His name was Akhram and he was my Uber driver. I usually try to make conversation with my drivers so I asked him how long he had been in this country. I don’t know what the giveaway was. It might have been his accent. He said, “18 months.” I asked him where he was from and he responded, “Syria. Do you know where that is?” I said, “yes” trying to process his experience through the fog in my head of travel fatigue and through my continued sickness. I asked him if he liked America and he talked about getting used to the new language and culture and customs. No, he did not like it. He told me that his son would cry everyday for 2 weeks before going to school. His kids didn’t know the language either. He talked about bringing his 85 year old mother here. He said that his move here was for his children.
He talked about the jets that flew over everyday, bombing Syria. He said, “We were just waiting our turn to die. Which bomb was going to kill us. Was it the next?” He talked about faith and how he didn’t mind dying and that death was a reality. He said that his children however did not understand that death was a reality. They were constantly terrified with all the bombing and he had to get out of there. The first step of his journey lead him to Jordan for 3 years. He didn’t have a work visa there. They didn’t issue those so his move to America was about survival and working. He talked about working and making an honest living. As an upper end electrical engineer/project manager from Syria, at the end of the day, he was just happy to have his family. He said, “for people, America is cars, money, things. For me, security. I have my family and that’s all I need”
He talked about how some people in Phoenix didn’t know what was going on beyond their little circumference of the city. He smiled wistfully, then he chuckled and said, “That’s good too, you know.” He talked about passengers canceling rides when they see a Muslim name. He talked about passengers asking him if he were ISIS. He said he tries his best to educate his riders that ISIS is not Islam.
Part of me wished I would have just recorded the conversation. Part of me was hoping he would someday make a Moth story. Why not?
The ride did not take long, but I had to record as much as I could remember. It might be my health but I was trying to wrap my head around a life of constant bombing and moving to Jordan and then to the US. He talked about the region in general and how it’s a mess because of the dictators. He said that Assad only wanted power and oil and full control; in the process only a million people were killed. Yes, I’m being sarcastic here.
I’m typing this trying to focus despite my coughing and difficulty breathing. I hope I have managed to capture some of the essence of my conversation with him. Perhaps, my writing is not as effective, but today, once again, I’m reminded of the International humanitarian crisis that the world faces while we continue in our little cocoons sheltered from it all.
Best to you all,