He looked at me. Eyes piercing my skull.
“Yes - I have heard of it I replied. An African nation … right?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t place exactly where in Africa - but, my memory tells me in the North .. near Ethiopia?”
You do indeed know my country. He gave me the biggest smile.
And then this young man from Eritrea launched into the story of his journey from Africa to San Francisco. Not harrowing … though if you know anything of that region, that is more surprising than if it was.
I won a scholarship to America. I am a musician. I came here ten years ago.
“Why San Francisco?”
My friend … anyone coming to the USA knows the San Francisco is where you should enter America.
“Because they are more accepting?”
I must have hit a nerve.
I came here legally. He stopped talking. Looking at me.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry, I wasn’t suggesting anything else, I am just intrigued why San Francisco.”
I came here legally … with scholarship. I have always worked to earn money. I have always paid my taxes. I am not illegal immigrant. And no - not accepting. Look at me, 10 years after arriving in America I am here, my music I play for weddings 4, 5 times a year. I have qualified as accountant. But no work. I barely survive. No my friend I am not accepted. San Francisco is not accepting.
“Sorry - I understand, didn’t mean to imply, I am just interested in how you come to decide to arrive in San Francisco when you are living on the other side of the world. New York would have been closer. Easier?”
Aaaahhh my friend … the paperwork. San Francisco understands the paperwork. Speak to anyone coming to America, the stories you hear about other places. San Francisco undersdtands.
“Have you ever considered going back to Eritrea?”
One day. Maybe. I have family there . But even now, even with so called peace … it is hard. Too hard.
Working too much. Not applying his education to his job. Massively over qualified for what he does. Struggling to makes ends meet. Not following his dreams or passions. Rarely seeing his family.
And yet still this life is better than what he would have if he returned home.
Success has always been easy to measure. It is the distance between one’s origins and one’s final achievement.