Jumbled thoughts. Wake up. Brush your teeth. Or not. But it is good for your health. Wash your face. Or not. But it is good for your face. Take a shower. Eat some breakfast. Lunch time. Dinner is ready. Keep your table clean. Stow away your leftover food. Realizing that life is but a dream, we begin to live it. I wake up, brush my teeth and take a shower. I take all my meals of the day. And still have enough time to myself. To my mind.
In 1991, I was in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda. In 2016, I am a refugee in Southern Netherlands. There is a huge difference obviously. In Uganda, I had my grandmother with me and my sister and several uncles and cousins. Ogujebe refugee settlement camp was the closest we had to home. Twenty five years later, I am a refugee in a faraway land, and my only family is a relapse into a good version of psychosis. I must create a world. I must recreate life. I must embrace multiple personality as an order.
Life in the camp was filled with life. It was never the synchrony that is my routine today. Routine, I have been told is good for today’s immigrant asylum seekers and refugees. The journalist that I am, it should be a no-brainer the distinction between immigrant and refugee, and or asylum. Yet I use them unsparingly. Few friends in my previous camp life came out unscathed. From the best performing student that never saw the next term, to the widowed wicked aunt that we were told not to greet nor quench our thirst from her pot. From the village dance that attracted sprouting breasts and double-happiness boots. To the innumerable variations of the Arabic language that showcased social class. To the babies that were born, before transfers to yet other camps.
In the Netherlands too, there are asylum babies. Uganda has a good score. Cameroun too. Liberia didn’t want to be left out. Kenya is represented. Southern Africa, Northern Africa. Our babies are having asylum babies.
I was surprised when a bag filled with canned beer made its way to the small kitchen-turned sitting room area. Beer cans know how to behave when laced together. Mugs of beer too have their own language. The cheer is in the drinker.
One long mouthful sip and a deep breath of sigh as if I was listening to my Tuberculosis test nurse. “When I say, ‘yes’, you take a deep breath” she would rhyme with every asylum seeker getting the first of many medical examinations.
As we drink the short Dutch night away, we had to be mindful of a visit from an asylum officer. You see, even for those living in a separate residential housing near the IND office in Ter Apel, drinking is prohibited, just as smoking cannabis and other soft drugs could lead to severe punishment. And by punishment, they mean some money hours worth of cleaning around. Haha!
The excitement of beers among African friends set a different tone altogether. The food took us to another place. The curves of the pregnant and the succulent breast of the young mothers combined and the air was all the more erotic. But we were brothers and sisters. So we behaved. We talked dirty, but that was just about it.
Being new to the asylum process, I was receiving advice from persons that like rankings in the army, were equal to Generals. I heard everything but listened to nobody. I understood nothing. More beer. And the eyes had a way of processing dull pictures into sensual miniatures. Stop!
It was time to breastfeed. One baby cried. Like an alarm all the others followed suit. There was no better time to fill our glasses and toss to asylum babies.
Soon it was time to return to my shelter at the Ter Apel reception. I was to be transferred to another camp. Ter Apel is temporary and not all asylum seekers that report there can be processed in time. That night I was to learn of my transfer. I would be moved along with nineteen others to Budel asylum center. Pink ribbons soon assembled. It was a short night. On to the bus. Long drive to the South. I can boast that I have seen more parts of this country than many natural citizens. However, the citizens do not have too many reasons to zigzag their country. We asylum seekers and refugees do. Or so we are bound by fate to see more of the Dutch countryside than many would believe.
In the bus, I could not help but run away into my own palace. I had dined with a Fly King the previous night. Some sounds are very distinct, you see. The sound of a person dieing. You can never get it wrong. But there is also the sound of love. Others choose to call all it pheromones. In all cases, an African can never go wrong with the sound of a mosquito. Anything less just puts a smile on my face and I go deeper into my slumber.
As my colleagues talked in all languages; I chose to re-live my dream. I had to force it. There was no other way. I had no chance with the variations of Arabic—Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Turkish, Egyptian, Morrocan, Libyan, Tunisian and there I was with my Juba Arabic. Ashamed to the bone, I continued with my dream and drew a circle. Smiling, the attempted sound nearing a cloned mosquito was in the distance.
Well, indeed it was a mosquito. But for all I cared this one would feed as it wished. The sound it was making was sickening enough. My blood might even kill this failed suicide of a mosquito. It flew by lazily. Lost its breath and stopped on my arm. I offered the next arm as is in the bible. Staring at me, the mosquito fainted.