“How Luck We Are” story transcript
Phillip Alghazawi: Hello and welcome to my podcast. My name is Phillip Alghazawi and today I have the pleasure of talking to Cheryl Muzia.
Cheryl Muzia: Thanks for inviting me.
PA: It’s my pleasure. So, throughout the course of the semester, I’ve written numerous pieces about immigration as well as immigrant stories. Still following the theme of immigration, tonight we’ll be focusing on how immigration affects others. So, tonight we’re going to get some insight as to how it potentially affects U.S. citizens on a day-to-day basis. So, Cheryl, if you’d like to start.
CM: Okay. I guess, first of all, I’m a second-generation American. My grandparents immigrated here from Europe about a hundred years ago. As far as how as immigration has affected me, that’s kind of an interesting question. I would say significantly because the man I married was an immigrant. I believe marrying an immigrant changed me significant[ly], and it kind of shaped the person who I am today.
CM: Yeah, I’ve been married to my husband for about 23 years. My husband’s from Iraq, and, as a young man, he left his mother and siblings during the Gulf War about 30 years ago and ended up in the United States.
One of the things I will always remember is when I first met him and we first started dating, and being with him made me really realize how much people in this country take for granted living here. Like no clue. I mean, we’re so sheltered from what so many other immigrants have gone through, or see, or why they strive to come here. And, I mean, my husband came from a war-torn country, you know, we don’t face the cruelties and sometimes the political chaos that some leaders unleash on their own people. But, we don’t think about the inability to speak freely to people, and I just think back and go, “We just never stopped to realize how lucky we actually are.” I just think we completely take it for granted.
PA: Oh, yeah. I can agree with you on that.
CM: And then I remember, there are times… I remember when we’d get a call from his family, ’cause his mother was a diabetic, and there was no medicine for treatment in the country. It was almost, like, heartbreaking. And then we’d try to figure out, like, how to get a care package of insulin to her, and I remember struggles to find ways to get it there. We’d sometimes put a package together and find somebody who was flying into Baghdad and pay him to take it. Sometimes, we were lucky and it got there, and there were times where we weren’t lucky and it didn’t make it. But, again, it makes me stop and think about how lucky we are because the majority of us are never faced with situations like that – being sick and not being able to get the medication we need.
PA: Yeah, and we can go down to the drug store right down the street and usually pick up anything we need for any kind of, you know, sickness we have, so…
CM: Yeah. There were other times, I remember, early on – it’s, you know, very different these days – but, early on, I remember one time walking into the kitchen and seeing my husband with tears in his eyes because he had just gotten a call from his friend who was telling him about his brother, who was still in Iraq, and how they had put him in jail and killed him. It’s hard when you think about… I don’t want to think about things like that, but…
PA: Oh, I can imagine it’s hard.
CM: There were in the early days, I would say, cases of, well, clearly discrimination. I mean… or feeling like you’re part of a minority. I remember when… Can you…?
PA: Start from the beginning. So, you went to the Middle East and…
CM: Well, same thing. Discrimination runs both ways. It’s a very interesting thing. Because I remember when I was in the Middle East – we were probably only married about two, two and a half years at the time – and I remember there being an Arabic man who was… he kept trying to say that the only reason my husband married me was to get his U.S. citizenship. And that’s why I said, people are just – people are cruel. They don’t…
PA: Yeah. It can go both ways, that’s… that’s unbelievable, you know? But let’s turn the conversation to, what about in the workplace? Is there any… would you say that immigration has affected you in the workplace, at all?
CM: Sure, yeah. A huge portion of our workforce, or at least the people where I work – it’s very diverse. We have a lot of different people from a lot of different countries, and we actually work for – the company I work for – is actually very good at trying to instill…
PA: Cultural diversity?
CM: Yeah, cultural diversity. It’s actually interesting, we actually take a series of courses. We have to actually earn – it’s almost like a degree, like going to college and getting a degree – where they invest a lot of time to help us understand the value that being diverse brings to a company, and how it provides product to market and what that actually means. So, we have to, as part of that, we actually go through earning a degree. So, we have to take, on an annual basis, we’re expected to actually take so many – they actually put them into categories of electives, and I can’t remember what the other…
PA: So, do you think that they have to take, like, the same thing, the same kinda…?
CM: Oh, all employees have to take them.
PA: All employees.
CM: It doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is. It’s just, we’re all required to understand that diversity brings value.
PA: See, now, that’s very interesting that a company would go to those lengths just to instill that, that thought, you know, into its employees to bring a company together, because I’ve worked numerous jobs before and I’ve never seen anything [laughs] like that before. So, it is really interesting, ’cause I used to work in a factory, and, of course, there’s [sic!] all different kinds of people there, but it was, you know, they were just on a line working, and so, that was that.
CM: [Unintelligible] because ethnicity is only one part of diversity – it’s certainly a large part of it – but you have diversity because of maybe religious backgrounds, diversity between…
PA: Sexual and…
CM: … sexual diversity, you have age diversity, you have… I’d have to think about it. There’s a total of like maybe eight of those.
PA: There’s a lot. There’s a lot, yeah.
CM: At least eight of those we must go through, and we have to earn four – we have to take four electives in each of those eight areas.
PA: Wow. So what if you don’t pass, do they just boot you?
CM: I don’t know, because… Well, I will say this. It is part of our performance evaluation.
CM: So, we actually… it’s a part of… We actually are expected to complete the courses, at least one year’s worth – annual – so it’s the four electives per year.
CM: Okay, and at the end of it, we actually even have to do a paper.
PA: [Laughs] You have to write a paper? You have to write a report?
Phillip: Wow. [Both laugh.] Geez.
CM: At the end, you pick one of the eight elements, which could be, like I said, cultural ethnicity, things like that and…
PA: Wow. So, I guess, to wrap this up, one of my final questions would be, do you think that the U.S. is still a beacon of hope for those trying to leave or flee their country, given today’s climate?
CM: Yes, because even… Well, I certainly want to believe it is, and I think it is because… There are many things not right here, but there’s still so many people who are trying to make it right and make it work for everybody. And so, just as much as they want to hope that they can find happiness, or this is a place where they can eventually find their dreams, it’s the same thing I want to believe – that this country can mend itself and correct itself to continue allowing people to do that. That’s all we can hope for. That’s what I hope for.
PA: Right. Well, Cheryl, thank you very much for your time and your words were very inspiring and powerful, and I thank you very much for your time, and…
CM: You’re welcome.
Phillip: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
CM: No, thank you, Philip… before I get too emotional when I think about it. [Both laugh.]
PA: Well, thank you very much, Cheryl.
CM: All right.
PA: And to all my listeners out there, thank you very much for tuning in, and I’ll see you on the next podcast. Thanks.