From East Africa to the Pacific Northwest
I was born and raised in Ethiopia. I lived in Addis Ababa until I was five, when my mom suddenly passed away. She was a single mother of seven. I went to the countryside to live with my great-grandfather. He was 80 and a retired judge. All the love I have for other human beings comes from him as my role model. I always saw him taking his briefcase and visiting the court to volunteer.
I was 25 when I received a diversity immigrant visa to the U.S. in 1990. I was able to get the money together for a flight to Los Angeles, where I had an uncle who would sponsor me. I remember looking at the city from the plane. All that light was mesmerizing and thrilling. I had been crying for most of the flight.
Coming here was, for me, almost a gift from heaven. I promised myself I would try my best to help people in any way that I could. International adoption is a very important cause for me. Orphaned children should have every opportunity to be placed with family, but most don’t get to live with relatives. They might be put in an orphanage or given up to an international adoption. If they’re moved out of their country, they don’t get to know their own community, culture, or language. There’s so much they miss out on. And there is a lot of corruption involved when orphans are sent internationally.
I’ve been a taxi driver for 15 years. I think I may have been the first African woman to drive a taxi in the Pacific Northwest. I started driving with Uber in 2012. I used to drive 12 hour shifts, but now I choose what hours I want to work. That is priceless.
For me, driving is something very joyful. I lived in the countryside in Africa. Nature means so much to me. I could be looking at the rain, sunshine, the moon, the sun, the mountains and water. I’m not an indoor kind of person.
Illustration: Liz Maher
Roman Akafate is an author, motivational speaker, and real estate consultant. She also drives part-time with Uber.