By Cesilia Faustina
Photography by Cesilia Faustina
Finding the importance in the little things is a must if you want to make it in this life, according to one Yemeni.
Facing life is no easy task, surely something all of us are aware of. As I sat down with this mid 40s Yemeni man, you start to wonder what this seemingly content man is hiding and how happy is he with his life.
“The tricky thing about life is, the more experience you get with life, the more you realize you don’t know,”
Lotfi AlSarori is a business-oriented man working as a Marketing Director for a software company based in Jordan. Originally from Taiz, Yemen, this hard-working individual travelled across the globe to try and provide a better life for himself and his family.
Yemen is still facing constant turmoil since its civil war started in 2015. Known as the “forgotten war,” it has resulted in many humanitarian conflicts, such as lack of food, difficulties in logistics and more.
As the fight between pro-government parties and the Houthis continue, it is becoming extremely difficult for Yemenis to enjoy a proper life within the country. According to Vox, around 76 percent of the population is in need of some humanitarian aid.
Lotfi understood the difficulties he had to face as a Yemeni and left to Jordan once the opportunity came to light. This does not mean though that he did not face other opportunities and challenges along the way.
The land of the free
This techie always had a passion for software and got the opportunity to expand his knowledge by continuing his studies in the United States.
“I always wanted to be an engineer growing up in my father’s electronic store,” he said.
“My first thought was that I was going to be an electrical engineer and I actually went and studied it for a couple of years, before realizing that’s not exactly what I had in mind.
“My Pakistani friend once asked me why was I getting into electric engineering, and I told him because I liked computers and he told me I was in the wrong specialty and that I should go into computer science where I could deal more with computers and have more control over my career. He was right.”
After Lotfi went to study at a university in Texas, he eventually changed universities to Utah before deciding software was his goal.
The shift to software
With the aim to start his own business, Lotfi felt software gave him more opportunities to control his career and start his own business; especially when it came to uncertain living conditions.
“If you want to build your own business in the field of electrical engineering and change something, you do not have control over that because it requires a lot of setting up, regulation, big capital, too many restrictions. However, in software, with having only a laptop and a compiler you can already start making a difference,” he said.
He then managed to do software internships before working as a full-time software engineer while in the States. Thanks to his experiences, it opened more career opportunities once he moved back to Yemen.
Long before the war even started, Lotfi was trying to figure out what work he would like to pursue to help impact his community. Once he came back to Yemen, there came a series of ups and downs.
“I can show you in my graduation book when they asked me what my life objectives were, I said to raise my family according to my principles and standards and take care of them. And the professional objective was to start my own software company and benefit my community,” he said.
In the homeland
“By the time I got back to Yemen, I had four to around six years experience in software development. I started as an IT manager in Yemen with this company I wanted to partner up with to start a new business,” he said.
“I was supposed to be the CTO. That was actually the initial agreement. However, I ended up establishing the business and managing the company.”
Unfortunately, Lotfi’s business never took off and he had to find other opportunities.
“It didn’t work out, but I got much professional life and work experience. I had worked with professional and hardworking people, then I moved on, into consulting for about a year,” he said.
“And then I worked for another company.”
After a series of success and failures, Lotfi finally established his own consulting business, only to reflect the whole purpose of why he wanted to establish a company.
“I established a company and then more than two years later, I still didn’t have the liberty to manage the business the way I think it should be managed. This was not our initial agreement, so after elaborate discussions and a series of meetings and going back and forth, I hired someone to take my place and left to start my own consulting business,” he said.
Lotfi eventually went freelance, but his goals started to change with the appearances of his children. He stated how having a family really put things into perspective, and sometimes goals change, especially in a political crossfire.
“You start switching your views. Your goals become less important, you start to focus on your family and children’s goals and how you want to coach them on what they want to be,” he said.
“In Yemen, I worked in several fields, it didn’t matter what I worked as, as long as I put bread on the table. Sometimes, I would work on business and technical consulting for Yemeni companies or clients outside of Yemen. When there was no consulting work to do, I would work on selling and installing solar systems. I kept the ball rolling until my older kids got to high school and graduated high school.”
Why the US was not an option
Lotfi has three children in total, two boys and a girl. Both his boys were born in the US and have American citizenships. His wife and he were also eligible for their Green Card, yet, the States was not an option.
“A year after returning to Yemen from the States, we went to the American embassy and we told them we have residency and we have a daughter that was born in Yemen. We technically could have legally got her a green card but from the embassy, they said no. So that complicated things,” he added.
