One more heartbeat… Feliz Navidad

It’s been more than a year, but I am happy to be back. I hope you are all having a great time in Christmas, be you a believer or not, be you alone or accompanied, be you young or mature. Please, do find a brink of light in your heart in these days and the upcoming year. After this cheesy opening ( sorry!), I will go straightforward and tell you what has life been like during these last year.

Upon a bittersweet experience in Cameroon, where I fell in love with the natural grace and joy of its people, the familiar taste of its food and music, and got really upset with the corruption and arrogance of its civil servants and other perks of living a fucking dictatorship where inequality and neoliberal economic policies is literally killing poor people, that is, most of the citizens … after all this, I returned to Europe. First to Greece for a short period and latter on to Spain.

I decided to take my master’s in teaching all over again, this time as a strategy to keep myself busy and productive at the same time. It was not so easy cherry as I thought, at all. But well, time passed and July came. I finished and closed a chapter that had lasted way too long already ( remember that job I missed because I did not have it). I am officially certified to teach at Secondary School and and professional/trade/vocational training centers. Hurraah! Another goal accomplished!

After some stress and frustration, I landed a job a local university as a language teacher. And then at a high school. And then at a language academy!!! Yeah, my friends, you are right. I currently have 3 minijobs in order to have decent salary. Full-time job offers are almost non existant. Supposedly, there is need for teachers, but the reality is that most of those job offers are precarious part-time jobs, be it from the Public system or for the private one. Plus, to get your feet into the state-ruled education network, you ought to pass a national competitive exam against other thousands of candidates. This means, studying more and more. This, in order to ‘secure’ a stable job that can be for life.

On a more personal note, my next goal is a lot more personal and important. But I am complete sure about it. I have always wanted to be a father. I feel I might have nipped into the right moment. I am thinking about engaging in a co-parenting journey with girl I met in Cameroon; she happens to be homosexual as well. But it’s just a timid move. Not sure about it yet.

Being busy has kept me stable for one year, but the precarious job market and my lack of sense of fulfillment and happiness spring up my need for more movement. My head is already thinking about the next destination. I have also been struggling with some form of depression, I am afraid. I feel a recurrent form of anxiety and sadness that goes with me everywhere, a lack of deep motivation for life in general, as if I had no reasons to wake up every morning and go out there. I just do it. I wake up, I go to work, I eat, pay house, bills, taxes and all over again. And it’s absurd because I have no reason to explain why I feel this way. I really have all my basic needs covered. And this state makes me doubt about my parenting project. I don’t to be one of these people who have children to cover unsolved problems in their lives.

Am I becoming another whining self-important privileged person with first-world problems? I feel guilty and really try not to self-pity, but it’s bigger than me. The worst moments are when I remain on my own, alone with my thoughts, inactive. Then I start to think, and the knot grows bigger and harder.

Anyways, life goes on and let’s try to make the most of it. Best wishes for you and your families. wherever you are in the world. Regardless of you celebrating or not these holidays. Happy year 2022 to you!!!

2019: Life in a refugee camp

Dear friends and readers, here I am again to catch up after this long silence. I don’t even know from where to start. But I will give you a short summary.

After more than 2 years and a half in a stable job and living in my ‘hometown’ in Spain, I finally decided to resign and move forward. I did try to settle down and undertake an ‘ordinary’ adult life. But I could not. Translating technical texts, contracts, handbooks and machine instructions turned out to be even more boring than I imagined… Even the small commercial part of my duties in contact with foreign companies became annoying.

So, that was it. I went through a long selection process to be part of the Spanish version of Teach for America. I was selected and confirmed. I quit my office job and got ready to start the program… however something unexpected happened with the master’s thesis I had pending. End of June. I was not able to present it. A mix of slow university bureaucracy and my own over-optimism in the system. Anyways, a week before departing to Madrid I was said that I could not participate in the program. Hence I was all of sudden jobless, with no future work at sight and a mortgage to pay… Awesome, right?

Unexpectedly, two weeks after I received a message via LinkedIn from a translation company. They were looking for an interpreter to work in a refugee camp in Greece as a freelancer. Never would I have thought that speaking Lingala would be a profitable skill in the future. Anyhow, my Congolese father was very proud and happy. I was just speechless when the job offer seemed to eventually worked out. One month after missing a job opportunity, I was recruited to another one at the European Asylum Service. Wonderful, right?

A better salary and an unbelievable life experience to come.

I went to the Greek island intially for one month. I ended up staying 4 months!!! Life in the island was full of contrasts and intense emotions. I arrived in late July and started working in August 1st, in the peak of the tourist season.

On the one hand, we city was full of European tourists from Northen Europe, Turkey and countries like Russia. On the other hand, there was a wide number of European staff, from administrative civil servants, military personnel deployed there just as the interpreters’ team, police officers everywhere and… a small but visible amount of specially vulnerable asylum seekers/refugees accomodated a bit everywhere. People living in a relaxed and luxurious style along with others hosted in a precarious settlement, kept by the army and sometimes under a strong security.

