The world it is a small place. Very small indeed.
Last year I was in the West Bank and I became friends with Manoel Ramos a Mexican who was studying in Bethelehem. I met Manoel when Jaafar my Palestinian friend drove me to Bethelehem from Nablus.
Manoel knew everybody. In his broken arabic he work almost like an informal counsel to taxi drivers, vendors, people on the street… he gave family advice etc… I felt that Manoel could say anything he wanted because he was always smiling. Manuel once took me to see a couple of old men playing back gamon. In fact, we were just going to go buy something to eat but with Manoel it meant stopping everywhere to talk to everybody. So we stopped by these two older men who played back gammon every afternoon.
It was a beautiful image. Beit Sahour. The old old old Roman looking like buildings and men seating around this back gammon set. I took a picture of it. Some months ago I uploaded it on my Instagram.
Instagram for those who do not know is an phone app. It allows you to take pictures, put filters modifying them and to upload them online. Your friends can follow you and see what you are posting. You have also the option to see pictures of people you do not know. It all works by following how pictures are indexed.
For instance I took a picture in France and when I uploaded I wrote #France. This picture will be indexed with everybody else who once wrote #France in their picture. You can index several times the same picture using several different categories. Ex: #France #Provence #Sunset #bicycle etc
When I take a picture and index it #Palestine and I click on the ‘#Palestine’ itself I can see all other pictures that were indexed this way. Depending on what you write there could be millions of pictures. If you write #cats there will be millions if you write a name of a small village there will be probably few. Depending on your patience and your interest you can browse as many pictures you want.
Sometimes I look into other pictures and if I really like it I click on the name of the person who took it ( a person who is unknown to me) and I am able to see what they have uploaded.
Anyway, I uploaded the picture of the two older men playing backgamon months ago. And I tagged it saying #beitshahour #palestine #backgamon. And one of these days while I was traveling France I received a message on the picture in Instagram saying “My grandfather!”
I was shocked.
“Did you mean he looks like your grandfather? Or is this your grandfather?”
“It is my grandfather!”
This girl’s ( who was unknown to me) had seen by chance a picture of her grandfather on my Instagram. I was amazed.
Then some weeks went by and I was already in the middle east posting pictures of Jerusalem and the West Bank when a girl I did not know started liking my pictures. She started to follow my pictures and one day she wrote me an email on facebook. It was a lovely email she told me she was Palestinian descendant but she lived in the US and that she was now in Jordan. I wrote her back and through Facebook we suddenly realised that we had a friend in common. Not only a friend it was Jaafar who took me to meet Manoel. Jaafar who I wrote about a couple emails backs, and who is not only her friend but it is her cousin.
I was amazed again. The world is so small!
Today as I land in Brasil I checked my emails and I got a message from Fernanda who I met because of Gabriel who i knew because he had once written about the middle east. I became her friend because she was going to Asia and I offered to give her tips. We met once. We exchanged several emails and today she had written me to tell me she was happy I was coming to Brasil.
She concluded in the email that the world was small. She had just met in Cambodia a Mexican that had met me in Palestine. I could not believe it. She had met Manoel.