"The Greek people are very nice, very good-hearted people. When they saw what was happening to me, that I was losing so much blood, they called an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital. They operate on me from 8:00 at night until 4:00 in the morning. They had to take out my spleen. They took out a rib. I lost a lot of blood. It was a complicated operation. My poor wife was there. She was so worried. We'd been through so much. She was very young. Maybe a little older than 17. And she was so worried about what happened to me that she had a miscarriage. She was three months pregnant. She lost twins, two girls. Thank God, five years later, God was very good to us and he gave us our daughter.
"There was a Greek man I met, and he had worked in America, and he said he knew what it was like to be an immigrant. He wanted to help me. He had a friend who had a farm who needed someone to live on it. I said, 'I studied agriculture. I am the perfect man for the job. I am a doctor of trees and grass.' So I and my wife ended up living on this man's farm for eight years until 1985 when President Reagan did something wonderful. President Reagan said America would accept all Iraqi refugees. They could come to America with no sponsor. The American government gave us plane tickets. A church organization for refugees helped us settle in. They gave us a check for $900. They helped us find an apartment.
"So I came to San Diego, and I worked at a lot of small jobs. Menial jobs. But I always saved my money. I finally got to open my own business, a pizza shop. And then I had several shops. I even had a shop in Arizona. But that business went bad. So I worked. I saved money. I opened a 99-cent store in Escondido, and that went bad. So now I drive a taxi. I work hard, try to save money. I get up at 5:00 in the morning and work until noon when I go home for lunch. I go back to work at 2:00 p.m. and work until 10:00 p.m. I have to pay about $30 a day for gas, about $280 a week to lease my cab. If, at the end of the day, I've made a little money, I thank God.
"I don't want my wife to work. American culture is difficult for Arab women. There's not much respect for women here. Men use bad language in front of them. They talk about sexual things in front of them. I worry about this for my daughter. She is so shocked by the way Americans talk, the language they use. The things they talk about. It's just not the way she was raised.
"But I'm very glad to be here. I'm free. I'm free. You know what it's like to say that? Do you know what it means? The Iraqi people are like slaves. Here we are free. When I was a little boy, I dreamed about coming here, but it seemed so impossible. And so I'm here. I haven't been to Iraq for more than 20 years. My poor mother died. I didn't get to see her. Some of my brothers now have grandchildren. I know none of these people, and that sometimes makes me very sad.
"So I'm here and I'm free and I'm working, working, working. Every day. Working. Trying to save a little money. I have these dreams. I'd like to bring my brother here, the soccer player, so he could play for a big American team. He's so talented. And I'd like to have another business of my own. God has given me my health. Maybe I'll try again."