Contrary to what I thought, there were many women and children. Entire families living in plastic tents or metal containers. When I arrived there were some 3 thousand asylum seekers living there. Four months later, there were more than 6 thousands. Eighty percents came from Arab speaking countries, with the top countries being Syria, Afganistan, Irak,Palestine and Yemen. The biggest African groups were formed by Somali and Erythrean people. And in a lesser level, one or two hundreds of Congolese, Cameroonian, Nigerian people …

I worked exclusively with Africans. From Congo to Ghana through Sierra Leona. Interestingly, I had to ‘interpreter’ between non-native European English and local African Englishes. At first I was shocked at the idea. But later on I understood the need of my presence. Most of the immigration experts who were in charge of the interviews were either Greek, German or Dutch nationals who spoke English as a second language; similarly to me, the interpreter and to the applicants who, as the majority of Anglophone Africans, have their own native local language before English, which is the official language of instruction and national communication. In this complex linguistic frame, achieving a successful communication is almost a miracle. As a linguist myself I was pushed aback when I noticed it. But then, this is about interpreting in a humanitarian context. Accuray is important, but communication is the main challenge and goal. And I should tell you that with effort everything is possible. Even if the Greek cannot understand the Ghanaian despite both speaking English because their accents are so different. Their grammatical constructions are distant and their cultural backgrounds become a border against effective communication. In that context my job was mostly to mediate and to help each other understand that ‘sexing’ meant having sex, that ‘washing my self’ meant taking a shower, that for an African, an aunty or an uncle is not necessarily a sibbling of your parents, but any elder person close enough to deserve that title. That a brother is not a matter of blood, but of brotherhood and affection. That every respectable Congolese woman is called a ‘mama’, regardless of her having a child or not.

But the worst part was listening to terrible life stories. Women who had been repeatedly raped. Men who have also been raped by other men despite been heterosexuals, mothers who have seen their children killed, young students who have been jailed for polictical protests in their quest for fair presidential elections in DR Congo. LGBT Africans running away from a continent that considers them to be allien and an abomination. Many applicants crying while remembering. Experts making tough and detailed questions. Tense situations in the interview booths. And you as an interpreter are the man in the middle. Repeating each others words. Taking notes, writing, mediating… There may be something traumatic about this. Too many days I returned home wondering how people can be so cruel and inhumane towards each other. It’s absolutely crazy and sad. Really.

Applicants were to stay in the camp for around 1 year before been given the documentation allowing them to move to Mainland Greece. Even more to get a resolution from the Greek Asylum Service. Many got tired of living in these tents with no utility at all, queuing everyday for food from the UNCHR organisation, health service from Medecins Sans Frontieres, waiting to be heard, to be registered, fingerprinted and given an asylum seeker temporary ID… Months and months, stuck in the island, with no possibility to leave or move forward. Some rioted from time to time. Arabs, because they were many and had to wait longer. Erythreans, because they had not interpreters to faster their cases… Children could not go to school, but were entertained by some volunteers coming from countries such as Spain or England.

I got tired of living surrounded by tragedy. Of witnessing situations of certain mistreatment from Greek officers, of seen humans cry, defeated and sick, begging to be given refuge in this part of the world that has become a fortress.

Fortunately, not everything was pain and sorrow in the camp. You could hear them laugh after queuing for an hour for food, you could see fathers playing with their children, unaware of the hardships of life, mothers cooking yummy food in wooden fires, you could see young interratial couples dancing tunes from different continents, and we could experience part of the Greek food, music and mesmerizing landscapes. I loved the weather and the tranquility of the Greek people. The apparent ease with which they merged with refugees in the city center. The arab influence in their music played in discos and pubs. A word in between West and East. I also loved my Greek supervisor, his calm temper and kindness I will miss the international, qualified and integrated team of interpreters from 3 different continents and a handful of countries. Mostly Egyptians and Syrians for Eastern Arabic, Lebanese for French and Arabic, Afganis for Farsi/Dari, Moroccan for African Arab and French, Somalis, etc. Most of them were multilingual and well-travelled. Former refugees, international students, children of international couples, residing all over Europe, from Spain to Romania or Italy.

After 4 months I decided that I was ready to move forward. I paid my gentle Greek landlady and came to Cameroon, after a short break in Belgium and Spain to say goodbye to friends and family. December 2019 ended in a new light, country and continent. I spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve surrounded by my great Cameroonian family who is fortunately safe in the French speaking part of the country. Life in Cameroon was going to be equally eye-opening. Another image of life in this part of the world where poverty, war, and sorrow mix with luxury and humanity and gayness.

The rise of far-right sentiment in Spain: VOX, Immigration and Xenophobia


Is Spain a racist country? Not really. Only some nasty bad apples.

Is Spain a xenophobic country? No. It’s actually quite cosmopolitan.

Do we have racist and xenophobic people in this country? Yes, and they are on the rise, sadly.

The question is,  why?


Let’s me elaborate a bit more with some daily observations around me.

Since the Spanish credit crunch following the construction bubble, the country has lost half a million people. Thousands of people left for the UK, Germany, France, Argentina, Mexico or even the US, as I could testify from the long lines waiting outside the United States Embassy in Madrid and then what I saw once in the States. There are plenty of Spaniards. Other thousands of Latin American born naturalized American also returned to their country of origin to take advantage of the booming economies of these middle income countries, with countries such as Ecuador launching return programs amongst their communities in Spain and offering jobs. Other thousands, immigrants who could not or decided not to return to their countries moved to other European countries, with or without the Spanish citizenship to ease their mobility. Once in Europe, it can only be easier to move to another one and start almost from scratch. Around me, I saw and knew people in all this range of circumstances. Of course, the majority remained. We had formed our lives here. So during these last 5-8 years, Spain actually reached a 0 % migration balance. With a bit more of outgoers than newcomers.

BUT, immigration did not actually stop. Its balance just reached Zero. In fact, the Chinese, the African and Russian communities, for instance, kept increasing. Syrians, Venezuelans, Colombians arrived. More Moroccans arrived after the Rift riots in Northern Morocco. Same happened with Algerians and Egyptians or Ukrainians.

So, how come nowadays we seem to be living a new wave of unapologetically aggressive xenophobia and blatant racism?

What happened is that populist politicians like Salvini of Italy reached power and public space.

