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If A Few Make Ends Meet, Two Million Can Take A Nation To Prosperity!
The following story shows the apathy and indifference of our people back home toward their country! It also offers solutions by encouraging people there to realize how even people who live in today’s developed world struggle to make ends meet. The story is part of my personal experience in living overseas. It is typical and it does in no way mean, I am alone on experiences like these. It is only a sincere portrayal on my part of how much difference we could make if we combined our efforts in developing our birth place. And finally, the story gives a clear picture of the hardships waiting for those who may plan to venture into overseas! And I hope that my readers will only get my point for I have in no way have any intention to advertise my story!
Home, Sweet Home Cries For Help, Do You Care?
Waa aniga ee ma imaashaa, ma imaraqdaa maroodi cadhale ma iga dhaban kari? ..... mayee ila dhaaf!! (Our country sadly cries for help saying “It is me; your she-camel! Could you milk me? Could you preserve me? And could you protect me from the deadly vultures? And our answers sadly seem to be: “Hell, no! Go and leave us alone!!”
I had recently visited Somaliland and had an opportunity to chat with an official there in our Qat chewing session. He used to be an employee in the colonial era and is one today. That is he worked under the British rule. He worked under the administrations of late presidents Aden Abdulle Osman, Abdurashid Ali Sharmarke and under Siyad Barre. He had also worked under Presidents Abdirahman Toor, Egal and now under Rayale!
That fact in itself I thought was a blessing in disguise. It is a live history. Therefore, I decided to seize the opportunity, learn from him and relay it to my fellow citizens. However, my chat with him narrated here will not be in an interview format. It results from the informal conversation between the two of us and is relayed to you as such.
So, during our regular conversations the following remarks popped up:
“First, the situation in our country today I suppose is excellent and supper. Of course the country lacks international recognition and hence all international financial institutions are off its limits. But there is peace and tranquillity. There is stability. There is a government. There are laws, courts, ministries and in short a functioning system! The only thing is that all of us and specifically those of you in the country should work hard; accept application of the laws; collect taxes without which nothing can be achieved. Together, we should also understand that we are in a belt-tightening period especially since we are not part of the global village when it comes to travel and business making. And those of us who visit you from overseas should understand that the country and people need us badly! This however, does not mean that on our part, we are not already participating in the nation rebuilding because it is our remittances that are the backbone of the national economy. But to do more, I would even suggest that the country taxes everyone and specifically those of us who live overseas. The government should also levy an indirect tax on you... the public, too by asking you to work hard even if you have to do that without pay!” I said.
Unfortunately, my friend’s response was: “Noah, I am really disappointed about you because you are day dreaming! There is nothing to do here! There is no work! There is no system that can encourage you to do anything and everyone is corrupt and never listens no matter what!” he said.
Naturally, caught off guard because I was not expecting an experienced elderly man to give me this answer, I said “does that mean we have to forget everything?” And surprisingly his answer was ”what else would you do? No one is willing to work even two hours a day. No one is willing to listen let alone do anything. No one respects the laws you are talking about. No one cares come what may! And everyone is for himself/herself. Those who work in income generating sources take whatever they collect and hence lead lavish life styles without any accountability. They build bungalows for themselves when their actual pay is only $50 per month. Who is there to punish them……?” he said.
Shocked to hear this, I said “I thought that there are government institutions that are required to carry out daily work; Right? How many hours for instance are government offices open a day?” And surprisingly, my friend’s answer was” no more than two hours per day and that is it.” Then I asked “how do you expect progress and development for your country if you do not work?” And again my friend’s answer was “what progress are you talking about? Whose progress? That of the country…? Which country? You must be day dreaming, Noah! There is nothing here! Everything is hopeless! No work; no money; no resources; and nothing to do!” he said.
Again surprised of the short-sightedness of my supposedly experienced friend, one thing immediately came to my mind; that I should shed some light how things work in the world. And and hence remind fellow Somalilanders like him who are back at home the need to sacrifice because without it any development and success of the country is beyond the nation’s reach.
On the other hand, because of attitudes like these, it is incumbent upon us, those of us who live overseas and had experienced the hardships of living elsewhere, to educate our people back home. They should be made to understand that without sacrifice through hard work, our country is doomed to fail.
