The Face of a Friend

ilana and judy

So lucky to have Judy back in my life.

I recently joined Facebook, something that I resisted for a while; just didn’t have the time or patience to pursue one more avenue that necessitated keeping up with posts. However, a few more urges from friends convinced me to click along and join the ranks of everyone else out there writing status updates, sharing their life with everyone and making new friends of course. It just so happened that after a very busy day I was left with a restless mind, and unable to fall asleep, I began to think about people from my past. One of those people who often popped into my mind was Judy; suddenly, the idea of renewing our friendship became more accessible to me—I began to feel excited at the possibility of finding her. We used to be neighbors in Manchester, England, when we were students in the late 80s, and we were very good friends. However, after graduation we both moved to different countries many miles apart, and what happened next was life.


Her painting hands right beside my desk.

I’ve never stopped thinking about Judy; she was one of those unique individuals whose presence was always sought after—the one person in the group who would leave a long lasting impression on anyone who met her because of her warm, disarming smile, her intelligence and graciousness. Over the years, Judy has visited me twice, once in NY and another time in Venice Beach, CA; I remember meeting her in London once, but I can safely say that her busy life in Kenya and my busy life in the States pushed our friendship to the sidelines. Every time I would read about Kenya in the newspapers, or notice the woven basket she gave me, or the painting she made for me that hangs right next to my desk—I wondered how she was doing, and what she was up to. I even wrote about her in my novel.

Now that I had a plan in place, I hopped right out of bed, typed in Judy’s name, not really expecting to find her, because in the event she was married, she may have changed her surname and never included it in her profile.Ssome people aren’t interested in inviting their past back into their lives, I was well aware of this. Also, I guess I’d been too busy and distracted (writing books will do that to you), to ever think of Googling her name, which would have obviously listed all of her published work. However, to my surprise there it was: Judy’s profile came up and I felt thrilled as though I had just uncovered a treasure of some sort. A few hours later, I received a message from Judy who was just as excited and thrilled to have found me, finally, after so many years.

I have since learned that during our time apart she has become a prominent filmmaker in Kenya, making various films and award-winning documentaries where she focuses on discrimination and flawed politics. I’m well aware of the fact that reading a post is not exactly like having a face-to-face conversation with someone, but I must confess that it’s pretty damn close. Reading the continuous updates, viewing photos, engaging in back and forth comments, makes the person even more relevant to you—this instantly makes one feel as though they are an intrinsic part of another’s life. There are also the private messages that occur from time to time, say, when wanting to elaborate privately on a point, or asking a personal question.

With all the criticism surrounding Facebook, I for one have found it to be a wonderful tool to rekindle lost friendships, and keep everyone that I care about updated with my life as well as keeping abreast of all of my friend’s on-goings. I don’t have hundreds of friends, I’ve only included family of course and people whom I consider close enough that I don’t mind sharing my thoughts with them. After all, is that not what we used to do anyhow when there was no Facebook, and perhaps life was a bit slower and there was all that time for fact-to-face socializing? Would we not open up to a complete stranger that we’d meet at a party, on a plane ride,or at the car wash, and share a snippet of our life with them? My life is such that I don’t have all the time in the world to go out and meet with friends, or even make new friends, it’s impossible with a full time job, family, and chronic fatigue that comes along with having a busy life. In fact, I’ve already met new friends on Facebook through comments that I’ve made concerning political matters where they’ve concurred with my thoughts and we’ve expanded on these issues well after the majority had dropped the issue and moved onto something else.

I don’t see anything narcissistic about our need or desire to share—we are all social beings after all. But I know that with this new brand of 21st century communication, there comes a whole lot of criticism due to the fact that online communication distances us from physical contact, so the way we communicate these days has evolved into something different. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, humans are continuously evolving, and thank goodness for that. So it’s only natural that the way we communicate has developed into something else and this in turn will have other implications down the road, but that’s part of our on going evolution I would think.

I feel that a quick update is another wonderful medium of communication. I don’t feel that this type of communication has distanced me from people; I feel that it has brought many people whom I care for, back into my life and that has made my world a little bit smaller, and so much warmer.

I managed to watch one of Judy’s short documentaries titled “The Coming of Age,and I was struck with awe and pride at the wonderful work that she has produced. I listened to her voice as she narrated the film; it was familiar, soft and intelligent and one that immediately drew me into her story. At the end of the film, there was a little cameo of Judy, and that brought a huge grin to my face. The first thing that captured my attention was her familiar warm smile, I said to myself: there she is, the old Judy . . . but there was nothing really “old” about Judy. She looked beautiful, as usual, and just as captivating as before when we were both in our early twenties—busy with school and trying to find our place in the world, so many years ago.

Check out Judy Kibinge on Google and you can see some of her wonderful work.


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