What happened is that so far irrelevant political parties like VOX found the niche to canalize the social resentment for unemployment and growing poverty. They started a campaign of fake news to target immigrants and confront them with the local impoverished Spaniards.  They just won 12 seat at the Andalusian Parliament !!!

What happened is that there has been a strong leftist-oriented political and sociological movement in Spain since the Indignados movements that sparked strong anti-establishments movements like the 15 M(arch) Movement, the Feminist movement that have taken the country by storm, with nationwide marches and protest against sexism and violence against women. The peak of this social outcry was the Manada case, a legal process confronting an unconscious   teenager under drugs who was allegedly raped and filmed by a group of 5 young men, much older than her, including a Civil guard (military body). They later shared and bragged about the videos in their whatsapp groups. The girl asked for help and called the police as soon as they left, taking her mobile phone with them. Gang rape against a teenager in the middle of a major national festivity like the San Fermines of Pamplona and the patriarchal reasoning of the court led to social condemnation. The verdict said it was not it was not gang raped, because, although under drugs, she might have consented to have sex with them. They were sentenced with sexual violence, which is minor legal offence. Since they had already been under provisional imprisonment, they were released. The feminist and social criticism end up with judges complaining against social pressure, and the backlash of supporting  people against what they called the ‘feminazis’ movements.

Another major consequence of this anti-establishment wave was the surge of ‘Cuatripartidismo’ of the system of 4 major political parties, against the traditional two-party led governments that had been alternating in power since the end of the Francoist dictatorship.  Ever since, aside from the conservative party Partido Popular (aka PP) and the Socialist Party (aka PSOE), we also have the more radical left party Podemos (We can) and the more radical right Ciudadanos (Citizens). The fragmentation of the Parliament has meant more elections in lesser time, since coalitions were very hard to form. It has also meant that the traditional parties, who were so well seated and confident in local offices around the country for so long, have lost power. It also means that more cases of political corruption have reached public ears, leading to the first successful impeachment against former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Of course, PP and Ciudadanos deputies and political allies cried a Coup d’état, since the replacement was Pedro Sánchez, from the Socialist Party, who led the impeachment procedure in the Congress and won with the support of Podemos and other nationalist parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country.

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that since the death of Gaddafi of Libya, black African migrants were being victims of slave trade on the African soil and other threats against their integrity in their way up to Europe, in a country with no official government, filled with arms groups and militias that control certain territories. That, and the bribery of Italian authorities, had meant less African migrants reaching the Italian coasts. Hence, the emergence of older paths like the Spanish ones, through the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, also on the African soil, bordering Morocco. There has been an increase of people arriving this way, jumping over the fence-wall since 2016, when Rajoy was still in power. But, it wasn’t really a big deal. They acted as usual, some were sent back right away, other were given opportunity to enter to the territory after weeks of arrest and custody while searching for their embassy to issue them a document to flight back home. But most do as much as possible to avoid this. Hide nationality; apply for asylum and refugee status, etc. After some 60 days, they are released and sent to the region of their choice if they have a contact in the country or just because forbid long-term imprisonment for administrative offences…  The usual.

BUT, things changed almost simultaneously. Trump’s utterly aggressive stances against Latin American immigrants in the US are wide condemned in here. Same happened with the far-right anti-immigrant statements of Salvini of Italy. Some justify it, but most see it as ugly and populist. This man made immigrants his scapegoat and emotional appeal to reach power.

Well, soon after the presidential power change in Spain, within this sentiment of anger, and social cleavage, Salvini refused the entry of a boat that had rescued 600 African immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea. They were left wandering in the sea for weeks and gain public outcry. Then the new socialist president, in a completely façade movement, decided to announce publicly that he would admit them and give them a 45 days resident permit so that they can apply for asylum of whatever legal means available. It was a media show, with hundreds of people volunteering to help, dozens of interpreters to help, and rise of the anger of the far right. Social media these days were like a football match between the pros and the cons of hosting these people. Some demanded solidarity and historical consciousness. Others said that it was stupid measure that would trigger more black Africans to come illegally, after a so-called ‘efecto llamada’ or ‘Magnet effect’ on “millions” of immigrant who would be maliciously waiting to do the same in Morocco, as the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, said.

You can imagine that those who are already pretty pissed off over the lefty social movements of these years, over the change of government, over the rise of feminist movements, all these people found another excuse to attack the government and be even more aggressive against immigrants. The far right movements like VOX, had more field to launch anti-immigrants rhetoric, fake news about these people receiving better treatment than unemployed Spaniards, about immigrants as a whole living out of social benefits, even those of us who have being here legally for years, about this and about that. Some of these fake news that confront the ‘US-Spaniards’ vs the ‘OTHERS-immigrants’ is becoming a normal thing on social networks. Logging in  Facebook and following the conversation thread is actually alarming. You would think that the country is full of haters or super humanitarian people.

