The tiniest world

In 1989-1990, when I was 17 and 18, I spent a year in Düsseldorf, Germany as an exchange student. Toward the end of the year, I spent two weeks on a short-term exchange in Kleve, a smaller town on the Dutch border. The mother was 34 and recently divorced, her children 9 and 5. They were a wonderful family, and I visited them a few other times. When the mother reverted to her unmarried name, though, I lost touch with the family.

Yesterday, I decided to Google the kids, Nils and Birke, who would now be adults. Given that Birke‘s name is unusual, I was delighted to find that she wasn’t just online, but had recent pictures on Flickr. Nils and Birke are now grownups.

But it gets weirder.

Some of the pictures were taken in New Haven.

It turns out, Birke used to be the au pair for a family in New Haven. She’s very close to the family, in the way that I’m close to my German host family in Düsseldorf. She keeps coming back to live with them.

But it gets weirder.

The father is an architect and adjunct professor who co-taught one of the design studios last semester. Moreover, one of my good friends here works for him. Through her, I’ve on a friendly basis with his architects!

And of course it turns out that she’ll be in New Haven for a few months, later this year.

Birke credits a number of things in her life to the visit of a 17 year old girl when she was 9. I credit a number of things to a sweet family with a 9 and a 5 year old. We’re both delighted to see the things we have in common now. I can’t quite believe all of this. I may be the queen of the small world, but this is the smallest world coincidence yet. It keeps making me cry with joy.


  1. but wait. it gets weirder… I was just reading the NYT article today on making NYC parks have free wireless (like the Central Park people need free ANYTHING)… and dug a little into the group that is building this out:
    The first thing on the page is the community meeting, that GirlWonder is presenting something at. Well, I used to know a Molly Steenson, so I clicked girlwonder to check it, and the first post here about being an exchange student..and guess where I first MET molly! hahaha! WAY too funny, esp. that your post is all about the odd connections, and looking up people almost forgotten.
    Your back in NY?
    Chris Jordan

  2. i do believe things happen for a reason and when molly found me 15 years later and i heared about her life i felt as if i found my older-twin-sister :)!!!!

  3. But wait, it’s getting weirder, hahahahhahah.
    Guess who’s grown up. Yeah, it’s me. Yesterday I was a five year old child playing in the basement with a hot chick 😉 and now I’m exploring the world. It’s funny to see you again, thou I can’t remember our date with our lego friends. I only can remember when we brought you back to duesseldorf and you gave me a picture with you. I think you were wearing a funny hat, am I right?
    Well, that’s it for now, actually nothing happened in the last 16 years :).

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