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Taxi cabs and conversations


Wed, Apr 4th, 2012
Posted in All Norwegian Ancestry

It was 5 AM in the leery London borough of Harlesden. The taxi pulled up outside of our shabby hotel, distressing me at the sight of its beaten-up exterior and floors littered with Red Bull cans. As a young Middle-Eastern man got out of the driver's seat to open the doors for my three friends and me, I hid my discomfort and firmly approached him to verify that this ride would only cost us 52 pounds and we would be out of the seedy surroundings and back into the warm embrace of a fluorescent airport within an hour. He confirmed, and the journey commenced.

With my cohorts snoozing in the backseat, the driver started to spring questions on me. By asking where I was from and what I had been doing during my long weekend in London, I thought his queries were a friendly albeit superficial ploy for him to stay awake during our hour-long journey (especially after noting his presumed addiction to energy drinks).

As the back-and-forth of small talk went on, we eventually declared that we were both students. I was pleasantly surprised at the eagerness for intellectual conversation despite the dark, early morning, so our inner nerds were given the chance to unleash themselves. The conversation spanned the places we had traveled, our thoughts on politics, recent documentaries and French art in the midst of realizing that we actually had very much in common.

With the car zooming closer and closer to our destination, our academic chatter eventually led to a more personal discussion of his background. He shared that he had fled to London from Afghanistan in 2006 to escape the turmoil happening in his country. He and his five brothers scattered across the globe, leaving his parents at home and only visiting once a year. As a girl of many words, you can imagine my surprise when I could think of no way to respond to him.

Once we had established that I was an American representing the foreign forces currently roaming his country, and he was Afghani, coming from the birthplace of the Taliban's power, we dismissed those differences as if they had never existed.

We laughed about the fact that we would easily invite the other over for dinner, but could not get into the other's homeland without major speculation and a five-hour detainment for questioning.

We spoke of the educated, open-minded young people of our respective countries and their distance from the arduous political issues that plague our combating governments. We agreed that although they seem so irrelevant to our lives, we will ultimately and unfortunately inherit them.

I have met many fascinating people from around the world in my short time abroad. Taking a look at other cultures and gaining a global perspective has been one of the most interesting and humbling experiences thus far in my journey. And after meeting Ahmal, I have decided that befriending and learning from people around the world is in itself worth the time and money spent away from home.

Right as we pulled up to the airport terminal, someone called Ahmal to ask where he was. He replied that he was dropping some friends off at the airport, and after hanging up told us that we didn't have to pay for the expensive ride he had just given us. But, for bringing me out of the squalor and into one of the most meaningful conversations of my life, I gave him the 52 pounds plus a tip for another Red Bull.

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