The social environment is so charged that I even had a violent situation last week  regarding this. I went to a job interview for a position much better that my current job. Well, could you believe that we spent half the interview with the interviewer trying to figure out my immigration profile and story? Asking when did arrive in Spain, who with, how, was it hard?  And before university where did you study? WFT? 1 What is the connection with this job? 2 I was a fucking kid; that was none of my business!? That was 2 decades ago!? Since we are seeing the migrant cases on TV these days… We are seeing shit! It’s not like I went to school in a boat…  And other more intrusive questions regarding family, civil status, private life…

I have friends of every single political party, especially, because I grew up in a conservative region. We are friends because kids don’t care about politics… until we grow up. Then you have a look at their posts and it blows your mind. Even closer friends are somehow susceptible of these rhetoric. When I am in the right mood, I try to remember them that the US vs THEM language is absurd. That we actually live in the same country and I also pay taxes, more than most of them. That I have been working since I was 16, when they started at 25 at best. That Spain too sent out millions of immigrants, a significant number of which did not have the right papers to travel. That European embassies in Africa actually discriminated against poor people and even against obvious refugees in country at war like Cameroon or Congo (DR). I remind them of our school friends who have emigrated to England, Germany, Japan, South Africa, The US, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, France, Sweden, etc. And their answer is also, Yes, but you are different. I am not talking about people like you. Yes, but it’s not the same. Our friends are educated, to go legally, etc. Sometimes, they actually admit the mistake and go back. Most of the times, I just read the two opposite newspapers I have in my news thread and I make no comment. It just makes me think of how ironic life is. Not so many years ago, Spaniards where emigrating massively. Not so many years ago, they too were under a tyrannical dictatorship that sent them out of their country, massively. The goes for Italy.

I reflect on the silence of African leaders when these shameful tragedies happen. How is it possible that your citizens are been played with like that in the Sea and you be turning a blind eye. How is it that the millions of African citizens living in Europe are not raising our voices to stop this objectification and “instrumentalization” of our bodies and tragedies?

How is it possible that people be talking about ‘these blacks don’t man up to fight their dictators’ when Spain just transitioned into democracy 30 years ago?

How is it possible that we dehumanized people so much that we only see their skin colour and show no empathy to their deaths, regardless of converting the Mediterranean Sea in the biggest grave in the world?

What would happen if all the Europeans who emigrated returned to Europe along with their children? Can’t we see that emigration is a constant cyclical historical event?

Can’t we see that those who arrive from poorer countries are also the victims of the world’s 1% who own the wealth against the remainder 99% Can’t we see that they are victims of exploitation and lawless capitalism turned neoliberalism?

Can’t we see that those dictators are endorsed direct and indirectly by our rulers, with whom they trade not only mineral resources but also the weapons they use to oppress their people when they dare to complain?

Don’t we realize that these politicians don’t really care about people, but they divide in other to rule? If they really were against immigration, they would attack the roots of the problem, not the uncomfortable consequence of it, right?

Don’t we see that being born in a poorer or richer country is not a merit? That the fact that you are unemployed is due the global division of jobs? That Western countries economies are now based on services and technologies design and conception, where Asians countries in factorization and production and industry, while African and Latin American are basically based on the extraction of natural resources and Agriculture?

Don’t we wonder why do so few people hide millions in tax havens while other millions starve and are homeless?

I know it’s hard to stop and think about all these facts and ideas when you have a clash with a foreigner, but think about that at night, when you are about to sleep, right?

Well, friends. This was my update about current topics in Spain. Hope you liked it. I am sorry I am so talkative today 🙂

My great-grandfather was a slave

I am a grannies and babies’ person. I have always been that way. Especially with kids.  Anecdotes abound in my family about my naughty tricks. I once got so attached to my baby cousin that, when summer finished and he had to leave, I hid him in big suitcase. Fortunately, they finally found him when he started to yell…  This is terrible, I know.

Well, currently my grandma is at home with us, in Spain. She is above 70 and has no social coverage in her country because, as many women her age, she did not go to school and did not have formal work, and has no pension from whatsoever company. Obviously, a widow, well above life expectancy in Cameroon, after a life of child-caring, from generations to generations, her own, but also of her daughters and brothers who left much sooner than her… My grandma deserved a rest. And so, we decided to bring her to Europe, so that she could get to know her other grandchildren born or growing beyond the Mediterranean Sea. Also, we can all take care of her as a real queen, satisfying all her tiniest whims and desires. She loves acting out as a baby, complaining for every single malaise she may feel. Any pain in the back,  in the arms, the head… the stomachache, toothache, so on and so for. It can be difficult at times, especially with her granddaughters who were born in Europe and do not speak their native tongue or Cameroonian pidgin English, which is very popular back home. Not being able to communicate directly with your grandma is the price you have to pay for being some of immigrants. My cousins and brother already speak Spanish and French as native speakers. Adding patois to this is proving itself difficult. It’s difficult because it’s hard to intend that they learn all the languages at the same time. Then, some kids are better at learning multiple languages, and every now and then my little sister says some work to her grandma. They have their particular language after years of seeing each other interruptedly. Another cousin has proven to understand pretty well after two years of living with her in France, yet communication is weak. They cannot speak. They don’t really need to; she is the only one that does not communicate fluently in French or Spanish around them.  This generational gap has unavoidable emotional price. They don’t really get along. She tries. She yells. They are sure to understand what’s going on. They need inter-familiar translators. Globalization is crazy!

Being illiterate, she can only hardly communicate in French, which is an issue for international flights. She always needs someone to travel with her, or a flight assistant to make sure she does not miss the connecting flights! You can only imagine, every time grandma travels, everybody is in alert. She got lost in her first connecting flight because she did not wait for the steward and left the plane as everyone else, then got lost in the terminals of Paris. Second time, she got out of a coach for toilet and did not return in time, so the bus driver just left and did not remember there was a lady missing. These things are part of our recent anecdotes with grandma, things that now we can all laugh about, fortunately.

They are other perks of her presence: she brings tradition to Europe. Apart from her pressure so that everyone gets married and has as many kids as possible, apart from her plots to find me a wife I never asked for… she also tells us stories from our forefathers, our ancestors, as she calls them. She has a very animist side, which I rather love, that says we are to devote and keep our ancestors happy because they the ones who take care about us up there, once they die. She narrates stories about how to pay tribute to them, how she got married to the older son of her dead husband because she was the youngest and needed to be taken care of once she had babies and the dowry was made lawfully.

