Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leaving Africa for the Promise land, United Kingdom, Part I

Going to make loads of money in United Kingdom!?

Coming to Diaspora After hearing all the good stuff that goes in United Kingdom, the 30 British Pound per hour jobs, how my friend in London had just bought some land in a prime location in Harare, I decided to quit my job and go to UK for a better new life.I was very excited for this transition as my life in Zimbabwe had reached a stagnant point. I was working as a school headmaster in a high density suburb of Harare called Tafara.

My income had lost its value due to the severe economic inflation my country was experiencing. I was living paycheck to paycheck, just barely surviving. I missed those days in the 80s when a job as a school headmaster was highly revered and handsomely paid. I remember those days, I could afford to send my children to the best boarding schools in the country, and also save for an annual vacation trip with my family to Kariba or Victoria Falls. These days, things had totally changed.

My twin daughters back home waiting for Daddy to send some British Pounds

I had fired my garden boy and maid since my paltry salary could not buy that lifestyle anymore.Upon realizing the opportunities to go to UK, I decided t quit my job. One huge hurdle was securing money to get the British Visa and airfare from Harare to London. After serious soul searching, I decided to sell my house. I moved my family to a smaller house where they would be tenants for the first time. I had no choice. I needed money to fly to the promise land. What a big risk, but hey, high risk - high returns.My friend in the UK, Tom, had assured that he would take care of me for the first few months in UK until I got off my feet. I was so excited. This was my first time to fly, my first time on the plane. I was a little nervous, what if the plane crushed into the sea?

I prayed that the dear Lord would protect us during the flight. I arrived at Heathrow airport early morning, exhausted from the flight, but also excited that I had arrived in UK. My life was going to change from this point. I wondered at the airport looking for my friend Tom who was supposed to pick me up. Tom was nowhere to be found. Hmm, scary. I went to the nearest public telephone and tried to call Tom, no response. I started to panic. I spent the whole day at the airport, heavily jet legged, waiting that my friend Tom would show up, but I didn’t see anyone.
Whilst sleeping on one of the airport benches, one of the cleaners woke me up to move to another section of the airport as they needed to evacuate this part of the airport for heavy cleaning in preparation for the next day. I felt relieved after finding out this guy had a Zimbabwean accent. We started chatting and I told him my story. Misheck told me that it was not rare for people to stand their visitors from Africa.
He explained that living in UK was difficult and not as rosy as people make it look or sound.Misheck offered to take me to his house for the night. He however told me that he lived with 6 roommates in a 2 bedroom flat just outside london. We got to the flat, and I was shocked how these people were living in this small space. I slept on the floor whilst Misheck took his spot, the couch....

Part II coming next

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sex for Immigration Papers

There are numerous stories of immigrants who have done the weirdest things in order to get immigration papers. Some westerners or Africans who are legal residents of the country in question, America, UK, Australia or Canada, masquerade as messiahs who can help those Africans in dire need of immigration papers.

In one of the most bizarre situation in United Kingdom, a few guys who pretended to work for the UK immigration office asked African girls who needed help with immigration papers to strip so they could fondle them. Afterwards, the "UK immigration officers" would then write a recommendation letter for the African girl to present to the UK Immigration office to obtain legal immigration papers.Some might ask, why would one stoop that low to stay in UK, America or Australia?

The predicament of immigrants is so destitute if one doesn’t have any immigration papers. One is not allowed to work, on top of having no job, there is the cultural obligation to help support one's family and relatives back in Africa. Leaving UK, America or Australia to go back home does not look as promising as there is nothing to do in Africa.

No jobs, the education systems are not as advanced as the west.It is interesting to note that the relatives and families back in Africa do not really understand what we go through in order to stay here. We sacrifice a lot to be in these foreign countries, but is it worth it? It is a difficult question. For example, let's us take a look at Thoko from Zimbabwe who now lives in Bronx, New York as an illegal resident since her immigration papers expired. Thoko supports a family of 10 in Harare, Zimbabwe, inclyuding her grandparents who live just outside Harare. Her meager wages from her job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant in Manhattan are enough to send her 4 siblings and 3 nephews to school, get groceries for her grandparents. However, the money is not enough for Thoko to enjoy the American life that she dreamed of before setting foot in this promise land of milk and honey.

She lives in one bedroom shared with another family in a low income apartment in Bronx, where she pays a monthly rent of USD400. Her total monthly income from her dishwashing job is USD600. After all expenses and funneling money home, Thoko is left with a paltry $50. Thoko cannot have a better paying job because she does not have the necessary legal immigration status. No one can hire her without the "papers".

She is lucky to have an illegal job as a dishwasher where she is paid "under the table,"It is sad to note that when Thoko left Zimbabwe, she was a very promising individual, one of the top students at her high school. She came to America to go to college, but could not continue due to financial hardships. A USD40,000 annual tuition bill became unbearable for her parents in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, she dropped out. Now she struggles to make ends meet, she is responsible for the upkeep of her parents, and relatives in Zimbabwe. If she doesn’t work, they will starve.

Maybe she should just go back home and forget about the greener pastures in America, they have proved not be that green anyway. Though not that green, it is tough to imagine that Thoko will get a good job in Zimbabwe that will pay her the same amount she is getting washing dishes at a Manhattan restaurant.

She is in a lock. Living paycheck to paycheck, she has been living here in America for 8 years now, she doesn’t even know what Las Vegas looks like, she hasn’t set foot at the majestic Grand Canyon, no vacation!Many thoughts have crossed Thoko. What elese can she do to make extra dollar bills. She has seen some of her African American girl friends stripping at a local strip club for extra money, but she does not want to go that route. Maybe the grass in not that green on the other side….well for some it is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Welcome to The Diaspora Blog

On This Blog we feature the lives of people from Africa, who left the motherland in pursuit of the good life in western countries: America, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand amongst others.

We cover the struggles people undergo to come to the "promise land", the diaries of the people once they come in America, UK...fights with the immigration officers, deportations back to Africa...some are living the life in America, some are better off at home.

Some regret why they came and left their good lifestyles in Africa - from a mansion in Dakar to a studio apartment in Philadelphia, from having maids and a garden boy in Harare to working as a garden boy on the upper east side of New York to make ends meet, African PhDs turned into janitors, or African brothers running global firms in finance capitals such as London.

Welcome to America, Welcome to Canada, Welcome to United Kingdom, Welcome to New Zealand.

Feel Free to Share your stories or chime in to posts through the comments sections.

Hope you Enjoy the Diaspora Blog.