“Being exposed to [people of different races] helped me… so I never really faced the same challenges that my parents probably did.”

Edited by Nick Ladeau.

Transcript for Shocking

It’s actually difficult a little bit because, I mean, I was born in Afghanistan. I mean, I was probably two years old, maybe even less than that probably when my parents fled because of the Soviet invasion. And I grew up a little bit in Pakistan. So I remember going to, I think, up to third grade in Pakistan. And I’ve lived most of my life here in Atlanta, Georgia, not here, but in Atlanta and the United States. So I’ve grown up most of my life here. 

But Pakistan, I did grow up in there. And we lived in a very small house, probably the backskirts, or the outskirts sorry, the outskirts of the… of Peshawar. That’s where we lived. And we, my parents, and my brothers, which three brothers and myself, we all slept, we all slept in one room, which was also a living room and dining room and everything. And actually, when my parents first came to Pakistan, and I was a very little child, they had to live in that one room with, I think, two or three families, so it was packed in there as well. And I mean, I think one of the greatest things I remember, not the greatest things, but one of the strongest memories of Pakistan is the heat—it was very hot in there. And sometimes during the afternoons, when the sun would go down, my mom would throw water on to the… we had a small courtyard as well, very small. And she would throw water on that, and my brothers and I would play in there as well, so I remember that. That’s very vivid. 

In Atlanta, I think the biggest shock for me was the fact that there were more rooms in an apartment. And you know, we didn’t call it apartments. I didn’t even know what that was, obviously, because I wasn’t speaking English at the time, either. But in Atlanta, we had more rooms, but still, my brothers and I shared one room for quite a long time until we started growing up and we moved. I think one of the things that I remember best about my childhood in Atlanta is the fact that there were school buses. You couldn’t walk to the supermarket as you could in Afghanistan, I mean, in Pakistan, where my dad also had a store—he was a tailor—and so we would go to his store sometimes and just, you know, hang out, my brothers and I. But in Atlanta, Georgia, that wasn’t possible, so we had to, you know, we had to find ways of getting there. A lot of times we just walked because we didn’t have transportation—we were so much used to walking places—so we just walked there. So I mean, that’s some of the things I really remember, that stay with me, and I actually enjoy those memories. 

I grew up in Clarkston, and that’s, I think, a haven for most refugee families that come in—a lot of them are put in there—so it’s full of refugees. There are very few I suppose you can say Native families, American families. It’s a very, I would say, it’s a little bit underdeveloped. It’s not as well developed as some of the other towns but then, you know, it’s not run by what I would call Americans. It’s probably run by probably refugees as well, educated refugees, not the same refugees that usually just come in, obviously. But that, I mean, that… it’s a small town. There, I think, there’s one or two soccer fields there, is very small markets, supermarkets, not what I would imagine a lot of towns are like. 

I’ve never, I had never heard of what African Americans were. I didn’t know that there was such people as who had black skin. I mean, it’s shocking. I think, I never met anyone that who wasn’t an Afghan, very few Pakistanis even in Peshawar, and that’s because we lived in a very small part of Peshawar, in which was called Afghan colony, so there were a lot of Afghans there. And we… and I grew up with my… we even went to an Afghan school. I think my parents were very conscious of making sure that we were around our own people, and this is something that is true of most people, I think, in the Middle East, or even in Africa as well, that people tend to be around their own type. They don’t want to mix with other people. 

So when I came to Clarkston, the fact that I was meeting people of different races, and I had to speak English, there was… I couldn’t speak Persian, or Delhi, which I did, which was the official language. And so I think that was very beneficial for me because as I grew up, I learned to speak English better. And so I speak as well today because I was around people that who, you know, I was forced to speak English with them. And my soccer coach made it a rule never to speak your own language, you know, whatever you do, you have to speak English. And so, through that, I think I learned that that’s one of the benefits of being around people of different races although we use the same language. But I mean, I think it was a good experience as well, I remember, I mean, I know some of my parents some of their thoughts are very, you know, racist. Sometimes. So I think being exposed to that helped me get through that, so I never really faced the same challenges that my parents probably did. Because they didn’t… they weren’t forced to speak English all the time, and I was, so I think that was something I got out of that.

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