Now, from the Moroccan village of Benahmede to Casablanca, it is only half an hour’s drive by highway. But in the 1960s and 1970s, during Kaharil Oman’s childhood, the journey took twice as long as it does now, and people had to take buses along curvy paths. The town of Benahmed is neat, clean and sunny. When colonial rule ended, some French immigrants settled here. Oman’s father is an Arab intellectual who is engaged in teaching, and his mother is a Berber ethnicity in North Africa. He has seven sons. Kahalil is the second eldest. Speaking of his mother’s family, Oman said, “Berbers are extremely good at business.”
The history of the Omani family can be traced back to around the first 10 years of the 20th century, when Oman’s maternal grandfather, Benadir, was just 12 years old and shepherd sheep in the mountains around the port of Agdir. There is an old man who often beats Benadir. However, one day, Benadir couldn’t bear it anymore, picked up a stone and smashed it on the head of the old man. The old man fell to the ground on the spot, unconscious. The little boy was terrified and ran away.
Benadir was hiding when a fruit cart slowly approached behind a tractor. He struggled to climb into the fruit cart and quickly hid. For the next two or three days, the carts traveled along the coastline. Benadir lived off the fruits and vegetables in the car. But when they got to Casablanca, the fruit vendor spotted the kid on the free bus and threw him into the street. Benadir had no choice but to beg while on the road. Tired and dirty, he came to a house. There was a French woman in that house, and she saw Benadir with pity and brought him into the house. She cleaned him up and let him stay as a housekeeper.
Oman does not remember the name of the benefactor. According to Oman, one day her business husband arranged for Benadir to look after him in a shop. Benadir felt that this task was a great responsibility, so he worked diligently, opening the door at five in the morning and closing at twelve in the evening, eating and sleeping in the store. After a period of time, the French businessman found that the turnover of this shop increased greatly. So he allocated more shops to the little boy and began to regard him as his own son.
In 1956, Morocco gained independence from French and Spanish rule. The French family where Benadir resides is also among the expatriates who are returning home. The French businessman handed over his business to Benadir before returning home. Therefore, Oman’s maternal grandfather became a well-known local businessman.
The story may have affected Oman’s business acumen – “I think I got my genes from my mother,” he said, “but unfortunately, Benadir’s son never went to school and he never Don’t go to work. He squandered the family’s wealth. Well, he’s my uncle. If it were me, I might be sitting on half of Morocco’s wealth now.” Oman said with a smile, but he was not joking.
Aman went on to say that he was very serious and emotional as a child. He would cry if his classmates had better test scores than him. Since there was no high school in their village, Oman was sent to a French boarding school outside Casablanca. He and some friends often read together late at night and early in the morning in the toilet, where the lights are not turned off at night. His high school friends generally played football, smoked cigarettes, and played cards. Oman always read books when he was with them. If there is a dispute in the game, Oman will stand up to mediate. “I’ll judge who wins and who lose and say, ‘Okay, these are the bonuses. “It shows that he is deeply trusted by everyone.
In his senior year, Oman won first place in Morocco’s national science exam. As a result, he was awarded a postgraduate scholarship at the University of Bodor in France. After receiving his PhD in chemistry from this university, he was invited to Kyoto University in Japan as a postdoctoral assistant.
Oman lived in a dormitory at Kyoto University, which he felt was like a stylish hotel. When he was not in the lab, he would watch TV in the hall of the dormitory. Once, while he was watching TV in the hall, a young lady of extraordinary quality walked in and sat beside him. “She looked like a movie star. Wow. It fascinated me,” recalls Aman. Then, he started to strike up a conversation: “Where are you from?”
Her name is Xu Xiaoping. She is Chinese and has been in Japan for three months. At the time, she was preparing for the medical school exam, which included exam subjects for technical Japanese. “I don’t have a book, so I’m a little worried,” she said.
Aman said he had books and lent her a few. Then Xiaoping “evaporated from the world”.
About six months later, he received a text message. Xiaoping took the first place in her class and won a graduate scholarship from a famous medical school. Now she wants to return the book to Oman.
At this time, what Oman holds in his heart is not a book, but a serious relationship-he really likes Xiaoping. He thought that she must like him too, but a Chinese friend told him that if she was as conservative as Oman had described, he would have to think long-term and not be in a hurry.
So he took the initiative to date Xiaoping, and he spared no expense to invite her to dinner, visit temples, and buy her gifts.