So, my dear overseas friends allow me take the lead in this educational course and certainly I am aware that many of you may have had similar experiences or problems overseas if not worse. Doing so, I believe may change the attitude of those apparently indifferent people who live back home but who are supposed to lead and guide our young nation!
I left Somalia back in the mid seventies when law and order as well as the ethics of work were still in tact and respected. Of course at that time people worked hard to take care of their daily responsibilities, albeit inequalities in pay, promotion and access to nation’s resources.
At overseas, my first stop was Saudi Arabia where I had my first encounter into the hardships of life because in alien lands you become worthless even if you are an educated person who was prominent in his country. At Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where I stayed, I had to seek work and in fact worked even as a porter though I was a graduate who taught in the schools of Somalia. And although I am the kind of a person who never easily gives up trying, I could not get any kind of employment for six months and had it not been my fellow great friends, I would not survive.
For instance, often times I would wake up at 7:00 a.m. daily and would walk across the entire city knocking doors after doors to find work. And most of the time I had no penny in my pocket and would often walk back to my repose only in the evening. And though tired and exhausted, I would do the same the next day so that my friends always teased me as the “restless adventurer who rarely gives up”. Some named me the penny lover and others called me the ambitious. But none of these had any effect in me after all I was determined.
Finally, a friend called me to take over a proof-reading job he vacated and thanks God here at last I had a monthly pay check with a monthly salary of SR2500 equivalent to $680. And my work schedule was from 3:00 pm to 3:00am. But certainly that pay was a meagre income compared to what the booming market of Arabia offered at that time.
So, as the kind of a person I am, I did always wake up at 6:00am, again walking across the entire city looking for a better job. This time however, I had of course had some money in my pocket. And certainly occasionally I came across good paying jobs most of which however, for one reason or another, I could not get.
Finally, I decided to give up on this. And I decided to go for higher studies in the USA hoping that some day my life would change for the better due to better education. And it was at that time that I also married my wife, a Djiboutian who at the time was working for a national airline.
So, on August 31st 1981, I flew to USA and enrolled at a University in Arkansas as a master degree in chemistry candidate. Naively enough however, a few months later, I asked my wife to quit her job and join me there. And in less than a year, I had a baby at home with no income and with two school fees to pay. And not surprisingly, the little savings I had disappeared in a few months. So, my hardships immediately compounded.
And following are excerpts express my new experience when I wrote to a friend who wanted to come to USA:
“…it was exactly eleven months after a girl is born to me. It is a cold snowy late November. Too often it snows in Arkansas. My lousy little car is dead! Grocery stores are two to three miles away and few respond to help. Do what? Walk in knee-high snow, tumble up and down. Sneeze and cough and hate myself… this time however, with justification…..And bring what? Bring four to five bottles of milk for the baby that will last for only four to five days and start all over...This is how much difficult life is in the USA you yearn to come! Watch out and be prepared!”
But a few months after my graduation, of course only with the generous assistance of my wife’s family, that of my great American professors and specially my mentor professor who gave me a part time job as a Water Pollution Control research assistant, I graduated. But I had to move to where I could work … Arkansas had low employment opportunities, to provide for my family needs despite being an alien with not even a work permit let alone a green card or nationality.
So, I landed in Oklahoma City Oklahoma and call me lucky, with the assistance of some friends I got a $4.00 an hour paying job selling groceries. My work schedule was from 11:00pm to 7:00am working alone. However, as soon as I would walk in home in the morning of course exhausted, I would have to baby-sit my daughter as my wife had to go to school too.
Worst yet, security in my job was too bad. In fact in America, late night shifts are called the grave yard shifts because hundreds of thousands are killed by robbers at that time across the country. The reason is because it is the time when only criminals and drug addicts are your major customers who roam about in cities in droves… hence the name!
After two years, I decided to move to Dallas as employment opportunities there were far better. And again call me lucky, I landed in a grocery store late night shift job paid $4.50 an hour and again working alone. But as soon as I had finished that shift, I had to catch a second one. So, my work shifts started from 11:00 pm to 7:00am and from 7:30 am to 3:00pm the next day.
Despite all the hardships however, job opportunities in Dallas were there and within a few months despite having two babies, my wife too had a job. So, she would work in the evening and I had to baby-sit my kids during those times as my schedule was from 6:00am to 3:00pm and hers from 4:00pm to 12 midnight. And fortunately, one of our relatives joined helping us and making things far easier for us.
