Sometimes Earth can seem like a vast heavenly body harboring countless unexplained characteristics and unexplored frontiers. Other times the whole thing seems like your own neighborhood.

Houston resident Rita Romines and close to 40 other members of the Landmark Bank community (17 from Houston) recently took a cruise around much of South America. The voyage began March 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and concluded about two weeks later on the other side of the continent, in Santiago, Chile.

In between, the ship sailed in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and traveled around Cape Horn, the southernmost piece of land on the planet, a mere 600 miles of Antarctica.

A gentleman employed by the cruise lines, named Mickey Richardson, provided a lecture series about the sights patrons could view from the ship and other insight about the area being sailed. During one of his “Mickey Live” presentations, Richardson mentioned he was from Arkansas.

“He said he had lived in Bentonville,” Romines said, “and he mentioned we were 5,433 miles from the closest Walmart. But since I’m an Arkansas native, I decided I wanted to talk to him because we had something in common.”

Romines approached Richardson at the point when the ship was about at its southernmost point in the voyage, inside the Strait of Magellan.

“He was lecturing in the lounge in the very front of the ship about the Fjord Mountains we were entering,” she said. “I told him I was originally from around the Jonesboro area, but that I now lived in Missouri. He asked where and I told him Houston. He gave me a real puzzled look.”

As it turned out, the man Romines was talking to at “the end of the world” was related to a Houston woman. But not just any Houston woman; Richardson’s aunt is Jan Squires, treasurer of The Animal Shelter of Texas County.

Romines is founder and president of the shelter.

“With a surprised look on my face, I said, ‘She’s one of my right-hand ladies with the animal shelter,’” Romines said. “‘I speak with her almost every day and she’s one of my beloved best friends.’”

Word spread among the Houston contingent on the ship, and several people chimed in as neighbors, friends and acquaintances of Squires and her husband Jerry. From that moment on, a friendship grew between the man and woman show discovered their common acquaintance.

“Every time we saw each other, we’d laugh,” Romines said. “Here we are at the end of the world – literally – where the Atlantic meets the Pacific, and I run into someone who knows someone I know in Houston, Mo.

“That pretty much made my trip. It really is a small world.”

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