On Christmas Eve I get to meet Ríona, who regularly posts comments here (I’ve never met most of the people who do). She’s a Seattle-based Microsoftie, and wrote to me in May when she found my post about San Juan de Chamula, in Chiapas, which she had just visited too.
A Ríona (REE-uh-na) and a Dervala can start with the assumption that the other is Irish, but we quickly discovered more in common than that. We went to the same secondary school–Crescent, in Limerick. (She was six years ahead, so we weren’t there at the same time.) My father taught her. My sister and her brother “went out” briefly, as kids. She worked with a classmate of mine at Microsoft. We had followed the same career path–from literary publishing (briefly, in my case) to software. We are reformed Prada tag-hags who learned to drive at an advanced age. Her eccentric upbringing, from Canada to a cottage on Achill Island (immortalised as Craggy Island in _Father Ted_,) parallels the kind of adulthood I’m trying to make. And we share an interest in far-flung travel, from Chiapas to China.
So how ’bout that. In truth, it never surprises me to discover connections with Irish people. There are only four million of us, all related, and professionals of a given generation follow a fairly set path. The bonus here is finding a kindred spirit in my very own home town, a rarer bird entirely. “You can’t miss me,” she says cheerfully on the phone, “I’ll be with a six foot five inch American with very white teeth.”
This site has provided all kinds of unexpected gifts like Ríona. I’ve made new friendships with old colleagues who got to know me in a different way through these posts. I’ve renewed friendships with schoolfriends who followed Google here. Old friends who feel in touch even when I spend Christmas in Cambodia send long letters they might not otherwise write. Brand-new friends who click with these stories share their company, their time, their job connections, and their warmth. Conversations roll into my inbox from all timezones, and leave me stunned at the number of cool people in the world, from Cape Town to Castleconnell. This is my only fixed address, and I’m truly grateful to be able to welcome people here.