Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How I found out that the world is indeed a small place

Hosting international people in Finland is always interesting. It gives perspective on one's own culture as well as the culture of the non-Finnish visitor. And in these days of incredibly fast communications and the general feel of a "global village" (obviously including the "blogosphere") it's always good to have perspective, because otherwise one could lose the sense of appreciation for one's own background and surroundings in general.

It's quite natural that we tend to become somewhat blind to our own life, and especially things like sceneries in it, because they're always there. The memories attached to different places aren't exactly something you can erase from your mind. Once you've lived in certain surroundings for all your life, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to get a fresh view of all of it. This was demonstrated to me once more as I hosted my Maltese friend this past week.

The different seasons are about the only other way to see the surrounding view freshly. Not a day has gone by this week when I haven't admired the beautiful colors (red, orange, yellow) of the trees - the trees that have been familiarly green for a few months now. The last time I really paid any attention to the trees was, naturally, in the spring, when the barrenness of the winter was cast aside by the light green of the new foliage. But still, even though the colors of the nature change, it's still the same old trees and fields and such that I see daily. I don't think about them that much at all. Until there's someone who voices an opinion that the scenery is something special. My response is most likely something along the lines of "Oh, you think so? Oh, wow, I haven't thought about it that way..." It's very refreshing.

Makes me want to travel so badly, though. I'm seriously lacking fresh sceneries to experience for the first time.

However, experiencing my surroundings in a new way wasn't exactly the only thing I was left pondering about when my friend's flight departed from the Turku airport. One other observation I had been amused to make was that the world is so small it's unreal.

Or what would you say about a coincidence like this. There's a Finnish person blogging about random silly things. She knows some people. Like a certain Italian professor, who shares her interest in all things chivalric. Then there's a person on the other side of the continent, who just happens to bump into this silly Finnish blog and for some reason begins to read the posts somewhat regularly. The person happens to live on an island, that once was the home for the chivalric order of knights that the Finnish blogger is doing research on (we're talking about Malta here, of course). So far, nothing too amazing, right? Such coincidences probably aren't that rare in the cosmic scale of things.

But then, let's get all these three above mentioned people together. Let's have them attend a seminar about Kosovo in Turku, of all places. They meet for the first time and very soon find out that the Italian professor knows one of the Maltese person's closest friends very well. Of all the people in Italy, Malta and Finland there are these three people (four, if you count the other Maltese fellow, who wasn't in the seminar, heh) who are connected by a very odd coincidence.

Needless to say, I was baffled. In case anyone needs to prove that the theory about all the people in the world being connected by what is it, less than six steps(?), actually works, could maybe start here. I never imagined I'd be connected to a Maltese author by such a few steps. A funny, exciting and mindboggling thought, that. But then again, I think we once figured out that some of us girls are actually connected to Orlando Bloom by less than six steps, thanks to Sarin's relations. Which, naturally, is even more entertaining a thought. ;)

Anyhow, that's not the end of funny coincidences of last week, actually. We were having a very nice dinner in a local Italian restaurant (Sergio's, in case you're interested) after the seminar on Thursday evening. There were about 15 or so of us (the conversations were carried on in at least five different languages at almost all times; English, Finnish, Swedish, Italian and German), and with us was also the Archduchess Walburga von Habsburg-Douglas (she had been a guest speaker at the seminar). She, just so you know, is very closely related to the last emperor of the Habsburg dynasty of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.

Anyhow, this makes her also a relative of the empress Elizabeth, or Sissi, as she also was called. (You may (or may not) remember the old movies about her life with Romy Schneider playing the name role.) As it happened, the musical about Sissi's life was to have its premiere in Turku city theatre last Friday. The organisers of the seminar had tried to get tickets for the Archduchess to see the premiere, but had unfortunately failed miserably and made other plans for Friday.

But what happened was that later that Thursday evening, a small group of people came in the restaurant, sort of at the last moment. I noticed one of them looked familiar, and pretty soon recognised the (very handsome) actor who plays Franz Joseph (the male lead) in the musical. It didn't take too long for the rest of our group to recognise also the actress, who plays Sissi herself. The third person we didn't know, but just to notice these two actors was enough to get a buzz going on. Mrs von Habsburg-Douglas was informed of the situation too, and so were the people from the theatre.

Which then lead to a very surreal conversation between the third person from the next table and the Archduchess. ("So, what's the story? How are you related to Sissi? Why are you here? Please explain once more how you're related to the late emperor?" and so on.) We were all, I'm sure, equally amused by the coincidence and since Mrs vH-D was very kind and polite, she didn't seem to mind the fact that the people didn't really introduce themselves and that she was asked to write a short note for the actors for the next evening's premiere. All the three people from the play did, btw, very eagerly state that they could arrange tickets for her to see the premiere. Just to smooth out the indeniably odd response from the head of the theatre, who had refused to arrange tickets earlier.

But think of this coincidence from the point of view of the actors of the play. Here they are, preparing for their premiere, coming to have late dinner in a local restaurant and who do they meet? A person who is related to their protagonist in real life. I'm thinking they probably had a few incredulous laughs when they told about their encounter with the duchess.

I'm thinking I need to reserve some tickets for myself to go and see the production. I had thought about it before, but now it seems I really do need to see it. :) If for no other reason but to ogle the handsome actor, eh. Unfortunately the show's all sold out till February, so I need to wait for my turn a while yet.

So, to wrap all this up: it's a small world after all...

ETA: No matter how little time I have to read anything, I did end up dragging three new preciouses home from the booksale. A book about the crusades (ergo, thesis related), an encyclopedia of the Third Reich (ergo, work related) and Neil Gaiman's latest novel, Anansi Boys, which I was absolutely thrilled to find in the shelf. Can't wait to dig into it in the very near future...

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