Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Candy Store People

We have met extraordinary people in many different parts of the world this past year. Unfortunately we often have to say goodbye without really knowing when we might cross paths again. Only once have we met the same people in totally different countries. Sorry, that’s not entirely true. We met up with John’s parents in Thailand and in Holland. But with people we didn’t know before this trip – it’s only happened once. And it all started in a candy store.

We had just finished a tour of the The Rocks, a historical area in the city of Sydney, Australia. We stumbled across a candy store, aptly named Sticky, that produces homemade candy. You can watch the staff make the candy and then purchase it.

There was quite a crowd watching two men pull and roll a long rope of candy when we arrived. When they finished cutting it into small pieces, they offered a free bag to the person who had traveled the furthest. We thought we might be in the running, but a young woman spoke up and said, “Burkina Faso!” She was rewarded the bag of candy.

Burkina Faso is located in West Africa, and it borders Niger. If John and I hadn’t lived in Niger fifteen years ago, I’m certain we wouldn’t have known where Burkina Faso was. Turns out we’d been talking about Burkina Faso because we were still trying to find a place to study French during the two months we planned to be in West Africa.

We seized the opportunity to ask someone who apparently had been in Burkina. I introduced myself and explained that we were looking for any leads on possible language schools. If the young woman said her name I didn’t hear it. She was with a group of people that included other adults and some very young children. They appeared to be in a hurry to get going. She hastily wrote two email addresses on a flyer I had in my pocket, and that was the end of our conversation.

It wasn’t until we were in Bangladesh a few months later, and still looking for a language school, that I pulled out the addresses from “the woman at the candy store.” John wrote an email explaining who we were and how we came to have this email address. We weren’t entirely sure who we were writing to, and likewise, we didn’t know the name of the person who had given us the addresses!

We didn’t hear back from anyone, so we pursued other leads and eventually registered with a centre du formation recommended by a friend who had studied in the same place.

While in Egypt, we received a message from a woman named Bronwyn. She had received our email asking about French schools, apologized for taking so long to respond, and invited us to be in touch again when we arrived in Burkina Faso.

A couple days after settling in Ouagadougou, and buying a phone, I gave Bronwyn a call. She very graciously invited our family to come and have dinner with her and her husband. Near the end of the conversation I asked, “Do you know the name of the woman in Sydney who put us in contact with you?” Bronwyn said, “That was me!”

We had such a nice evening together. They have a pool at their house, so the kids appreciated a place to play and cool off. They have lived and travelled in many different parts of the world, so we had fun sharing stories. Of course, we brought along a bag of candies for our hosts, “the candy store people.”

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