By Gary Barbour
We leave home to see the world, to learn a new language. We leave to reconnect with roots long lost by generations before us. We leave because no one wants us to and everyone expects us to.
We leave for a promise of romance. Not the romance of candlelit dinners and walks on the beach nice as they are. I mean the romance of sitting around a wobbly bar table with fellow immigrants, sharing a bottle of whiskey or local spirit and tales of mishaps and successes, dreams realized and dreams destroyed. Gone are the days when the artful wanderers gathered in Parisian salons, sipping absinthe and water. Nowadays, the émigré is found in Thai bars, poorly ventilated and dim.
We have forsaken the game of success that defines our respective homelands. The promise of wealth was broken, rendering the house, car, two-and-a-half kids, and dog obsolete. So we cast it off for tickets to sunnier lands where one is not measured by their bank balance, but by the ability to shit in a six-inch hole. Or maybe you left to find a world that is defined by your ability to balance a checkbook.
So why are you here?
You came because you are one of the artful wanderers, someone with a voice, a story. You came with a wealth of photographs and memories of the long Trans-Siberian railway. You came because you have ordered delicacies in a language other than your own and felt a new brand of accomplishment.
You came because you want this life. You work 9 to 5, filing reports for people who will never remember your name. You long to fly away from serving coffee to bored housewives. In the morning when your alarm goes off, you wonder if life really is greener on the other side.
The days of the Parisian salon are sepia-toned and fading. This is our meeting place, our gathering around the rickety table. Share your world from Korean karaoke bars to Malaysian hawker stalls and beyond where European cafés serve miniscule espresso and American coffee is served in jugs.
No matter where you are or where you’re from, welcome to the table.
Al salaam a’alaykum.
Gary teaches English to Middle Eastern students at an American school in Malaysia. Read about the convergence of this cultural mishmash on his blog, Collecting Sparrows.