I am not a shopper at home and even less when I travel. If I bring back any souvenir at all, it must relate to somebody I met, an event I attended or an experience that changed my life.
On the island of Ua Huka (Marquesas Islands) I bought a Tahitian ukulele. I met the old man who made it. He is the last one of the ukulele sculptors on the island. In Kenya I bought a beaded intricate necklace used by Masai women during their traditional dances. I bought it from a woman who comes from the village of Umoja Uaso ("unity" in Swahili, the Uaso Nyiro is a nearby river). The village, founded in 1990, is an all-female matriarch village located near the town of Archers Post in Samburu County, 240 miles from the capital, Nairobi.
Twelve years ago, I helped a refugee family from Myanmar to adjust to their new life in Salt Lake City. To this day they are still a second family for me, and I have a strong bond with one of the daughters. When I visited Myanmar, she asked me to bring her back a traditional Burmese wedding dress. Looking for the dress added a meaning to my trip.
While in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I attended a concert of their traditional music. All the musicians were peasant from the area outside town. They had all made their own instrument. I bought the equivalent of a flute from one of the musicians. He had played that flute for the last 12 years. He needed the money, and I was happy to help. When I look at that flute, I see somebody’s life.
From my journey to see the gorillas in Uganda, I brought back the walking stick I used for two days to hike in the Bwindi forest. The stick was hand sculpted by one of the guides.
Often objects have a story and therefore a life. It is part of the magic of travel.