When you realize you don’t know anything

Kirsten, Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia

The Unknown

The Road Not Taken

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I always enjoyed this poem by Robert Frost for its meaning but also its structure. I think the organization of his poem is beautiful next to the uncertainty and adventure of taking a path less known.

Yet for myself, I have a sure dream for my future. I want to become a professional chef and 14055122_10101895198284723_8615362666475341810_nown a restaurant that helps people gain skills to start their life again. From refugees, convicts, immigrants, and others, I want to have a restaurant that caters to helping people who want to use their creativity to begin again. From doing Peace Corps for over two years, I’m inspired by the ingenuity and perseverance of young Ethiopians who really want the same things that everyone wants – to live abundantly, love and be loved without fear, and have a clear purpose. I don’t need to “make a cake” for them. I can provide the tools for them to do it in their own way. They will probably formulate something new and often better than myself.

In Sicily, there is 11Eleven, a restaurant catered to employ and train young immigrant and refugee boys resettled from the Middle East and West Africa. The owner, Barbara Sidoti formerly worked abroad for many years in Austria, Yemen, and Malawi as a UN expert on human trafficking. Once she moved to Sicily, she became the legal guardian of four Gambian boys who often cooked Gambian food at her place on the weekends.

Due to lack of certain ingredients, the boys experimented with local ingredients, inadvertently creating new dishes. A few years later, they opened 11Eleven in October 2014. Yahya, a young Gambian who was one of the boys Barbara adopted, started working in the kitchen under the head chef. Years ago he left Gambia for a 15-month journey to reach Sicily. But now he is cooking delicious food which helps share his culture, promote understanding, and showcase his creativity. He says he is proud to make African food that local people can truly enjoy.

Meanwhile in Paris, two entrepreneurial Frenchmen started Les Cuistots Migrateurs, or The Migratory Cooks, which is a catering company trying to change the way Parisians view immigrants by introducing them to the cuisines and cultures of those arriving. Not only that, but they are also creating fulfilling jobs for immigrants who aren’t just immigrants, but more importantly, talented chefs.

Finally, in London, Mazi Mas is a restaurant that supports women from migrant and refugee communities by employing talented female chefs to cook their cultural food together. From Senegal, Iran, Peru, and Ethiopia, a beautiful mélange of cultures, cuisines, and women exposes the culinary world to new cuisines and, more importantly, to often misunderstood cultures. In addition, these women are not only able to economically support themselves, but are gaining professional skills for the future to thrive and become leaders in a male-dominated culinary industry.

I want to do something like this.

This I know.

The only thing I don’t know is the journey. But now, that’s the fun part.

Hannah, Paris, France

When I was young, the prospect of riding a roller coaster was uniquely and consistently thrilling. I would mock the weak-stomached victims who ejected all their greasy theme park food mere steps away from the attraction’s exit after enduring all the unreasonable twists and turns that gravity never meant for the human body to experience. And I – one of the fearless and steely breeds – would get in line to do it all over again for hours on end. The rush was certain but it came from a place that I couldn’t summon on my own, it was part primal and part convivial. There was something untapped, unknown and undeniably fearless in those sticky summer adventures.

But at 26, I find myself often unwilling to get on those same rides. I lack the desire – preferring a vigorous hike or a glass of red and a pretty view – but not only that. I’m afraid that time has recategorized me, that I am one of the weak-stomached. And not only for theme parks.

One of my loveliest friends and I were taking about being post-25 and pre-30 (don’t mock, this is a real group of humans with delicate needs) and he referred to this period as a roller coaster. I instantly concurred. But the metaphor goes far beyond the surface-level “there’s ups and downs.” It’s this huge challenge, always bigger than us and sometimes, even if you make it through, you still vomit.

For those of you who know me fairly well, you may also know that these last six months have not been the easiest of my life despite the fact that I finally got to start an adventure that I had been planning for a very long time. I launched out in this unknown world. I stepped on the roller coaster that is my Masters program in Paris. At different moments, I’ve felt the toll of always having to lean into the twists and turns and my body has not always enjoyed the physical and mental strain. I’ve thought many times that this is an awful ride.

But then there has been Stockholm. There has been Lyon. There have been raclette parties with my floormates. There have been classmates that tease me and build me up. There’s been a lot of goddamn love. All experiences unknown to me when I embarked upon this adventure in September. So I’m still getting line because of the safety of not riding is, ultimately, not my style.img_20170227_171549952-1

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