Culture & Society ---
There is a certain anonymity that a person enjoys through his or her engagement with social media. She gets to participate in a wide array of "friendships" across the globe, friendships that do not require disclosures about her personal life. Geographical distance is in no way a disadvantage in the cultivation of these virtual friendships in this expansive social media environment. And for many it's the environment we attempt to access when we open our eyes at the beginning of our day, at various intervals during our waking moments, and before we retire to bed. But what is even more fascinating is when those virtual connections translate into meetings in time and space, when virtual friends get together, removing for a while that anonymity, risking partial exposure, and risking the possibility that what our "friends" imagined about us might not be that which they see when they behold us in the flesh. And so one might approach these in-the-flesh encounters with high expectations when prudence would dictate otherwise.
Over the past weeks I have been preparing myself such an encounter with a Facebook group that I joined about a year ago. It is a group made up of Guyanese living across the globe, having as its purpose the celebration of the Guyanese spirit through the warm, energetic interaction of its members. I joined the group because (as I observed through the interaction among its members) it reflected the neighborly character of the typical neighbors in the Guyanese village. Even the group's name, "Gaff Corner" reflects that character. Since I became a member, my involvement has been chiefly peripheral, with a few postings here and there of my blog posts that I deemed in keeping with the group's goals. Since its organization, the group has come together for various outings, and the reports on these outings have always been positive, so accepting the invitation from Beatrice (the group's leader) to attend the group's Christmas party was quite easy. I certainly looked forward to the experience despite my not knowing any of the thirty or so members who were going to attend.
My experience at the Christmas party was memorable. I had an exceedingly lovely time with a wonderful group of individuals whom I had not met before but whom I felt I had known my entire life. Not only was the occasion a celebration of friendship in the context of Christmas, but it was also a celebration of our culture through the food, dialect, sharing of jokes, dancing, music, etc. It was a time of riotous fun, with color and flavor being added to the evening's festivity by Juliet's scrambling on the table for an Hemchand embrace and kiss, Har'un's under-the-table reference, Mohan's energy, Anita's three gifts just in case, Sandy's keeping her more appropriate side under wraps so that her more no-holds-barred side could remind us of those buns of steel and about consuming only "one plantain and two eddoes" at at time, and of course by the plethora of balls to go around, with each of the males in attendance coming away with an extra one and the ladies also each leaving with one of their own. And I also got to turn the tables on Sandy, catching her by surprise by sitting on her lap, with my arms around her neck, and posing for a photo.
It was indeed a terrific evening and a fun-filled night, with no boundaries being crossed, everyone leaving with his or her anonymity intact, and a no-decision on the black cake competition. I am glad that I was able to meet such a wonderful company of people, and I am certainly looking forward to our next gathering. Beatrice and Zarena were wonderful hosts; they both worked hard to ensure everyone had an enjoyable time. Thank you, Beatrice, Zarena, Sandy, Juliet, Paul, Christina K, Joyce, John, Hemchand, Har'un, Clem, Mohan, Mary, Indira, Anita, Loretta, Sabrina, Savita, Debra, Christina, and all those of you who whose names I cannot remember at this time. Thank you, Gaff Corner.
[photo art by Ric Couchman]