware of the website MeetUp it’s basically a site where lonely people try and organise events in order to hang out with other lonely people…
That sounded a bit harsh.
It’s actually a website for ‘expats’ such as myself (am I really calling myself an ‘expat’? What the hell is going on?!) to meet new friends which isn’t such a bad thing, is it? Making friends is good.
The event I was attending tonight was to bring together people who want to sell products using Amazon. It is an avenue of potential income that I want to pursue so it was the thought of money as much as the wish to strike up any friendships that brought me here.
I arrived at the rendevouz point, an Italian restaurant named ‘Vivi’ which apparantly translates into ‘Alive’ in English. If the only thing you can say about your food is that you’ll be alive by the end if it, then maybe you need to think again about your line of business.
Anyway, I arrived like I usually do for these sort of occassions, about 25 minutes early…I would actually like to change this aspect of my personality due to my lack of patience in waiting…it’s as if I do it to myself on purpose, like some sadistic punishment. I’m always early, as early as a goose wearing no shoes whilst riding a motorbike (for those of you new to this blog…I write stupid similies on purpose so buckle up and stop analysing)
Not wanting to be the first person at a ‘Meet Up’ with people I don’t know and a restaurant I’d never been to, I decided to take a bit of a stroll. The restaurant was on a small soi just off Sukhumvit Road which at 488 km is one of the longest roads in the entire world! Yes, let that sink in…I have just used this blog to be informative…this blog is getting proessional before your very eyes… Sukhumvit Road begins in Bangkok and stops at the Cambodian border which makes it one of the easiest places to give directions to another country from, “Just go straight for 8 hours and you’re there”.
The Sukhumvit area that I was in tonight is known as the expat centre of Bangkok. It’s easy to tell you’re in an expat area due to the pub names such as ‘All Blacks’ (not a racist term, a New Zealand reference), and ‘The Australian’…imagination doesn’t seem to be a strong point of the owners of bars in Bangkok.
Street food stalls line the streets in front of tailor stores who all want to give you the best deal in fitted suits. The heat was overpowering and I felt the first beads of sweat begin to form around my hairline as I wandered down the soi…and further away from the restaurant. I quickly decided that I should head back as I didn’t want to meet new people with sweat pouring all over the place. So I turned on my heels and began to walk back, past the wonderful smells and sights of the food stalls.
The street food here is as good as you’ve probably heard and it seems so crazy that I can have a nicer meal than the one I was probably going to have in ‘Vivi’ at a fraction of the cost.
On entering Vivi I made my way straight to the toilet to dry myself from the sweat that was now dripping off my hair and onto my shirt. Upon making my way out of the toilet I spotted what surely was the table for the Meet Up group – a huge long table with enough seats for 25 people but with only three people seated. I instantly wondered if I should take the chance and run but realised I was early…I was as early as a goose that…well, you know the rest, shoes, motorbike etc.
I also stayed because…well, I want to try and make some money by selling products on Amazon. I’m sure I’ll probably write about that more as time goes on but back to this pleasant evening.
Having approached the group I soon realised I’d superbly timed my arrival at the moment when one of three men was halfway through a story about himself and obviously didn’t want to stop to welcome a new person…”I mainly sell antiques…y’know, old stuff” he said in a booming American accent and whose name I found out later but instantly forgot. The evenings organiser, Rob, introduced himself and we got into the awkward small talk I am an expert in – I also added in a couple of pauses that were slightly too long and practiced another forte of mine when uncomfortable which is to stare off into the distance acting as if something has caught my eye. Rob, greying, slightly balding and in his late 50’s was also Welsh and believe it or not had also performed stand up comedy in his former life. Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine certain people doing certain things…but Rob as a stand up was as hard to see as an invisible blackbird wearing a black coat, which is covered in coal and really far away. What I’m trying to say is that it was impossible to see Rob telling jokes on stage but, despite this I liked him.
