I grew up in Mira Mesa and played basketball at USIU off of Miramar Road. Kids of different races played in that gym. The idea of an "international" university seemed cool. I had never heard of Intrax International Institute until their party at the Kava Lounge on Kettner. The place was packed, which was surprising for a Sunday night after 11:00.
As I parallel parked, trying to get into a space that I had barely enough room for, I noticed a couple making out in one of the cars. Another couple was embracing outside a few cars away.
There were several smokers around the building. It reminded me of the crowd down the street at the Casbah -- people in their early 20s thinking they were hip with a cigarette in their hand. This crowd was better dressed and 80 percent Asian.
I met Chris, who seemed to be running the show. He looked overdressed in a blazer and tie. And when I tapped him on the shoulder, I could tell he was sweaty. I realized why after I walked into the club.
It was over 100 degrees and packed with people on the dance floor. I overheard a few people talk about DJ Ratty, who was spinning the tunes. He's a teacher at the school. Someone said, "He knows the owner of this place, so he got a good deal here."
Chris, slipping from party mode into PR mode, handed me some flyers about the school, one of which indicated that it's $299 a month for an afternoon program that teaches English. Another explained internship programs and scholarships. When I saw the address -- 1250 Sixth Avenue, World Trade Center, downtown -- I wondered if things had gotten more difficult for foreign students here after 9/11. I turned around to ask Chris but he'd disappeared.
I went upstairs where it was less crowded and took a photo of a couple of Japanese girls sitting on a couch. A guy was kneeling down and talking to them. As I walked to the bar, he came over and asked in broken English, "Excuse me? You picture take?" He did the motion of a camera with his hand and asked, "Why you take pictures?" We talked for a few minutes, and he seemed satisfied with my explanation.
Chris came back with a baseball-style shirt for me. It read "Got English?" on the front and had the school's information on the back. I wondered if people would be offended if they saw just the front. But I never look a free gift shirt in the mouth.
I met a girl named Kiu. I could tell she wanted to strike up a conversation, but she didn't say anything. I said, "I'd buy you a drink, but I don't see a bartender up here." She said, "No. I would buy you the drinks."
I like foreign women.
I asked where she was from. In perfect English -- no accent -- she said, "I was born and raised here. Did you just assume I was foreign?" I said, "Well, uh, yeah. Aren't most people that go to this school?" She smiled and said "Yeah, that's true." It turned out she worked for the school, and Chris had sent her up here to talk to me. I thought, Damn, that guy is good. He won't let up on the PR.
She told me they had students from Asia, South America, and Africa, and that there are 6000 international students in San Diego. I asked her if it's been difficult for foreign students since 9/11. "Oh, yeah, it is. I just got back from the Middle East. It's good, though, that America is realizing the importance of students from Saudi and the Gulf. Americans need to learn about other cultures. Other cultures should be celebrated."
She told me that she was going to dance and walked away. I felt like a perv watching all the college girls dancing. One looked exactly like Beyoncé Knowles.
I saw Chris was giving away iPods and talking with several people. That made me realize that I wasn't mingling the way I should. I guess I was worried that the people I'd talk to wouldn't understand English or that I'd have trouble understanding them.
I looked at a flyer that read "Besos not Bombs." It had a picture of lips on it. I asked a guy what that meant. "It's like the expression, 'Make love, not war.' Besos is love." Just then, a Latina woman, at least ten years older than everyone else, walked by. I was told that the flyers promoted her salsa show earlier in the evening. She handed me a CD of her mixes and left.
The DJ played older dance tunes. I heard the Beastie Boys and Herbie Hancock. One girl jumped on a platform near the stage to dance. You could tell she was uncomfortable at first. She slowly got into it. She tried looking for her friends after a few songs, but the lights were bright in her face, and it looked as if she couldn't make out anyone in the crowd.
I saw a couple holding hands. He was a tall Caucasian. She was a short Asian. His other hand was in a cast, and I asked him how he broke it. He told me it was a snowboarding accident. I said, "That's why I've never tried that. All my friends go, and they've all broken bones doing it." He said, "Well, it was only my second time. I'm a skier; she's the snowboarder. I thought I'd give it a try."
I heard a guy speaking French. I asked him how many languages he spoke. "French, English, of course, Italian, Spanish. I'm learning Japanese and Latin. Some say it's a dead language." He went on to tell me that in other countries people speak several languages.
"It's only here in America that most people only speak one or two languages."
I said, "I can only speak one, unless you consider pig Latin a language." He said, "pig Latin? I do not know of this language."