Saturday, September 12, 2009

An Amazing Odyssey

An Amazing Odyssey

In my last blog I told you about Moise, the strong and fearless Cameroonian who punched a drunken chief of police in the face to punish him for ordering me to hand him my photographic equipment. He lives in Spain now, which he entered illegally. He’s been working there for a year. But he just lost his job to the recession.

Moise in December will fly to his native Douala and his wife and five kids. He earned a status that now allows him to fly back to Spain legally. He plans to do so in April, when he hopes to find a new job. Until December he will be paid unemployment. Though it won’t be much, it will be enough for him, living frugally, to add somewhat to his savings. Life is getting very difficult for Africans, and many will do anything to keep their families alive.

To reach Spain, Moise risked his life a couple times. First, Chadian rebels captured him and a few companions, and enslaved them. They taught them the use of firearms to later forcibly enlist them in their ranks. A month later, however, during the Ramadan, when every faithful Moslem must show acts of kindness, the rebels allowed them to resume their cross-Saharan journey.

On the Lybian coast, in the middle of the night to avoid Lybian coast guards, they joined 300 people in what he calls a pirogue, which says enough how unfit it must have been to hold so many people. Hardly out on the Mediterranean Sea, they were caught in a terrifying storm. Enormous waves constantly crashed on them, threatening to overturn and sink the boat. But thanks to every single person helping to bail out the boat, it finally made it past the Strait of Gibraltar and down to Las Palmas, one of the Canary Islands. Fortunately, every passenger was carrying a can for use as an individual urinal.

Five passengers lost their lives to fever along the way. As possible causes, Moise listed the cold, malaria, tuberculosis, and typhus. The ordeal lasted to the end. Italian islands were considerably closer to the Lybian coast, but too well guarded by coast guards. Besides, they are already saturated by unemployed Senegalese. The Canary Islands are apparently a stepping stone for illegal entry into Spain from Africa.

Moise was lucky. In Las Palmas he met a woman who got him a job contract in Spain. One look at him must have told her that this man was for real.