Josiane is the name of the african girl l met at the train station the yesterday.
We had arrived in the same train it seems and had both got off to change to our next connection. The only difference being l knew my route, was on familiar territory and going about my usual business. she on the other hand was living another episode of her journey to Europe as a refugee.
I am still ashamed of the attitude l displayed in the first 10 minutes of our encounter. See i had not reckoned with the fact she might be a refugee in transit. To me she was just another young african lady going about her business. She had a decent hairstyle, decent dress and a heavy winter jacket, nothing out of the ordinary at a first glimpse.
I caught her eye as l was getting off the train and i gave her my don’t look at me, don’t talk to me, let me be- face, which l usually wear on my way back home from work.
A few seconds later l felt some eyes on me, you know like how your body automatically alerts you if somebody is staring at you. Looking up, i caught her stare and this time even more annoyed i gave her my just because am black doesn’t mean i know you or have to converse with you face. Sad l know, i wasn’t like this when i first moved to Germany. But somehow those ridiculously annoying encounters with my “so called” african brothers who always used that as an excuse to talk to me left their mark.
Anyway, my look did nothing to defer Josiane. To her at that moment l represented hope. She saw in me a similarity, our skin color and for her it was enough to seek my help out. And so even as i muttered underneath my breath, please don’t approach me- she walked hastily over.
Her first words, “French?” only added salt to the injury. I was through the ceiling with anger, “of course, just because am black means l can speak French” l thought.
With a blank stare l said “No, only Ndebele, Shona, English and German.” I thought this was enough for her to leave me to myself and me time. My train rides are reserved for this with priority level one. So yea i was almost exploding.
Just as l was backing away from her, she shoved a bunch of papers into my hands. With such irritation i looked at them, the first two where a connection to some Kamen village, which i had never even heard of before yesterday. She still had two changes ahead of her. I calmed down and explained to her, showed her the platforms and advised her to use time as her guide for her changes. Her last stop, an applied university brought back the friendly me to life. And l warmed up thinking she is here to study. Seconds later the thought made no sense because i asked myself but how will she study here if she speaks no German or English. And so i asked her where she was going. She responded but of course l understood nothing.
So l took out my phone, went to google translate and phrased my question. At this point i would like to give Google a bow, though your app sometimes translates out of the context things, yesterday it saved a life. Josiane and l communicated for the next 2 hours via this app, and am grateful to the mastermind behind.
A few translations later and a shuffle through the pile of papers on my hands. I established that Josiane is from Gabon. She flew to Turkey and from there proceeded to France with a boat and was transferred to Germany from there. She just completed one of these journeys l have been seeing on TV.
One of the papers she had said she has applied for Asylum in Germany and must report at the given address before 20 September. The police had printed this connection for her, bought her a train ticket and put her in the train. Quite a difficult challenge if you ask me, when in her position. No phone, no watch, no language, just some papers in a language you don’t understand and a trip with 3 changes plus a walk to your final address. I couldn’t believe it.
My mind raced to my time as an aupair, where l myself struggled for months. I was going to take here there. It meant another 4 hours for me before i get home but how else was i supposed to let somebody go off just like that. Long story short we made it and l left her there and it was but just another reminder for me that my Life is good. I have nothing to complain about.
Later as l lay in bed, l despised myself for my anti social behaviors, i could have really messed up today.
I pray for the strength to stay humble and be a little more kind, you can never tell a book by its cover and by that l mean i must not judge people at first sight because just like Josiane they maybe in need.
She sent me a french text today and l caught myself rolling my eyes…
I do wish to be kind but so help me God.
Looks like l still have a long way to go.