While packing my bag before leaving work this evening, the guy I have been working with over the last several months invited both myself and another contractor to his house for drinks and something to eat. A night out! A night away from the horrors of standing at the lectern at the entrance of a restaurant, asking for a “table for one”.
On the way back to the hotel room I ran to the local supermarket and grabbed something small to eat, knowing that we would be drinking – I’m terrible at drinking. It turns out life as a parent surrounded by chores and after school clubs somewhat lowers your alcohol tolerance levels. I also picked up a bottle of wine for our host’s other half – and smiled at my own idiocy as I tried to pick something suitable. I generally pick wine based on the best looking label, but know that my other half is far more discerning. I ended up picking her favourite wine, and tucking it into my coat pocket before heading out into the cold night air.
After meeting up with the other co-worker along the way, we tip-toed across frozen footpaths, and took photos of the river that had frozen alongside the apartments.
The evening that followed was really quite wonderful. I sat in awe for a huge amount of the evening – marvelling at the ability of the entire group to switch between two, or three languages at times. At school I learned a little french, but they all spoke wonderful English, very good German, quite a bit of French, and of course also their mother tongues.
Conversation flowed so easily throughout the evening – laughing, joking, telling stories – and of course diving down cultural rabbit holes to find out where the differences lie between our various worlds. It was wonderful to reaffirm that no matter where we come from, we can always find common interests, humor, stories, ideas, and so on. We talked about legends, the different versions of history told in each country, conspiracy theories – you name it. I can’t remember having such a wonderful evening in quite some time.
There was a moment – late in the evening, while everybody was engaged in spirited conversation and laughter, that the scene from A Christmas Carol came to mind – where Scrooge is confronted by the ghost of Christmas past about the success of Fezziwig’s party – “but he has only spent a few pounds of your money?” – Scrooge replies that “it is not about money – it is about the power of the host to make their lives a pleasure or a burden – it is nothing to do with money”. And such was the story tonight. By extending the hand of friendship, a disparate group of people came together, laughed, told stories, and shared each other’s experiences of a world that became a little smaller for a few hours.
All I can do is express gratitude, smile at new friendships forged, and cherish memories made.