But last weekend I learned yet another heartbreaking family story. It turns out my Great-grandfather was a slave from a neighboring village. I could not believe it! My recalled quite naturally that they ‘bought’ him from another tribe, and that he was renowned for being a great traditional healer. He would receive suffering people from far away who came to our village to meet him. Apparently this practice was quite common and spread. People from different tribes would wage war against each other, and after war, those who won would take captives/prisoners/slaves from the defeated tribe. Henceforth the captive’s life did not belong to him or his tribe anymore. He could be forced to work for his new tribe, to marry there and settle with his family as a regular member, thus wining his place.

In our case, my great-grandfather was renowned and enjoyed and respectable life, he became wealthy and had several wives and children, as it was the norm back then. They told me, that from time to time, he would go visit his original tribe. They would come in his search, for healing or for rituals. People were more animist back then and believed mainly in the protection of their long-gone forefathers, who lived in a kind of limbo between heaven and earth, between dreams and newborn children who would sometimes reincarnate them to fulfill a mission under a kid skin. Our people believed in spirits and souls, hence the name of Animism. Ancestors were in charge of protecting the upcoming generation’s wellbeing and success. And we ought to show them respect by praying to them and giving them offerings as a tribute for their protection. That’s why each lineage had in their hometown, a house of cranes, where the living members of the lineage would throw food and beverage to feed the ancestors. That’s why, we tend to drop a bid of champagne and leave an extra dish on the table during celebration banquets: we have to share our wealth and happiness with our ancestors, for they are the hidden hands behind our success and fortune.

So yes, as I was saying, I have a difficult relationship with my grandma. Long time apart, a difficult bridge. That’s why, when she calls me ‘her husband’, although I know it’s a compliment, I don’t fully understand the traditional threat of thinking behind these words. She always says I very much like her husband. We look alike. He was reborn in me: isn’t it scary?

Now I understand more than ever this sacred status we African assign to elderly people, our elders and closer, if not yet, to that ancestral limbo, that place from which they can look at us like small ants wandering through life and making mistakes or triumphs. We ought to be in peace with them so that to ease their transition to their new status in our lineage, in our clan. Thereinafter, they are like demigods, who are close enough to us to understand our voluble souls, and their memories are fresh enough to have a vivid grasp of what is like today.

My grandma is probably in her last years of life. Should we believe this paradigm, it would mean that she won’t be offended when her next grandchildren can talk to her in our native tongue, because she, too, has live in this era of ‘voluntary’ emigration to foreign lands. She, too, has noticed that her daughters can work and raise a family, regardless of being under the protection of a man. That marriage is not the only path for women. Maybe, she will convince other skeptical ancestors who may be looking at us relentlessly right now.

I, personally don’t know how to feel. I never imagined I too could be a descendant of a slave. I may comfort myself by saying that he wasn’t sold to foreign lands,  that he was well treated and allowed to prosper and have a family, but the fact is still there. And a friend of mine just told me that some people in his family participated in the transatlantic slave trade as a way of earning money. I know I cannot look at this with contemporary eyes, but I want to vomit. How do I know that some of my Black friends from the Americas are not the grandchildren of those men and women sold by us? Isn’t this terrible as story? How do I look at their face? This story is not as far as I thought. Only four generations before. A bit more than a century ago.

Cameroon’s decay into civil war… and my boring life

I normally try to not to single out a single African country of origin. Basically for two reasons. I grew up in a binational Central African family, thus I feel like choosing one country over the other is always incomplete and incorrect, because I am the result of both.

The second reason is ideological. Again, ever since I left my hometown in Cameroon, I encountered and lived amongst Africans of many origins, languages, religions and skin colours. I learned to love them and to recognise what we have in common, as human beings, and also as Africans. Also, since I started learning about African history and modern International Relations, I discovered Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and his Pan-Africanism. I am a strong supporter of this movement. I mean, looking around and the way international affairs and realpolitik works, I truly believe the only option African countries have to rise is unity in order to speak with the same voice in many issues, from International trade, the UN Security Council to Cultural dignity and Education. I get very upset each time I see the divisions and blood-soaked fighting amongst brother countries and territories whose borders were traced by foreign invaders, and preserved by domestic selfish governors.

But I guess the early indoctrination at Primary School has worked well. Cameroon has been in an internal war since November 2016. There is plenty of information on the Internet about the escalating violence, the videos of schools burned down by the radical pro-separation; the videos of Government’s soldiers humiliating and torturing civilians, or burning entire villages with people within. This is the same old sad African story. A dictatorship considered ‘acceptable’ by a corrupt elite inside, and but and hypocritical international community, who has been going on smoothly for some 35 years. Many advancement were made. Especially regarding education access, but corruption and political repression have been their major issues, along with basic utility access like water or lighting. Repression is in fact the main cause of the war. The English speaking minority has been protesting against discrimination in the access to the countries budget, civil service, political power, equal access to justice and to education… All evident by the language. 80% French Speaking over 20 % English speaking. An officially bilingual country where all the power is concentrated in one side, and the president doesn’t speak a work of English.

It all started with the lawyers and teachers protesting and striking. The government acted the only way they know. Using our armed forces against us, the citizens they are supposed to protect. Then the students participated. And then other public figures such as civil associations and journalists… They were arrested and charged with terrorism and hostility against the nation… The radicaled said that, since the government is not open to dialogue, but to oppression as always, they would fight back, using firearms and all possible weapons…

At first the government acted as if nothing had happened. There was no problem at all. Then it blocked access to independent media to the two regions. It launched a propaganda campaign to convince the majority of the populations that our Anglophones brothers hated us, wanted to divide a country by violence, they did not want our children and neighbors to study at their schools and universities because they were Francophones. Now, it seemed the territory  borders inherited from France and UK were sacro saint, intouchable. So intouchable that even discussing about federalism deserved death.

