The American Dream in Texas
The Texas Story Project.
Tarek Ibrahim is from Cairo, Egypt and arrived in Texas at the age of 34 to a small town called Stephenville. He quickly made friends in the hospital he worked in as a physiotherapist.
With a work visa, he didn’t feel like an immigrant at first, and his friends very quickly found him an apartment. After settling in, he found himself in a brand-new environment with new things to learn, socially, culturally and the new way of speaking.
“I learned English during my studies but I was never submerged in an English-speaking environment, so it was a bit difficult at first. I remember trying to order food at the restaurant with my girlfriend at the time; it was comical.” “Luckily”, he said, “my girlfriend worked in a language agency and helped me get rid of my thick accent. “
It was very different from home, people didn’t have the same view on foreigners, when presenting himself as a Muslim from Egypt, he did not always get the natural response he expected.
“The minute you open your mouth, it gives you away, I’m a foreigner. Some people would come up to me to greet me, but when hearing my accent, they would walk away.”
After a couple of months, he had a better accent that didn’t “give him away.” He was starting to feel the friendliness of Texans. He then went on to another physiotherapist position in Houston where he met a very great friend. A patient of his was an 80-year-old Christian woman who treated him like a grandson and helped him understand the ways things were run in Texas.
“She was a really religious person he said and felt like it was her Christian duty to take me under her wing. She would say things only your mother would say.” She informed him of the way to talk to certain people and how to know what their response means.
“I always came on as someone too friendly, a little bit suspicious at times from others’ point of view,” he said. “She taught me how to act with my different patients.”
It was different from home he continued, the concept of friendship was smaller. He used to hang out with 20 of his close friends and they would all go out together. He was part of a very close neighborhood, where everyone was different.
“There were people of all religions, it was a diversity paradise.”
A difficult time he had with his religion was after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A lot of hate in the world was spread towards the Islamic faith and people were killed and harassed.
“Luckily, I have always been part of intelligent conventions, discussing my faith, mainly getting rid of ignorant conclusions. It was a very tense moment for me, but I was always surrounded by my close friends with great support.”
He believes that everyone is exerting their faith in their own way, but violence is never the answer.
Another thing that surprised him was the money and what he could buy.
“I will never forget my first check of $1500, with that I was able to buy myself a microwave, a stereo, a TV and iron board, a mixer, a toaster, and a coffee maker. I would have saved up 6 month salary in Egypt to get that!”
The most important was his car, he remembers in college having a jeep with four tires, but no spare tire.
“If I had a flat, I would have to try to push it to the nearest repair shop.”
When he came to Texas, he went to a car dealership with no credit, the salesmen kept on describing him the different cars and their features, but Tarek insisted on knowing the number of tires.
“I walked out with a car with five wheels. That was the American dream right there.”
He is now living in a multicultural neighborhood that gathers every weekend to exchange food and hang out. I am glad I had the chance to learn more about my neighbor’s Texas story.
Baptiste Pousset is a sophomore at St Mary’s University studying Electrical Engineering. He was born in Cayenne, French Guyana, South America. Baptiste moved to America when he was 7 and attended private international and French schools till high school. He stayed for two years in Toronto for his junior and senior years of high school and met a lot of different people and saw many different cultures. Baptiste had the foreigner experience in Texas and wanted to know how his neighbor experienced his.
Posted April 11, 2019