Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Greetings from: Luxembourg (again)

We end where we begin: in Luxembourg. Probably not a moment too soon: Matthew and I are now loaded down with at least fifty pounds worth of new purchases.

We have dinner in a Laotian restaurant -- an odd cuisine to find in Luxembourg. Even more odd: as we come in, a muscular man wearing an Armani t-shirt is singing Thai karaoke. He says that Thai is his sixth language, and that’s he’s working on a seventh: Japanese. He also says, essentially, that he’s learned these languages in order to impress the girls of those countries, which is honest enough, I suppose. His comrade-in-arms, if not in tongues, has the build of a fireman. The polyglot laughs and jokes with the owner of the restaurant. He’s brought his own bootleg karaoke CDs. He has sets of harmonicas that he plays, blues-style, to a few songs. We applaud when appropriate.

This song, he tells us, is about a guy who brings his girlfriend to a certain part of the city. The next time he sees his girlfriend, though, she’s with another guy. So it’s a very fast, very angry song. Too fast for him to sing along.

The owner speaks to us in French. He moved to Luxembourg from Paris, and finds the Grand Duchy somewhat dull.

Well, yes, I can see how that’s possible.

But Luxembourg is what it is. Our Armani-clad friend says that the country is too conservative. Luxembourg has the highest income per capita in Europe, he says, but many people don’t know anything beyond their own borders. He’s going back to Thailand and Laos in a few months.

What’s your line of work? we ask. He’s an electrical engineer.

The evening pulls forth -- we have a plane to catch tomorrow. And how is it, that we’re in a Laotian restaurant run by a former Parisian, speaking English to a man who can sing Thai karaoke. The screens now show hideously cheesy videos, replete with ruffle-clad dancers and a singer who stands with the dignity of a former Miss Universe winner. The two men speaking French next to us switch to English when they address the two blonde ladies at the far table. And for this meal, sipping our fresh coconut juice, it seems as if Luxembourg has become a microcosm of the larger world.

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