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Über die Präsidentschaftswahlen 2023 in Liberia.

Über Menschen im Klimawandel in Afrika und Europa.

We hope that all of you agree that literature is an ultra valuable source of knowledge when it comes to rethinking trans- und intercultural communication.

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Find here an excerpt from Nigerian Author Teju Cole’s famous novel „Open City“. Following a friend to a social engagement the protagonist meets a Liberian named Saidu. We copied Saidu’s story for you. It is about Liberia, the lack of education on human rights all over the world and about fair communication. It is about Spain and Lissabon and the myths that guide us through our lives. The excerpt is really worth to read and to discuss. It targets many aspects of refugee, migration and integration issues. (Recommendation: http://Open City )

„When we came around to the front of the metal building, we saw a large crowd standing in a long line. People carried plastic bags and small boxes, and near the head of the line, a security guard explained loudly to a couple who seemed to speak little or no English that visiting hours had not begun yet, and would not begin for another ten minutes. The guard made a great show of his exasperation, and the couple looked both apologetic and dissatisfied.

The Welcomers group joined the line, which appeared to consist of recent immigrants: Africans, Latinos, Eastern Europeans, Asians. These were the people, in other words, who would have cause to visit someone at a detention facility. A middle-aged man shouted into a cellphone in Polish. The wind was cool, and it soon became cold. The line did not move for twenty-five minutes; then it moved and, one at a time, we showed our ID cards, passed through the metal detectors, and were let into the waiting room. Everyone, with the exception of the Welcomers, seemed to be there to see family members.

The security officers—oversize, bored, brusque-mannered people, people who made no pretense of enjoying their work—took the visitors, a half dozen at a time, behind secured doors for forty-five minute visits. Those waiting their turn were mostly silent, staring into space. No one was reading. That purgatorial waiting room had no windows, and was brightly lit with fluorescent tubes, which seemed to suck into them the little remaining air. I imagined the sun setting outside over the concrete wasteland. Nadège had gone in. She’d been to the facility several times before, and had two inmates whom she saw regularly, one woman and one man. She’d asked for both by name. I went in with the next group, to see the inmates selected for us by the officials. The meeting room was as expected, perfunctory: a narrow rank of bays, split down the middle by Plexiglas, with chairs on both sides, and small perforations at face level. The man who sat in front of me had a broad white smile. He was young, and dressed in an orange jumpsuit, as were all the other inmates. I introduced myself, and he smiled immediately and asked if I was African. He was as good-looking, as striking in appearance as any man I had ever seen. He had delicate cheekbones, a dark, even complexion, and the whites of his eyes were as vivid as his white teeth. The first thing he asked, perhaps aware that I was with the Welcomers, was if I was a Christian. I hesitated, then told him I supposed I was. Oh, he said, I’m happy about that because I am a Christian too, a believer in Jesus. So, will you please pray for me? I told him I would, and began to ask him how things were at the detention facility.

Not so bad, not as bad as it could be, he said. But I am tired of it, I want to be released. I have been here more than two years. Twenty-six months. They have just finished my case, and we made an appeal, but it was rejected. Now they are sending me back, but there is no date, just this waiting and waiting. He did not speak too sadly, but he was disappointed, that I could see. He was tired of hoping, but he also seemed unable to suppress his generous smile. There was a certain gentleness in his every sentence, and he began to speak, rapidly, about how he had ended up confined in this large metal box in Queens. I encouraged him, asked him to clarify details, gave, as best as I could, a sympathetic ear to a story that, for too long, he had been forced to keep to himself. He was well educated, there was no hesitation in his English, and I let him speak without interrupting. He lowered his voice a bit, leaned toward the glass, and said that America was a name that had never really been far away when he was growing up. In school and at home, he had been taught about the special relationship between Liberia and America, which was like the relationship between an uncle and a favorite nephew. Even the names bore a family resemblance: Liberia, America: seven letters each, four of which were shared. America had sat solidly in his dreams, had been the absolute focus of his dreams, and when the war began and everything started to crumble, he was sure the Americans would come in and solve the whole thing. But it hadn’t been like that; the Americans had been reluctant to help, for their own reasons. His name was Saidu, he said. His school, near the Old Ducor Hotel, had been shelled, and burned to the ground in 1994. A year later, his sister had died of diabetes, an illness that wouldn’t have killed her in peacetime. His father, gone since 1985, remained gone, and his mother, a petty trader at the market, had nothing to trade. Saidu had slipped through the shadows of the war. He was pressed many times into fetching water for the NPFL (the National Patriotic Front of Liberia), or clearing brush, or moving bodies away from the street. He got used to the cries of alarm and the sudden clouds of smoke, he learned to lie low when recruiters came calling for either side. They would accost his mother, and she would tell them he had sickle-cell disease and was in the throes of death. His mother and her sister were shot in the second war, by Charles Taylor’s men. Two days later, the men returned and took him away with them, to the outskirts of Monrovia. He carried a suitcase with him. At first, he thought the men would make him fight, but they gave him a cutlass, and he worked on a rubber farm with forty or fifty others. At the camp, he saw one of his mates, a boy who had been the best soccer player in school: that boy’s right hand had been severed at the wrist, and had healed to a stump. Others had died, he had seen corpses. But it was seeing that stump where a hand used to be that did it for him; that was when he knew he had no choice. That night, he packed his soccer shoes, two spare shirts, and all his money, around six hundred Liberian dollars. At the bottom of his tattered backpack, he placed his mother’s birth certificate. The rest of the things in the suitcase he emptied into a ditch. The suitcase itself he threw into the bush. He did not, himself, have a birth certificate, which was why he took his mother’s. He escaped the farm, walking the road alone in the darkness, all the way back to Monrovia. He couldn’t return home, so he went to the burnt ruin of his school, near the Old Ducor Hotel, and cleared a corner there. He thought that if he went to sleep, maybe he would die. The idea was new to him, and it felt good. It helped him sleep.

