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The Yemenis have a strange way of making friends…

By now, I am very used to the typical introduction on the street. If a Yemeni knows English, he flags me down and asks where I’m from. I tell them that I’m from America and they smile and tell me how great America is, then they ask me why I’m here. They always like the fact that I’m studying Arabic, especially if I tell them that in Arabic. They tell me that it is a difficult language and that if I ever need any help or practice, or anything else really, just to call them. Great! That’s very nice, but then comes the inevitable “Do you have 1000 Riayls you can loan me, my uncle’s appendix needs to coime out and my car is broken/out of gas/need to get to Taiz, etc…”

Well, things were a little different yesterday… A guy flags me down and asks ,with a distinct American accent, where I’m from.
“America”
“Really? I lived in San Francisco for a long time!”
“Wow, really?”
“Yeah, I was a busboy there until I hurt my back”
“Oh, that’s too bad…”
“Yeah, I was out of work for a while, then I got raped.”
“What?”
“Oh, don’t feel bad, I shot the guy 4 times and he died.”

blink blink

“Yeah, I did 4 years in the California Penal system before I got deported.”
“Ummmm”
“Then I went to Cairo to be treated for my schizaphrenia, there is no treatment for that here in Yemen…”
“Uh yeah, listen I gotta…”
“So I was wondering…”
Here’s where I was anticipating the veiled threat. You know, the whole I’m crazy and I’ve killed before so don’t you have 1000 riyals you can “lend” me? Luckily I’m in Yemen…
“I was wondering if you know how I can collect my disability payments, do you know anyone over at the embassy?” The guy is a good talker, I managed to hold back my discomfort to talk a little about his situation. I never really felt threatened, and he didn’t ask for any money Il Hamdil lila. If he was still in the US, I’d recommend that he become a speaker, he’s really quite good. He also grilled me about how I could believe something as crazy as Christianity. I take those arguments more seriously from agnostics and atheists, but not from someone that believes in something just as unbelievable like Islam… Anyway, we chatted for a bit and then parted ways. He told me that he was going to keep plugging away at the embassy to get his checks. Good luck, a worker’s comp claim from Yemen to a convicted felon… talk about long odds… Oh well, just another day on the streets…

Isaac

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