For the third time today I am trying to figure out up from down as I fiddle around with my electricity convertor. This time I need to introduce my American battery charger to the French style of electron flow. The American end has two practical flat prongs and the French end has two round prongs, elegant and understated. Earlier it was an English vacuum cleaner with three prongs-- all flat and oriented like the rays of the sun that finally did set over the British Empire.. And I still can’t get a French plug to match up with a French plug. I think that this is some sort of test for foreigners-- call it the French Secret Handshake. All this has me thinking about the ironies of how life for expats is like the intermeshing of electricity connections.
The first similarity is that foreign things don’t fit directly into a new country. But, with a little ingenuity it all works out. The foreign ‘thing’ will always have that spark of it’s heritage, it’s true self, but now it’s running on a different current.
The second tingle of connections was the other evening at a birthday party. We were eight sitting around the table, five English, one French, one Greek, and one American, This mix may not seem so extraordinary, but do remember we live just beyond nowhere -- and it isn’t even summer yet when cultural mixes really get humming. One of the Englishmen had lived for quite a while in New York and and is now back in London. Being the nosey American I asked what he had does for a living and he said something about financial consulting..... An answer that made no sense to me, but because of the NewYork/London connection, I followed up by asking if that meant working with companies like Bloomberg. Well yes it did. Now I had to keep teasing out that wire. Did you ever happen to meet our dear long time friend Stuart B? There was a bit of a pause, I held my breath - and then, well Yes, he did know Stuart!- it was like a crackling bite of electricity. Bzzzzt the world is small....... bzzzt this person that you’ve known for an hour has a connection to you.
Now, two days later a third connection has passed the American French wires. The first e-mail I opened this morning was from a friend in Vermont. Her nephew and his girlfriend have become great friends with our wonderful niece that lives in Louisville. This lovely note has come across the ocean in waves and waves of technology, through the French wiring, passing a two pronged to three pronged convertor to my American computer. I can feel the hum of life in all of these electrically, tangled up connections.