A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part Thirty Three, read it HERE
When I got into the apartment, it was a complete mess; everything was ransacked. In the room where I was staying, my belongings were all over the place. The police must have thoroughly combed the apartment. I immediately put my stuff together, afraid that the police would come back to get me. I didn’t even shower or eat; as soon as I was done packing, I ran outside with my bag. I slept outside in the cold that night. It was better than to be caught dead in a drug dealer’s house.
As soon as day broke, I found Nigel’s house. I arrived there at about 7 a.m. and knocked on the door. Nigel opened, not seeming a bit surprised to see me, and invited me in. I narrated my ordeal to him and his wife, and they both said I was welcome to stay with them. They showed me the spare room and told me to make myself comfortable, which I did. I was a little late for work, so I jumped into the shower, and by the time I was done, Martha had breakfast waiting for me. I ate and rushed to work.
I got to know Nigel and Martha better after living with them for a few days. The sweet, loving couple that I thought they were was a lie. They had put up that facade just to lure me into their lives. It became obvious that the couple had an agenda for inviting me to stay with them, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. They were always arguing and fighting, and often Nigel would beat Martha up and she would lock herself in the room and cry. Nigel grew to trust me a bit and felt he could say or do anything in front of me, so he would call Martha names and slap her in my presence. Apparently, he wasn’t happy moving to Spain. According to Nigel, it had been Martha’s idea to sell all their property, including their house in Exeter, and move to Spain. They had hoped to find jobs when they got to Spain and live a decent life, but after two years of unemployment, they had exhausted all their money. They owed a lot of people and hadn’t paid their rent for the past six months.
This was a peculiar situation for me. Here I was again, running out of the frying pan and into the fire. According to them, they still had a few more months to stay in Spain before heading back to England, and as long as they were still in Madrid, I would have a place to stay. I chose not to worry about anything. I would not let their dysfunctional marriage affect me. I was friendly with both of them and became a confidant to each. They would come to me saying ugly things about each other, and that upon their return to England, they would get divorced. In a way, I enjoyed my position of power in their house.
As the days went by, their relationship kept deteriorating. They couldn’t afford food anymore and, by default, I became the breadwinner. Every day, on my way back from work, I would buy food for us. Later, they started selling their possessions, including their television. That should have been a sign to me that something was up, given that Nigel loved television so much. I just thought they were ashamed of relying on me for food and wanted to sell their things to help pay for meals.
One fateful day, I went to work as usual. I worked long hours and hadn’t eaten anything all day. The night before, I had prepared a delicious stew and rice, and I was really looking forward to going back to the apartment so I could eat. When I returned that evening, I put the keys Nigel had given me into the lock and tried to open the door, but it didn’t work. I checked the key again and checked the number on the apartment, just to make sure I hadn’t missed the apartment. It was the right apartment and the right door. As I was fiddling with the lock, somebody opened the door from the inside: a middle-aged Spanish man. He was aggressive and threatening, yelling something at me that I couldn’t understand. I spoke to him in English, asking where Nigel and Martha were. He didn’t understand and kept yelling at me to leave. From all indications, he was the landlord and had changed the locks of the apartment.
Apparently, when I went to work that morning, Nigel and Martha had used the money they had made from selling their stuff to flee back to England, abandoning me. So now, the landlord, who hadn’t been paid in six months, was furious, and also had to deal with an African squatter. All I wanted was to go into the apartment, quickly have something to eat, take my belongings, and leave his apartment. But the more I pleaded with him, the more aggressive he got. He started to yell for the police, and I thought maybe that was a good idea. The police would be able to resolve the situation and allow me in to get my belongings. So I started yelling with him for the police. He got out of the apartment, locked the door, and we both walked to the nearest police station.
