One Picture, One Story
Steve took his seat on the old plain that was taking him from his homeland to his new life on the other side of the Atlantic. He had been working for years to escape the oppressive fascist government of his homeland, formerly known as Canada, and had managed to sneak on this plane destined for Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.
Steve was born to a pair of environmentalist parents and witnessed first hand the heavy-handed actions of the ultra right wing government. At the age of 13 his parents “disappeared” in the middle of the night and he had been on his own ever since. He moved from place to place, being harassed almost constantly by the National Police Force because he happened to be the son of two “undesirables”. He could recal in great detail more than one occasion that he had been abducted, driven out-of-town and beaten with the but ends of their guns. He eventually took to the underground, not because he was a revolutionary or enemy of the state, but because he was tired of the constant fear of being killed. He had kept contact with a couple of his parents’ friends who had connections in the underworld, so he asked for their assistance which they were all too happy to offer. He spent the next few years sleeping in abandoned subway lines or caves in remote areas, always keeping a step ahead of the police. His parents used to tell him stories of how great Canada once was and how beautiful its landscape was. They regaled tales of its once great environmental record and squeaky clean human rights record. It all seemed so foreign to Steve as all he had known of this place was the constant smog from the refineries and the harassment and “disappearances” from the National Police Force. Everywhere you went you saw posters of the Prime Minister with tag lines about “Progress” and “Power” and “Development”. He remembered clearly the purges of the brilliant scientists who saw fact as more scientific than the party line. He recalled the great book burning ceremonies at Parliament Hill as most of the science library had been deemed “Anti-Canadian” and therefore had to be destroyed. A couple of years ago the Government started a new policy of displacing “Non-Canadians” from their homes and placing them in isolated villages surrounded by 10′ walls. They called it “Operation Patriot” and inundated ethe public with propaganda ads about the moral decay of the country and how the immigrants were to blame.
Steve lay back in his seat and shut his eyes as the engines roared to life. He couldn’t wait to start his new life in the small West African country that had been enjoying years of stable government and responsible growth. He smiled as the plane took off and began the long trip to his new home.
He almost ran out the door once they reached the destination, breathing in the fresh, hot air and feeling safe for the first time in his memory. He scanned the crowd for his employer who had agreed to pick him up. Through his parents’ friends he had nailed down a job at a busy warehouse on the outskirts of the capital of Ouagadougou. It was a supply centre for the booming solar energy sector and would be paying him an above average wage. He had also found a decent apartment close to work with a relatively low rent. He thought he had it made.
Steve spotted the sign being held up by a short, well dressed man. He waved to the man to get his attention.
“Steve! It is an honour to finally meet you! Your parents’ were great friends of mine.”
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am to be here and how in debt I am to you for freeing me from my homeland!”
They shook hands and walked to the baggage area. Steve overheard an elderly man grumble, “damn immigrants”, but chalked it up to him being old and grumpy. Being an African country, the majority of the population was not white and he was a little nervous being part of the minority. He had never been in this situation before. His new employer noticed his nervousness and tried to reassure him, “Don’t worry about being white in our culture, most of us won’t judge too harshly.”
“Thanks Rudy.” Steve tried to look more relaxed, but didn’t do it very successfully. They grabbed his bags and made off for his new home.
After a 30 minute drive they pulled up to an old 3 story walk up that looked to have seen better days. It wasn’t rotting, but it wasn’t exactly Buckingham Palace either. Steve unlocked the front door and let Rudy inside. They dragged the couple of bags Steve managed to bring up to the 3rd story and into his suite. The walls were the stereotypical white of the average North American apartment which helped Steve feel a little more at home. It was a predominantly white complex as most of the dock and warehouse work was done by immigrants from Canada and the USA and most of the higher up jobs were filled by the natives of Burkina. He walked out onto his small balcony that overlooked the warehouse district of the city. He didn’t mind the graffiti that littered the neighbourhood, though he did find one piece a little unnerving. In poorly done lettering was a single message directly across the street that read, “WHITES, GO HOME!” Rudy noticed Steve looking at the lettering and put his hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about that one, it’s a very small minority that thinks that way. Every country has its ignorant people.” Rudy guided Steve back into his apartment that had been furnished previously by Rudy.
There was a bright red couch along the outside wall with a new TV mounted on the opposite wall. A modest looking coffee table, a matching chair and a couple of book cases filled the rest of the living room. A small table with two chairs sat in the small kitchen and a nice queen sized bed with a small dresser occupied the one bedroom. Steve had tears in his eyes as he had never known such normalcy before. He honestly could not remember the last time that he had a home to call his own. He turned to Rudy and gave him a hug letting a quiet, “thank you” squeak out. He felt ready to start new and was incredibly thankful to the country for allowing him to taste freedom for the first time. He knew from that day on he would work harder than ever and show his undying thanks to the small country that had literally saved his life.