I am beyond heartbroken. You cannot imagine how painful is to see fellow-brothers die because of elderly politicians who only care about their power and pride. People who will die in the near or midterm, but have hold the country hostage during decades and want to continue doing so. It’s frustrating because the use language as an excuse, when we all know it’s about much more than that. These people are complaining against being the last class citizen in a country drowned in systemic corruption and nepotism. Language is just the visible tool used to marginalise them. It could have been their ethnicity or skin color. Yet language is a the human tool of communication and understanding. Having a bilingual country is a blessing many people don’t have. It should make us proud, not divide us further.

But well, dear readers, please search for more information and accounts about this tragedy. This is only my interpretation, of course I am subjective. Try to read news in both French and English, both from African and extra-African media outlets. And share. If you see a Cameroonian out there, sobbing or absent-minded, remember we are in sorrow these days. Maybe tomorrow things will change.

As for the personal level, well things have not changed a lot lately. My status as an open homosexual is still a troublesome topic within my family, much more than I expected. Some violence has been going on. I was sent a video of transvestite being lynched in Cameroon, as a threat wo that I could see what expects me, which saddens me a lot… But well. Such is life, right? We are meant to deal with the violence for being the first ones. Many people in the continent suffer worse faiths, as I could see.

Yesterday my mum sent me two pictures of the girl my grandma ‘picked’ to be my wife. Itis the beautiful daughter of dear friend of our family. A man I respect and hold dear to my heart because he took care of my dying uncle. She looks so young, so fierce and innocent. I wonder if she is even 20. If she had time to finish college or even high school. What are her dreams. I wonder if she has been asked her opinion about marrying an man she only met once at most, someone who grew up in a different culture and for whom she may feel no attraction at all. I wonder how would I feel if I accepted to marry her despite feeling deep down that I would never desire her the way she deserves.  That I would likely cheat on her with a man. I wonder how would she feel if I told her that I am a gay man. Everything is so intertwined and so complicated. I said ‘ no more pictures, please’. If I accepted this deal in order to have a child, it could well be the beginning of a wonderful life of social acceptance and domestic suicide, involving two families in the drama, maybe children and grandchildren. Another generation formed on lies and hypocrisy.

It’s mind-blowing that these ideas of arranged marriages still persist in our culture. Of course, this is how it was for her, so I can’t really blame her. Besides, I had decided not to tell her, it would cause unnecessary pain for an elderly person. For what purpose? But maybe I have no options…  This is delicate.

What’s your advice? If you are a parent, would you accept this for your daughter?

Sometimes I feel like I am almost dying…

Don’t panic, people. This is just a piece from one of my favorite songs and singer, ever. I am in a suicidal mood or anything like that. I just felt like writing a bit here.

Truth is life has been quite boring and aimless these last months. After my coming out to family, things have improved slightly, but still have to deal with awkward moments. I feel the distance from my family and this hurts me a bit. Well, life. Continue reading

Spain not so white: a difficult dialogue

There are not ethnic census in Spain. It’s therefore very dificult to really know how many non-white people live in this country. But we do know that about 15% of us have foreign origins. Mostly latin American and Moroccan, as well as Eastern European and Chinese. If you visit the country or live here, you will be astonished for the diversity of people and origins cohabitating mostly peacefully. However, if you watch the societal represented on the media, this diversity is almost absent. No wonder why a lady asked me in the US if there were black Spaniards. I could not understand her question… but looking at what we show to the word…

I have noticed that each time a black person is on TV, it’s because there are talking about immigration, or about their foreign status or racism. There are no black or Arab Spaniards on a daily basis, apart from certain professionals who are gaining more and more attention.

Latter this week I was watching the TV news while eating at midday. In all the news, I saw no person who was not a white Spaniard. Then at night,  there was a political program where citizens from all over would ask question to one of the mayor political figures nowadays nationwide. Different ideologies, different regions, sexes, but all entirely white. I was somehow shocked by the representation they chose to make of the country, it was so mono-racial. I do pay my taxes and have concerns beyond immigration issues or racism. I care about minimum wage, about mortgages for the youth, about culture and education…

Spain just got its first black deputy of the parlament one year ago. It wasn’t a big deal unlike in Italy. But, two events have called my attention recently.

An online campaign was launched by Spaniards who were fedup of their non representation on the public arena and imaginary. The hashtag was: España no tan Blanco (Spain not soWhite). This was very aggressively criticized by people who clearly did not accept this possibility and said there are no black/asian/arab/mixed-raced Spaniards but all foreigners.

One of their supporters was Moha Gerehou, a journalist and activist quite known nationally for his controversial videos about racism in Spain from his position as a public person. Well, some bastards responded auctioning his body on Twitter. Of course, he sued them. The verdict was recently  made public. Fined.

Another issue that came across is a massive blackface in the town of Alcoi. The feminist group Afroféminas complained about their desire to get declared as a Cultural World Heritage activiy by the UNESCO. They started with an article written by a historian proving the original connection of this festivity with slavery. The reponse was a massive denial and refusal to even listening to them. They received threaths online, on Facebook and even on I can not say I am surprised. But I was astonished by the virulence of the denial, and by the lack of almost any support from media- who were very biased about this news- and the politicians, where the only black deputy first supported their claim, but later was presured by her peers and party to remove it! Incredible.

