When I got off that plane at Dulles I felt a sigh of relief. I had just gotten off that long flight from Afghanistan hours ago. Leaving our homeland was a tough decision. We left behind good memories of our home, the Afghan markets, and our close-knit community in Kandahar. But with the escalating violence and the presence of the Russian military, we had no choice but to leave. It was not safe staying in Afghanistan. A lot of people don’t know about the soviet invasion of Afghanistan they just focus on what happened years later on 9/11. We’ve always had to deal with foreign invaders.
I didn’t want my children or my future grandchildren to deal with this. Stepping off the plane, my wife and I were shocked to be in this strange new country. The airport was full with people of many different backgrounds, speaking different languages. It was a world away from the war-torn streets of Kandahar. The language barrier was our first major challenge. My wife and I spoke limited English, and while we tried to learn, we struggled to communicate effectively. That made for an interesting situation at the airport when we wanted something to eat.
I had no idea what anything on the menu said or what I wanted to eat. So very awkwardly we started pointing to the pictures on the menu and the cashier did his best to try to understand what we wanted. We ended up getting an egg Mcmuffin I never had these back home but I enjoyed that first bite. After breakfast, I decided to make a call to my cousin who had already been living in Virginia. This was back in the eighties and we had payphones back then not cellphones. I put my quarters in and dialed his number. He had promised to help me find a job and get started on building our new life.
He gave me his address. I wrote it down then told my wife to go outside and we hailed a cab to his home. The cab driver was from Ethiopia and we both tried to communicate in our very broken English but were able to somewhat understand each other. Seeing another person trying to live out their own dream gave me inspiration. We were gonna struggle but this was the beginning of our journey. The cab finally pulled up to my cousin's house in Fairfax and we paid the cab driver and saw my cousin waiting for me.
“Amin!” I hadn’t seen Amin in years but when he said hello it felt like he never left Afghanistan. He quickly showed me around his house and led me to my room where I would be staying. I unpacked and tried to get comfortable. This was the beginning of my new life. We later had lunch and we talked about trying to find me a job. He told me that he could find me a job working in a hotel in DC and I said I’d take anything. I wanted to start working so I could make money and then move out into a place I’d call my own.
Amin told me that the job was pretty much mine and all I’d have to do is show up to the office tomorrow morning to fill out some paperwork
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.