It’s a small world
By Hyon O'Brien
Once in a while, we hear some music and the tune gets lodged into our brain and just won’t go away. For most people, the Disney song ``It's a Small World" is one of those unshakeable tunes.
When our two daughters were young, we took them to Disneyland in California. The Magic Kingdom was like a fairy tale land, but I had the suspicion that I appreciated the visit more than they did. One of the activities that I still remember more than 25 years later is the Small World boat ride we took.
This popular attraction features about 400 brightly costumed animatronic dolls dressed as children from around the world. The song and dance of these dolls are supposed to inspire in the onlookers a spirit of global unity and peace. Evidently this attraction first appeared in the 1964 New York World's Fair and was later moved to Disneyland where it officially opened in 1966.
Originally the ride's soundtrack featured numerous national anthems all playing at once in a confusing cacophony. Walt Disney wanted there to be only one song. Two brothers, Robert and Richard Sherman, came up with the lyrics to ``It's a Small World (After All)" and Arthur Levine composed the all-too memorable tune.
The lyrics point out that no matter where we live we share the same things through our human experience: laughter, tears, hopes, and fears. We have one moon and one sun above us. The song promotes friendship to everyone and goodwill to all.
This got me thinking about our own life experiences of living in different countries over the years: America, England, Hong Kong and Korea. The expat life we've led for 15 years decidedly shows us the oneness of the world more than the division and differences. When we develop familiarity with the different people and cultures of other nations, we accept them more readily as a part of the human family and care for them as our own.
Besides the universality of our life because of things in common, there is another aspect of a small world that has fascinated me for years _ bumping into people in unexpected places. Over the years, I have accumulated much evidence of this small world phenomenon:
We go on a safari in South Africa’s Kruger Park, and we run into our daughter's co-worker in her law firm in New York in our safari jeep.
I go on a walk in Wyoming with a friend who lives not far from Jacksonville, I bump into a tennis friend from Hong Kong.
We eat lunch at a cafeteria before touring the Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna, and our younger daughter's violin teacher from Teaneck, N.J., says hello to us from the next table.
I sit with a gentleman passing through Hong Kong at a year-end dinner hosted by the League of American Women Voters' HK chapter; finding out that he is from Little Rock, I take a chance and ask him if he knows the one person I know in Arkansas _ and it turns out that he is her husband.
Riding a taxi in Seoul, we talk to the driver and discover that he is my No. 3 brother's high school friend.
We go on a RAS tour to Tongyeong, and we meet a pastor who used to ``intern" in the Teaneck Presbyterian Church which I attended for years.
Our Peace Corps friend comes to Seoul to attend the Special Library conference at the Library of Congress of Korea. He goes out to meet his old friend from 1967 and comes back to tell us his friend is married to one of my college classmates.
My husband's high school best friend comes to visit us in Hong Kong with his second wife and she knows two of my close friends.
I go to Yunnan, China on a Hong Kong expat community tour, and my Dutch roommate turns out to be a friend of one of my college classmates with whom they worked on an RAS sponsored translation project when she used to live in Seoul.
When they hear these stories, my friends tell me I seem to have more of these “small world” encounters than anyone else they know. Who knows how many of these encounters we all may have without ever discovering the connection. Maybe I have more of these encounters because I ask more questions.
So as I say goodbye to Korea to return to the States, I more than ever intensely wish for these ``bumping into” episodes. Wouldn't it be nice to bump into my Korea Times editor in a restaurant in Manhattan? What about sitting next to one of my book discussion group friends on the ferry that connects Jersey City to Wall Street? How about spotting one of my church friends at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.? Or a surprise meeting of one of my diplomatic friends at the Hemingway house in Key West? If I can say hello unexpectedly to one of my Bible study friends at the Flushing Meadow's U.S. Open, it will be heavenly.
Facebook, Twitter, My Space, LinkedIn are some of the tools that I intend to use to stay in touch with my loved ones, but seeing them face to face is more rewarding.
So, my beloved readers, pray hard as I do to run into someone you miss somewhere at a highly unlikely spot. That will be God's amazing grace.
Hyon O'Brien, a former reference librarian in the United States, has returned to Korea after 32 years of living abroad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.