Quick link: FAQ

I did not write an essay about Frequently Asked Questions. But I did write an essay about Faq. Digging. Looking. Longing. Hope. The story is for Off Assignment and is about my struggle to learn Somali during our early years in Somalia. It is also about hope and family and my childish pleasure at learning the odd new word that sounds like an English curse word. One of the not-so-secret pleasures of being an expatriate and a language learner. We have highly advanced senses of humor. Also known as being pretty immature.

In 1991, Somalia imploded. Thousands died in the resulting turmoil of war and famine and anarchy; thousands fled. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants flooded cities from Nairobi, Kenya to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many Somalis lost their relatives or friends, literally: they couldn’t find them. Maybe they fled at night, maybe they were abroad when the war started, maybe they were picked up to fight as soldiers, maybe they were separated in an attack. In an attempt to find each other again, Somali radio stations started broadcasting a 15 minute daily show. I called it Hebel Faqayaa Hebel, or ”So and so is looking for so and so.”

Mohamed baa faqayaa Asma. Mohamed is looking for Asma.
Hibo baa faqaysaa Idriis. Hibo is looking for Idriis.

People sent in their full family names, back as many generations as they deemed useful, and their current location. The announcers read through the list, one after the other. People listened, hoping to hear the name of their loved one. Hoping to hear they were alive and could be found.

Literally, faq means to dig, usually to dig in a farm or a garden. Faq-ing could be done with a tool or by shoving one’s fingers into the soil and sifting through it, searching, pulling out stones and weeds, creating a hole for a seed…

Click here to read the rest of FAQ (or to LISTEN to it, since they also created an audio version, which is pretty cool).