America’s immigration law has become stricter over the years and many immigrants go through complications in trying to apply for their Green Card.
More than 44.5 million immigrants resided in the US in 2017, according to the American Community Survey. This number has continued to grow throughout the years with immigration being a core topic in 2016’s presidential elections. The immigration policy in the US has been going through many criticisms and backlashes within recent months, especially since the election of Donald Trump.
Since Lotfi’s daughter was not granted citizenship, Lotfi and his wife decided to just stay in Yemen.
He also mentioned that it was not all that easy living in the States, especially after September 11.
“After 9/11, with the treatment of Arab and Muslims there, it was very hard on us there. My wife wears a hijab,” he said.
“Constantly being watched and having people stare at you, we didn’t want to deal with this, so we thought we would take a break for a couple of years and be with our families in Yemen and that we could always go back once things get better.”
Eventually, Lotfi and his family managed to move to Jordan after receiving a job opportunity.
After moving to Jordan thanks to a job offer from a local software company, his family and he managed to create a new home in this foreign country.
Jordan is the second highest country with refugee intakes. Refugees make up a great deal of the Jordanian population with 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, according to UNHCR.
A majority of those refugees come from Syria, however, being in the crossfire of war-torn countries, Jordan is storing a huge amount of refugees from various countries within the region.
“I didn’t think I would like living in Jordan this much but because of the way because of the way people deal and interact with non-Jordanians here, I am loving it, my family and I are,” he said.
“The hospitality of Jordanian people, especially with us as Yemenis, is great. It works for me and my family.”
Lotfi said having had the privilege of experiencing different cultures and locations, it truly had changed the way he saw the world.
Creating a different perspective every time, moving from one country to the next has turned him into a global citizen.
“My way of thinking has changed a lot. Looking back when I was in my twenties, I thought I had a lot of things figured out in terms of what I should do, what I should pursue, what the meaning of life is,” he said.
“The tricky thing about life is, the more experience you get with life, the more you realize you don’t know.”
This ambitious figure started to understand what he wanted in life and felt the need to create a positive impact for society.
“So one of the major changes I have come to accept is – I know it sounds cliché – that to work for the betterment of humanity, start with those around you, those you interact with, the people you meet and deal with every day,” he said.
“Not be selfish, because if everybody can think like this, we can live on this planet peacefully and actually go against the agenda certain people have to benefit by dividing us.
“People will always find ways to divide us as humans, whether by race, religion, continent, accent, whatever, we should, in today’s information age, communicate with people throughout the world. After all, we are not that different from each other, we just need to communicate better.”
He also stated how people change and how goals change, that it was just a part of life, stating his own development throughout the years.
“My set of goals were to, before, it used to be simpler and it went up and down. At first, it was to start a software company and improve the community around me, to uplift this level that we have reached, especially in this area of the world where we are not keeping up with science and technology to encourage them that we can make a difference in the world,” he said.
The Yemeni stated that accomplishing his goal was no easy task, especially within Yemen, where software would be the least of the country’s concerns given its state.
Trying to accomplish his goal within a war-torn environment was a hard experience, leading him to depression at the time. It was at this point that Lotfi discovered the important things in life.
The little things in life
“What kept me going were the small things, the little successes; putting bread on the table, making your mom happy, paying more attention to my wife and kids, that in some aspect is more important, because you cannot get to the big goal if you do not pay attention to the smaller ones and the people that will help you get there,” he said.
“So the little things are important, you don’t have to start the next big thing to be able to serve humanity and people around you because if everybody does their part, help the people around you, learn something, help the other person do something, then that by itself is a great success.”
Lotfi realised his goal did not have to be as he thought it was. He stated that his “company” no longer needed to be in the form of a tangible office, but it can even just be a website, as long as he made the impact he hoped for.
“For my next plans, I plan on focusing on the little things, because life is nothing but moments spent with the people you love,” he said.
Ending our conversation, this ambitious individual left off with some words of wisdom from his life experiences; encouraging everybody to appreciate more of what you currently have.
“The little things are important, you don’t have to start the next big thing to be able to serve humanity and people around you because if everybody does their part, help the people around you, learn something, help the other person do something, then that by itself is a great success,” he said.
Lotfi AlSarori is the Marketing Director for a software company based in Jordan. He has been working in software for most of his life and is originally from Yemen. He wishes to establish his own company or platform that will help to impact his community, no matter where it may be.
This husband and father is looking to create a better future for his family and wished to continue to be a global citizen.