I was living on the 9th floor of an apartment in the heart of downtown Zhong Li, Taiwan with a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains—about an hour southwest of the capital city Taipei—where I was teaching English. It was around 9:30 at night and I’d just gotten home from teaching a class of children ranging in age from 6 to 13 years old. The hallway, as I made my way from the elevator to my apartment at the end of the long hall, was dark like it normally was at that time of night—one side covered with large windows that let in a small amount of light from outside—when I realized someone else was walking down the hall behind me. Curious to see who else might be coming home so late I glanced behind me as I reached my door and realized that I must have a new neighbor. A fellow foreigner coming home for the night, I decided to say ‘hi’—living abroad you tend to become a lot more comfortable with reaching out to strangers and starting conversations with fellow expats.
We started chatting and I quickly learned that he’d just arrived from China where he’d been teaching and had been hired by the same English Academy that I worked for. He was working at another branch, but had gotten the apartment on my floor and had moved in that week. As we continued talking I discovered that he’d also studied Japanese in college and then, even more shocking, learned that he’d studied abroad in Nagoya, Japan at one of the schools with which my alma mater had an exchange program. After I told him this, we found out—much to our mutual surprise—that he’d actually studied at that university with one of my old friends from the University of Iowa who’d studied abroad in Japan a year after I had. Who would’ve thought that a few years later this guy from Ohio, who’d befriended my friend from Iowa when they were exchange students in Nagoya, would end up moving to Taiwan, working for the same company as me, and end up becoming my neighbor—and eventually my good friend? We both marveled and laughed at the shocking connection and couldn’t wait to tell our mutual friend that we’d not only met each other, but were practically living next door.