Facebook has its detractors. Some folk feel it is a privacy-invasion slippery slope. Facebook also has its supporters. Despite all the issues of privacy currently swirling around the platform, I am one of the latter. Not that I am not concerned about privacy. One of the things that pisses me off, for example, is Facebook’s interconnectedness of almost everything else I do on the internet. I google an item I am interested in purchasing and the moment I jump on Facebook after, ads about the product I have just researched start polluting my page! This is not the kind of invasion the detractors gripe about though. They feel their business will soon gaan a street by being on Facebook! What they fail to realize is that if they don’t post their business there is no way it will gaa street!
So, I am a supporter of Facebook, as I said earlier. One of the main reasons is that it has allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family living in disparate places. Also, to locate and reconnect with old friends and lost family members. I have even found family I never knew I had! Facebook has also allowed me to make new friends from all over the world. I am a social and sociable being and feel social interaction with others is one of the most important elements of a wholesome life. I am a citizen of the world, not just of my little Jamaica, or of my adopted United States. I like learning about new cultures. Similarities and differences compared to mine.
A new friend I made on Facebook a few years ago was from Kenya. Was, because this morning when I first logged on to see what was happening in Faasdom, I was greeted with a post that read, “Have received the demise of Artical Don with shock. God knows why. Glory to His Name.” What, Artical Don has passed? I hurriedly checked through the comments on his page and they did not allay my fears. On the contrary, they confirmed his passing. I still don’t know how, but he is no longer.
You might wonder why my friend’s moniker was Artical Don. If you are Jamaican, you can guess why. Though he had never been to my beloved little island, he was in love with it. And with the Jamaican culture, especially with our music, reggae, and our language, Patois. Hence his moniker.
Throughout my interaction with him, I found him to be a super cool guy. Bright, knowledgeable, sociable and a humble human being who cared immensely about helping shape the course of mankind in positive ways. He was a schoolteacher. Taught French, a language he had superb command of. When he wrote in our Messenger conversations, whether in English or French, he was often so poetic. His words, and how he strung them together, was all so magical. His friends and family seemed to have the same impression of him as I did, for the comments on his page bore it out. So, how did Artical and I connect? I will share the story with you. I will also share some verbatim pieces of some of our conversations to illustrate the kind of person he was. I am sure, without hesitation, he would not have minded. Such a person he was.
I got a friend request on Facebook one morning. Usually, if I don’t know the person, I might message them and ask politely who they were, and how they knew me. Just in case it was someone I should know, I would use the excuse that my brain was getting old, and ask them to remind me. But, a request from someone in Kenya, and a face I had no recognition of, had to be a total stranger. So, this is how the initial conversation went:
Me: “Hi, got your friend request; how did you find me?”
Artical: “Interested in Jamaican patois, I sought sites teaching Jamaican creole and voilà, I found your name. Seen?”
My goodness, he sounded so Jamaican. Seen? Definitely a Jamaican ringer. Popularized by Rastafari. And French too? And the conversation continued:
Me: “OK. Good to meet you. I see you teach French?” (I had seen this on his profile). Have you ever been to Jamaica? I speak a few foreign languages and was looking at learning one from Africa. Kiswahili is one that had been recommended I do.”
Artical: (And this is where he became poetic). “Oh, ne’er been to the “land of wood”, but I sure dream of it. Say, you’ dead right, I teach languages, ‘cause I lov’ ‘em bad! Now, you wanna Swahili, b’ma guest! Jus’ telmi watya wanna know, right?”
And I responded: “OK, man.”
The following morning, I woke up to a message from him:
Oh, now I was forced to brush off the little Swahili I had already learned. Tried to intersperse it with pickings from my dictionary.
Me: “Nzuri. Sijambo?”
Then he explained that the right answer to his question of “hujambo?” was just “sijambo” and that “nzuri” was more appropriate for questions like “habari?” or “habari yako?”
And so, my Swahili lessons continued over the period of our Facebook friendship. Five years long, and just now abruptly cut. I learned how to say quite a few things like where I was living, and so on. Not an easy language. Once, he asked a question, and I replied that I wasn’t sure I understood it. His reply was the English translation of his question plus a full set of related instructions. Just like a teacher would:
Artical: “Well, now, what are the early plans for next year?” (We were having this conversation on December 29. Lessons followed his translation). “Haya = 1. Well; 2. Shame; 3. These ones. Sorry, that polysemic word is sometimes problematic, but not anymore, I’m pretty sure now.”
Wow! I had never heard the word polysemic before, so even that almost needed an explanation for me to understand! And I thought I knew English well, and had been a linguistics student!
During one of our conversations I introduced him to my blog. He read one of my first pieces and posted the following comment:
“Wow, now you got my full attention ever permanently. Above everything, I appreciate the blend of Jamaican touch steeped in standard English, making sweet to read for its naturalness. Awesome, the brief dialogue breaks the prosaic monotony; idiomatic phrases and imagery galore make the piece further captivating. Kudos, Peter!”
He sounded like one of my high school literature teachers waxing about the style of one of the writers the class was studying!
And then, his French was just as poetic. When he realized I spoke French, his reaction was: “Oh là là, tu parles français aussi? Sensass!
And, after I explained I had learned French in Jamaica, studied in France and worked in Brussels, his reaction was (apologies to my readers who don’t speak French):
“Sensass! Moi, j’n’ai jamais mis les pieds dans ces lieux-là, mais j’suis bien-aise d’avoir fait ta connaissance; on va s’compléter sur l’plan culturel. Quid sur cette optique?”
When I replied in the affirmative, he concluded, “Génial! Marché conclu, et à un de ces quatre alors!”
His French was a wicked combo of standard “book French”, colloquialisms and more current, everyday French. And, I loved his worldview of our connection: Sensational! I am happy to have made your acquaintance; we will share information about our cultures. Agreed? My translation does not do justice to the genius of his French poesy, but just enough to give you an idea of how engaging he was. Eager to teach me about his culture, and me, him about mine. Swahili and Patois lessons. Reggae music.
I am so sorry I did not get a chance to meet him. I have never been to East Africa, and it is in my plans. I had been planning to link up with him, as I am sure he would have been a great source of info on places to visit and things to do in Kenya. I never met him, but I do miss him. I miss our conversations. I miss our mutual lessons about language and culture, about world affairs and mankind. Bon voyage my friend!
He was a real artical don, this Artical Don!
Oh, by the way, his given name was Kimani Kariuki.