Five Peculiar Stories: Love Overseas
Nerve readers weigh in this time with romantic adventures from strange lands.
The Moto Driver
When I was in college, I visited Cambodia with my best friend's family. Her parents immigrated to America in the late 1970s, and the majority of their relatives were still living in Cambodia, but since there wasn't really room for us to sleep with any of them, we ended up staying in a hotel. Outside the hotel, there were always motorbike drivers (or “motos,” as they called them) lined up waiting to take tourists around Phnom Penh.
One in particular was very cute, but I had no idea how to tell him I thought that, since neither of us spoke the other's language. I don't exactly remember how our mutual attraction was communicated. It might have been one of my friend's older brothers who told him, or maybe it was just the amount of eye contact we had and the fact that he would turn down other customers in favor of waiting outside the hotel until my group needed a ride. Whatever it was, our relationship was solidified one night when I decided to go back to the hotel on my own. He picked me up and on the way there, he turned around (while still driving) and kissed me.
For the next week, the last one I was there, he slept in my hotel bed every night. I stopped spending time with the family I had traveled there with and instead spent the rest of my visit traveling around on his moto, trying to communicate with him. He introduced me to his family and his English tutor. Mainly though, our relationship consisted spending time in my hotel room and me repeating the numbers one through ten in Khmer, and, if I was feeling confident, the colors of the rainbow. Since he barely spoke English, he had to do things like tell the concierge to write a note asking me if I wanted him to shave and instructions to circle either 'yes' or 'no.'
At the end of the week I gave him my phone number, which he called regularly for about two months and then disappeared without explanation. Although I had enjoyed our fleeting romance, I wasn't particularly torn up about it. The whole thing had been so surreal, it was actually quite fitting that he just drifted out of my life like that. — Annie
A Man Named Odd
I’d left the U.S. for Shanghai right after graduation. As a lamentable consequence, I hadn’t had sex in eight months. Whereas I’d once lived in a dorm full of young college boys, I now lived in a dorm full of Chinese eighth graders.
My friends had caught on to this, and were, on this particular evening, conspiring to get me laid. We were on vacation in Hong Kong, out to watch the crazy spectacle of a Chinese New Year's parade. As we wandered through Lan Kwai Fong district — an area packed with bars and clubs perched precariously on steep hills — I sabotaged their efforts with every passing distraction. I threw myself into conversation with a group of Chinese tourists, trying to practice my Mandarin, and stuffed my face with pizza at the only food stand still open.
Finally, at the last club, I found myself in conversation with a tall, blonde, Nordic man. One of my girlfriends had snagged him from the bar and seamlessly passed him on to me. Before long we were making out in the corner, and the club owners were urging us out the door. There was little question as to where we’d go — he was staying in the Marriott while I was staying with three others in a hostel room the size of my kitchen table.
By the time we made it to his hotel, he realized he had lost his wallet, and needed to call his credit-card company. As I lay there, listening to him talk forcefully in Norwegian, I started to get turned on. I kneeled on the bed and he stood up in front of me, fingering me through my cutoff shorts, still yelling gibberish into the phone. It was hot that he was making me wait for sex, but after eight months, I wanted it bad. He concluded his business in some fashion — finally — and we got to it.
The next morning, I grabbed my clothes and tried to escape quietly. The naked Norwegian walked me to the door, kissed me goodbye, and called me by my name. I didn’t recall his until I found it in my phone on the cab ride home — Odd. I had just had sex with a guy named Odd. I returned to my shoebox where my friends were waiting to congratulate me. We spent a lazy morning trying to sleep off our hangovers despite the drums banging and fireworks blasting outside our window for Chinese New Year. — Kylie
After college, I was invited by an old friend to her wedding in India. In the grand tradition of over-the-top Indian weddings, all I had to do was fly there. After that, we’d be put up in a lavish hotel, practically the Taj Mahal, and wined and dined for three days straight. Or something like that.
It was a palatial hotel, but also incredibly damp with leaky roofs and no cooling system. And, in the flurry of aunties and random relatives, I actually turned out to know nearly no one. Few of our college friends had actually bothered to come, and the whole thing was so huge, and diffuse, and cellphone-less that it was very hard to meet-up. Plus, we were more or less isolated — the hotel was a compound unto itself, with a rather long and bumpy taxi ride to the nearest city.
So, in the evening of the first night we were there, after a gigantic dinner in a tent, I started wandering, around the grounds of the resort. After a couple big loops around the property, I stumbled on the strangest sight. A group of carnies, clumped around tents and equipment, camped out under a little hill. It looked like a scene in a movie — shirtless men juggling, women with parrots on their shoulders. I stood, gaping, for a while, before a young woman motioned me over.
