A Barista’s Journey
Barbra Gichiri 26
Three tattoos so far. Two represent death and one represents life. On my arm is a palm tree. My best friend, a fellow barista, walked into a busy highway in Bahrain and killed himself. The news of his death felt like I had been hit by the 18-wheeler truck that killed him. It staggered me. It welled in me difficult questions in the still of darkness.
The second tattoo is on my neck is for Amira, my two year old daughter. Amira in Arabic means princess. She is on my neck because my neck keeps my head up. She is on my neck because you can see my heartbeat on my neck and I want the world to see my heartbeat.
The last tattoo is of a coffee plant. It represents where I come from- Muranga – the home of coffee. I grew up around coffee. It’s also where my parents are buried. See, I’ve been an orphan since I was six years old. I’m 26. One day mom and dad and my little brother were coming back from Nairobi when they got into a nasty road accident. Mum and baby brother died on the spot, dad not long after. I don’t remember them much, just flashes of hazy memory. But when I go to Muranga and stand on their graves surrounded by coffee plants, I feel like I knew them.
I was raised by my hippie grandmother, a slender (like me), talkative (like me) free spirited (like me) lady. All I have learnt about freedom and life and courage comes from my grandmother, which means it also comes from great tragedy and loss. Grandma doesn’t sit in one place; life is motion, you stand for too long and the ground eats you. You move because when you move you learn.
I was destined to be a barista. I always knew I wanted to make coffee like they did in movies. After catering school I once saw a van calling our for baristas in traffic, like a calling. I applied and got into a barista school. Now here I am at Java, the home of coffee. I’m incomplete but also I’m completed in the ways that I should be completed. I come with scars and tales and I come with my tattoos. So when I make you a cup, I’m not just serving you coffee, I’m serving you a part of my journey.