Traveling is always a lot of fun. Yet in all of my travels, I always seem to catch this condition known as, “Small World Syndrome.” It’s a condition of society I think, affecting most all individuals, especially in distally-connected but highly mobile cultures such as America or parts of Europe.
My first case of Small World came when I studied abroad in Australia fall semester of my Junior year at university. Moving into the residence hall that first night while most all of the residents were still away on holiday, myself and fellow abroaders head down to dinner. We are introduced to a few of the residents who are still around and one of them is suspiciously speaking in an American accent. When questioned about her home, I am informed she comes from Framingham, Massachusetts. I have traveled literally halfway around the world into the opposite hemisphere from my home only to run into someone who grew up 30 minutes from me but now permanently studies in Australia. Small world.
Being in Kenya with Peace Corps has only emphasized this condition, and not just between fellow PCVs who may find they grew up suspiciously close to one another as well. That is a bit more likely, as we are all American, all mostly coming from university, and statistically, all coming from a relatively small geographic distribution. Instead it is the encounters outside of Peace Corps volunteers that emphasize the smallness of our world.
Take, for example, one time I was sitting in the Jahazi coffee house in Old Town, Mombasa. A group of people come in and we strike up a conversation (this happens a lot; topic for another post as to why), and it turns out they are a missionary group. Talking more, I discover they come from America. Digging a little deeper, it turns out the gentleman of the group used to work at Putnam Investments in my hometown of Franklin, Massachusetts. Small world.
More recently, I was hosting a group of PCVs from Namibia who had finished their service and were traveling throughout Africa. One of the PCVs actually went to school with a PCV in Kenya and that was how they got my contact information. Upon talking, it turns out both of us have friends who were engaging in the Law School National Mock Trials competition in New Orleans. We had the two friends meet up just for kicks. Small world.
Stories like this happen all the time. The random connections you make with people are only strengthened when you learn you may have previously unknown shared experiences, in these cases friendships or proximal homes. I have had many times where I say to myself, “Small world,” while serving over here, but these three are just the most prominent in my memory at the moment. Anyone have a Small World moment they would like to share?
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