I discovered recently that Facebook has a junk filter for messages. It’s not up there with penicillin, electric lightbulbs or the ice cube tray as life-changing discoveries go, admittedly, but given I consider my day a success if I don’t fall over, it was of some mild significance.
The very existence of the junk folder came as something of a surprise as I sat poring through what seemed like hundreds of messages that I’d missed over the years. Mostly, they were inconsequential: messages about events that had happened; updates from groups that had been set up in the name of requesting some charity sponsorship or other; and more than several from strange, sleazy men wanting to “chat”.
But in amongst the inane and the boring and the downright creepy, was one single gem; all the way from the dim and distant autumn of 2010, a message of the kind that makes Facebook worth using.
Buried deep in the bowels of the junk folder, was a message from a friend I made whilst living in Tanzania during my gap year. She was a member of the congregation of the local church, which had taken my travelling companion and I under its wing for the months that we lived there (which, as the only wazungu in the village, was rather a welcome development).
Over the course of several months, countless instances of utterly enormous hospitality on her part and some frankly abysmal attempts at conversational Swahili on mine, we became good friends.
Shortly after I returned home, she came to the UK on her very first trip outside East Africa. For the first few days, before she headed to London, she stayed with Family Blonde. Watching her react to the British way of life was an eye-opening experience – and one that was, just occasionally, quite embarrassing, highlighting just how much we take for granted that is, actually, when you stop to think about it, entirely unnecessary, especially in comparison to how the majority of the world lives. Why do we need so many varieties of sliced bread in our 24-hour supermarkets? Are several cars in one family strictly necessary? And the conversation we had about en-suite bathrooms is one best not dwelt on.
We managed to stay in touch for several months after she went back home, but then life intervened; I lost her mobile number; and suddenly we’d fallen completely out of touch. Until:
Hello Blonde, how are you? I'm just checking if you still exist! Would be nice to hear from you. X
Which I managed to inadvertently ignore for two years.
In the one instance that Facebook proves its worth by putting me in touch with a friend I’d not spoken to since 2008 and had no other way of contacting, it made the message as difficult as possible for me to find. Quite frankly, screw you, Zuckerberg, screw you.
Thankfully though, the story seems to have a rather more auspicious ending than it might: my Tanzanian rafiki* has, in the time we’ve not spoken, moved to the UK and is now a vicar in North London. We’ve planned to meet in a few weeks once she’s back from her lengthy Christmas visit to the family back home, rekindling a relationship which, I’m almost certain, is bound to enhance my life.
Much, it must be said, like an ice cube tray.
*I’ve hung on to very little Swahili, but there are a few words I do remember. Rafiki (friend) is one. Kipilefti (I kid you not: roundabout. Shame in my experience that no one ever keepis lefti around them) is pretty much the only other.