From his countless hilarious stories to his passion for public health and fashion, any interaction with Kai Cash ’19 is guaranteed to raise a smile. I sat down with Kai to hear about his rather unique (and somewhat frightening) travel adventures, salsa moves and growing fashion startup.
Mr. Cash! Can you tell me about your time in India?
I had a lot of fun in India. I guess one defining experience that I had in India was when I was staying at a hostel and I met these two guys from Germany, and I don’t know how but they convinced me to buy a bike with the little money that I had from the Alumni Sponsored Internship Program grant. So, I bought a bike, and they were like “Yo, don’t worry, we’re gonna sell it in Nepal for double!” So I end up buying this bike, and I bought it in Indian currency so I didn’t know how much it was worth and rode it all the way to Nepal. I sold it and I realized there was no way for me to get back to Delhi, so I was just stranded in Nepal for a while. And I also realized that when I sold it back, I only made 20 U.S. dollars. [Laughs.] So it really wasn’t worth risking my life. Also, I ate a whole bunch of food that probably amounted to the money I made from the bike. So it ended up being a useless experience.
So how did you get back?
The guys that I went with decided to pity me and take me back to the hostel, and then they ended up staying in Delhi for a little bit longer, because I had no other way to get back.
Alright! Can you tell me about your time in Liberia?
Yeah, another great travel story. One time we were driving from Monrovia to a town called Ganta, which is in the north of Liberia. So, you know, Scott Lewis commissioned the host family we were staying with and they were like “yeah man, don’t worry, we got you, we’re gonna commission this van, it’s gonna be great.” So you know, I’m all excited for this trip if it’s gonna be great. They just paved the road, the Chinese just came in and built some new infrastructure in Liberia, I’m thinking this is going to be smooth sailing. I’m sitting in the van, you know, we loaded up, got on the road, everybody’s having fun . . . And then, it turns out that this van’s driving wheel doesn’t work! So the van is shaking more than an airplane does when it takes off! So I was really confused, and the guy was like “don’t worry about it, it does this all the time,” and I was like “well . . . okay?” So I looked at the host family guy and he was like “yeah, this is the best car they have” and I was like “okay cool? I mean if that’s what you think . . .” So then the car literally starts to die, and then we decide to pull over. Long story short, they try to fix the car with a scissor and a hammer [Laughs.] At first the car was fixed, because the guy took the car for a test drive. I’m sure there’s a reason he didn’t put us back in the van when we went for the test drive, because he came back around and was like “yeah, it’s fine!” Then we all loaded back into the van, and we went all the way down the road maybe five seconds before the van just absolutely shut down. The steering wheel literally broke off and we literally almost flew into a ditch. So then we went into a restaurant and waited for another car. We get into the second van, and this guy that they commissioned and gave money to, decided that five U.S. dollars would be enough to fill the tank to go across the country. So he filled it to a quarter tank, and then drives 150 kilometers per hour, and burns out all the gas, and then we were stranded in the middle of nowhere! It’s pitch black, and his explanation was that maybe some water got into the gas tank. And I was just like, “water got into the gas tank?” And he was like “yeah, the only way to fix it is to rev the engine.” So we’re just sitting there in the darkness, attracting attention by revving the engine, over and over again. And I just thought “this is it!” [Laughs.]So I texted my mom, and I was like “listen, mom, we’re in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t know if we’re gonna make it.” And she was like, “I’m sure you’ll be fine.” And that was the last thing I heard from her. But then – silver lining – the revving of the engine actually worked!
Wow, okay. So can you tell me about why you’re into traveling so much?
I guess I’m into traveling because I did it a lot with my family growing up. Every summer my mom and I went somewhere different. I’m into traveling also because I think the best way to learn about different cultures is to actually be immersed in those cultures, rather than getting your information from the sourced media. I also think my career interests in public health align with going to different countries and seeing the healthcare status around the world.
Do you have any other funny stories?
So when I was in India, I really missed dancing at Williams, so I sought out this salsa club. I spent my money on going to the salsa place as a substitute for dinner, and when I get there, the guy is like “oh, we’re so happy to see you, feel right at home!” And I’m like “this is great, can’t wait to start practicing,” and I then realize that salsa’s not the same in every country, because what they were doing was not salsa! So I was sitting there and he’s like “don’t you want to participate?” and I was like “no no no, you guys are experts, I just want to watch,” and at this point I’m realizing that I don’t have enough rupees to get back to the hostel, so I have to stay here until I can contact my roommate to come and get me. So he was like “you’re gonna stay here the whole two hours and not dance? Come on, come on.” So I start to dance, and then they’re like, literally straight-faced, and they look at me and say: “What are you doing?” And that was my salsa story from India.
Aren’t you in Ritmo Latino?
Yeah, but apparently I just didn’t know how to do it right. I needed a lot more hips and a third leg. [Laughs]
Okay – can you tell me about other things you do? I heard that you have a fashion company.
I own a clothing company. I started it my sophomore year of high school. I was really concerned at the time with the fact that I felt like I could design clothes that I’d rather wear and that I really didn’t have to deal with the lack of availability of certain styles that I wanted to wear and certain cuts, and I was also really interested in design at the time. And a friend of mine was really interested in black representation in the media and how all clothing brands were Western European in some way shape or form, and we wanted more people from the African diaspora to be represented at that high of a level in the fashion industry, so we decided to make a clothing company. And it’s been ongoing ever since. We first started off with just graphic tees in our neighborhood and then we moved into making different cuts and different shirts, and then hoodies and hats, and right now we just have men’s apparel but, in our next collection, we’re moving on to women’s apparel as well, and then starting to distinguish between age groups as well. And at first it was really hard, it took a lot of capital to get it off the ground, but now it is smooth sailing and actually profitable, and it has been fun designing different clothes for people.
So when do you have the time to design, when you’re also juggling school, Ritmo Latino,and other stuff?
I don’t design during school. I have sketches that I’ve done on breaks and stuff, but generally I leave the designing to my closest friend at home. And he does most of the designing, because he’s actually interested in business and fashion.