This week, the crow learned why somebody might vote Republican and what can be done about it. Also, Yohan is Swahili for John. Learn anything?
From the “Register to Vote” sign on your clipboard, I’m going to guess that you’re …well, registering people to vote?
Yes, I’m with the League of Women Voters of Washington. It’s all about getting people out to vote. We don’t endorse candidates, we just want people to get out and get educated. We provide nonpartisan information on where the candidates stand on various issues, and based on that, people can make an informed decision on how to vote.
Why did you choose this corner of Capitol Hill?
I’ve found that this is a pretty good place. People are coming out of QFC, lots of foot traffic. We also have some people up at Cupcake Royale, but I find that it’s better to be out on the street—don’t mind asking people if they’re registered, and if they are, I remind them to vote.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to getting people to vote?
I think some people are discouraged with the way the government has been going. Some people who voted for Obama are not sure they want to vote for him again, but Republicans aren’t sure they want to vote for their candidate either. That’s why education is so important.
Do you live on Capitol Hill?
I live in Horizon House, a retirement community on University. I walked here this morning — been here since 10 o’clock!
Approaching random strangers—even for a good cause—can be a bit scary. Have you encountered any people who were, shall we say, less than pleasant?
Only one homeless man. He said, “Nobody’s done anything for me, so I’m not going to vote.“ I can understand that he’s kind of depressed about his situation, but we do register homeless people. Homeless people can vote. All they have to do is say where they usually are, if they sleep under a bridge or whatever, and most homeless people have a place like a community center where they can get their ballot.
Before you retired, what line of work were you in?
Oh, I did a lot of things. My husband and I lived overseas for many years, in Hong Kong. He was an educator, and I did social work.
How long have you lived in Seattle?
I moved here from Port Angeles about a year ago. I’m originally from Texas, but I don’t like Texas. I’m a city person, so I was really happy to move to Horizon House.
What are some things that attracted you to this part of town?
Oh, it’s so vibrant, and so alive! I mean, look at all of this! The shops are really neat, and I can walk here from Horizon House. And people are friendly.
Is there anything that you miss about life in a smaller town like Port Angeles?
Not really. A small town perhaps has more interaction because it’s smaller, but I find people quite approachable here. I smile at somebody, they smile back…
So that’s why you brought us drinks earlier! Mystery solved. How long have you worked here?
In about two weeks, it’ll be five years.
Where are you from originally?
How would you compare life in Seattle to life in Estacada?
Estacada’s now 2,500 people, but when I moved away in ’98, it was 2,000. There was one paved driveway other than my parents’. So, you could say it’s pretty different!
What brought you to Seattle?
I went to the Art Institute for commercial photography. I really liked the darkroom aspect of photography, but print photography is becoming a thing of the past.
In five years at Ye Olde Medieval Pub, I bet you’ve seen a lot. Any memories that stand out in particular?
Well, the ghost messed with me a lot…
There’s a resident ghost?
At least one. There was a thing about it in The Stranger a while back, but the one I saw wasn’t the ghost they mentioned. I was working one night, and I thought I saw a man sitting at the bar in a black trench coat, but I didn’t see his face. I asked the bartender, Jen, to describe the ghost to me. And she described exactly what I saw. It was this guy who got his face shot off here, but I didn’t know this story until afterwards.
Did the ghost make his presence known in any other way?
There were cases where things were turned on after I turned them off, and things were moved around when nobody was here. The back room of the Canterbury used to be an occult store, but that was before my time.
You seem very outgoing—you must get to know a lot of the locals and regulars.
Yeah, I knew a lot of people before I started working here; I started coming here when I turned 21. They had my resume for two years before I was finally hired.
When you’re not working, where do you like to hang out?
I don’t really go out much. Last night, I went to 5th Avenue Theater—I go to a lot of musical theater shows.
Are you involved as a performer?
I’d love to be—I was an honors thespian in high school, but there wasn’t a theater program at the Art Institute, since it’s technically a vocational school.
When I was a waitress, I especially hated Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. As a server/bartender, are there any holidays or days of the year you especially dread?
New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day are kind of amateur nights, but at the same time, I like being busy. It’s kind of a love-hate thing. I don’t like just standing around for ten hours. I like people, so I like to entertain and serve people.
If you didn’t work for the Canterbury, what would be your ideal job?
I always wanted to be like Bette Midler—singing and dancing. But then I found out that I was a really bad actress. But I’d also like to be an accountant. I really like math.
Maybe you could find a way to combine musical theater and accounting?
Yeah, I could be a singing accountant! That would be great.
Your name is pronounced like the German name, but it has a different spelling. Tell me about it.
Yohan is Swahili for John, in the way that Johann is German for John. I’m originally from Kenya, in East Africa, where we speak Swahili. The language came about from the intermarriage and trade between the Arab world and East Africans; Swahili has a lot of Arabic terminologies and African languages mixed together, along with some influence from colonial languages.
It seems like everyone speaks about a thousand languages in the Horn of Africa countries…
In Kenya, everyone speaks at least three. We speak English, because of the British colonial influence, then we speak Swahili, which is our local language. And everybody belongs to a tribe, so they speak their own tribal vernacular. And then I learned French in school.
Being so multi-lingual, which language do you think of as your “mother tongue?”
My mother tongue is a language from Uganda—my mother is from Uganda, and I was born there, but my father comes from Kenya. So we moved to Kenya and I learned Swahili. And my father belongs to a tribe called the Kisii…
How do you think that affected you, growing up speaking multiple languages and living among so many different cultures in Uganda and Kenya ?
As a kid, it doesn’t phase you. It seems normal that everyone speaks different languages, etc. As you grow up, you start learning the differences among the tribes, which are more dominant, and you start looking at tribes as either superior or inferior. Some tribes are bigger than others, and the bigger ones run the economy.
Why did you move to Seattle?
I went to college in Vancouver, B.C., doing graphics and communication. I was an artist for a while, but that wasn’t what I really wanted to do in life. I wanted to fly airplanes! So I moved to Seattle, then I went to flight school in Florida and got my commercial pilot license. I was a pilot for TWA for a while. When American Airlines bought them out, I moved to Italy and flew for an Italian airline based in Milan.
How did you like living in Italy?
I loved it. Beautiful country. Love the food. But I got laid off, so I decided to move back to Seattle, which I consider my home.
It sounds like you’ve been all over the world—why do you consider Seattle your home?
I think it’s something in the water in Seattle, perhaps! I can’t put my finger on it, but I keep moving away, and I keep coming back. It’s weird. I’ve lived in some of the best and most exotic places in the world, including Italy and Puerto Rico and Hawaii, but I keep coming back here. I don’t understand it myself!
What do you do now?
I work for The Boeing Company in Everett as a functional technician, but I hope to become a test pilot for them soon.
More CHS Crow:
- Jorge, Monica & Jake — ‘… so I blend in’
- Ben, Azul & Mike (& Alfred) — ‘People in Seattle are from all over the place’
- Charles, Noa & Qwo-Li — ‘You have to have another job to pay the bills’
Marguerite Kennedy is a freelance writer, semi-professional thumb wrestler, and recovering New Yorker who currently resides on Capitol Hill. She blogs at www.marguerite-aville.com, and does that other thing @tweetmarguerite.