Last night I went out to dinner to say farewell to an Italian friend of my housemate. We sat on the edge of the Mekong and the rain poured down and sheets of lightning burst through the sky.
I was surrounded by Italians and the conversation turned to the small nature of the world and the seemingly incredible nature of meeting people in a remote location who turned out to know you great-grandfather’s neighbour’s nephew who used to bake their bread every morning (or something equally ridiculous). Whilst this phenomenon is well documented with the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (which has more recently been applied to Twitter), it still amazes us to find that our connections link us to millions of people round the world.
Anyway, with this conversation I made the point that I was stunned that thus far, beyond the 3 Irish friends I had come to Phnom Penh to visit, I had only met two other Irish people here (with whom there was no immediate connection). I was somewhat proud of this; it was some sort of personal valiant stand against Kevin Bacon and his simplification of social connections controlling our lives.
The dinner wound down, the rain and lightning eased, allowing a pleasant tuk-tuk ride (avoiding occasional temporary lakes that had popped up) to my next destination, Nikki’s 80’s rooftop party.
Approaching her large apartment complex I could hear the cheesy eighties-ness echoing down the empty streets of PP. Within the complex I got into the lift to venture to the 9th floor and just as the lift door was about to close a call went out for me to hold it. In to the lift stepped two women, one of whom, with only a minor utterance, revealed in an instant her Irish upbringing.
Of course questions were asked and her home town was revealed as Longford, the vast metropolis at the centre of the county in which I had chosen to settle back in 2007. With much disbelief she questioned that I truly came from there, which is fair, considering my Dublin upbringing, but my mention of my tiny local village, Ballinamuck, cleared any doubts, as no one has any reason to know the name of such a tiny village.
To think that only two hours prior I had been smugly satisfied by my avoidance of all things Irish, my besting of the interconnected nature of the world in which we live. I dared not dig deeper into that social fabric, but I do not doubt that given a little bit of searching we would no doubt have found a common link. Ireland’s four million people are easily linked together.
The night continued with the meeting of an American woman, born in Ireland, who’d spent time there working at a hotel in Athlone. She could not remember it’s name but said it was on the lake. I hesitantly suggested the only lakeside hotel I knew in Athlone, the Hodson Bay Hotel, to which I am connected through Phil Knowd of the Irish Sailing Academy. Lo and behold it was the very hotel at which she worked.
Once again I am sure that with a small amount of digging, connections would have been revealed.
This world is small, and you should never consider yourself above that.