Younoussa Camara

The “well-educated dishwasher”

How could I imagine, that my multiple diplomas and my decade-long experience in teaching, communication and journalism would count for nothing more than being a dishwasher?

Two weeks after coming to the United States of America, I was keen to get my first job. I came without any family or plan about what should be my next move, but I sensed my welcome family would decide pretty soon to ask me to leave. I still couldn’t speak English well, as soon as I open my mouth you can recognize that I am a foreigner. Nonetheless, I needed to take responsibility for myself as soon as possible, so I took the (4) train to Manhattan. I got off at Grand Central and 42nd Street where I saw huge buildings that I had only seen before in movies or books. Then I started walking around the streets, asking about jobs. Guess! My guide was my eyes and my senses.  Body language, my main expression. At the first restaurant I reached, the manager asked me a couple of questions. I rolled out a little of my background and experience. With a little smile he said “You may keep all of your documents and forget about who you are. However I have a job available if you are interested”. “Sure! I am ready for any job”, I said. That sounded great.  I breathed a sigh because, I had got a job, but with no idea about what kind of job it would be. I was thinking about administrative tasks, which used my experience. Then, he took me into the restaurant and introduced me to the Executive Chef. Quickly he gave me some work clothes and put me in front of a big sink, full of soapy water with dishes on the right; a dishwashing machine on  the left . I was disappointed inside for a second, but I kept moving on, as they instructed me, faster and stronger. It was a non-stop movement, plates, pans, pots, forks and spoons, water glasses were coming right away. Although it was spring time. I was sweating all over, sweat stood out on my forehead and I felt hot.  At the end of the work, the sous chef asked me about the kind of job I was doing in my home country. “I am well-educated in sociology and communication”, I replied, expecting to be congratulated.  Instead, he laughed and said, “The well-educated dishwasher”. Everybody laughed.  I felt so upset that I left, never to go back. 

In general, this is how jobs look like for a newcomer to the United States of America. The dream can often change to a nightmare, at least for the first few months.

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