There’s an expression in Arabic that we use when trying to describe how small a place can be that you’re guaranteed to run into someone you know. Growing up people have always used it to describe Alexandria, my hometown, because you were always bound to see someone you know somewhere in the city. The expression is “Eskendereya dih odah we salah” which translates into “Alexandria consists of one bedroom and one living room.” (showing that it’s basically the size of a tiny apartment.)
This has always been one of my favorite expressions; it shows how small even big places can be and how interconnected we all are. No matter where you go you’ll know someone who knows someone who knows you. Over the years I’ve used this expression a lot and while it started for me as a way of describing my hometown which while small in size has around 8 million people living there, I now often use it to describe this planet.
In an attempt to give you a better idea of what I mean I’m going to list a couple of my favorite encounters over the years:
1. Frankfurt, Germany 2009
This is by far the craziest encounter that has occurred to me over the years; for half a year in 2009 I was living in Frankfurt and working on an internship for my studies in the US. Over the course of the 6 months I travelled by train quite a lot so I always walked to the train ticket office in the middle of the city every couple weeks to buy my tickets. One time I was sitting in the office waiting for my number to be called when I heard some knocking on the window behind me that looks over on the street. I turned my head and it took me a couple seconds to register who it was. I recognized the face, but who was that girl waving at me. A moment later it hit me; it was one of my old middle school friends in Egypt who I hadn’t seen in probably 6 years. Yup, the last time we both saw each other was in school in Egypt and somehow years later we both ended up on the same continent, country, city and street at the same time. That’s just crazy, right? It was seriously so cool that we ended up hanging together the rest of the evening before she left to back home the following week.
2. Bergen, Norway 2014
Two pretty cool but not as crazy encounters have occurred over the last couple of weeks after my big move to Bergen.
a) On my first day at uni I met an Australian guy who’s a few years younger than I am; when we added each other on FB we realized we had one friend in common. Being certain that six degrees of separation could not possibly work in this situation, both of us were intrigued, so we took a look: turns out the common friend is a girl who went to school with him at the University of Melbourne who I’ve met during a case competition 5 years ago in Seattle when I was a student at the UW. Crazy, right?
b) The second scenario occurred just a couple days ago when I was running with the new running group that I’ve joined; coming towards the end of a hill that I just HATED, this girl felt bad for me and tried to take my mind off it, so she asked me where I’m from etc. Usually when I tell people that I’ve lived in Seattle, most people say something along the lines of “Cool, I’ve been to the States but still not to Seattle.” This one goes: “Oh cool, my sister just graduated from there.” Me: “Really, where from?” She: “UW” and actually saying U-Dub which you know is legit. I told her that I’ve graduated from there too, and we ended up talking about how awesome the campus it. Seriously what are the chances that I meet a Norwegian girl whose Norwegian sister decided to study at the UW in Seattle miles away from home.
I just love encounters like this; they truly brighten my day and make me even more convinced in what I knew all along: “Planet Earth is an ‘odah we salah'”.