Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Microstory 1807: Flight Connections

When I was a child, I dreamed of traveling to far away places. I grew up in a poor village in Algeria, where education was hard to find, and farming was the only way to survive. I was lucky, as my father went to school when he was young, so he had relationships with people in the town. We still only had our little farm, but it was just a tiny bit easier to sell our crops than it was for some of our neighbors. He taught me everything he knew, and would sometimes return from town with books so we could learn new things together. When I was a teenager, I got an opportunity to go to school myself. One of his friends had two older children, who were both out of the house, and he was lonely. He needed someone to help do the chores, and play games with him. It was hard leaving my family behind, but I visited as often as I could, and they sometimes visited me. I didn’t realize until then how much there was about the world that I did not know. The books I had been reading until then were old and outdated. I’m laughing because so were the books at school, but at least they were a little bit more recent. I listened to my teachers, and worked very hard. During the breaks, I traveled to the city, where they had a big library. These books were amazing. I just kept reading, and kept learning. I wanted to go to college in Europe, and the only way I was going to do that is if I proved myself worthy. As lucky as I was to be in this position, we still had no money. Somebody else was going to have to pay for it. Fortunately, I knew someone who could help. The old man I was taking care of met a soldier from Spain during the war. The soldier returned to see how much Algeria had changed. He had money now, and he gave some of it to me.

He helped me get into college in Spain, and paid for most of it. He didn’t have any children of his own, so he felt joy to be able to help someone in that way. I got a job too, so I could help with tuition as much as possible. It was my education, and it was important that I be responsible for it, even though I was getting help from someone else. Let me tell you, I thought I had seen a library before, but nothing compares to the one at the university. I could get lost in those stacks, there were so many books, and there was not enough time to read them. It was there that I discovered my passion for flying. I took a boat to get there from Algeria, because it was cheaper, so I had never flown before, but I wanted to do it. I wanted to know what it felt like to be so high above the mountains. I still could not afford it, but one of my professors saw a book that I was reading on the subject, and told me that her brother was a farmer, like me. His was larger, and the best way to spread fertilizer was to drop it from a plane. He agreed to take me up with him to try it out, and that confirmed it: I loved to fly. Now I knew I had to do it. I still had no money for lessons, so I returned home, and worked on our farm, because my family needed me. I stayed there for years, helping build up my community with my knowledge of irrigation, and access to connections in town. I still wanted to fly, though, and I wouldn’t be happy until I could take lessons. It wasn’t an easy goal to reach, growing up how I did. Everyone in my village thought that I was trying to get away from them, but actually air travel connects us more than anything, before the internet anyway. I wanted to bring the world to my people. By then, there was an airstrip nearby, where I could practice for not very much money. I’m happy to say that I earned my license in under a year. And five years later, I was flying over the ocean.

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