Back in old Europe again, this time by way of Milan, Eritrea’s own version of Casablanca, where refugees sought shelter from Hitler. Strange how history has a way of repeating itself, only time and places changing. It just so happens that the new refugees here, at least those that made it from Eritrea, have run away from a modern day Dictator.
All are visible everywhere, seemingly underfed, many overdosed on cigarettes. May be one needs it to stay warm from the bitter Italian cold, or to dull the brain, to distract from insurmountable problems.
At the train station we study each other, though my stares are longer, as if looking for a lost family or friend. In truth, I was trying to read their faces, pondering how and when this tragedy will end. I look at them when they are not watching. A couple of times, I got caught redhanded. We exchange “selamat” and move on. Too jetlaged and too tired to talk, my eyes were on overdrive, screening for Eritrean faces in the Centrale crowd.
The Italians have stopped saying hello like they used to. When I registered here as a refugee from yet another Ethiopian dictator, the greetings were everywhere, “bon giorno” at every turn. Heck, they were even willing to hire me as a “domestic” to clean the mansions and drive the signora, like Ms. Daisy. I accepted the greetings warmly but not the offer to work. It was time to go to America, my dream destination.
Those were the days. Now the bon giornos have stopped altogether, as I’m sure the opportunities for domestic jobs. This is no time to remind the Italians that they had neither the visas to enter my country, nor the desire to coexist peacefully with my friendly forefathers. It’s better to worry about more urgent problems instead.
One of the most disheartening parts of our current crisis is that we don’t seem to grieve for the unfortunate among us. In fact, we don’t even pay attention anymore. When hundreds are shown drowning in our living rooms, we barely notice, too busy with much more interesting things to concern ourselves with.
Even more tragic is the current PFDJ hoopla for a jubilee that only a tiny few are jubilant about. How in the world they will bring themselves to dance will serve as a reminder that we have found the enemy. No, it’s not the Italians or the rest of Europe. It’s us.
Just like the passengers on the Titanic, Eritrea’s men and women will be drinking and dancing away like there’s no tomorrow. If half the population abandons the country and the other half wishes they could, that’s not their problem. Little do they know that it’s the PFDJ ship that will ultimately sink and bring an end to their drums and endless dances.