I met Achmed on the way to work this morning. We were sitting across from each other on the train and he started to chat me up. Street harassment is almost non-existent in Cape Town so I decided to give this interaction a shot in good faith. My head was in my phone and I grudgingly began a conversation that ending up lasting for nearly 30 minutes.
He’s fascinated by international security and his dream is to work for an organization like Interpol. He’s worked in sales previously–from his diction and smoothness, my only guess is that he was talented. He’s from Kenya and grew up in South Africa. He’s currently homeless and promotes Islam and peace in his free time. He told me he gets harassed at the airport for being Muslim. He once spent 4 hours in security in his home country because they were convinced he was a South African pretending to be Kenyan with temporary papers, simply because his Swahili was broken.
We talked about the US a lot. I decided to not comment much because I was more interested in hearing what he had to say. He likes President Obama as a person, but he went from “hero to zero” as a president he thinks Biden is too soft and nice. In comparison, the Bush administration was a war office. Rice, Cheney, Bush…he thinks they were strong, aggressive, and no nonsense types. I couldn’t determine if that was a good or bad thing in his eyes.
He feels bad for Obama, because Bush left him with such a mess and political duty requires presidents to not bad-mouth former presidents. He’s heard Michelle Obama is mean to her husband. He feels sorry for all US presidents because the entire world has problems and wants the US to comment on it and bring attention to them. He thinks presidents get pulled in all directions and that’s why the get so stressed during office. He’s sure Clinton is going to win the election and he’s positive she will bring about real change. He wistfully hopes she will be able to get him a house.
He talked about how the terrorist cells are formed–when young boys’ entire families are killed and they join up with a group in remote areas to survive. They come back different people, ready to kill. We talked about Islam and that violence wasn’t sanctioned by Islam ever, unless in defense.
We talked about 9/11 and he told me that he had been looking for a job at the time, so he was smoking a lot of weed and watching the news. When the coverage began he thought it was a movie someone had made up. When he realized it was real, he cried. He didn’t sleep well that night, consumed by the thought that if it could happen in America, it can happen here as well.
We talked about New York and about Jennifer Lopez. He wanted to know if she was from New York, and I told him that I thought she was from Queens. Turns out the block is in the Bronx, whoops. When we reached our stop, I expected the conversation to continue into the station and street. But as soon as we left the train, he wished me well and went along to his destination, and I continued on to my office.