Small World: Friendships


Blogging has brought me a whole new array of friends whom I really enjoy communicating with.  Some are also bloggers and some are readers perusing the ‘net.  I have met gardeners, parents, photographers, writers, adventurers….We live in an amazing world with so many creative and kind people.

Recently I made a new friend through such a strange set of circumstances that I feel I must share it with you.  It’s a story of less than six degrees of separation across two continents that still boggles my mind.

The time line is not completely straight so bare with me.

Just before leaving for China I visited a new and wonderful yarn shop in a nearby town in the Hudson Valley.  As a member of Ravelry, an online community of knitters, crocheters and other fiber artists,  I went to the web site and ‘Liked’ the yarn store.  Ravelry is very similar to Facebook where you can set up a profile with a picture and some basic information about yourself.  So when I ‘liked’ the store my info showed up on their page in a similar way to friends list on FB.  That was it and I basically forgot I had done it until a little over a month ago.

That was when the comment arrived on my blog.  Jeanette wrote and said she had found my blog because of my ‘like’ on ravelry and the fact that my profile included a Chinese flag.  Jeanette had also ‘liked’ the store and followed my information to my blog because, as she told me in her comment and following emails,  she and her husband were coming to Shanghai to visit.  She wanted to get some idea of what to expect.

Being a friendly sort of person I asked what was bringing them here.  She replied that her husband, Jim, was lecturing at a local school.  The school she mentioned was the one my children attended but there are two campuses about an hour and a half apart in the city.  So I asked which campus he would be coming to.  She told me he would be at both.  I told her my kids go to that school and wondered what her husband would be lecturing about.

We had moved from the ‘comments’ section of my blog to private email at this point and either she used her own email in the beginning and switched to using her husband’s account, or she used his all along and I was just a dunce and didn’t notice.  But anyway, about four or five emails in to our conversation I noticed the name on his email account and realized that her husband had been pen pals with S2 when S2 was in 5th grade.  S2’s school had a wonderful program where the kids could pick people who lived in the community and had jobs that the kids aspired to.  S2 and Jeanette’s husband Jim wrote several times and met at the grand finale of the project at a special breakfast that the school held for the kids and their pen pals.  The postcards and other letters that S2 received were and are treasured items.  So much so that one of the post cards had come with us to Shanghai!

The historic Bund as seen from the Pudong side of the river.

I am much better at remembering faces than names and I wondered if I had ever met Jeanette around town.  I decided to employ the web in the way that seems to be increasingly popular – stalking people.  Not really stalking, just casual following really   😛    I googled Jim’s name because I knew there would be pictures of him and I hoped to find something from an article with a caption of ‘here is Jim and his lovely wife Jeanette’ so I could run through my brain’s file folders of faces and check to see if we had crossed paths before.  I did find some pictures and was trying to decide if we had met before when I was distracted by a list of Youtube videos that Jim had posted.  One was called ‘first calf at the fair’.  Our county has one of the biggest agricultural fairs in New York State and it is on our list of things we must do every August.    I was intrigued by the video and clicked.  It is a sweet little movie showing a variety of vignettes from around the fair.  One of the clips is of the main intersection, just below the 4H barns and heading toward the midway. This path is always crowded and is lined with every conceivable kind of food booth.  I was watching and feeling wistfully nostalgic about my beloved fair when my eyes grew wide with amazement.  Coming up the path, toward the camera were my husband and S2!  I couldn’t believe it.  This was the day before we left for China.  I knew exactly the time and date because we had booked our tickets in order to fit in one last fair day before we moved.  I am sure Jim did not recognize my son since a 10 year old and a seventeen year old look quite a bit different.  And Jim never met my husband.  So the choice of clip was just by chance, or karmic sight of hand.

mama and her piglets at the fair, 2011


the giant sand barn under construction at the fair.

I wrote to Jeanette and confessed my stalkerish ways and told her about the crazy coincidence of Jim being S2’s pen pal and then S2 and my husband being in Jim’s video.  She was very gracious and didn’t think I was stalkerish at all.  “Jim puts those videos up for everyone to look at!”  She told me.  She also told me that Jim only did the pen pal program for four years so S2 is one of four kids in the whole world who could have this special connection.

After all these coincidences we decided we had to meet when I they came to Shanghai.

So the time has come, and almost gone, for them to be here.  Their schedule was very hectic and we only got to meet up one night but it was really nice.  They brought the clear Hudson Valley air with them (it had been cold and rainy every day -all winter- until they arrived) and we had a lovely stroll along the Huangpu river where Jim stopped to paint the view of the historic buildings across the way.  The air was cool enough to warrant a hat and light gloves but you could smell the warm earth and knew  spring was coming.  We all went out for a dinner of traditional Shanghainese soup dumplings known as xiao long bao.  Jim and Jeanette, both extremely talented artists, shared their travelogue sketch books with us and S2 got to show Jim some digital pictures of some of the artwork he has done here in Shanghai.  They talked technique a little and then we  settled into a warm and wonderful dinner with lots of friendly conversation.

Jim painting by the Huangpu River.

So who is this mystery man that has crisscrossed through our lives?  His name is James Gurney, artist, author of Dinotopia and the great blog GurneyJourney.  We are very happy to call Jim and Jeanette friends and look forward to seeing them in the Hudson Valley or back in Shanghai 🙂

I will be forever grateful to Jeanette who reached out and made that first comment on my blog which brought us all together again many years and many thousands of miles away!

PS. my regular readers will know that I work hard not to reveal personal information about people in the blog without their express permission.  I did check with Jim and Jeanette and they both agreed to have their true names used here.

11 responses »

  1. Oh my goodness, what a story! I’m so happy for you all! It brings a sense of connection that must feel absolutely divine while you are so far away from home! What a blessing!

    • I don’t know if Jim’s book is for sale outside the USA. You could check his blog at and ask him. As for the book conspiracy (LOL) I highly doubt it!

  2. It is a surprisingly small world. Heading to CC for Easter and I hear you have some visitors coming. Hope you have a great holiday and visit!

  3. Bring together this great blog writer and family, Ravelry, a famous illustrator and his wife, Promising Pals, the DC Fair and YouTube = a meeting in China ! Truth is indeed more amazing than fiction !

  4. Wonderful story – saw your blog on Mona’s Ramblings page and decided to check it out as I too am based in Shanghai. I think stories like this tend to make you realize (again and again and again) what a small world we live in. Thanks for a great post.

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