From Africa, With Love

IMG_0166Three years ago, I splurged on a souvenir for myself at a little shop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania—a stark contrast to the usual Africrap I bring home.  It was an antique compass that the woman claimed was bartered in Zanzibar in the 1800s.  I was drawn to the compass before I even opened it.  When I unscrewed it, I found that it was even more special than I had initially thought.  Engraved under the top cover was Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken.  I immediately cherished it.  There was something about it that felt special to me.  I imagined who might have owned the compass and what adventures he or she must have taken in order for the compass to show up in this shop in Dar es Salaam.  To me, the compass told a story.  The story of a man who left his sweetheart to explore a new land, frequently looking at the poem in the compass and missing her, all the while, hoping it would direct him back to her some day soon.

At that point three years ago, I had no idea where my life was headed.  I picked up that compass on my way to the airport to fly back to Washington, D.C., where I called home at the time.  I held onto the compass, trusting that the memories it kept tucked safely inside would somehow lead me to where I needed to be.

#1's compass in the handmade leather case RM made for it.
#1’s compass in the handmade leather case RM made for it.

The compass came full circle last weekend, when I presented an almost identical compass that I found on eBay to RM’s oldest daughter for her birthday.  I noticed several months ago that #1 looked at my compass yearningly each time she was at my house—so much so that #3 asked if #1 could have it.  I wasn’t ready to give up my prized possession just yet, so I began searching for something similar that I could give her.  Imagine my surprise when I found a replica of the compass on eBay!  The compass arrived a few months ago, giving us plenty of time to get her initials engraved on the back to make it extra special.

#1 was surprised and happy when she opened up the compass and special hand-made leather case her daddy made her for it.  I smiled as I thought back at the road my life has taken since that dusty day at the shop in Tanzania.

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