During my travels around the world, I’ve crossed paths with some incredible and unforgettable people. Although our interactions were small, their impact on me was huge. In Part I of this piece, I describe the interesting individuals I’ve met through my adventures around the African continent.
The American en Route to Kenya
I was leaving South Africa from Joburg and heading to Morocco via Nairobi. It was a five-hour flight with a six-hour layover, which I was not looking forward to. The flight had a mix of people, but mostly East Africans were on board. While waiting for my boarding group to be called I noticed an older black gentleman with a bright purple Baltimore Ravens hat on. Being from America and loving football, this intrigued me. I wondered if he was from America or if he just loved the NFL team from afar.
Well, as luck had it, this man was my seat mate. As we settled into our seats before takeoff, I mentioned his hat and asked him where he was from. He laughed and told me in an American accent that he was from Baltimore, Maryland, but now lives in North Carolina. I asked why he was in Joburg traveling to Nairobi and discovered he works for the U.S. Embassy in Uganda. He was on business in South Africa and traveling to Uganda via Nairobi.
We began chatting some more—I told him a little about myself and my travels and he told me more about his life. He split his time living in both Uganda and America. He had twin sons back home and was eager to tell me about them heading off to college. I could see how excited and proud he was. We didn’t chat the entire flight, but we did bond a bit more over the fact that I still had a iPod Nano (being older, he thought he was the only one left who did) and how weird, yet delicious the in-flight food was.
At the Nairobi Airport, when I finally made it to the waiting area near the terminals, I planted myself at a table by a cafe. I was a bit flustered trying to connect to the WiFi and get myself settled in, and then I saw my seat mate again. He came over asked me if I needed a water or coffee from the cafe. I declined, but it was very polite and I was very thankful. It was nice having something familiar in such an unfamiliar place. With a focus on getting WiFi for my tablet, I missed saying goodbye to him, but he’s definitely a person I’m so glad to have met.
The Kenyan Student in Morocco
At a bar one night in Fes, I noticed the woman who served me my drink had a beaded bracelet that said Kenya on it. I asked where she was from in Kenya and she told me Nairobi. I inquired what she was doing in Morocco and learned she had just finished up her studies at The University of Al-Qarawiyyin (the world’s oldest university). She was contemplating whether she would move back to Nairobi or not because she really loved being in Morocco.
I mentioned my layover en route to Morocco was in Nairobi and I so badly wished I’d had the time to get out and explore the country. She then said to me, “Please go back. We want people to visit. When tourists come to Kenya we embrace it because they’ve actually taught us so much about our own country. I’ve lived in Nairobi my whole life but never truly explored it. Visitors have showed me how much there is to see in my own backyard. It’s always a pull for me to go back home.” I’ll continue to wonder what she decided to do and I also sincerely hope to thoroughly visit Kenya one day.
The Zambian Chef in Camps Bay
On one of my favorite, most wild nights in Cape Town, I met someone with a very inspiring story. I was out at a karaoke night at Dizzy’s in Camps Bay. Every single one of my friends and I were going all out. People were hooking up who shouldn’t have been, phones and wallets were lost, tears were shed. And me? I was busy chatting with anyone I found intriguing. I sat myself at a random table and started talking to a guy who was in a chef’s jacket. He told me he worked as a sous chef here in Camps Bay at a French restaurant. I also learned he was from Zambia and I had never met someone from there so this intrigued me even more. I inquired further and he happily answered my questions.
He had 14 siblings, which made my mouth drop. He talked about how his dad was the family’s rock and their mom wasn’t around much. His brothers and sisters eventually moved all over the place—a couple siblings went to America, some to South Africa, and a few stayed around different areas of Zambia. But, they all met in Cape Town once a year for a reunion. His parents were no longer together, but they both came to be with their children. Whenever I look back on this little story it always amazes me. It was an unforgettable story on an unforgettable night.
The Canadian in Cape Town
On another fun night in Cape Town, I was heading out to First Thursdays with some girl friends. First Thursdays are nights where bars, museums, art galleries, and music venues all have something going on for little to no money. I was thrilled to see this side of Cape Town.
As we walked along one of the crowded alleyways, we heard music and saw a big crowd gathering. We went over and discovered a really awesome band playing. They were called Native Young and were performing a song called “Children of the Sun” which I immediately fell in love with. One of the girls I was with had her friend along with her, and I didn’t know her, but we started talking and bonding over the great music. The band was selling CDs and between songs they encouraged everyone to buy one. It looked as if no one was buying, so this girl and I marched over to the guy helping sell the CDs and we both bought one. We loved the music and truly wanted their CD. As we walked away, we finally started to see more people walking over to buy them.
Then, as we joined back with our group of friends, this girl who I found out was from Canada, suggested an underground music venue. It sounded fun so we all agreed to go. When we got there it was even cooler than I thought it’d be. It was actually an underground skatepark converted into a bar and venue. We grabbed drinks and watched a bunch of bands play down in the skating pits. I learned that Cape Town also has a really big skating scene. It was great that this girl was with us and led us to one of the most unique places in Cape Town. Experiences and people I’ll surely never forget.
The Little Boy in Muizenburg
This is arguably some of the best few minutes of my life. It was my first weekend in Cape Town and my new friends and I wanted to go to Muizenburg Beach. It was Cape Town’s surf capital and it featured great views and colorful beach huts. It was a must-see on our lists, so we ventured there via the train.
When we got there, I was in awe. It was so vibrant, bright, and full of life. The beach was crowded, but still beautiful and relaxing. We settled near the beach huts and hung out. After a little bit of napping on the warm sand, I sat up to admire the view. I watched surfers catch big waves and brave people swim in the freezing cold water.
Then, all of sudden, a little boy appeared next to me. He was super cute so I smiled and said hi. He stared at me for a few seconds and then plopped himself down next to me and started playing in the sand. He offered me his little shovel so I could play with him. He was the sweetest little boy I’d ever met. A minute or so passed by and I wondered where his parents or family were. I glanced around, but saw no one looking for him. I was sure they were somewhere, so I just continued to play in the sand with him. About five minutes passed by where we were just scooping sand up and then patting it back down.
Finally, his sister called to him and he got up and raced over to her, leaving his sand toys behind. They went to go dip their feet in the water and now I could see who his family was. I waited for them to get back from the water and then walked over to return the toys to them. He was back playing in the sand again with his sister. Those few minutes with this cute toddler made me so incredibly happy. It felt like I got to see the beauty of the beach through his eyes. As cheesy as this may sound, it really is the little things in life that can mean the most.