Taxi Rides Don’t Always Result In Geo-Political Discussions

Most cab rides are simple affairs, but last Sunday, my ride from downtown Sydney, Australia, to the Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport was not your normal fare. The trip was designed to be a short one to fetch a rental car that we would need for the second half of our Aussie trip. Little did I know that my twenty minute ride would involve a geo-political discussion that ranged from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to the issues in Darfur, to the USA presidential election. It all started when my driver made a quick call on his cell phone. He was speaking quickly, but I knew that he was speaking some sort of Arabic dialect. When he hung up, I asked, “Where are you originally from?”

That launched us into the long discussion. He asked me to guess where he was from and I said I didn’t know. I didn’t want to be wrong! So, he said he was from Somalia. I said, “No kidding.” I can’t recall meeting someone from Somalia before. I know many people from Africa and the Middle East, but Somalia is a place I have never been close to. He proceeded to give me his feelings about his country (he says the situation is improving) and then commented about the USA’s role in world politics. Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was high on his list of topics to discuss, given the reports of more unrest in Gaza (just that morning there was another major attack by the Israelis following more rocket attacks from the Palestinians). He was very into current events. He said he had been living in Sydney for eight years, but that he stays in constant contact with his family in Somalia. It was clear that he was a passionate supporter of the Palestinian cause. He said that in Somalia, they would get constant updates any time their fellow Muslims were facing repression. It was interesting to ask him questions and to get a sense for his feelings about all kinds of stuff. His English was a little hard to understand, but that was because of the dialect. He knew exactly what he was saying and was quite articulate. I avoided any mention of of my Eastern German/Jewish heritage and simply listened while he went on and on. So, it was supposed to be a simple cab ride to the airport, but it was much more pleasant thanks to my driver…like I had a choice who I got! 

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