But despite having two jobs then, I would never quit looking for a better one on my off days and finally, I got a petrol station assistant manager’s job where luckily one day, I met a black business man who fortunately asked me who I was! And what was I doing there? But after a short conversation he offered me a cosmetics laboratory technician job with a $6.50 per hour pay… and there I am at last in my field. He later promoted me to an assistant chemist position with $8.50 an hour pay.
Two years later, two water chemist job positions were advertised in the Dallas Morning News and since I was always the kind of a person on the look out for new opportunities, I saw that ad. So, I applied and luckily at that time, I had a work permit because of amnesty offered by the Reagan Administration.
Fortunately, with the help of an Ethiopian chemist employee who was working there, I was hired and here at last I became a water chemist. So, I left the cosmetics technician job because it would not fit the schedule of my new job. But my wife could not work any more because we had a third baby by that time.
In America however, one pay check will do nothing for a family, large or small. So I had to get a second job to supplement my income. As a result, I decided to buy a taxi which would take me to my work and would also occasionally give me some cash.
True, my colleagues often called me the chemist taxi driver which would never bother me because at the end of the day, I knew I would have some cash (money) the sole mover and shaker of America and the whole world at large. In fact at that time I was doing far better financially because I could pay the financing of my Taxi. And despite working long hours, I could provide the needs of my family and could also occasionally send money to my relatives back home in poor Somaliland!
However, I was always exhausted because often times I came home after midnight that I could hardly walk to my apartment which was on the second floor. And forget to have a decent time and meal with my family. In fact it was common that I would run out of gas and so, following Somali verses naturally one night popped up off my mind:
Waa u tacab nin maxamedow tegay Maraykanee; Toosta u ku noolyahay kolaba tohoyan maysaane; Mid degreeyo teedshay oon qado ku taabayne; Toddobaatan kama yara haddaad boqolka tirisaane; Taraashay minkii ahina waa tu uu ka liitaaye; taash ninkii xidhnaan jiray halkani kabla’aan tuur. Tuhunkay malaha qaar la tahay tani firdowsaba ee; Tarash kama duwana kaan Cabdow bidix ka tuurayni.
Rag nin turuqyo weynaa mar buu tamar dareeyaaye; Dayaxaabu tegi kii aad islahayd taabbo qaad noqayba; Tamashluu adduuyada ku mari ama talaatee ba; Taxi buu wadaa Maxamadow taas miyaad odhanba!
Mr. Mohamed (a nephew) anyone who goes to America leads a hard life. One can hardly imagine the hardships he experiences. Even people who compiled degrees and still cannot make bread are no less than 70%. And if one is a foreign forget it. Those who used to sit idly wearing gold crowns, walk here without shoes; One may assume here is heaven; But in America if one has no money one is like trash!
And sooner or later time gets man and even muscular men become weaker by the day; So the Noah who you thought would some day even land on the moon; Or the Noah who you thought would otherwise take a luxurious journey around the globe; Would you believe he drives a Taxi?
And again, call me lucky, seven years later, I became fortunate enough that I got an overseas ( Arabia) employment and even more surprisingly it required me to work for only 6 hours a day… a job that I have till today. But had I been younger today, I bet I would have never settled with that until now.
So, my dear fellow men and women, this is typical of how things are in the real world. This is typical of how life is in the America you yearn to go. This is typical of how worthless you are living overseas. This is typical of how those you say you love them make money to send you and you enjoy only chewing Qat … the narcotic deadly disease (both chemical and bacteriological) laden plant that makes you hallucinate while you indulge into false self delight and an illusionary self ecstasy!
But in conclusion, my dear friends
It is true that everyone one who lives overseas really dreams and dearly loves to live back in his/her home country even though everyone is also aware of the poverty back there.
Is it not naïve therefore that those of you who live there and receive the assistance of their overseas loved ones, are indifferent to what goes on in your backyard?
How many of you sweat only six hours a day to make a living let alone harder?
Sadly, to me things back there seem to remind one of the childhood-story of the she camel that begged its owner:
“Waa aniga ee ma imaashaa, ma imaraqdaa maroodi cadhale ma iga dhaban kari? ..... mayee ila dhaaf!! Or “It is me…your she-camel; Could you milk me? Could you preserve me? And could you protect me from the deadly vultures? And our answers sadly seem to be: “Hell, no! Go and leave us alone!!”