“Signal” was taken along the shores of the Red Sea on an evening of a full moon in Djibouti City, Djibouti. While wandering along the beach, photographer John Stanmeyer discovered a group of people at dusk, standing at different spots along the shoreline holding up their phones, some talking on them, others waving them in the air or just standing motionless.
They were “catching”—trying to catch an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia by using a Somali SIM card in their phones. Stanmeyer said, "Not all attempts to catch the signal were fulfilled. Some would stand in one place for 20 to 30 minutes, waiting for their phone to grab the faint signal that never appeared, only to return another evening to try once more."
As I prepare for my Moroccan travels, the image grabs me at a heart level. The unexpected death this week of my treasured childhood best friend, Kathy Kanakis, makes it all the more meaningful to me as I contemplate our human journeys and connections to one another. I am also reminded of the power of art and photography to serve as a bridge toward understanding.
Both he and Kathy journeyed from planet Earth too soon, leaving those they loved looking upward to catch a signal.
Similarly, in our human wanderings across the globe, we look both forward and backward to stay connected to those we love and those we have yet to meet.
During my Washington, D.C., Global Education Symposium last weekend, I met new friends who will share my Moroccan experience.
Lilia Ben Ayed, from Columbia, Missouri, will be my closest traveling companion and will journey with me to Fez. I am fortunate in that she speaks both fluent Arabic and French, the country's primary languages. Beyond that, we have already discovered that we share many common interests, from dancing and music to food and a love of nature. So as one friend departs, another arrives and life moves forward even as we grieve.
Both my new friend Lilia and I will seek out Internet rooftop cafes to catch signals to those we love back home. As we do so, we will hear the muezzin's call to prayer in the distance, reminding us that this universal need to connect extends both outwards to those on Earth and upwards to the Heavens.