There are 7.9 billion people in the world and 11.56 million of them live in Belgium.
I’ve had an experience this week that reminds me how small the world really is.
I have had a soft spot for Belgium since 1985 when my family and I participated in an exchange with Friendship Force International, a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to improve intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, friendship, and intercultural competence using family homestays. You stay with a family and live their lives for a set period of time.
My parents went to a small Belgian town and stayed with a wonderful family and met another family that had a little girl about my age.
The girl and I played together while I was there and decided to become pen pals. We wrote letters back and forth for many years as we grew up, became teenagers, university students, and young adults. Technology and social media have allowed our friendship to grow into adulthood.
She is an architect and professor who also plans and leads architecture tours all around to world and is married with three children. I am an independent writer and producer with neither a spouse nor kids.
I have been back to Belgium several times and have always made it a point to see my friends when I am anywhere close. The last time I saw the girl, who like me is now well into her 40s, was 2010.
Just a few weeks ago, she was on a work trip to Florida and spent one night at my parents’ house and another at mine. We hadn’t seen each other in 12 years, but were about to get together twice in the same month in two different countries.
Before a river cruise to see the tulips in the Netherlands, I spent several days in Belgium and we spent the day together in the lovely town of Ghent.
A few days later, I was on a bus in Antwerp when I noticed two cool buildings in the harbor and texted her pictures and asked her what they were.
She messaged me back immediately, and then someone else on the bus asked our tour guide about one of the buildings.
The guide answered the question and I added a little bit of information and that the architect had also designed a building in Miami and I had a photo of it that my friend had sent me.
He looked at me and said, “How do you know this?”
I said a good friend of mine in Belgium is an architect and leads architecture tours throughout the world.
He asked me her name, and when I told him his response was, “Oh my G-d, I know her.”
I showed him a photo, and it’s the same person.
It turns out, his wife is business partners with my friend and she does logistics for her trips.
I messaged my friend to tell her the story, and within minutes, he had the same photo of my friend and I from his wife.
The world is indeed very, very small