In the year between undergrad and graduate school, my friend Leigh-Anne and I used to get breakfast together every Sunday. After eating bagels and drinking copious amounts of coffee at our favorite nook, we would wander through Pike Place Market. On one of our trips to the market, we met this older, portly Kenyan man who had a little corner shop in Post Alley. We found him sitting patiently in his shop whittling away at a piece of wood.
I used to visit him whenever I came to the market and he would tell me stories about his village in Kenya and about his family. I was fascinated by him and enthralled in his stories. During these visits, I would buy a carved figure of an elephant or a zebra or a giraffe to go with all of the other African figures and paintings that adorned my walls. I loved everything about his shop - the way it smelled of old wood, how filled to the brim it was with artifacts from his home on the other side of the world, how quiet his shop was while the rest of the market buzzed, and how it made me want to be a part of everything it symbolized. He was on his own and working hard to help his family, he was bringing a piece of his homeland to passersby, and he was sharing his wealth of experience with me. And I listened, longing for the day I would get to experience the things he was telling me about, unsure if it ever would happen.
The last time I went to the market to say hi, his store was closed up. I hope that it means he has made enough money to go home and be with the family that he loves. I have been thinking about him a lot since accepting my Peace Corps nomination.
I can hardly believe that I will be going to Africa in a few short months. I truly never thought it would happen. The reality is hard to believe sometimes. I will be seeing and experiencing many of the things he told me about in our afternoon talks. I will be living a new culture, learning a new language, and creating friendships with people literally a world apart from me. I am so proud and humbled by this opportunity. I have been waking up with a smile on my face, looking around my room at the things I bought from him years ago, knowing that I have something very profound to look forward to. I feel like it has been a lifetime in the making and that my dreams really are coming true.