The restaurant and our table slowly began to fill up with more people and I could begin to blend in and relax. As I looked around I realised what an eclectic group of people we were…old, young, some Thai, some western…I guess that is one of the fun aspects of being here, you get to meet people you wouldn’t normally mix with. Lana, a middle aged Thai lady with a warm smiley face who excitedly told me about how she can’t stop talking, a younger girl from Taiwan whose name escapes me but instantly began telling me of her animated pig character called Pigigi which is harder to say than it looks. I caught the eye of a painfully shy man sitting across the table from me. He nervously asked me my name and where I was from, “What about you?” I asked, “My name is Time and I’m from Iran”…My brain slowly cranked into a higher gear…”Sorry, what was your name?” “Time, T.I.M.E.” Looking back I reslise now how stupid it was of me not to ask him why he was given that name and how he had ended up in Thailand! I again found myself in an awkward and stilted conversation and I began to wonder how I end up in these situations so often.
The silence between Time and myself was interupted by Kristina, a Russian lady who exuded that eastern european coolness and sexiness which I have to admit find incredibly attractive. She told me how she splits her time living between Thailand and Isreal. My small mind immediately wondered if she was an oligarch or married to one but I later discoverd that many Russian Jews moved to Isreal after the fall of the USSR. Kristina seemed like a friendly person and as we spoke more I began to relax even more into the evening.
Then one of those things that’s a bit strange but isn’t really strange happened, I met a second person from Wales! Sion, like me, was a fourty something year old who had moved to Thailand after suffering from a severe back problem. He began to tell me how he’d broken four vertibrates in his back as well as four bones in his legs along with one of his shoulders – I was feeling a tad inferior with just my back problem. “I just got to the point where I said, ‘What am I doing with my life in grey and stressful London”, he said and I instantly knew I had a lot in common with him.
As Sion and myself continued to talk the pizza’s we’d orderd arrived and due to my empty stomach I began to inhale mine. From across the table the American man I’d so deftly managed to stay away from since the begining of the evening shouted from across the table, “Using a knife and fork to eat pizza? What’s wrong with you? That’s not how you eat pizza”. He half smiled as he spoke but I could tell that he wanted to embarrass me. I wasn’t going to let him see me rise to the bait, “Maybe”, I said with a smile, “but it tastes really good.” I turned my head slightly to speak to Sion again but as my mouth opened to speak my American friend decided he wasn’t finished, “Better than English food”, he said loudly, “English food is disgusting.” This guy was really making the effort to wind me up but little did he know that I can act pretty cool when somone is trying to get a rise out of me, “It can be at times, yes”, I said with a smile, “Next time I’ll order a lovely American dish like a MacDonalds”.
My American friends facial expression changed and he seemed to suddenly lose interest in carrying on the conversation with me, allowing me to eat the rest of my pizza in peace. I’m glad to see that people like this exist on all four corners of the globe – they love to ‘dish it out’ so to speak but can’t take anything in return.
The night moved on with little more happening until the organiser, Rob, stood up to speak and tell us all how happy he was to see so many people had turned up (I didn’t count but I would say the table was surrouded by 20-25 people). He then began to explain that we wouldn’t actually discuss how to sell on Amazon tonight but we would do so at the next meeting. “Oh”, I thought to myself as Rob then began to tell people about a company that he uses to accept payments from sales on his Amazon store and my mind let out another “Oh” but this time the “Oh” was longer and more ‘so THIS is why we’re here – you’re on a commision to get people to sign up for this payment method’. This ‘easy to use’ system sounded a lot like PayPal but without the safety aspect and I began to let my cynicism sneak up on me and I stopped listening.
After exchanging contact details with a few of the other people there and arranging to keep in touch with Sion I made my way out into the warm evening air knowing I’d just bought an expensive pizza to experience a sales pitch. I didn’t feel annoyed though as I understand that Rob is just trying to make a buck or two and I can identify with that. Nobody was hurt and nobody got conned – it was just a bit dissapointing that I was lured under false pretences.
Since then I’ve had a few more notifications about MeetUp groups and started to notice how a lot of them involve a fee to attend, comedy nights, book clubs, improv groups, guided walks – all of them coming with a price tag – so forget what I said at the beginning of this post, MeetUp groups aren’t for lonely people in a new country, it’s a way for expats to get money out of other expats.