When we got to the station, he narrated in Spanish what had happened. I had no idea what he told the police, but I tried to explain my side of the story: all I wanted was to get my belongings from the apartment and leave. But the entire police station—more than thirty officers present—wouldn’t listen to or even look at me. When they did, it was with disgust. A few of them called me “negro de mierda” (“fcuking nigger”). I continued to plead with them, but they decided to escalate the situation. They started yelling at me and laughing, and motioned me to go away. When I wouldn’t budge, about ten of them approached me menacingly. They slapped me, punched me, and spat on me. In my confusion, I didn’t know what came over me. I knelt and started praying to God in a loud voice, telling Him to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. They carried me outside their station and threw me on the ground. Luckily, I landed on my buttocks. I got up and positioned myself to fight back because I thought they were going to beat me up, but they left me alone. I dusted myself off and wandered around the streets that night, cold, hungry, and confused. The only thing I could think of was my family and how wonderful my home was, even though I didn’t want to go back.
The next morning I went to work and narrated the incident to my friends, and they urged me to move into the asylum camp with them. Since I had no other option, I swallowed my pride and moved into the camp that evening. Living in the camp brought back memories of my secondary school days, when I used to live in the dormitory. The only difference with the camp was that there was no leadership structure, no guaranteed meals, and everyone was of a different nationality. The people at the camp were miserable and hopeless, with no inclination of what the future held for them. After spending one night there, I was more than ever determined to make my next move.
Through my association with the refugees and asylum seekers, I had learned that it was a lot easier for migrants to succeed in Germany than any other country in Europe. It was said that asylum seekers in Germany got more than one thousand dollars per month from the German government while they were waiting for adjudication of their cases. It was also said that the German government had a better housing scheme for refugees and asylum seekers. Individual apartments were provided, depending on the size of the family involved.
I remembered that in 1991, a relative of mine, Benjamin, had traveled to Germany. Before his plane landed, he went into the bathroom and destroyed his Nigerian passport, and upon arrival, applied for political asylum. Within a year of his arrival in Germany, he was sending a lot of money and cars to Nigeria. We later found out that Nigerians in Germany had devised a perfect way of scheming the German asylum system. They would apply for asylum under different names in a number of German states. They also had a way of manipulating their fingerprints so that when the states crosschecked their names against their fingerprints, there would never be a match. In Germany, the different states were responsible for paying allowances to the refugees and asylum seekers living in and registered in their states. Benjamin and his group would travel around the states every month, collecting allowances in their different names.
I had no intention of joining this unholy scheme. Rather, Germany simply seemed to be more asylum-friendly than Spain. If I could get there, I would probably live better and be able to save money to take care of my family, as well as pursue my education. So I asked the guys who had been in the camp for a long time how I could best get to Germany. In no time, I found out that it was nothing new—people from the camp had been going there and many other places on a regular basis. Apparently, Spain was merely considered a stepping stone. The final destination for most of these guys was Germany or the United States.
Through my inquiries, I found a whole new world that existed within the walls of the asylum camp: an underground operation in fake documentation and traveling papers. If one had the money, one could get whatever traveling documents one needed. With this knowledge I was determined to work harder and save money for fake documents. After one week, I saved enough to buy a laissez passé. My Nigerian friends tried to dissuade me from traveling to Germany. They warned me that there was no guarantee it would work, and that some of them had tried in the past, but were caught at the point of entry and repatriated to Spain. But by this time, I could not be discouraged.
On May 1, 1992, I left Madrid by train, heading to Dusseldorf, Germany, with my fake laissez passé. I was anxious to leave Spain. It was a very long journey. We traveled from Madrid to Barcelona, passed Costa Brava, and then on through to France without incident. The border agents came on board the train, conducted their routine checks, and never batted an eye at me. We continued our journey all the way to Strasbourg and on toward Stuttgart. At the French-German border, the train stopped for the border inspection on the German side. One of the immigration officers requested to see my documents, and I immediately handed them over to him. He asked me to follow him. I got off the train and went into their office with him, where they told me I had a fake document and could not be allowed to enter Germany. They spoke very good English and were quite firm but polite. They explained that I would be sent back to my point of departure. Meanwhile, they would detain me until the arrival of the next available train to Spain. I was completely devastated.
