Migration: Zero Sum Game
By Berhane Woldu
Last week migration week was celebrated; to most Africans migration is a devastating phenomenon.
The fall weather in Washington DC was beautiful. A bit windy moist, breezy and the leaves still falling off trees you hear chomp when you step on the leaves. Hurtle sound as a gush of wind passes by dragging them onto the concrete floor of the neighborhood. Sitting on a bench, in a park just a block away from my guest house staring at nothing; trying to steal my thoughts away from what happened for the last forty years. It is the intrinsic fundamental nature of man that makes us think. People enjoy illusion, being told things that are not real; it takes away from the burden of reality. There is a subconscious urge within to find a better life: the land of milk and honey. No matter how much we think, dream about the riches, wealth and personal equality in the Western World the truth of the matter is; that is not the way it works. “All men are created equal; unfortunately some are created more privilaged than others”
I was never the type to live much luxury since I left my country for higher education at the age of 18. I don’t regret any of it because I was able to accomplish my goal. I stayed with roommates while attending college. After graduation, packed up and tried to support myself since I was of legal age. I should never have stayed away from my family, they were the only family I had but political condition didn’t allow me to return to my family. Now that I have narrow eye that’s wrinkling and silvering bold hair which gave away that I am around 62 years old, I have returned home: Asmara Eritrea. Home is where your heart is.
When one separates from a person close to us the tendency is to close up being young and inexperienced that is what most of us faced. It’s like we had built a huge wall ever since we departed from our parents, families and country many years ago. It was only when some of us were able to wiggle ourselves through the cracks and successfully entered through that barrier we became aware of our surrounding. Some were unfortunate and couldn’t overcome the barriers and were lost in the system. We kept working at low paying jobs taking care of ourselves that we were unable to care for our family. All our life, our parents took good care of us and we didn’t get a chance to take care of them. When some of them died, we regretted that we haven’t done anything for them, in return. We missed our chance to show how much we appreciated them because all of us kept asking what we wanted for ourselves. We were so tied up with our hectic western destitute life that we were unable to re-connect. Yet here we are today, trying to look back to what has happened to our past and where we are now. I know we can’t look at the past but I guess we owe it to our parents, family and country that nonetheless.
Coming back to Washington, DC from five years absence was an event that gave me the opportunity to re-connect with family, friends and the American life. Washington, DC Metro area has changed. It is now a high income city where poor people and new immigrants can’t inhabit. Gone are the old row houses replaced by skyscrapers, city streets covered with greenery, flowers and sparkling lights. The city is incredible the view was astonishing especially when the city lights start to sparkle as darkness covers the city at night.
Seeing family and old friends was nice and the highlight of my trip but, it was also a reminder of the past. In Eritrea wise elderly person upon meeting you the question you’re asked is “how many children do you have?” They never ask what material value one has or how successful you are. When one sees a funeral procession the only thing that is visible is the coffin that has the dead person’s body. Left are all his possessions how large or little. The skyscraper one has built, the wealth he has accumulated is left behind. He vanish once a human soul alive the next a replica a ghost dead; one infidelity after another such is life. The wise men have understood that. It’s only natural we exist to produce offspring to carry our species, family tradition, nation, culture, experience so that we don’t end. The mere existence of one is to fulfill his duty responsibility and contributor to his family, people and nation. Developing a nation is an intergenerational compact. One generation of Eritreans sacrificed their life to attain freedom those who came after them benefits from it. The next generation has to work hard to develop the nation and to make sure that the previous generation enjoy the retirement they deserve. And later, when we have worked all that we can, the generation that follows us will play it forward to attain a nation of high income country. This; my friend is the conviction of great people.
One might wonder why I am verbalizing all this; it is to appreciate and be thankful for what we have and to tell our younger generation about the truth that “all is not milk and honey” in the West, not to be a collaborator or assist them to jeopardize their precious life for unworthy cause. When we will look back and examine to the last forty years of our life in Diaspora we come up with many sadness. We remember friends that we have seen perish, some who are presently ill others who haven’t made much out of their lives and family members that we have buried in the land of the unknown. The disconnection from our family and country; these are the prices we had to pay; these were not our choices but brought upon us by political instability. Nowadays people believe sensation, being told things that are not real. The new immigrants that are now flocking to the land of milk and honey have missed the boat; gone are the easy welfare state of Europe. The American dream where one can be the best you can be are no longer a reality. There is a subconscious urge within to find a better life but one doesn’t have to endanger his or her lives. Ambitions’, desires and dreams can be achieved in the home of your forefathers. Home is home; working diligently to improve one’s life and to help build your nation is more rewarding than to be a third, fourth class citizen of other nations. Wise elderly men say “it’s not material possession that maters but to end life with respect and dignity”.