Star Date 27 Jan 2016 Wednesday: Capt Kirk transports down into the Windy City (aka Chicago) to present to a 1,000 of America's finest farmers on our 2016 Crop Outlook at Farm Journal's Top Producer conference. AN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING GROUP OF PEOPLE - GOD BLESS OUR FARMERS!
But this blog is dedicated to Mr. Estaifan B. Shilaita the 65 year old Chicago Cabby (aka The Champion) who drove me to and from the conference. His story is fascinating, inspirational,and I couldn't resist to share it with you as I wait 5 hours for my return flight home tonight.
I arrived at Chicago O'Hare around 7am this morning and stood in the not so long line for a cab on a not so cold day. Getting a cab is like Russian Roulette in New York City where you put your life in the hands of a crazy Warp Speed cabby/wanna'be Indy 500 driver doing light-speedup Broadway...but today's ride was very different. Chicago 24-7 grid lock traffic precludes warp speed travel anyway. :) But, I was very lucky to get Cab #2259 and Mr. Shilaita. Of course we hit major traffic within minutes of leaving O'Hare so I did some work first but then started talking withhim and then couldn't get enough.
After some small talk about the weather and our East Coast blizzard he tells me his story. He was a champion boxer in Iraq backin 1968 - 1976 (pre Sadam Hussein but he was emerging as a ruthless dictator wanting to take over). Estaifan is also a Christian so he could never represent Iraq on the International stage despite being the best boxer in Iraq. He was so proud to show me his Iraq championship gold medal pictured below. You could feel his love and pain for his once great country that he sadly had to leave some 40 years ago. He explained how Iraq actually had boxing and gold nearly 2,000 years before Christ (4,000 years ago).
In 1979 he left Iraq for Greece topursue his boxing career on the advice of his family while also looking for a better life without religious persecution. In 1979 he immigrated to America (Chicago) to pursue the American dream without religious persecution and sadly leaving his parents behind in Iraq...they wanted him to pursue his dreams. He was actually headed for Australia but met the love of his life in the Greece immigration office and she was headed for America.
His stories about life in Iraq and how Saddam Hussein came to power was nothing short of fascinating but obviously a ruthless "gangster" as he described him. He talked about how Saddam was able to take over Iraq by throwing his adversaries in acid thereby scaring any would be threat to his ultimate take over of the country. While his Christian faith was problematic for Iraq leaders they left him alone, provided a job and home for him; anyone else would have been killed but Estaifan was the "Ali" of Iraq in his day.
Once in Chicago Estaifan quickly made a name for himself capturing the attention of the likes of Mohammad Ali, George Forman but at that point Estaifan was 30 years old. The boxing greats said, "why didn't you come to America sooner!" After a short but successful 5-2 boxing career here in America his wife, who he met in Greece who was immigrating to Chicago (let's call that Divine intervention), said "no more, I don't want to see your face broken every time you come home." So he became a taxi cab driver and has never missed a day of work, working nearly 12 hours a day for 17 years telling his inspirational story and love for America.
Today he has 4 children and several grandchildren all here in America and I can't tell you how many times he said GOD BLESS AMERICA, THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. Sometimes you don't know how blessed you are until you sit in the back of a cab and put yourself in the shoes of someone who truly loves our great country.
Thank you Estaifan, cabby #2259, for the best cab ride ever...I am humbled by your love of God, country and family! :) God Bless You my friend!
- Capt Kirk out.
P.S. the really funny story is when 4 young Muslims tried to beat him up one night for his Christian faith (a big cross hangs from his rear view mirror) and popularity in Chicago...boy did they pick the wrong guy to get into a fight with. 2 guesses who won in about 3 seconds! :) 4 against 1 just wasn't a fair fight...for the 4 would be attackers that is! And he warned them first to just walk away.