Oman’s memories of his childhood in Morocco are always on his mind. At the time, he was only six years old and watched an action movie with his brother, which featured two beautiful female leads, Chinese and Indian. Oman said at the time, “I want to marry that Indian girl or Chinese girl”. Now that Oman is an adult, he hopes to fulfill his childhood dream. He longed to marry Xiaoping as his wife.
After chasing Xiaoping for six months, she gave him a kiss.
In the lab, Oman also felt a long-awaited sense of accomplishment. As a researcher, he may not have found innovative solutions for how to store more atoms in a smaller space, but he read voraciously, attended conferences, and quickly grasped the potential and pitfalls of others’ solutions. He emails questions and ideas to friends and finds innovative solutions before anyone else. Oman is used to saying, “The first problem we have, we’ll fix it. With the second problem, we’ll fix it too. “He has become a research and development manager at Nippon Battery Co., Ltd., a position that is a special treat for young foreigners in the East Asian country. Japan’s economy was booming at the time, and the company was very generous: double pay for overtime, which is three times the normal wage; an additional six months of wages every year – three months each in winter and summer; there are additional bonuses for key employees who achieve major breakthroughs. Since the company retains ownership of all inventions, employees cannot receive royalties. But Oman received an extra bonus of twice his annual salary for inventing a 5-volt battery system using nickel-manganese. Oman received another two-year bonus for the cobalt oxide system the company licensed to Sony and Samsung. This system is somehow related to the original scientific work of John Goodenough.
Aman and Xiaoping decided to get married. Oman’s parents were quick to agree. As for Xiaoping’s family, Oman must impress her mother. According to Chinese tradition, “If the mother says there is no problem, everything will go well.” Aman said, “If the mother does not agree, you are in trouble. “However, it didn’t go well at first. Xiaoping’s mother felt that Oman might be a little old although he had a successful career. She said to her daughter: “Why do you want to be with this guy?” He is so old. “Aman recalled, “She thought I might be 50 years old.” But in fact, he was only three years older than Xiaoping.
The two returned to China. Before leaving, Oman consulted one of his Chinese friends. The friend told Oman that he should bring a gift to Xiaoping’s mother.
Oman’s welcome gift was a set of gold pendants and bracelets, several French scarves and a pair of stylish women’s shoes.
“Hello!” He greeted Xiaoping’s mother with a smile, holding a gift in his hand. She smiled back.
In 1997, Xiaoping was admitted to the University of Illinois School of Medicine, a step toward realizing her practice in the United States. She encouraged Oman to follow in her footsteps, and he took a job in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as director of a battery research group. The distance between the two is not too far. He can drive to Chicago for 4 hours and can often see Xiaoping.
One day, Don Withers walked into Mike Thackeray’s office. He had just returned to the United States from a conference in Oslo, Norway, and he asked Thackeray if he had heard of a battery researcher in Japan called Kaharil? They had lunch together, and Withers looked delighted. Thackeray replied that yes, he had indeed heard of Oman and was very impressed with the man.
Soon, Withers arrived in Kyoto, Japan. Oman showed him around the lab.
Oman’s boss once gave instructions, “Never talk to him too much”. However, when the two were having dinner that day, Oman continued to chat with him about scientific research.
Withers finally asked, “Would you like to come to the United States to join our team?”
Oman replied, “I’m sorry.” He was about to go to work in Ann Arbor.
“Your wife’s college is less than six miles from Argonne,” he said.
“Really?” Aman asked in surprise. He mentally equates Argonne with the atomic bomb tests of the 1940s, feeling that Argonne is closer to New Mexico.
“I would like to join your team.” Oman said.
After Oman and Xiaoping got married, they used the savings from working in Japan to buy a house in Downers Grove. In the 1940s, Downers Grove was dubbed the “little Argonne” of the middle class because Argonne’s first scientists settled here. After Xiaoping graduated from medical school, she opened a holistic medicine clinic near her home. Oman believes that Xiaoping’s intuition about moving to the United States is correct, “for the children, for my profession and for her profession.” Xiaoping has since found a foreclosure property just a few miles away from the small town of Oak Brook. The town is relatively newer and richer, and the schools here are both excellent and advanced. They bought the house.
Oman may also succeed if it continues to develop in Japan. However, this may not be the case for Xiaoping, because the conditions there are not suitable for her development. In Oak Brook, Xiaoping was very happy and very popular.
Xiaoping’s parents lived with Xiaoping and the others. Every time he came home from a business trip in Oman, no matter how late he found someone looking out the window, it was Xiaoping’s mother. “She always misses me,” Aman said. But as soon as he opens the door, she walks away, goes back to her house, and falls asleep peacefully.