by Tina Kunkler The LaRue County Herald
Wednesday March 3, 1993What was supposed to be an opportunity for a family to get back on their financial feet has turned instead into a loss of nine months of their lives to a foreign culture and nearly half of the income promised to them.
Harold and Fran Axx moved temporarily to Egypt about a year ago, drawn by the promise of a well-paying job in the apparel industry for Harold after nearly three years of struggling to make ends meet.
Now they are seeking refuge in her mother’s home in Magnolia as they try to piece their lives back together.
The job was supposed to last 15 months and pay enough tax-free dollars to pay off most of their debts. Because it was a temporary commitment, the couple took their two school-aged sons along for the term to experience Egypt as a family.
And so they went, Harold, Fran, Jonathan, 14, and Daniel, 11.
Behind them, the Axx family left their home in Galion, Ohio, their 27-year-old son and brother, and American lifestyle. The house was leased to another family to keep up with the paymens and the oldest son was left to manage the family’s affairs in the U.S.
Egypt was very different from the United States in more ways that language. Weather, foods, dress, working environment, social customs, religion, and ideologies were all new to the family.
The Ards were the only Americans in Suez where they lived. Cairo, about 80 miles away, was the Egyptian tourist trap and attracted more Americans and native English speaking people, but few ventured across the desert to Suez.
And as Americans, they felt a certain position of honor among some Egyptians and like a target for others.
Egyptians are a very loving, almost child-like people in general, Harold said, but the differences between ideas of honesty in America and Egypt are quite different.
In September of last year, Suez Apparel decided they were not going to pay him anymore because he was not doing his job correctly. However, the company did not tell him this Until October. He was told he would be paid “later.”
The Egyptian word for “later” could also mean “tomorrow,” “next week,” some indefinite period in the future, or “never.” Such ambiguity grated the nerves of an American used to defining terms and times.
Harold continued to work in the hopes he would get paid. On Nov. 8, he went to the company office to terminate his employment with the request of all the payment he was due for work completed. The remained of his salary as promised, and airplane tickets to fly his family back to the United States.
Instead, they handed him a resignation agreement to sign which stated that he owed them $6,000. But to allow him to stay with the company, they offered to let him keep working if he signed an admission of breach of contract and worked off the “debt” he owed, and they would pay him enough to live on and keep up with payments on their house in the U.S.
Suez Apparel officials also told him to turn in his work permit when he left. Fortunately, he did not. if he had, his contract with the company could have been declared void and he would have no legal grounds on which to later file a lawsuit.
After talking the situation over with his family, Harold went back to work the next day and told the officials that the contract was finished and left.
The family packed their belongings and fled Egypt that night.
Today, an Egyptian attorney is trying to work out a breach of contract lawsuit against Suex Apparel.
“We were intimidated,” Harold said. He felt that, as an American unaware of customs and laws, he was taken advantage of and then forced to leave the country.
The career, financial, and political assistance he hoped to find in the United States has been nearly non-existent.
The same company that helped him get the job at Suez had promised a position in the U.S. within 30 days of his return, but has failed to provide him with more than a few leads, none of which have produced employment.
The financial assistance the family has applied for in the U.S. has been helpful, but not as plentiful as a full-time job.
While Harold and Fran search for employment, they are spending their welfare checks to keep up with house payments and are receiving food stamps. The house is currently on the market to sell, if they can find a buyer.
Because neither one of them was employed in the U.S. in the last 12 months, no unemployment has been paid for them to draw now.
Jonathan and Daniel harbor bitterness toward the country because of the way their father was treated in his job, but enjoyed the experience of another culture.
Fran and Harold, too, have mixed feelings about the decision to move to Egypt temporarily since they have returned.
“I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it,” Harold said.
But they believe the past year was not a waste of time and money, Fran said. The friend they have made, the lifestyle they have lived, the sights, sounds, smells, and aura of Egypt will always live in their hearts.
Living in the Egyptian culture as a family alone was very difficult especially the last week, Fran said. But they learned to adjust, she said, which gave them a unique perspective on their lives and ability to survive as individuals and as a family unit.Correction the only welfare collected by the Axx family was the mentioned Food Stamps $27/mo for 3 months. Where oh where is Bechtel and Halliburton. I went to aid the Middle East, too.
The unemployment was incorrect I had an old file that was extented 20 weeks