At the eye doctor earlier this week the eye tech introduced himself as Michael. He was a young guy and seemed a little bit out of his element. He didn't quite know how to work some of the equipment and seemed really nervous.
I asked him how he was doing and he explained that he was a student at Georgetown Medical and working at the office as part of an internship.
His English was pretty heavily accented and he told me that he was from Eritrea and came to the US two years ago when his wife won a diversity visa. (More info here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1322.html. This is a big deal. To give you an idea of how hard it is to win the DV lottery, in 2010 only 799 people from the entire country of Eritrea won visas for the US from this program. There are almost 5 million people in Eritrea.)
He was surprised and a bit excited when I told him that I not only knew where Eritrea was, but that a few of my friends from Saudi Arabia were Eritrean (and good soccer players too).
Michael smiled at that and then told me about how life was really difficult in the US, much more than he had ever imagined. "I work all the time, or I have to study all the time. I live in a small apartment with my wife and her sister and their parents. I know there is a lot of opportunity in this country, but I never realized how hard you have to work to get it."
After finishing a few more measurements of my eyes, Michael scribbled in my chart and stood up to find the doctor. We shook hands and I offered him some trite advice about hard work paying off over time. "Thank you," he said, "but I'm just so tired now."