On a recent flight between Philadelphia and Ankara, I became restless. To busy myself, I picked up the airline’s onboard magazine and began flipping through it. As I often do, I started from the back and because I did, I read parts of stories before I read the headline. While skimming the pages, I came across a riddle, so to speak. It went like this: if you had a tall thin candle, a full matchbox, and a thumbtack, how would you light the candle and hang it from a wall? Within a flash second, my mind came up with an answer. To my surprise – it was the right answer. I was delighted that I had solved this conundrum and quickly flipped to the previous page – the start of the story. It was an entire article on expats! The article described how expats become more creative, even if they never were before, simply by living life in a foreign land. We learn to think “outside of the box” as part of our daily routine. Apparently, expats were quicker to correctly answer that riddle than non-expats.
Memories of trying to bake a cake for the first time in my new homeland came rushing through. Not knowing what the symbols meant on my new oven. Having to translate ingredients. Searching for those ingredients, most of which came in unfamiliar packaging. And finally, settling on a box cake! I’ve always been one to think outside of the box. But now, I don’t shop for what I want. Instead, I search for what will work. We substitute. That’s what we do.
In less than a week I will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Turkey. I am planning a dinner for about 15. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, cauliflower, brussel sprouts with chestnuts, green beans with onions, salad, apple tart, pumpkin pie. I can’t find butternut squash anywhere, or yams, or sweet potatoes – but I’m sure pumpkin will do just fine for my sweet potato pie with marshmallows! I’ve been feeling quite creative lately. We’ll see how dinner turns out.
So, have you solved the riddle yet?