Vélo: How the Smallest Things Make an Impact

I sat in my room sweating on a mild 99-degree day with a small fan blowing hot air in my face. I just returned from the local Poste gleaming with excitement.

I’ve been living in Senegal for some time now, and the package that arrived happened to be from my parents back in Iowa. It took about 3 weeks to get here and I couldn’t contain my smile as I tore through layers of tape and cardboard to reveal what was inside. I laughed as I grabbed a melted package of Reese’s and thought how good it was going to be later.

I quickly tore open the bag of beef jerky my pops had stuffed in there. He loves to grill steaks, pork chops, chicken—this was the best he could do given the circumstances. I happily chewed on the salted meat as I noticed a piece of hard canvas upside down at the bottom of the box. I pulled out the canvas and flipped it over, and I was stunned by what I saw.

It was a beautiful painting my sister had done for me. Before joining the Peace Corps, I lived in Chicago working as a program tester for Allstate. I enjoyed my life there, but I always felt like there was something more to experience; something that a 9-5 job and security could never give me. To combat this feeling, I rode my bike around the city whenever I could. I spent my time after work riding my 1970’s Schwinn Varsity through traffic lanes and across lake fronts thinking about how cool it was that I was traveling on a piece of Chicago history itself. Schwinn got its start in Chicago, and I loved that I could be a part of history and progress, even in the smallest way. My sister’s painting brought back all those great emotions I had while cruising down city streets or navigating the Lake Shore Drive (LSD) trail bright and early on a Sunday morning when not a soul was awake. I stood up with the artwork in my hands and placed it on top of my dresser.

Painting by Jessica Wordel

Painting by Jessica Wordel

With all those nostalgic thoughts running through my head, how could I not go for a bike ride here in Africa? I grabbed my helmet and bike and I yelled to my Yaay (mother).

 “maangi daawal sama vélo,” (I’m going to ride my bike).

Thanks sis for making that day for me.