Do I Look Like a Hooker to You?

Apparently a solo female traveler has prostitute stamped all over her, despite the long khaki shorts and lack of make up or general hygiene. Or maybe just I do. Am I too friendly or something?

I was wandering around Kuala Lumpur the other evening looking for a bite to eat when I got to talking with Aymen from Algeria, who was working promoting a restaurant. I was originally just walking past and was about to move on when he struck up a conversation about my knee (a hot topic in this country, let me tell you. Every single person does a double take like they have never seen a scraped up knee before), and after talking for about 20 minutes I ended up in the restaurant. Aymen sat me down, made sure I was comfortable, and told one of the waiters to put a discount on my tab and he would cover it. Awesome! He makes sure I’m settled before heading back out to continue his promoting.

Another one of the waiters comes over and begins chatting with me, asking where I’m from and the usual questions. I had no idea what exactly he was talking about but he was asking me something about Aymen and if he gave me something before I came in…we were both a little lost in this conversation and I have a feeling we were both talking about different subjects. “My English,” he apologized, “is not very good. I’m sorry. You wait here until I’m off work? It’s only one hour more and then we go.” At this point I should have clicked on that something was up, but no, I assume he, Aymen and I are all going out after they get off work and respond jokingly with, ” Well am I supposed to just sit here and wait for an hour?” In retrospect, that was possibly not the best answer to give someone who thinks you are going home with them later, but I didn’t know. Stupid language barriers.

“You like sheesha?” he asks, and then buys me sheesha to pass the time and gives me his very expensive phone to browse online while I wait.

And still I think, Man, what awesome people! This is so great!

Aymen comes in and asks what I’m doing after, and I point towards his friend and say, “We’re all going out?” “Oh,” he looks at me and asks, “you want to go with him?” No….I thought we were all going out? Together?” I ask. I’ve had a whole bowl of sheesha to smoke by myself for the past 45 minutes and this whole conversation was just making me dizzy. I had no idea what was going on and neither did they. “Is that what he said? No I don’t drink, if you want to go alone with him it’s ok,” he puts his hands up in forfeit, “I go.” I stare blankly at him and repeat, “But the plan was to all go out together? I think. Yeah?”

Aymen leaves me sitting at the table as he goes over to his friend. The two of them talk for a minute or two in Arabic before Aymen turns towards me and smiles somewhat sheepishly. He explains something to the other guy, then walks over to me and grabs my hand, “You ready.” It was more of a statement that a question so I stood up and let him lead me out. Once we were out of earshot I turned to him, still holding is hand.

“What was that all about??”
“Ah,” he thinks in how to explain in English for a second or two before answering, “he says you’re very beautiful, he thought I brought you in from the street, and you were going home with him, and-”
“Wait, he thinks I’m a hooker!?” I interjected disbelievingly.
Aymen continues, “but I told him no no, you are my good friend. We’ve been friends for 3 years, see?” He holds up our intertwined hands in explanation before we round the corner and the guise is dropped.

But was it over? Oh no it was not. We continue to peruse the town for a while before going to a guesthouse of someone Aymen knows. It’s a woman, and as we walk in he introduces me and she looks at him and says, “Ah, she’s very beautiful” I’M NOT A F***** HOOKER!!! “Oh, uh, thank you,” I smile at her, “I’m staying over in Chinatown while I’m here.” I add awkwardly, hoping that will somehow clear the air. Either way, Aymen was a real gentleman and my hero for getting me out of a potentially embarrassing situation with someone who thought I was going home to sleep with him and then showing me around town before we parted ways.

On the way back I ended up meeting a street vendor and his friend who was promoting a nearby hostel and found myself drinking whiskey with them and the cab drivers who would show up between jobs, talking the night away and swapping stories before I walked the final 50 meters to my hostel.

Kuala Lumpur, you are one crazy place.

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