Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Small Town of 5 Million

I grew up just outside of Portal, Georgia: population 595.

Eric was raised on a farm near Urbana, Iowa: population 1,391.

Before moving to Brasil, we lived in the big city of Burlington, Iowa: population 25,549.

To say the least, we were used to running into people we know anytime we were out and about around town.

The greater Belo Horizonte area has roughly 5 million inhabitants.

So lately we've become rather used to going out and never seeing another soul that we recognize. Granted, we occasionally make a random connection with someone who knows someone we know, but for the most part we run around pretty anonymous.

So you can imagine our surprise when we're walking through the supermarket on Saturday afternoon and someone walks up to me and asks, in English, "Are you Emily?"

Several weeks ago, one of my friends and former coworker from Iowa emailed me to say that she had an old classmate who had just married a Brasilian guy and was going to be moving to BH in March. Subsequently, I exchanged a few messages on Facebook with the Iweegan-turned-soon-to-be-BH-resident.

This random person in the supermarket? The girl from Iowa and her husband! She had just gotten into town the previous day. We hugged, introduced the husbands, and then stood around chitchatting for several minutes.

On her Facebook page a couple weeks ago, I noticed her awesome engagement pictures and recognized that they were taken in/around BH. I had asked her for her photographer's name, as I had been trying to find someone to take maternity shots. As it turns out, the photographer is a friend of her husband's.

Anyway, we get on the subject of the photographer and I mentioned that we were hoping to go out to a local fazenda/park for some of the photos. Her husband casually mentioned what a beautiful place it was and said that his brother-in-law is in charge of the gardens out there. Eric and I quickly exchanged glances, because shortly after arriving in Brasil, we went out to this fazenda/park and ending up meeting a guy who did something with the landscaping there. The guy went on to explain that his brother-in-law was Italian. And wouldn't you know it . . . yep, that's the guy Eric and I met.

So, I met my Iowa friend's classmate's husband's brother-in-law and then a year later I meet my friend's classmate on her first day in Brasil while grocery shopping.

Oh, and in this big sprawling city - they are living like 5 blocks from us. (And no, the grocery store we were at is not particularly near our neighborhood.)

Turns out my mama might have been right! She always warned me to behave myself at all times because you never know when you're going to run into somebody who goes to church with your grandma. And like the good, obedient, teenager that I was, I always heeded her advice. (What is that choking sound I hear? Dad? Seriously, get yourself a drink of water!) I sort of believed it when I was living in Portal . . . but seriously, in Belo Horizonte, Brasil!?! Turns out maybe the whole six degrees of separation theory really does hold true.


Kate said...

Okay way too weird Emily...I'm really happy you guys to meet and such a great way to meet too!! Just way to funny!

Beth O. said...

That's hilarous. We ran into one of Jason's ISU classmates when we were searching for houses last year... we both looked at the same house. It's very odd when things happen that way.

bruno said...

That´s a huge coincidence.
But the longer you live in Belo Horizonte, the easier it is to meet people in the streets - the city is actually known for that. I, for example, was born and raised in BH, so I know people from my school, university, former jobs, gym, language course, neighbors, club etc, might be 1000 people I know the face and possibly the name, and almost all of them live in the Zona Sul, which is not soooo large.

Even though the city is large, there's a lot of places that attracts people from all over the city. For example, everybody who likes to watch independent/alternative movies will most often go to just 3 movie-theaters: Belas Artes, Usina or Cineclube. Some of my friend are sócios of Minas Tenis Club, so in sunny sundays I always see at least one. Most people who wants to shop something in a mall will go in Pátio Savassi or Diamond, maybe BH Shopping. Sometimes, just a few new nightclubs are "the ones eveybody is going". And now, although the city has a lot of good supermarkets, Verdemar is 'everyone´s' favorite, so people all over the Zona Sul go there, when they have time. By the way, were you in Verdemar?

Usually belo-horizontinos say we are "always" meeting people in the streets. Well, maybe we are using São Paulo as a reference hehehe

A funny thing is that I always go to Minas 1, eat in Eddie´s with friends, in the Speciali with family, and my brother's girlfriend lives in an building in Antonio de Albuquerque Street that you can see from your window (I figured it out in some old pictures in the blog). So, eventually I might bump into you! Though it would be weird, since you have no idea who exactly I am, I just someone from BH who likes to read your blog to read your experiences in the city. Well, that´s how having a blog is! =P

Dora Dolabela said...

Coincidencias assim sao tambem chamadas de "pequenos milagres". Na verdade, quando isso acontece e' bom prestar mais atencao, pois possivelmente essas pessoas que se encontraram, tao inusitadamente, estao aqui para viverem coisas juntas. Muito legal essa sua experiencia!
obs: eu sempre escrevo em portugues para voce, is that ok?

Corinne said...

It is weird how often these coincidences happen!! I also suspect you were at Verde Mar :) where I almost always run into someone I know (eventhough I live up north and only go like every 2 months).

Emily said...

Actually, we were at Extra in Belvedere. But Verdemar is a good guess!

Bruno: yeah, you're in our vicinity a lot and we frequent the same places. Stop us and say hello if you ever see us - you'll make me feel like a famous celebrity. hehehe ;)

Dora: Entendo português bem. Não escrevo e falo perfeitamente, mas leio muito e sem problema. Obrigada por seus comentários!

Justin said...

I was actually pleasantly surprised to find out how much of a small town atmosphere you could find in a big city when I lived in Niteroi (for those who are wondering, I grew up in Portal as well, so yes, Niteroi is a 'big city'). While I was only there for a month, I was always bumping into people in my neighborhood (Sao Francisco) that I knew, and even the guy in the local pub had my chopp escuro ready for me with a big grin on his face when I walked in.

Of course, none of that even begins to compare with the complete randomness of your story. I don't know what I would have done if a random American called my by name while I was in Brazil...

bruno said...

Ok, if I ever come to see you I will ask for one "autógrafo". hehehe

Lori - Blondie in Brazil said...

Oh wow, that is crazy! We've had a few instances like that, but not quite that specific. A girl my husband worked with here did her high school exchange in the same exacty city he was born in. He left there when he was young and has always wanted to go visit. I think he learned more about the area from her than he knew before.

Oh my! I just looked at your countdown meter. It is getting so close! Super excited for you guys!!

Nani said...

Wow, the world sure is small!
I thought you were going to say that girl recognized you from the blog haha. That happened to me once here in Tucson, it was kind of creepy. I serve at an Ihop and one day I was running one of my colleague's meal to one of his tables and the woman sitting there kept staring at me, and after a few seconds she finally asked: "are you Elaine"? I am like "what the heck!" haha
Then she told me she is a brazilian living in NY and she had been reading my blog for a few years and she recognized me from my blog pictures, and specially through this little one of my eyes only (that's when she knew it was me, through my eyes) Isn't that crazy????

Well, I am glad you found someone around you. The more friends the better.