Kingston is from Cameroon. Khan is from Pakistan. One serves tables at a neighborhood restaurant. The other drives a taxi. The former is a soft spoken man with shoulders like a bull and a quiet confidence. The latter a rambunctious talker with a thick mustache and a mischievous eye. They couldn’t be more different, except for one thing – neither has seen his children in more than a year. As for me? One day away from mine nearly killed me.
Last week, I left for work at 6:30 am as I normally do. My 3-month old girl was sleeping quietly in her crib. Despite my burning desire to rip her out of bed and simply hold her for a few extra minutes, I left her there, much to my wife’s relief. If you’ve ever had a kid then you know how precious a sleeping child is. And when I say precious, I mean the fact that they are sleeping. The baby is precious too, but with all the energy it takes to get a child down, like really down, you realize just how valuable. But even knowing that price it was still difficult to leave her there. Especially knowing the day I was about to have.
Doctor visits in the UAE are generally a smooth experience. However, much like anywhere, things can go awry. My quick trip to the doctors office turned into a four hour affair. It left me drained and irritable after a full day of work. But it was ok. My baby girl was waiting for me at home.
Then, driving back to my apartment I was cut off and had to swerve around the car to avoid a collision. Said person did not like the fact that I hadn’t just stopped my vehicle to let them go ahead unimpeded into the great beyond. They then began a scintillating game of block the white man, by stopping in front of me in the middle of a four lane street. They needed to make sure they communicated their frustration with my decision in a peaceful way. It didn’t phase me though. Why? My baby was waiting at home.
When I finally arrived home, more than fourteen hours had passed since I’d last seen her. But that was in the past. I just knew that I would walk into the apartment to find her giggle with glee at my voice. I opened the front door.
Well, it was late, she was probably getting ready for bed. I would creep up to her crib and upon seeing my face she would let out one of her gummy no-tooth hillbilly grins.
I peeked over the edge and…
She was asleep.
Once again, I resisted the urge to pick her up, which would most certainly bring about the fiery wrath of my wife, and I let her sleep. It would be another 20 hours before I would get to hold her again. Torture.
Which brings me back to Kingston and Khan. It was not hours or days they had not seen their children, but years. They work in the UAE because it offers them the chance to support their families. Families of which are back home. Back in Cameroon. Back in Pakistan. It is the torture they endure every day in order to support and better their family. They serve their children by hardly seeing them. It is not perfect nor is it ideal in any respect, but in their words…
“What can you do?”
I don’t know. It’s one of those problems that people in developing countries have to deal with constantly. Stay and actor by or go and sacrifice quality time for quality pay. I don’t know how they find the strength. What I do know is that it is blessing from the good lord above that I am able to come home every day and see that gummy grin staring back at me. I do not take it lightly.