After what seemed like half a day, a train heading to Madrid arrived and the German border agents escorted me on board. Within minutes, I was on my way. The thought of going back to Madrid to face the miserable life there was unthinkable, but I had no other option. I had no money left on me, and during the several hours of detention in Germany I was offered neither water nor food. As the train churned along toward Spain, I kept thinking of what my next move would be. A few hours later, we arrived in Barcelona to pick up passengers; we were to depart in one hour. All of a sudden, I decided to get off the train in Barcelona, even though I had no idea what the city was like.
I walked out of the train station and into the street. By this time it was already late at night, but the streets were filled with people. I wandered around from Plaza Cataluña through Las Ramblas. There were so many people, and it seemed like there were parties going on everywhere.
Then I remembered that the 1992 Summer Olympics was scheduled to take place in Barcelona and would kick off in the next two months. There would be all kinds of people, including tourists from all over the world.
I don’t know what I expected to happen next. I knew no one in Barcelona. After roaming around for several hours, I finally decided to find a place to lay my head down. I ended up outside of a Catholic church, tired and hungry. I woke up the next morning, feeling lost and confused. Life had never been this miserable to me. I was still starved and thirsty, and I couldn’t beg anyone for food; I had too much pride for that. I started wandering the streets again.
Then I remembered why I had decided to get off in Barcelona: I had a strong passion for the ocean, and Barcelona was located along the Mediterranean Sea. I decided to go down and take a walk along the beach. I had always had a sense of calm whenever I was by the sea. As I walked along the beach, thinking about what the future might hold for me, I ran into a beautiful girl who started a conversation with me. She told me she was visiting Barcelona from Germany, and I told her that I was stranded in Barcelona. We hit it off and ended up spending the day together.
There was something about her that didn’t seem right. Though she was kindhearted and had the physical features of a girl, she behaved oddly like a guy. I liked her as a person, but I had my suspicions that she might be a transvestite. At this time I still wasn’t very knowledgeable about those kinds of things, given that I had just left Africa, where such things were not the norm. My intuition told me that something wasn’t completely right about this person. Nevertheless, I was reluctant to give up the one friend I had in town because of a mere suspicion. So I continued to hang out with her, telling myself that as long as there was nothing sexual to our relationship, everything would be okay.
As we were hanging out that day, we ran into an African guy who was originally from Mali. He lived in Barcelona and was apparently unemployed. He spent the afternoon with my newfound friend and me. At the end of the day, my German friend departed and agreed to meet up with us the next day. When my African friend learned about my situation, he was kind enough to invite me to spend a couple of nights at his apartment, which I gratefully accepted. His house was a four-bedroom apartment, which he shared with four other people. Three of his flatmates were from India, and he was a little concerned as to how they would feel about my presence. However, when we got to his apartment that night, everyone was very welcoming.
Contrary to my initial assumption, my African friend actually had a part-time job: He was employed illegally in a bakery/grocery store. For the next few days he provided me a place to sleep and also fed me; after work, he would bring home some food from the store. I wasn’t sure if the food was given to him by the store proprietor or if he just helped himself; either way, I couldn’t care less and I never bothered to ask. Every morning I would get up early and wander around Barcelona, looking for any kind of job, and in the afternoon I would go down to the beach and hang out with my German friend. On the third day of my stay, I went down to the beach, but my German friend wasn’t there. However, I ran into a group of female tourists from England. I hung out with them at the beach the whole afternoon. We all exchanged personal stories and had a wonderful time together. Later, one of the women suggested that I try to get a job at the Hotel Villa Olimpica, and everybody in the group agreed.
By this time, there was a lot of construction going on in Barcelona in preparation for the Olympics, especially at the Olympic Village. For these construction works, it was a race against time. The Olympics would start in six weeks, and some of the infrastructures and amenities still weren’t ready, so construction was going on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in order to meet the deadline..
To Be Continued…