Well, all in all, I am optimist. We are at a level where it’s true that most non-white people come from recent immigration ( some 50 years), and a big amount of us were born abroad, which technically makes many of us fall under the label of “foreigners”, in the neutral meaning of the word. I do see this as scary sign, because some parents transmit this ‘otherization’ of non-white spaniards to their children, who go to school and play with children of all colors and origins everyday.

This reminds me of when my little cousin, a Spanish-born beautiful girl, was told by a class-mate that she could not be Spanish because she is black. Or the Spanish embassy in France asking her mother  by the phone wheter she was sure their children were Spaniards. I told her to let me contact them, so that I could send them a copy of citizenship laws.

And no, Spain is not only white. It’s also black, yellow, brown, blue and green. All colors in one.

How do gay/lesbian Africans survive homophobia?

As you can tell, this post is very straight and goes to the point.

As promised in my last post in November, I felt ready at 30 years old, to tell my parents that I am gay and intend to live my life as openly as I can. ( Do not think of me as a pictoresque exhibitionist, but yeah, once in a time I hug and kiss my boyfriend when we reunite).

November was a good month. Midway that poetic Fall month was my birthday. I decided to let the celebration time pass. To have a last happy family portrait in my memoir and after that, I wrote a lenghty letter to my mum telling her what’s was like to be gay all these years and what I have gone trough.

November passed. I had a wonderful and birthday party full of love and presents. All looked so perfect after some many years celebrating always abroad, famililess. And them came December. I printed the letter and kept it home for some days. And then a Saturday, I went to visit them and took the letter with me. Before come back, I dropped the letter in the mailbox and later called my brother to make sure mum did read it the next day after work.

I told her of the many times I thought about suicide. I told her how sad and lost I felt when I turned 18 and realized I was actually gay and started to envision my future life, which was unthinkable, despite the governement had just passed a law legalising same-sex marriage. I told her how hard it was trying to focus on my studies, keeping safe and feeling so alone in so many cities and countries far away from home. That I had decided to assume this aspect of my life fully and live an authentic life under any circumstances. After all, we are born alone and definitely die alone. And I told her I have been dating a guy for more than a year now. Above all, I told her I would keep on fighting as she had taught to do during these many years. And that I would wait for her to be ready to talk and express our views and feelings.

And Sunday arrived. She read it. Together with my brother, cousin and her current partner.

The first feedback was from my 26 year-old brother saying me: Incredible, but mum is well alive after reading your letter. We love you and will always be here to walk together. Be calm.

Mum cried deeply and then went to bed. My cousin called my other auntie from a closer city with cries, frightening her with no answers. In turn, she called me to get a hint on what was going wrong at home. I said nothing.

Other’s feedback were not so supportive. Auntie and cousin, two young women (46 and 32 respectively) came to my house to confirm the content of my letter face to face. There were cries, yellings, threats, emotional blackmailing, and beggings. They said it was all mental problem; that if I wanted I could really change and be ‘normal’, with a wife and children. They were in shock when I told them I had always been like that since I was a child, back in Africa. I challenged them too try and change theirselves to become lesbians. And asked them when did they chose to become straight. They kept saying it was some ‘bad influence from white friends’. Yeah, they think I ‘became’ gay by associating and assimilating too much to Spanish lifestyle. After a heated argument they left.  Well, after all it was not so bad, right?

wait. On next day, I my break from work, I received a call by my other auntie from Paris. After confirming what she had heard from her sisters, she started yelling at me. She basically threatened my with telling my grandma and making me responsible for her possible heart attack. That she would tell her daughters, my beloved little cousins with whom I am really close and treat as my nieces. They also blackmailed me as being a bad example for them and all the kids of the family. But she specially cared what other relatives would say, what people would say about a gay heir in their family, what a shame and curse! If I did not abandoned that life and found a wife and have kids, then I must forget about her and her children, said. They children I has been helping to raise and taken care of since the death of her husband some 8 years ago. Yes, those kids who love me so much. Well, I said it was her decision, not mine. She kept yelling and I hanged up.

My other 26-year-old cousin living in Paris gave me total support. And my current step-father, my mother’s partner, said nothing as always. He remained indifferent and told the other he already knew, but did not want to interfere in others’ business, which made my mother really mad.

Mum remained silent and depressed.  A week after, she came to my house on my request so that we could talk. Maybe I was impatient. And worried. I needed her to say something. And so she came.

She started crying and saying she felt deeply desappointed and sad not because I was gay, but because I did not trust her. That she had been worried about me for a long time and could not imagine what was wrong. She also thought about me being gay, but did not have clear reasons to think so, and was confused. But she also said something I never expected. She told that, she too, had had feelings for same-sex partners. And had tried and then repulsed that part of herself. She had prefered to live a heterosexual life and ‘eliminate’ that orientation. Because it was not the life she wanted, what she saw around her and also because being married to a man was her only choice to survive from a really poor family. And she was happy with her choice.

I first thought it was just teenager sexual curiosity. But she said that even today she felt attracted to beautiful women, but just chose not to speak loudly and change her mind. She also liked men, but they  needed to be special and very virile.

I was totally out of my breath. I felt so sorry for her. But she said she was happy this way. And also that I was not the first or last person to feel this way in the family. Many grandparents had sex with other men, but married to women and kept a traditional family. For generations. And she suggested that I should maybe do the same, although she would not try to convince me. She would respect my decision although she thought this was not feasable back in Africa with all the family members. And that I should try to have kids anyways, regardless of my chosen partner.

All of a sudden I felt as if I had been living in a family of hypocrites. When grandparents can be gays but it’s okay if they marry a women and have children. Everything for the lineage and the reputation.

After the cries and drama, she wanted to make sure I wasn’t just impotent with women. That I had actually tried with more than one woman and so on. I said no. I am sorry but at this age I have made all the tests before 20. Many years ago.

