When I arrived in Ancona everything was cold. The room where I had to wait was windy and my jacket was still wet. I thought I was prepared. Back in Somalia I had read everything about the journey, everything but not too much, because my wife kept telling me to stop it.
‘On the internet people only make up stories,’ she said.
I know she was right, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted to be aware of the risks. I wanted to make this work.
The first days in the apartment that I share with five other guys, I rarely remember. I think I just stayed in bed. The days on the truck and the hours on the water were still in my body. I felt all shaky and shivery. Every movement made me sick and every memory that popped into my head, made me sick as well. The little girl that fell of the truck in the desert, the sound of her mother, the big eyes of her other children, the woman on the boat that died on my lap. It felt like my head was a boat, a truck; too small for everything that was in it. At least I still had the pictures of my wife and my six children on my phone and I forced myself to look at them when I was awake and tried to sleep the rest of the time.
After a day or three I started with the Italian classes and got back to life a little bit. It’s a bit old-fashioned Italian, about going to the market and stuff, while I have only seen supermarkets until now, but I am happy to learn something here. I never missed one and I will keep going until I have a job here.
This morning I had a class too. I set the alarm clock an hour earlier to do my homework. I threw some cold water in my face, made myself a coffee and washed a coffee cup.
In our kitchen you have to wash everything before you can use it. The Pakistani guy went all pale when he entered last week.
‘I will be sick in one week!’ he said to the man that showed him the place. But in my opinion he is even worse than the other six guys. He smokes sweet cigarettes all day and the floor is covered with ashes. It sounds filthy, I know. But I don’t care about this place to be honest.
When the coffee was ready, I drank it quickly and looked at the picture my wife had sent me some hours before. Pancakes and Amir, smiling to the camera, he has his first teeth. He is a very good boy. I miss his baby smell and the sound of my family. In my new room I hear the snoring of Jamil a young guy from Senegal and the sound of the garbage truck in the morning.
After my coffee I went to the toilet and weighed myself. I had to promise my wife not to get thin, and I had found a cheap scale, but I am not keeping my promise. 68 kilos. I try to eat as much as possible, but I keep loosing weight. I think it’s because of all the waiting here and that’s why I keep moving. I walk everywhere, I game with the other Somali boys, I even start playing soccer again, and I really suck at it because I didn’t do it for years. But everything feels pointless.
Back in Mogadishu I had a really good job. I am twenty-eight years old. The last four years I worked forty, fifty hours a week, translating contracts and business plans from English to Arabic and vice versa. I fed my family, we had I big house, I even had a study where I could finish my work in the evening. I had everything under control, until the Al-Shabaab got bigger. I had to be realistic. One day they would shoot me too. Like they started shoot other men who work for foreign companies. Last week a friend of mine sent me a video of an old colleague. You see him being shot through the head and the guy who shoots him, doesn’t even cover his face. His eyes don’t show any fear or excitement. He only pulls the trigger. Just like that.
So, moving while waiting, that’s what I do here. My wife is using our last savings, while the Italian government is considering my documents. It might take a few more months. I need international protection or a political asylum. And if I will get that, it will take two more months before I get a legal permission to work. I am checking the mailbox everyday. They will send you a letter when they have decided on your case.
At the meantime a lady from COOSS, an NGO over here, is trying to convert my Somali degree in an Italian degree. I will buy her the best flowers in Ancona if she will manage to do so, but every job will be good enough really. I cannot wait to do something and integrate here. I will go to the opera, to the museum, to the countryside. I will become as Italian as possible as soon as they let me. I will show the people here that I have good intentions and then, maybe, we are allowed to stay here with the whole family.
Well, you might have stopped reading already. It is a sad story, I know. I don’t like sad stories either.
So, I will just stop it right here. I will get my stuff and go to the park again. Do my Italian homework and ignore the old, Italian ladies with their small dogs, who cross the lane to walk on the other side when they see me on my bench and afterwards maybe I will phone one of the Somali guys here and start to improve my soccer skills a bit. My kids have to be proud of their father when they come over.
Illustration by Gonzalo Sainz Sotomayor
This story is written for Platoniq (june, 2018) and based on true facts. The story was used in a workshop for the European project, Cultural Labs, in which organizations will include refugees in projects on cultural heritage. Stories like this can help organizations to imagine the kind of situation of the people they would like to work with.