I was startled by a sudden knock on the Plexiglas. One of the Wackenhut guards had walked up, behind me, and I had been so absorbed in Saidu’s story that I started, and dropped my hat. The guard said, You fellas have thirty minutes. Saidu looked up at him from the other side of the partition, smiled, and said thank you. Then he lowered his voice again, leaned forward, and spoke even more quickly, as though the words now flowed freely from some hitherto blocked aquifer of his memory. That night he slept in the breeze from an open window, until a hissing sound woke him up. He opened his eyes, but kept his body still, and in the charred darkness he saw, across the long room, all the way at the other end, a small white snake. He tensed, wondering if the snake had seen him, but it continued to move, as though it were looking for something. Then a gust came through the window, and Saidu saw that the “snake” was actually an open exercise book, its pages fluttering in the wind. The memory of that apparition remained, he said, because he often wondered, then and later, if it meant something for his future. Morning came, and he stayed at the school all that day, hiding, and slept there when night fell. That night again, the book moved in the darkness and kept him company; he stayed half-awake and watched its pages rising and falling, and sometimes he saw it as a snake and sometimes as a book. The following day, he saw some ECOMOG soldiers from Nigeria, who gave him boiled rice. He pretended to be retarded, and he hitched a ride with them, traveling in their armored truck as far as Gbarnga, in the north of the country. Then he went on foot to Guinea, a journey of many days, switching between his sandals and his soccer shoes. Both gave him blisters, but in different places. When he got thirsty, he drank water from puddles. He was hungry, but he tried not to think about it. He couldn’t remember how he walked the ninety miles to the small town in the Guinean hinterland, or how that brought him, on the back of a farmer’s motorcycle, to Bamako.

