The afternoon sun was boiling and almost everyone was stripped to their waist, bare backs soaked in sweat. The metallic click of iron and brass as the motor boys went through their work provided a kind of soothing music which, coupled with the hot sun sounded like a midday lullaby to lure an errant child to sleep.
Sleep was out of the question however. That Sango needed to come and collect his car today and there was still much work to do. ‘But how can one work under this raging sun?’ Achale wondered. Not too long ago, he looked around to be sure that he was at Bonaberi after asking himself time and again if the town suddenly sprout wings and flew closer to the sun. ‘Chai make place no ever hot so!’ He exclaimed.
Tiptoeing around the others, Achale made his way to his favourite spot; a place he accidentally discovered and which has since then served as a sanctuary. Lowering himself to the ground, the cool breeze was a welcome relieve from the blazing midday heat.
He was suddenly lost to the heat and sounds around him. Everything became a blur as his mind zeroed back to that long ago moment that seems to have happened a century ago but which actually was just a couple of years now.
He was his own manager and had several people under him. Nevertheless, hearing the stories of those who have traveled abroad, he felt he was in limbo while the real action happened abroad.
He sold his small but expanding business and went in search for the Patron as people referred to the guy. Funny thing was nobody knew his actual names. Patron was what everyone called him.
Money changed hands and Patron got to work. Within a month, all Achale’s documents were ready and he was about to soar the skies to the land of plenty; a land which he had been made to know flow with milk and honey.
Little did he know the excitement could become his worst nightmare.
Closing his eyes, he could well picture and smell the hot dogs and hamburgers he used to eat. Pictures of the pristine whiteness of the snow during the winter months, which usually made him shout in glee like a kid being offered its favourite toy.
All these swept past before a smiling Achale until the smile died when he reached the moment he was handcuffed and led away like a common thief.
As fate would have it, his visa had expired for a while and he was living undercover for almost a year when his luck ran out and was arrested and sent to jail, where he was stripped of all what he possessed and shipped back home like a common criminal, stripped of all dignity and pride.
The loud bang of metal penetrated his foggy brain and like a dose of cold water, he was brought back to the reality that was his now.
With a sigh Achale grudgingly walked back to join his colleagues, the memories neatly tucked away like a precious treasure chest, leaving a bitter-sweet taste and waiting to be dug up again during one of those boiling but gloomy days.
The tears flew and the frustrations mounted with no snowy weather to quench the heat, the iron bore the anger and frustration like it was responsible for his being stripped.
Based on a true story, this is the fate of Nneka and others, who leave home for beyond, hoping for greener pastures. To some like her, the green comes with a price tag. Names and places were changed to protect the identity of the protagonists.
My name is Nneka and I am a prostitute. Don’t look at me with those eyes, don’t pity me, don’t feel sorry for me, don’t hate me. I have lived a hard life, thorns and rocks filled my path. You see, I was 20 when my parents managed to scratch the money to send me to Switzerland. My friend Amaka who was already in Zürich, made all the connections and arrangements with the guy who processed my migrating. Oh, how excited I was. Finally, I was going to Europe. My mother was a petty market trader and my dad was working as a driver to a very rich chief, a kind man. Yes, we were poor. Europe was something I could only dream of, never expecting to see it. So when Amaka wrote that she had arranged everything, that this guy was coming to see me for my passport and other documentation to travel to Switzerland, I couldn’t believe my luck. But there was a catch; I had to come up with the flight ticket myself. When I talked to mama and papa, they were devastated. Where were they going to come up with that kind of money. Papa talked to his boss and he promised to give us the ticket money, on condition that I paid back within six months of my stay in Europe. Done deal. Two months later, I was on the plane, heading to meet my best friend Amaka. She was the sister I never had. You see, I was the first of six children and the only girl. I had always been the one to look after my junior brothers when mama went to the market and papa to work. I started being a mother and father to them at the tender age of nine. I even had to stop regular school to attend evening school so that I could take care of my junior ones after my parents went to work. Coming to Europe was going to relieve our poverty. I was going to build my parents a house. I was going to expand mama’s business, possibly buy her a shop, so she can stop the back wrenching trade in dry fish and palm oil she was doing. As for papa, I was going to buy him his own car, and buses, so he can have them on the road and be his own boss. All my brothers would go to school without problem. I was going to lift up my family. All these plans and more I made in the air while crossing the Atlantic to Switzerland.