Saturday, March 25, 2006


I received another call from Iftequar. He lives in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). He's called me at least half a dozen times... Most of the time for short conversations, asking how I am and where I am (?)
I've received phone calls from Nigeria, India, the USA, Tanzania, Pakistan, Hong Kong; those are the ones I had the chance to answer to.

The question is, why do I give my cell phone number to potentially dangerous or at least idiotic people I meet in chat rooms? Well, they live in far and distant countries, and of course I don't pay one cent when I receive international calls -stingy me-... It costs about US $0.30 a minute to call to the US and I'm pretty sure it's the cheapest place to call, from here, on my cell phone. It's supposed to cost about 25 cents if I buy the new calling cards they are selling these days. Just imagine how much it would cost to call people in far and distant places like India or Nigeria or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Egypt....

Now, can you guess why those people are calling me?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Meeting people offline - part II

My most interesting offline meeting was with Irfan (28,Pakistan). Finally I met face to face with a person I initially met on Yahoo! We did not meet in a chat room but rather through a friend of his I "found" while browsing the Yahoo! member directory...

I really enjoyed meeting Irfan. We had many laughs even though on that first day we were standing; we stood there for about 30 minutes.

I was amazed at how short the man actually was; he takes pride in not being as short as I am! I had never met a Pakistani person before I had so many things I wanted him to tell me. And yet I did not know I would meet him that day and I did not have a question list handy - kidding - .
I was in a familiar environment where a few people know me, as usual, many were staring at Irfan because he's a foreigner and looks nothing like a Haitian in spite of his claim of us being the same color, and of course he was in uniform accompanied by others also in uniform.

Hopefully, the people staring at us were behind my back, facing Irfan. I did not see them but I did hear the comments that Irfan did not understand because he does not speak our language (Creole). " Oh, she's talking to a blan ".... blan is the word Haitians use to refer to foreigners, it literally translates to "white" though it does not mean the person is white but just that he's not Haitian, Irfan for that matter is not white.

Irfan has this too-rich-for-me-English vocabulary, hopefully I have a dictionary to help me when we chat but during live talks I have to ask him to use simpler, more commonly known words. This being said, our different accents are not a big burden, we understand each other at least at 80%, most of the time. Initially we were supposed to go to a pizzeria and have cheese pizza but since it was Ramadan (Irfan is muslim) we had only two foodless meetings.

See, I did everything by the book, we met in public in a place where the people know me. Now what more can I say. Nothing. Anything more you would like to know?

The second meeting? Oh yes. RAS, Not much to say about it.

The second meeting was different. He came to my workplace. Not the ideal place to meet someone I can tell you. But he insisted so much on coming to meet me, he wanted to see where I work and usually when I allow a person to insist a lot I do ultimately give him/her what he/she's asking for, and I have to admit I was looking forward to meeting him again.

So he came one morning, after having him drive around a bit because I gave poor directions and he got lost. It was funny to hear about how far away they went before finally reaching me. Was it worth it? For me yes and no. For him, I don't know I never asked.

I felt a bit under pressure, stressed as if we were being observed. Unlike the first meeting, the people who were seeing us together this time are people I see daily, my coworkers and I was thinking about how they would talk about it behind my back. We weren't doing anything wrong we were only talking but I always worry about things like that. Other than that, Irfan looked the same if not just a little bit more excited to meet me this time. I looked worried, I think. I did appreciate him coming to visit me, it was nice of him.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Meeting people offline - part I

First of all, you should read this article about online meetings; when you're done -or if you have read it already or if you think you can handle online meetings very well- you may read on.

You've been chatting with your virtual friend for a while, days, months or years even and finally you have an opportunity to meet him/her in person. You've been enjoying your conversations so much, you've even talked on the phone and you're thinking this meeting is going to be great and you're already planning the next one. Then it happens, you two meet. **laughing** **laughing again** **can't help but laugh** ok ok...

Now first of all, you're surprised to see how different this person looks from his pictures or even from how he/she looked on web cam! You're discovering all the not so flattering details of his/her face or body. Still, it's the same great person, and you have a great time. Well... maybe not.

So far, I've "met" hundreds of people online, I've stayed in touch with dozens and I've met two in person, yes only two so far. -I don't count this one person I only exchanged greetings with-. If every thing had gone as planned, I should have met a total of six people, two Haitians, three Pakistanis, and one German.
Did they live up to my expectations? Not all of them. My expectations were probably too high!

I'll start with one meeting that didn't happen.

I came across a website called SingleMe, I liked the look of the site, and the registration was free. I filled out my profile and that was it; they did suggest a few people they thought I would be interested in but frankly, no, I wasn't interested at all. Like most of those sites, you can't contact a person unless you have a premium membership which I didn't have. But you could show interest to someone but that's another story...

I was contacted by a total of three people, two Haitians, one living in California (USA), one living in Port-au-Prince (Haiti) and a Canadian living in somewhere in Canada. The first person sent me a simple message to which I answered. He's a Haitian physician who came back to the country after having spent many years abroad. We had this amazing e-correspondence. There were days when we wrote twice to each-other, and I'm not talking about four-lined messages no no no, I'm talking about long missives.

Email exchanges went on for some time until he gave me his phone number...he was having problems with his ISP and staying in touch through the internet was not easy. Some of the messages I sent him were even returned. So I did one thing that would determine the future of our "relationship", I called him. Just as he answered, I knew I did not want to talk to him for too long. Yes, it was that bad! There was something about his voice, about his tone, about his carelessness... He talked endlessly about himself telling details that had no importance and didn't even take the time to ask about me! Oh! I'm not kidding, he really did not ask me about myself, nothing, he was just too busy telling me the insignificant details of his evening, I was so bored.... I couldn't even cut him! I was trapped. Still, somehow he found me interesting (!) and wanted to meet me.

This happened over a year ago and until this day we have not met. He did suggest we took lunch together but I did not feel comfortable with the idea. He stopped writing me and I have "lost" his numbers.

I wrote the other Haitian once or maybe twice but I knew ever since I saw his pictures that I was not interested in writing him but I forced myself to do so thinking "no do not ignore him because his Haitian or because his hair is long or because you don't like his style ..." But eventually I stopped writing him and he did not insist.

As for the Canadian I don't remember whether I even wrote him once. His English was "funny", strange, and he looked really scary in his picture, he was standing looking straight at the camera with his arms spread apart at about ten centimeters from his body. He really looked scary like he was about to attack someone. His words did not help reassure me so I decided it was better not to answer him. I couldn't believe those people contacted me even though I did not put a picture in my profile. I ultimately closed my account on SingleMe, I really had no use for it.

Next time I'll tell you about one meeting that did happen.