Updated: Sep 15, 2022
I could lose my culture, I could lose my name, my accent, my morals maybe even my family, but nothing scared me more than the thought of losing myself.
My name is Chepchirchir Kiprono, I am Kenyan. At home they call me Chiri, they love my black skin, admire my kinky hair and mimic my local accent. But if I was to choose what to keep, I’d pick Chiri!
On the dark Sunday of 28 Dec, I left my country to pursue my dreams. Unlike many of my neighbors and friends who would give anything for this, I sat on the fence. I had two lives, one which I wanted so much to make better and another which was calling loudly. I loved both lives, but I could only pick one.
Well, for 27 years I have religiously served one life, and the other only came when I closed my eyes to sleep. It was time to try the new one, and through my deepest fears, in my first cloud trip, I landed foot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The first sign that Sharon was taking over Chiri was the gift my sister gave me for Christmas. Back home, we share food, nyama choma (grilled meat), cards, clothes, money, and love for Christmas. But a foot massage cream? What’s that for anyway? Had my own sister forgotten who I am?
As I sat there thinking about this new life, my phone buzzed. It wasn’t my boss asking what stories I was on, neither was it my mother asking why I don’t call four times a day! It was someone from the new life. Someone, I now call friend…
“Sharon, what do you do for fun?” he asked. I chuckle and say, “I don’t do fun.” “Sharon, what would you do for a year without pay just because you love it?” he asks again “Travel, sight-seeing, taking photographs and telling stories.” “Then let’s go right now. I will drive you around Pitts and you can tell the story however you want…” He tells me.
My heart did a little victory dance. I felt a tinge of sweat on my armpits. This is the kind of feeling I get every time I talk about my desire to travel and write.
My stomach does a flip flop. I could feel the butterflies causing chaos as I ran to rinse off the massage oil from my feet. I then grabbed my camera, jacket and phone as I waited for him to come get me.
Four hours later with a camera, a friend and beautiful sights to behold, I rediscovered myself while taking pictures from the incredibly amazing Mount Washington, that stood there like a Greek god over Mt. Olympus.
Then there was Oakland with all its beautiful cathedrals and museums that made it a Gothic architectural town.
The tunnels with the sunset orange lights gave me life. The sculpture of Mary the Virgin on St Mary of the Mount Parish. She was eternal, a woman of women. She looked like she was watching over the city below.
The past few weeks had been difficult for me especially because I was still new in America. I remember one night, in the unforgiving Winter cold, I frantically searched the internet for flights back home.
However, that one day of sight-seeing and taking photographs made me realize the importance of finding myself again no matter where I am.
I am fascinated by this city bustling with life, resting under a dark sky without stars during the winter. The streetlights here are life, breathtaking and magnificent. They remind me of my city, Nairobi (cool waters).
As I looked down from Mt Washington to the roads that looked golden down in the city, I reminded myself that no matter where I am, I will always be Chiri, and my mission is to have an impact on something greater than myself.
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