Many years ago, I joined a number of ex-pat groups online thinking it may be a good way to meet others. As things go when you are an ex-pat, many activities of daily living take much longer than expected, causing one to have less time than expected for exploring these ex-pat meeting points. However, when I gave it serious thought, what turned me off was that many of these different groups held get-togethers in bars and almost always on the Buda side.
The majority of respondents who committed to attending were youngish professionals whose profiles led one to believe these events were more like 5 minute dating sessions. I am sorry; if I cannot get at least a 30 minute commitment, count me out. I have yet to attend any social event from any of the four or five groups that continue to store my log in details and are filling my in-box with “We miss you!” notices. How can you miss something you never had?
About a month ago, I received a “personalized” e-mail from one of the ‘managers’ of InterNations suggesting that there was a shortage of social, but focused groups in Budapest. Perhaps I would consider creating one. This sparked my interest, so I read the offer multiple times, but soon realized that one had to be an Albatross member in good standing in order to initiate such a group. After receiving the same request a second time, I wrote back stating I was not an Albatross member, since I had no intention of paying annual dues for a service that up to now has not suggested it could offer me any advantages.
Why albatross, I never figured out. What does a seabird with a large wingspan have to do with anything related to ex-pats? I am still oblivious regarding the point on this moniker.
Though it may have sounded harsh, it was honest. The manager wrote back within an hour. An ex-pat with too much time on his hands it seems. He offered that any group leader automatically becomes an Albatross member as a reward for the arduous task of organizing a herd of others interested in the common theme. With that, I offered to create a Writers Group. It was accepted and duly advertised by the InterNations newsletter. Now all I had to do was wait for those eager Budapest writers to find me.
Two weeks went by before my first request for information arrived in my message box. “Ryan, I attended some of the Budapest Creativity Group meetings you organized. I am so pleased to see something like a writers group is finally getting off of the ground. Keep me posted.” There was no mention of wanting to join, only wanting more information, which is automatically posted on the group wall, if one cared to join. How many individual letters would I have to send out before people fell off of the fence?
In the meantime, some ambiguous person at InterNations sent me reminders to post to the group wall so others would be enticed into joining my group. Being obedient to a certain limit, I did just this. Another week went by when this message arrived: “Just out of curiosity, how many members are in the group?”
This is where the fine print enlarges into something noticeable and readable. I answered the questions with the honest fact that we had a writers group, but the majority of the members have returned to their homelands, hence we have not been very functional. The hope is to resuscitate the group by breathing new life into it with new members.
Within a day, I received a letter from yet another manager stating that it is his distinct impression that I have already been a member of a writers group in Budapest, but that it has not been associated with InterNations. If this is so, it is against the terms of service that I had agreed to with creating the group. InterNations’ groups are only open to Albatross members, those who have paid their membership fees. Well, I really despise elitist organizations, especially those that pretend to be altruistic on the surface only to do the bait and switch. My response was that I had never read the TOS as the group was created by private e-mails between one of the managers and me. However, if this was an issue, he was welcome to disband the group. There was hardly any interested to care about its survival anyway.
Within the hour, there was a general notice sent to all Budapest members that the Writers Group had been disbanded due to one of the following reasons and there were six listed. My albatross wings were clipped, but this bird of a feather will find another flock to be with together.