This is a four part blog series that will detail out the lessons I learnt during my first solo trip to America. The title is inspired by my sister, whom I reached out to in a moment of overwhelm and panic. Sometimes it takes a little tough love to get your head back on straight. While curating this series, I was taken back to the lessons of watching, observing, taking in and learning.
I hope that the lessons and the stories I heard will inspire you in whichever way to live a more observant and curious life.
Part 1: The Cab Guy Edition
If there was ever one part of the trip that I learnt a lot from, it was from talking to all the cab drivers and Lyft drivers.
I realized that every body in this world has a story.
I understood that connection is as easy as opening your mouth and beginning a conversation. How are you? How is your day going? Where are you from? What do you do you?
So I highlight a couple, if not all, of my cab experiences to share a bit of insight into this men and women, who just have an app on their phone and most of whom are cab drivers in order to earn a little bit more money- which is a totally different modality from that in Kenya.
Hussein from Iraq is in college upgrading his English proficiency. He has about 1.5 years left to go before he can become an American citizen. He takes the privilege of having left his war torn home country very seriously. When he is done, he wants to study criminal justice.
Compare that with Vincent, a Brazilian who came to the US for 6 months so that he can also upgrade his English speaking and writing skills. I found it interesting that he kept on apologizing for his poor English, yet I could understand him perfectly well. It turns out he had the option of learning English in high school but he didn't take it because he didn't like it or see the need for it. Fast forward to a couple of years later, his business as an engineer demands that he speaks and writes well- he has no choice. Every month he is away from his business means more losses for him but he would much rather make the sacrifice now as opposed to paying for translation.
I had the privilege and great joy of being driven by 2 women drivers- one who has lived in Canada most of her life and knows where Mount Kilimanjaro is and another who works 3 full days a week and uses Lyft to supplement her income. She inspired me to want to travel to the more exotic European destinations like Greece and Italy.
On two of the days when all hell broke loose and I had no choice but to take on the more pricier cabs, I found myself breaking down in the middle of the street because I felt like I had no choice. Or rather, the truth was I was too proud to ask for help. I found myself crying- real hot tears streaming down because I felt so unprepared. On both occasions, my saviours came in the form of cab drivers. These 2 in particular taught me that there is always something to connect over.
The first one was an Indian. I don't think he knew what to do with a sullen, teary-eyed African. He was uncomfortable. I could feel it, but to his credit he let me be. He just asked me if everything was ok and when I didn't volunteer an answer, he put on his stereo to Bollywood music. I was too upset to be angry so I let him be. As we neared the end of the journey, he gave me a little history about the songs that were playing- famous songs in Indian movies and did I know any? Well, yes, because back home, once upon my past I was addicted to Indian telenovelas.
The second time I was wandering aimlessly around downtown because I couldn't get a Lyft.. After weighing my options, I decided it was either I continued meandering or be proactive and take the overpriced cab. I found a familiar face- in the sense that the driver I stumbled upon came from South Sudan and had lived in Kenya for a couple of years. It was such a relief for me to speak to someone in my own language and ask for direction and help.
The next 2 stories reminded me that many of us lead colorful lives, yet at the end of the day, man must live. As I struck up conversation with the driver X and asked about his family, he told me he had 8 children from 3 different women. No shame, no regret- just a man who knows he needs to do what he has to do in order to provide for his offspring. He left me with the statement of the year: ‘If you wanna play, be prepared to pay.’
The other guy came across to me as a multi-passionate, larger than life personality with a myriad of stories. He was fascinated by the fact that I was from Kenya and went on to tell me how his name was taken from Swahili. I had to burst the poor fellow’s bubble and gently tell him it was not. Plus, I found out he was a beekeeper and loved using essential oils- just like I do.
These last 2 stories are what inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and share my love for oils with complete strangers. Watch out world, because I might just acquire a reputation as the crazy lady who goes round forcing everyone to take a whiff of wild orange.
Jerome is a Filipino currently living in the US, reading for his MBA and Lyfting part time. He has no apparent health issues other than the fact he gets stressed with a heavy workload. On that day I had with me lemon and orange oil and was very excited to share that with him.
Stephen’s wife uses doTERRA oils but for some strange reason he has never been keen on them. We talk about various pain points and it appears he has none. However, after sharing a whiff of orange oil with him and watching his expression change to one of gratitude and uplifting, he was sold. He declared that he would be talking to his wife more about the oils and trying them out for himself.
The reason I share these 2 in particular and why they form a very important part of the story for me is because they showed me I had it in me to talk to strangers and express myself joyously and passionately as I shared my oils. I am what some may consider ‘snobbish’ although I just find that reaching out like that takes quite the effort.
By the end of all my conversations with these drivers, I realized that everybody has a story to share. We are all humans on this journey called life, trying to make it the best way we can. And we all deserve some slack for that.
I would love to know: Do you ever pay attention to the stories told by your cab drivers?
What lessons do you draw from them?