"You are a great chef! This is plain delicious."
How did she react?
She grinned, said, "Thanks!", and added "Yeah, cooking is my new way of restoring."
How did I feel?
Facebook rocks. Not for stealing your time, snooping into your data or letting acquaintances you haven't seen in ages dump nationalist articles on your News Feed. Not for being a scarily rich and thus powerful enterprise either. No. I find it amazing because it connects. Now that's old. I know. Everyone finds, stalks and connects with people. Be they from the past, present and potential future. However in the case of this story it was different. I made friends with a friend of a Facebook friend I had never met before. Here is what happened:
Two months ago I used the social network to post a call for help, asking if anyone knew people in Istanbul. I had just booked my flights to Israel and my ticket said I was facing an overnight layover in Turkey. "Perfect", I thought, "This is a chance to inhale Istanbul again; If I find a host." So I quickly wrote a note that I did not want to sleep at the airport and pressed "Post".
Two minutes after publishing my request the notifications sound went off. There was a comment under the post with a name tagged: Michal. I texted her. Next I went to the kitchen, fixed myself a snack and came back, about twenty minutes later. When I opened the browser the little blue globe on the right corner of the page had turned white. There was a red nine attached to it. Nine people had commented under my post. In less than thirty minutes. Nine names of friends' friends in Istanbul. I was blown away. Plus Michal had sent me a warmhearted message inviting me into her home.
Fast forward to six weeks later: Arriving in Istanbul I read Michal's most recent message. She had sent me the most precise directions from the gate to the bus, including bus number, ticket price and destination. Once I had arrived in downtown Istanbul Michal picked me up and walked me to her building. In walking my Facebook contact turned into an energetic and humorous lady with warm eyes. Virtual vibes came to life. She gave me an introduction to her neighborhood and Istanbul in general, compared the city with Tel Aviv (not only my place of departure but also Michal's home town) and pointed out major cultural differences to me. Once we had reached her home she unlocked the door and said, "So, I hope you are hungry." I nodded unsuspecting.
Half an hour later my taste buds found themselves on cloud nine. Sitting on pile of pillows I was enjoying the most delicious vegan meal. There was vegan chicken, oriental rice, fresh vegetables, and water with lemon and mint. Every ingredient had been draped in the most dedicated way. The look of the table translated into love: For food, for cooking, for eating, for Michal herself and her company. I was overwhelmed. Michal topped off her culinary culmination with a vegan cheesecake. While I was chewing in ecstasy I listened to her thoughts on music, living as an artist and busking. They were wise. Michal sings for a living, she and her band Light In Babylon play world music all around the globe. They started out on the streets and they continue to busk still. Because they believe art should happen in the midst of people's every day life. Lure people into dropping their stress, listening for a moment, and finding their smiles again. While Michal talked I nodded passionately. I, too, love busking. For the same reason: Encounters mean everything to me. In my relationships, in complimenting, in busking, but also in playing music in general, among the band members. That was what Michal and I agreed on next. Our craving for mutual support and acceptance in the professional music scene. Again, we both stressed the importance of encounters over judgement and ignorance. "When I play with someone else I want to explore potential instead of living up to expectations. Those moments in which you establish a sphere of trust and, yeah, love within the band and then everyone starts listening and expressing themselves in a whole different way -- these are plain magical.", I said. "Yeah", she answered, "I hear you." We smiled at each other. After a while Michal said, "You know what else I really learned to appreciate through establishing myself as a musician? Social media. The internet. I could never have gained the amount of attention and reached as many people as I have without Facebook. I think it is great that we don't depend on the traditional ways of broadcasting anymore." I nodded. And grinned. Of course, Facebook. The frame for Michal and I's encounter. The get together in itself was anything but distant and tech-y. Social media set the course for an inspiring chat, a vegan feast, me being showered in Michal's hospitality and spontaneity; In short, a true encounter. So yes, thanks, Facebook, for making that possible- but all the more thanks, Michal. For everything else.