Alone, I was wandering the streets of London. Saw a steakhouse and went in. A man doesn’t think much when he is hungry.
There, I met Sessay.
He was the unassuming old man sitting next to my table. He was alone, eating sirloin steak on a sizzling hot plate. We exchanged a smile as the waiter seated me next to him.
“Always salt the steak on the hot plate while it is sizzling … makes it juicier,” my sirloin steak came and he gave me a friendly fellow steak lover advice.
The beauty of traveling is that you are never alone. You always have new friends to get to know.
“What do you do?” I asked.
“I am retired now. Spending a few months in London. I am living 5-minute walk away from the Buckingham Palace. This steak is one of my favorite places in London,” he said.
“What do you do before you retired?” I guessed his answer to be along the line of some well-to-do jobs; because it is not cheap to live nearby the Queen in London.
“My last job was the governor of the central bank in my country. I am from Sierra Leone by the way,” he said.
He showed me a 10,000 leone note and pointed, “this is my signature,” for a brief moment, I thought he was pranking me.
“So you print money?” I joked.
“Not literally, but yes – that’s part of my job,” he said.
He has worked for 40 years in the “money industry” as he called it. Started at the bottom of the food chain and worked his way up.
“It is not easy to stay clean when you are dealing with so much money,” he said.
“And how do you do it?” I asked.
“I value my integrity more than money. And I earned enough. I am not too greedy,” he said.
Greed is the feeling of unsatisfaction after getting what you want. Dalai Lama said it is the fastest way to get to troubles.
“Can you give me some advice?” I asked him to draw from his 40 years of working experience.
“Plan for your retirement from your first day of work. Time flies. If you don’t save and invest – you will retire empty-handed. My children say I am thrifty and they wonder how I fund their tuition fee,” he laughed.
“Have a good medical insurance. You don’t know when you will need it, but you will need it eventually and you don’t want to be regretful,” he said. “No. 3… own a house. I mean, have a house and pay off the mortgage. You want to have your own roof when you retire.”
At this point, my steak stopped sizzling and it was getting cold. I didn’t mind at all.
“When you are young…go ahead and fall in love. But marry the one who complements you. The person you marry is going to change your life…for good or for worse. So, choose wisely, ” he said and smiled.
“How do I I know that?” I asked.
“Lastly, there is no shortcut in life. Be patient and work hard. Work very hard but enjoy it. My doctor told me not to eat steak, but I guess it is OK to break the rules once a while. What’s life without a good steak?” he laughed.
“young man, keep this note as a souvenir and I wish you good luck,” he gave me the 10,000 leone note.
My steak was cold but my heart was warm.