She was white, oddly, Danish, and some sort of contortionist. They were a troupe of entertainers, she said, who had booked the resort for the summer, performed for guests each evening, and camped out in the back. How she, a young Danish girl, ended up with them, was unclear. What was clear was that I’d stumbled on something much more interesting than another bridal party. I spent the rest of the afternoon loafing about and watching my new friends practice their trade. When the sun set, I crawled into a tent with my new friend. Contortionist indeed.
The next morning, I stumbled back up to the wedding party. I only saw her one more time, at the final wedding blowout three days later. She was with her troupe, performing; I was drunk with some Americans wearing a suit. I waved, but I don’t know if she saw me. — Devin
The Music Festival
It was my first holiday abroad without my parents. My friend Jessie and I drove for an entire day to go to the Roskilde festival in Denmark and party hard in the mud for a week. We joined a little camp full of very peculiar people, one of whom we called Action Man because of his fondness for camouflage clothing.
On one of the first days of the festival, I went to see a band on my own because no one could be bothered to get up before noon. Before the band started playing, I spotted a boy a few rows in front of me. He had long blond curls and bore a startling resemblance to a young Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin. I kept glancing over to him during the gig, and afterwards I decided I had the choice between saying something to him or never seeing him again in my life. I saw him lighting a cigarette, and, pretending that I had lost my lighter, asked if I could please use his.
He lit my cigarette and smiled. It turned out he was from California and a guitarist in a rock band. He couldn’t have been more my type if he’d tried. Then, without thinking, I lit another cigarette with my own lighter. He just smiled, and gave me his phone number.
By some miracle I ran into him again that afternoon. We were inseparable from then on. We went to see Queens of the Stone Age together and he protected me when I was almost crushed against the barrier. After the gig, I brought him back to our camp, where everyone was still sitting in the same beach chairs drinking beer.
I was sharing my tent with Jessie, but she was willing to share with Action Man instead so I that could have my way with my American rock God. I didn’t even care that the actual sex was far from spectacular, or that the next morning it turned out he had a girlfriend — I had pulled the hottest guy I’d ever met while wearing rubber rain boots and sloppy festival clothes and I was going to take advantage of it every way I could. Three more days of mud-parties and two more nights of slightly-awkward-but-improving sex followed.
Because I only had eyes for him I was completely oblivious to the fact that Jessie and Action Man had also been getting it on for the previous three nights. They had figured they might as well have sex if they had to sleep together anyway.
On the last night of the festival, I said goodbye to my Cali boy. There were fireworks — I mean literally, there just happened to be fireworks as a part of the closing ceremony of the festival. He gave me an old bracelet he had been wearing. I gave him my pair of aviator sunglasses. We promised each other we would both come to the festival again next year, and that we would keep in touch through Myspace. I never saw him again.
Jessie and Action Man are engaged now. — Beatriz
Always a Bridesmaid
Me: Bridesmaid in a middle-school friend’s wedding. The location: the rural south coast of Sicily, where the late summer timing of the ceremony coincided with the celebration of Ferragosto, a holiday celebrated with an all-night rave on the beach.
The action began on the dance floor of a beach club rented for the occasion. Standing out among the smaller-statured Sicilians were a pair of gargantuan and gorgeous gentlemen who looked like swimsuit models, clad only in Speedos. One was dark, the other light. They were, like, Beckham-and-Ronaldo hot. Everyone else was dressed for a wedding.
She pushed me squarely between them. When they didn’t reject me outright, I took the opportunity to shake my booty. (I'm from the Bay Area, so I know how.) They pressed me from both sides. I kissed the one in front of me and grinded against the one behind. His hand wandered from holding my stomach to touching my breasts. I kissed the one behind. We were creating a spectacle. This doesn’t happen in places like this where Catholicism still firmly has its hold. Not in public.
The three of us staggered from the slack-jawed crowd, onto the beach, and towards the tents that litter the shore up past where the waves can reach. I heard a friend call out to me, “Where are you going?” but I didn’t answer. A tiny tent greeted me — hardly big enough for one. Inside there wasn’t enough space to lie down, so we knelt and looked at each other. I felt overdressed; I was wearing a shirt and pants still, while they just had their Speedos. They didn’t seem to know what to do with me. They quibbled in Sicilian. I took off my shirt to encourage them.
One decided to bow out of the action spontaneously. When he unzipped the tent to the world, it became clear that people had indeed followed. A cheer erupted as he made the climb to standing. Inside, I fumbled with the man left behind and tried to console myself about being half-abandoned. He came quickly and I pulled my shirt back over my head. When I got out, my friend, the bride, marrying into a culture not her own, was waiting. Standing sentry by the flimsy tent, she said, "I wanted to make sure only the boys you wanted in there were involved," then she brusquely pulled me away by the elbow before I had a chance to say goodbye. — Jessica