As much as I have complained about my quirky and sometimes annoying integration classmates, I have to say, sometimes I feel totally in awe of them and their lives…and I admire what they are doing and what they have overcome in their lives.
Case in Point: The Other Afghan
I still don’t know too much about him as he arrived in our class mid-way through September. He kind of looked like a hipster/skater dude with the VANS sneakers and wild, ruly hair so I was a bit surprised when he said “Ich komme aus Afghanistan”. I was so excited – I nearly clapped my hands with joy! We were getting out numbered with Iranians in the class so another Afghan was truly welcome!
During break-times, I have gotten to know him a little better – and I’ve grown to admire him – from being pushed around in Iran, to being jailed in Afghanistan to having his parents arrested (last week!) – it’s a life that I do not wish to know but need to be exposed to in order to be reminded of how much we should appreciate what we have and the freedoms we enjoy.
I started to get to know him during our class breaks (when the Russian was busy fighting with everyone over the amount of fresh air that we needed to circulate in the room).
Our first conversation ended up with him telling me that he grew up for a majority of his childhood in Iran, where he was constantly stigmatized and discriminated against. He said that Afghans were treated very badly by Iranians. He wanted to go to school badly but the Iranians forbid Afghans from attending school. Break-time was over and we were back at the German books, me with a very strange feeling in my stomach.
The second time we got a chance to talk, I asked him about Afghanistan and what it was like to live there. I was excited to hear about “my” country from someone who had been there not long ago (and not on military duty). He shook his head and said it was a disaster. He was from Herat, which is supposed to be one of the cities not as badly affected by the internal violence. He said it was like a wild west, where any idiot with a gun could do whatever they wanted. There was no law, order or peace. He said people lived in fear. There were gansters everywhere who did whatever they wanted, stole land from people, stole women, sold drugs and none of the international troops stationed there had made the situation better. He told me he was in prison for 8 months, the first of those months he was beaten and tortured and kept in solitary confinement until his wounds were healed enough for him to be released in the general prison population. He never knew why he got arrested. He laughed it off and I could see in his eyes the barrier he had set up for himself in his mind – to never let his thoughts dwell on that period for long.
We talked again last week and this time he was excited and happy – his parents, who were still in Iran, finally made it to Greece and they were going to try to make the boat trip across to Italy. This was all illegal of course. They were trying to escape to come join him in Germany and have a better life. Of course, I always hear about the illegal immigrants coming over on boats, etc. but I had never really met anyone who had done it or had family in that situation. He said that he would know in 4 days if they would make it. As we headed into the weekend, I kept thinking about him and his parents and hoping they would make it into Italy…as illegal as it may be.
When we talked last, during a break from learning the Akkusative and Dative prepositions for verbs in German, he was sad. I was scared to ask why. His parents had been caught on the boat and they had been arrested by Greek police. He had no idea which prison they were in and no way of reaching them. To add to the problems, they were in their 70s and they didn’t speak English, much less Greek. I couldn’t imagine what he must have been going through. I could only mumble all my offers of help, in whatever way I could before the bell rang again and we were back to learning German.