My First Job in America

Happy Monday! To freshen things up a bit, I decided to post one of my excerpts from life after the war and adjusting to life in the United States. Before coming here I didn’t know the language, didn’t have a job, and was still adjusting to the place where I was living. It was extremely hard as any refugee will tell you and finding a job was difficult, stressful, and intimidating because of all of those factors. There was a lot of pressure to find a job fast because I still had to support my family, so this along with learning the ropes of a new job was just too much. This story is about when I accepted a job as a school bus driver and ultimately quit. Read on, and as always comments, shares, likes are always appreciated!

The School Bus Driver

I came to the United State from war-torn Bosnia – a refugee who had lived in fear of my life. My family and I were trying to start a new life and I needed a job desperately. But how could I find one, fill out an application, and go to an interview when I knew almost no English? I was fluent in Bosnian and Russian, and had studied Latin, but my wealth of language skills was of no more use to me than the house and the gardens I had left behind when I fled my homeland.

I enrolled in a language school to learn English. After a few months the teacher assigned us an essay about work we wanted to do as Americans, the contribution we wanted to make to our new country. I thought about the topic, looked at the blank paper in front of me, and recalled my days as a teacher in Bosnia. Suddenly the memories flooded my mind. I pictured my classrooms, my students, their smiles, my lessons, the graduation trips and ceremonies. My students were gone, and with them all the joy and sense of accomplishment that teaching had given me.  It was all part of the past – gone forever. My future was bleak and blank as the sheet of white paper in front of me.  Tears, my only friends, dripped onto the paper.

The teacher noticed and asked me softly, “Aisa, do you have any skills?”

I didn’t know enough English to tell her that I had been a teacher, and that my heart was still in my classrooms in my old country. I simple answered, “I was teacher.”

“Do you know how to do something with your hands?” she stirred her hands as if she was moving a steering wheel.

“I drive car,” I said in broken English, moving both of my hands as she had.

She looked at my hands, blinked her eyes and asked, “Can you drive a school bus?”

“Oh, school bus, yes, yes.” My face cleared like the sky after a spring shower and I felt my heart lighten. It was a great idea. I could be with students again; a bus could be my classroom. I found a dry place on my paper and wrote, “I drive school bus.”

My teacher helped me to enroll in a school for bus drivers. The first day I hid behind the other students. I didn’t know the meaning of words like “curves,” “intersections,” “engine,” “windshield,” and “wipers.” I knew the meaning of the word “break,” as in “lunch break” and “work break,” but I couldn’t connect the word with a bus. Why does a bus driver need a lunch break or a work break while transporting children? I asked the teacher to give me a book to take home. With help of a dictionary, the words eventually clicked. I even saw pictures of a bus’s brakes. After one month of studying, I passed the written tests for professional drivers and rest of the summer I spent as much time as possible behind the wheel of a school bus practicing.

By the beginning of the new school year I had a job as bus driver, transporting the students with special needs. The bus was huge, making driving difficult on Cincinnati’s narrow, hilly streets. On the first day I drove very carefully, slowly, like a turtle. The box above my head made a buzzing sound that distracted me. I tried to ignore it, but the buzzing just went on and on.

“Hey driver, answer the radio. It is buzzing for you,” said my co-worker.

“I am busy driving the bus. I don’t have time.” I could hardly take one hand off the steering wheel to wipe the sweat off my forehead.

“Our boss is asking why we are late. Parents are nervous,” said the co-worker as she finished radio conversation.

Safety first, I want to bring the children home alive. The parents don’t know how difficult the bus is to handle on unknown streets, I thought silently in my Bosnian.

It took me three to five minutes to get a student in a wheelchair out the bus, and all the while I had the bus stop sign and red lights on, completely blocking all traffic in both directions, tense rush- hour drivers leaning on their horns in frustration. It sounded like Bosnian’s wedding. Hey guys, I am a new bus driver. Wait a minute!

I lasted only two weeks. One dark morning with rain pouring down, I was too scared to drive, admitted my weakness, and quit. Time moves. Driving school bus guided me were my heart wants to be. I am now an American citizen in classroom again teaching the students I used to drive. I still have a professional driver’s license, a memory of my short bus-driving career.

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