By now, the idea of getting to America was fixed in his mind. In Bamako, unable to speak Bamana or French, he’d skulked around the motor park, eating scraps at the marketplace, sleeping under the market tables at night, and dreaming sometimes that he was being attacked by hyenas. In one dream, his mate from school came to him, bleeding from his severed hand. In other dreams his mother, aunt, and sister showed up, all of them crowding around the market table, all of them bleeding. How much time passed? He was unsure. Maybe six months, maybe a little less. He eventually befriended a Malian truck driver, and washed his truck in exchange for food. Then this driver introduced him to another one, a man with light brown eyes, a Mauritanian. The Mauritanian asked him where he wanted to go, and Saidu said America. And the Mauritanian asked him if he was carrying any hashish, and Saidu said, no, he had none. The Mauritanian agreed to take him as far as Tangier. When they left, Saidu wore a new shirt the Malian driver had given him. The truck was packed with Senegalese, Nigeriens, and Malians, and they had all paid, except for him. It was extremely hot during the day, and freezing at night, and the water in the jerry cans was carefully rationed. I wondered, naturally, as Saidu told this story, whether I believed him or not, whether it wasn’t more likely that he had been a soldier. He had, after all, had months to embellish the details, to perfect his claim of being an innocent refugee. In Tangier, he said, he had noticed the way the black Africans moved around, under constant police surveillance. A large group of them, mostly men, and mostly young, had a camp near the sea, and he joined them. They wrapped themselves in blankets against the cold wind from the sea. One man next to him said he was from Accra, and told Saidu that journeying through Ceuta was safer. When we enter Ceuta, the man said, we have entered Spain, we will go tomorrow. The following day, they went to a small Moroccan town near Ceuta in a van, a group of about fifteen of them, then they went on foot to the border with Ceuta. The fence was brightly lit and the man from Accra led them down to where the fence met the sea. A man was shot last week, he said, but I don’t think we should be fearful, God is with us. There was a boat waiting, operated by a Moroccan ferryman. They held hands in prayer, then loaded up, and the man rowed across the shallows. They completed the ten-minute journey to Ceuta undetected, rolled ashore, and scattered into the rushes. Ceuta, as the Ghanaian had said, was Spain. The new immigrants split up in many directions. Saidu entered Spain proper after three weeks, through Algeciras, on a ferry, and no papers were required. He found his way across the southern part of the country, begging in town squares, lining up at soup kitchens. Twice he picked pockets in crowded corners, throwing out the ID cards and credit cards, keeping the cash; this, he said, was the only crime he ever committed. He went all the way across southern Spain until he crossed the Portuguese border, and he kept going until he got to Lisbon, which was sad and cold, but also impressive. And it was only after he arrived in Lisbon that the bad dreams stopped. He fell in with Africans there, working first as a butcher’s assistant, and then as a barber. Those were the longest two years of his life. He slept in a crowded living room with ten other Africans. Three of them were girls, and the men took turns with them and paid them, but he didn’t touch them, because he had saved almost enough for the passport and his ticket. If he waited another month, it would be one hundred euros cheaper, but he couldn’t wait; he had the option of saving money by flying to La Guardia, and he’d asked the ticketing agent if she was sure La Guardia was also in America. She had stared at him, and he shook his head, and bought the JFK ticket anyway, just to be sure. On the passport, which was made for him by a man from Mozambique, he insisted on using his real name, Saidu Caspar Mohammed, but the man had had to invent a birth date, because Saidu didn’t know his real one. The passport, a Cape Verdean one, arrived on a Tuesday; by Friday, he was in the air. The journey ended at JFK Terminal Four. They took him away at customs. On the table between him and the officer that day, Saidu said, was a plastic bag with his possessions, clothes mostly, and his mother’s birth certificate. The bag had been tagged. Voices rose from the other side of the partition. The officer then looked at him, looked at the notes his colleague had made, shook his head, and began to write. Then two women came in, smelling of bleach. One of them was a black American. They took him up, and put a rubber bracelet across both his wrists. The bracelet cut his skin, and when he stood up, the black American woman pushed him.

Was he afraid? He wasn’t afraid, no. He hadn’t thought it would take long to sort it all out. He was thirsty, and after being cooped up in the plane, he longed simply to be outside in the air, and to smell America. He wanted food, and a bath; he wanted a chance to work, perhaps as a barber to start with, then something different. He would go to Florida, maybe, because it was a name he had always liked. They steered him forward, as if they were leading a blind man, and as he crossed the partition and saw into the other room where the rising voices had come from, he saw men in uniform, white men and black men, with guns in their holsters. They brought me here, he said, and that was the end. I have been here ever since. I have only been outside three times, on the days when I went to court. The lawyer they assigned to me said I might have had a chance before 9/11. But it is okay, I am okay. The food here is bad, it has no taste, but there’s a lot of it. One thing I miss is the taste of groundnut stew. You know it? The other inmates are all right, they are good people. Then, lowering his voice, The guards are sometimes harsh. Sometimes harsh. You can do nothing about it, you learn how to stay out of trouble. I am one of the youngest, you know. Then, raising his voice slightly, They let us exercise, and there is cable television. Sometimes we watch soccer, sometimes basketball; most of us prefer soccer, Italian league, English league. The security officer had returned, tapping his wristwatch. The visit was over. I raised my hand to the Plexiglas, and Saidu did the same. I don’t want to go back anywhere, he said. I want to stay in this country, I want to be in America and work. I applied for asylum, but it wasn’t given. Now they will return me to my port of entry, which is Lisbon. When I got up to leave, he remained seated, and said, Come back and visit me, if I am not deported. I said that I would, but never did.“ (published 2011 at Random House – a work of fiction reaching high levels of truth and factual information)

Never take it dogmaticly. But start thinking and laugh about yourselves instead on each other.
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