Friday, March 16, 2012

Its a small world

So a friend of mine (lets call her Jillian) just recently found out that her crazy sister (Janna) has been spreading a totally false rumor that Jillian obsessively collected dead animal carcasses as a child. Yes, this is weird. But what's even weirder is the way Jillian obtained this information.

You see, my friend's sister-in-law (Jadri) is currently in Moscow. It was here, a few days ago, that she entered into a conversation with a group of American students and it turned out that not only do they know previously mentioned crazy-sister Janna, they also know all about her sibling Jillian's carcass collection. Say what?!? I mean, you know its a small world when you find out about your family's crazy-lies through strangers in really far away countries you have never been to.

But I've known for awhile that the world is small. I've had so many experiences of unexpectedly running into people I know that I actually find it surprising when traveling to NOT see a familiar face.  Once, I was talking to some people about this phenomenon while sitting in a bar in Washington D.C. and I swear, as I was talking about it, a guy walked in that I knew. Granted, I didn't know him well - but I recognized him and eventually figured out that we had been at the same wedding (in Georgia) a few months back, although we hadn't really interacted. This kind of face-recall might lead you to believe that I have special powers to call up the past, but the opposite is in fact true. I remember next to nothing about my childhood, my adolescence, or even my 20s. I hardly remember what I did yesterday. If I were in a life threatening predicament and had to depend on either my memory or some drug-addicted, self-destructive pop star to get me out - I swear I'd go with the pop star.

But there is something about faces that stick. I see someone in the grocery store and then again at a gas station and it kills me for hours trying to figure out where I know them from. It bothers me so much that I usually just approach them and ask "Excuse me, but do I look familiar?" Most people then look at me like they think I'm about to mug them or something. I recently met a woman and she looked so familiar I just had to start asking her questions so that I could figure it out.... It turns out we went to preschool together and probably haven't seen each other since. Anyway, possessing such a weird face-recall ability means that of course I see people I know all over the place! Think about all the faces we see everyday... walking past us on the street, driving past us in their cars, standing behind us in line at the store... we're most likely in different places with the same person all the time without even realizing it. And sometimes these places can be very far away from each other.

Like, for instance, the time I met the same person twice - once on a train in Morocco and again in a small apartment in Paraguay.

Craziest small-world story ever:
So after getting bathed in the Marrakesh bathhouse (please see previous post) me and the friend-from-home, his Austrian girlfriend and the ditsy American got on a nighttime train heading north to catch our ferry back to Spain. The train was rickety and cold and full of people trying to sleep. There were mostly local folks on the train, with a few tourists scattered here and there. Friend and Austrian girlfriend sat in one car, and me and ditsy American sat in another car that was packed full of these young Moroccan soldiers going home for a vacation. We sat in a booth-like corner of the train car with two tourists from Spain who had bought a lot of musical instruments as souvenirs. These souvenirs turned what could have been a very long, boring, cold journey into a par-tay. All the young Moroccan dudes grabbed up the instruments and played and played and sang and sang and we all had a blast. Eventually the party died down and I spent the rest of my evening talking with this sweet, handsome Moroccan guy who had came to sit with us. He showed me pictures of his family and of a goat hanging upside down in his living room. He shared with me his dreams and we held hands and I totally fell in love. (I was 19 yr old by the way). His train stop came first and he begged me to get off the train with him. I cried. He cried. One of the Spaniards, who had been eavesdropping the whole time, cried. It was intense. I remember getting home to the US and seriously considering writing Oprah Winfrey to ask if she would sponsor my Moroccan boyfriend so he could come live with me.

About 5 years later I am living in Paraguay in the middle of nowhere working as a Peace Corps volunteer. During one of my visits into the city I run into a fellow volunteer who tells me he was hanging out with some Spanish guy and he swears he saw a picture of me in this guy's photo album. "Well, of course its not me," I say. "But it totally looked like you!" he says. "The guy said it was a picture of some crazy night on a train in Morocco with some American tourists, one who fell in love with a soldier in a few hours and cried when he got off the train."  Say what?!?

So the next day I went to the Spanish guy's apartment because it was just too weird.  He opened the door, and I, of course, immediately remembered his face. But now I can't remember why he was living in Paraguay. I can't remember his name or what his apartment looked like or how I got there or what I did after I left. I can't remember what we talked about, only that it was a little awkward since we didn't actually know each other at all. I do remember, however, feeling this sense of obligation, like if the world was going to have us end up in the same place twice it must mean the universe wants us to know each other, right? But after spending an hour or so in his apartment, with his wife and baby and photo album, it didn't feel that way. It felt more like we had tried to find meaning where there was none. He was just some guy and the world is just a small place and you shouldn't feel that surprised if strangers in Russia tell you your sister's lies or if someone in Paraguay has a picture of you in their living room. Seriously. No big deal you guys.

Anyway... that's the poopy scoop!

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