A friend of mine from the good old days of EFNet is from the normally peaceful and prosperous country of Ivory Coast -- and so when I saw in the paper the other day that there was nasty fighting over there, I was a bit worried. A bit of digging and I found his new email address (the benefits of him having a hapax legomenon name), and checked in with him. It turns out that he and his family relocated to Thailand after the first sign of trouble in Ivory Coast two or three years ago, so all is well (except for, you know, all those millions of helpless people still in Ivory Coast).
So, long story short, I'm quite relieved. Not only are he and his family safe, but they're eating Thai food every day! Wowza!
This sort of episode seems all quite mundane to me until I go to mention to my mom ("So, what's new today?") that I know a guy who I thought was in Ivory Coast, and... then I think: I am definitely the only person in my family who starts sentences with "there's this guy I know in Ivory Coast...", or "the stores in France are horribly over-charging for my book", or "me and a half-Viet geneticist guy I know in the Ukraine were emailing back and forth about how crazy things are there -- but at least they get a deal on genome database access...".
I mean, not that my family are exactly yokels from Nowheresville -- they're from LA, and their immediate neighbors include an Indonesian physicist and some sort of Iranian mogul (he's "in shipping"), and from their driveway you can see signs in at least four different unrelated languages. But still, it's one thing to know people from all over -- that's taken for granted in L.A.. It's another thing to know people who are all over.