When Olivia and I first interacted in the middle of 2015 I didn’t think that we would be chatting daily. You see, I mistakenly tagged her on my natural hair page @Hulis_Hair (previously AfroHealthSA) and she corrected me but then still went on to follow the page. Soon after that she followed my personal account and I followed right back.
Weeks later she sent me a direct message and asked if she could do a post about me on her website at the time (kayiniafrika.com). Of course, I said yes because I thought it was amazing that this girl all the way in Tanzania thought that I was cool enough to feature.
As we chatted through emails I found out that she seemed to be a nice human being. My gut also told me that she was genuine. After going back and forth between emails and DM’s Olivia mentioned her desire to come to South Africa. I took a leap and gave her my number and asked her to send me a message if she didn’t think I was being too weird. In some parts I kind of expected her to just say thank you and never make use of my number, but I soon found out that she was actually happy to have it.
We were talking every day for most of the day on WhatsApp about our normal lives with voice notes and video calls in-between. Very soon after that came the tagging on Instagram when we saw a funny picture or a lovely quote. We discovered that we had a similar sense of humour and it became effortless to talk about all things under the sun. We went from being acquaintances on social media to becoming great friends online.
As we continued to talk Olivia would bring up South Africa more and more. We played around with ideas of what I thought of certain places and arranged a few logistics. I must say though, my first and then recurring thought was that she was absolutely brave! Who visits a country where the only point of reference is a stranger that they met online? What if I was a serial killer who preys on Instagram girls?
After many mails about accommodation and transport details she was booked and ready for her travels to South Africa. We had arranged that I was to meet her on the day after her arrival in October 2015 when she had finished a hot air balloon sunrise experience. I drove to the venue at the approximate time that she had advised me to arrive and I waited in my car. I sent up a prayer hoping that this wasn’t an elaborate plan to try and kidnap me and sell me on the black market.
What followed was a day at the Harties Zoo, the dam and then a drive to Sandton to find her accommodation. After a bit of a mishap and location changes we managed to check her in and went for supper and drinks where we met up with a few of my closest friends. Olivia then spent a few more days in the area and managed to make friends everywhere she went with such ease and grace that I was in awe.
Since then we have been involved in each other’s lives. The highs and the lows, heartbreak and heartfelt laughs.
My experience with online friends has always turned out for the best, but this was my first life changing one. Seeing bravery in a young black woman who wants to explore the world on her terms. Her visit here afforded me a strong friendship and an even better prayer warrior who intercedes for me.
Then in 2019 my best friend and I had the opportunity to visit Olivia in Tanzania for an extended Christmas visit. A story that I will tell another day.