Six Degrees of Separation

2007.Jan.10 Wednesday · 2 comments

in Life, Popular Posts

“Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that human beings are connected through relationships with at most six other people. Several studies, such as Milgram’s small world experiment have been conducted to empirically measure this connectedness. While the exact number of links between people differs depending on the population measured, it is generally found to be relatively small. Hence, six degrees of separation is somewhat synonymous with the idea of the “small world” phenomenon.”


Buenos Aires – The last few weeks have been filled with dips into things past. It started around christmas and has continued – much of it brought up by a series of e-mail exchanges amongst friends from high school. This last year was our thirtieth reunion (which I didn’t make it to), and a bunch of us got back in touch, the list gradually expanding as folks add in one more e-mail address here and there. So, holiday greetings started flying through the electronic ether, a proposal for a more personal/intimate reunion amongst us has been brought up – I think almost everyone on the current list was someone who not only did we go go to high school together, but right back through elementary school. So, you know, the yearbooks have been hauled out, messages exchange – both public and private. All that sort of stuff.

Top it off with yesterday’s post, and a trip to an amusement park, something I haven’t done since I was a teen (more tomorrow on that), and I was searching for my notes from the Chinese cooking classes I mentioned in my write-up of last weekend’s dinners (found ’em – the place was called Complete Cuisine, and the owners were Sandi & Steve – and now I have more of my recipes!), and I ran across a folder in my file cabinet with stuff from my penpals. Now, those of you who’ve grown up in the internet generation might not really know about penpals. See, there were these things called letters that people used to write – before the days of the internet, wi-fi, texting, etc. They arrived in the mail, with a stamp on them, often from far away places. They weren’t really like instant messages or e-mail, they generally involved a bit more thought, and weren’t quite so conversational. They were actually quite cool, they might be from your aunt, or your grandma, or someone who, like a penpal, lived in another place and wanted to get to know you.

How did we get in contact? My first penpal came from a program called something like “sister cities” that we had while I was in grade school – there was a city in Japan, Kawasaki, that was selected as the sister city to my hometown of Ann Arbor, and we each were given the name of someone in a class there to write to. My person, Yoko Kobayashi, and I, continued to write to each other long after the semester ended – for about a dozen years. But that got me started, and I began to send letters off to the embassies or consulates of various foreign countries – I think they were always just addressed “Consulate of XX, c/o United Nations, NY, NY, 10017”. The letter would say something about being interested in being a penpal with someone from their country. Then I’d just sit back and wait. Most of them probably did little or nothing with the letters. But now and again, I would suddenly get a letter from someone in a distant place telling me about themselves. Many of them, like Yoko, continued to correspond with me for many years. It was a fascinating glimpse into the life of, generally, another teen, somewhere else (a few weren’t teens – I corresponded for many years with the postmaster in Reykjavik, and there was a woman, also in Iceland, who was the town prostitute in some small village). Actually, I had quite a few Icelandic penpals, as the Icelandic consul apparently simply had my letter published in the main national newspaper!

Over the years, we all stopped writing. A shame, as given my little wave of nostalgia, I’m now suddenly wondering what ever happened to these folk. Especially for the other teens, how did things turn out? Are they still alive, what are they doing… so, just for the hell of it, here’s the list of my old penpals – after all, I’ve got (maybe) all these readers out there from all over the world, perhaps one of you knows one of these people and will put us back in touch! My folder contained just a list of names and birthdates (the vast majority of these friends were born between 1957 and 1961, just to help narrow it down) and a few postcards, so I don’t even remember the cities that most of these folks lived in, and I don’t seem to have photos of all of them, though, it’s possible I didn’t to begin with – it’s been awhile…


Harpa Sigurdarsdottir
– Harpa Sigurdardóttir
Eggert Kristjansson
– Eggert Kristjansson (Reykjavik, postmaster – presumably by now since he was in his late 30s/early 40s in the mid-1970s, former postmaster, Birthday: December 7)
Lilja Fridriksdottir
– Lilja Fridriksdóttir, Birthday: September 15, 1959
Soffia Agnes Steffansdottir
– Soffia Agnes Stefánsdóttir, Birthday: June 15, 1959
Alla Runa Thorkelsdottir
– Alla Rúna Þorkelsdóttir, Birthday: November 30, 1959
Gisli Sveinsson
– Gísli Sveinsson (Leifsgótu 27, Reykjavik), Birthday: March 30, 1961
Svala Hannesdottir
– Svala Hannesdóttir, Birthday: August 21, 1959
Agnes Guberasdottir
– Agnes Gubberasdóttir, Birthday: May 18, 1959
Gudny Maria Sigurdarsdottir
– Guðny Maria Sigurðardóttir, Birthday: April 21, 1961 [Found in March 2014 through Facebook!]
– Sjofn Sigfúsdóttir, Birthday: March 26, 1960 [Found in early 2016 through Facebook!]
– Ragnhildur Oskarsdóttir, Birthday: May 17, 1959


Rosa Riba
– Rosa Riba (Badalona), Birthday: January 17, 1961


Chiaki Yabata
– Chiaki Yabata, Birthday: March 2, 1958
Yoko Kobayashi
– Yoko Kobayashi (16 Konyacho, Kawasaki, Kanagawa), Birthday: July 11, 1957
– Tsuyoshi Nakamura


– Omar Bonatar

Great Britain

Sarah Peplow I’m honestly not sure – the photo’s unlabeled, I think it’s Sarah, but this might be a photo of one of the other two…
– Sarah Peplow
– Helen Dixon, Birthday November 19, 1958
– Jane Kendall, Birthday: December 8, 1958

Sweden… I think

– Bo Neilsen


– Rene Schindelholz

South Korea

Sung Kag Kim
– Sung Kag Kim

Sri Lanka

John Romvald Hapuarachchy John Romvald Hapuarachchy
– John Romvald Hapuarachchy (last I heard from him, he sent me a note in the early 80s telling me he’d become a Catholic priest and could no longer be friends with me because I was gay, and was going to pray that I’d change. Ahh, “the church” at its best.)


– Gerard Hough


Franck Leverrier
– Franck Leverrier (a cousin on my stepfamily side – the only one I’m still in touch with, who now lives in Vigo, Spain)


Martin Rodriguez
– Martin Rodriguez (last I heard living in Texas)


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