I feared that my life experience, which includes living in two countries besides my own for over 20 years, would be a barrier to making new friends in this southern California community. I knew that the Latino population would be influential, and indeed, many public signs are now in both English and Spanish. But I hardly expected much influence from Europe. Granted, it is a college town, with professors and students from all over the globe, and its inhabitants are hardly the WASP’s who formerly dominated this part of the world. One of the oldest restaurants in Claremont is owned by an Afghan family who have been here for many years. There are Italian, Japanese, Peruvian, and fusion restaurants in addition to the ubiquitous Mexican ones, and the people who own and run them. Still. I lived in the UK, and in France, and while I would possibly meet people who have uprooted themselves to come from other countries to settle in the US, not so many from Europe. I was wrong.
I joined a gym to counteract too many months and years of inactivity. One of the women there came up to me to introduce herself. She is English. She identified me as not from this area because of my “accent”! I still don’t speak total American anymore!!
I called a handyman from a small ad in the local paper, The Claremont Courier. He had an accent. I asked him where he was from. Guess what. He is English, and so is his wife, who works in Claremont. They have been here for 25 years. When he comes to help me with something, we have a good old natter about how different it is living here as opposed to England.
I looked into a couple of art courses as a way to continue painting and meet people with a common interest. Nothing gelled. However, there is a wonderful little shop in the village called “Buddhamouse” where you can buy statues, wall hangings, jewelry, books, tapes, candles, incense, silver singing bowls, and just about anything to do with Buddhism and alternative spirituality. It is owned and run by a mother and daughter who are warm and welcoming. The shop also provides space for meditation groups, belly dancing courses, tea ceremonies, among other things, and also writing groups.http://Buddhamouse.com
On Friday mornings a small group meets to trigger their creative writing skills, suggesting topics, writing for 10 minutes and then reading each others work. As a long time lover of writing, I pep-talked myself into giving it a try. I found a small group of talented and open men and women who also enjoyed the process of writing. The woman who runs the group has lived in many places, as her father was a diplomat. Her mother was from Woking, which is not more than 30 minutes from Shere.
From there, I learned of a larger group in the area, a writing critique group a stone’s throw from where I live. The woman who organized that group was born in England.
So I am feeling not unique after all, and not cut off from my experience of living in a multi-cultural world. I still miss Shere, and Tourrettes, and my friends and family there, but I don’t feel unique.