My Friend Nassr

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Staring in 2002 I worked in the HR department of Industry Canada.  We were responsible for workforce demographic analysis and forecasting.  We produced glossy annual reports that the Deputy Minister enjoyed reading.  It was there that I met Nassr Al-Maflehi (pronounced al-maflayhee).

Nassr was a statistician by training and the heart of our little analytical group.  He was from Yemen and his mother still lived in Sanaa, the capital  He was anxious to apply his knowledge to improve employee departure forecasting based on probability theories that he had studied in the U.S.  He was anxious to raise his family who were in Ottawa and to continue his education at the post graduate level.

We spent many hours discussing statistical theory with Nassr trying to explain it all to me.  He helped everyone in our group and our clients in the same way with his kindness and eagerness to share his skills and knowledge.  He was a very positive person that everyone loved.

He was muslim as were 1 or 2 others in our group.  I had worked with Muslims before and was very impressed with their integrity, friendliness, knowledge and good nature.  Nassr asked me for a recommendation to help him get into a PhD program at Carleton.  I gladly did and I believe that he was ultimately accepted.

Another time we had a golf day at work.  He had never played before.  I remember everyone trying to coach Nassr how to swing the club.  With much perserverance, towards the end he started to hit the ball well and we were all amazed.

He invited Marie and I to dinner at his modest house.  We had a delightful time sampling the delicious foods that he and his wife had selected and prepared.  As we left that night he gave me a gift of a Yemen ceremonial dagger called a jambia.  I did not know what to do other than accept it.  To this day I have no idea if it was a precious family heirloom he gave me or a typical gift that people of Yemen exchange.  I treasure it to this day.

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Another time, his uncle from Saudi Arabia came to visit.  Nassr invited my boss and I out for dinner.  We thought this was very generous and thouroughly enjoyed the evening.  However at one point Nassr’s uncle started to insist that we come to Saudi Arabia for a visit and that he would pay for everything.  We felt uncomfortable and politely but firmly declined.

It was shortly after this that Nassr announced that he was moving to Saudi Arabia for a new job at King Saud University and to be nearer his aging mother.  We were all sad to see him go.  There was a luncheon, hugs and tears as he wished us well and we said our goodbyes.  Since than Nassr has gone on to become a professor and teaches biostatistics in the field of dentistry in Riyadh.  I am not surprised at his success.

Hopefully we will see you again Nassr.  Thanks for the wonderful memories and the important lesson that we are all brothers and sisters.

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