She left asking me to think about my life plans, regarding family and kids.

And that was it. And know I wonder how do gay Africans who live in the continent cope with this? Please if you read me and you are in this situation, share your experience.

They say being gay in Africa is dangerous and acceptable. All I see is denial and hypocrisy. I could well abide and marry a lesbian woman in the same situation and have kids, but I want this social fake to end. I want the next generations to be happy no matter what society says. This is the kind of family I want, not the one I heard.

I am sure it doesn’t matter as long as you are married and have some social power and influence. And I do not intend to give up my continent for this reason. I need to read about other peoples experiences in similar situations in ther countries. How did they succeed?

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9 months after…

 It has been a long time since my last post on this blog. Don’t worry; I am still well alive, for now. If I die you are not going to know anyways, since this blog is fairly anonymous and I am not a very famous person, despite my some 600 friends on Facebook.  

But well, after this atypical intro, let’s stop beating around the bushes here. Life has changed a bit since the last time. After extending my stay in the US for one more semester, I eventually came back home with the idea of staying in the family home for some two months maximum and then head to Madrid, or Barcelona, preferably.

Unexpectedly, a month after Christmas and without any search, I found a job in the industry sector in my small city. It’s a well-known and traditional (family) company in this area that is turning towards foreign trade and French-speaking countries in particular (after extensively exploring Latin-America).  So I have been working as an International trade assistant for six months now. And during this time, I have managed to search and find a nice apartment to rent, a spacious loft-attic at a-20 minutes walking distance from work. This means I am officially emancipated now, although I have been in and out of my family house for some 10 years, (since I left for university). I would live away during academic year and return home in summertime and some bank holidays. Most of those summers past while I was working to save some money for school. Some others went by with me travelling abroad to learn English. But this also means that I am a weird family member, because I have decided to live alone, without any understandable reason. My family does not quite understand why I, as a single adult, would want to live alone with no family member or partner. They find it weird. Especially since I am not married, nor have children and I am reaching thirty.

However,  I think this worldview is common to many Africans I have met, and also to many Spaniards, who are quite family-oriented amongst the more individualistic European mindset. I used to see it this way as well. But after enjoying some 7 years sharing flat while studying, living alone for one year in the US was enough to convince me that I was ready for this.  Also, I have become more and more introverted, silent and reflexive with the time, and I really enjoy quietness, silence and empty space in my bedroom. All of this is impossible in my family home. I share a small bedroom with my brother, who is not very clean or tidy,  in a 50m2 typical Spanish flat for working class people with 3 bedrooms for 7 people.  Of course, they suspect that I am a homosexual, but I never confirmed this. I wanted to have a totally self-sufficient and independent life before making it official. These two reasons made the cohabitation quite violent for me. I would spend most of my time out working, out with my friends or in my bedroom reading or procrastinating on my mobile phone. And each question about me marrying or finding a wife would make me react aggressively.  The only reliefs were my siblings, especially my 3-year- old sister who just lovely. My mother realized I was not happy, and let me go. The Saturday I was packing, she told me: “I wish you are happier now, because I have seen you very sad lately and life is not meant to be that way, you know. You should be happy”.  Of course, she knows me. She is the person I love the most in life, the person I owe everything to, and I am sad this social taboo had come to divide us so much. As for my father, this is a different story. My biological father died when I was less than a year. I have grown up with my stepfather, who has not been very close to me. He treated my differently, I think he never got to consider my as his own biological son, my brother. He was never really involved.  But at the same time, he’s the man I call dad, the only one I really know.

He is one of the most complex human beings I know. A nurse by profession, he is capable of extraordinarily humane actions towards his patients and acquaintances, but also of the most despicable actions towards his wife and family. Very sociable,  smart and adventurous.  My dad was not allowed to work as a nurse in Spain, instead he dad to work in many fields that would feed us and guarantee our legal status as immigrants. He would come home angry and very sensitive and quick to yell at you for the smallest things. He was fired several times, leaving with the task of being the main breadwinner for long periods of time. ( So far mum has being in dole one month in 20 years)

He is someone I am grateful to for adopting me, enraged with for not doing so wholeheartedly, and sad for because I know how hard it was for him to adapt to a new country and culture in which was considered just another low-skilled immigrant from Africa,  a country where women are legally equal and financially independent. This is something my brother sometimes fails to understand, but I guess he does not feel as grateful as I do, and did not really know dad when he was in his glory times back in Africa.

They eventually separated when he hit my mum for the last time. That time I intervened and separated them.  Mum called the police and he was arrested. I still remember my mum and I waiting for the police to come, standing in the parking lot under the eyes of some neighbors staring pityingly at us. She later dropped the charges under pressures from fellow countrymen, but that was the last the straw that broke the camel’s back. They separated, she bought her house’s part and he left to rent by his own. Ever since, he’s continued to being even less involved in our lives. I have seen him not more than 5 times. Our relationship has being even weirder. I still try to understand him. I still feel betrayed when every time I visit him for any important event, people around him don’t know about my existence, but at times he brags loudly to others about my university degrees and achievements when it suits him,  I still resent him for not letting us completely alone but missing all the important moments of our daily lives. No accountability, no responsibility, but wants the power to appear all of the sudden and turn your life upside down, influence it and remind you that he is your father, make you smile and say how much he loves you. Currently, after spending all the millions he was given from his mortgage part, he is living in France, and once in a while he calls us for money. I never thought I would have to send remittances to Europe instead of Africa, and to my father. But this life is unpredictable. I don’t know whether to ignore him, to help him or what to do. For now, I try to keep an eye on him. I sent him money twice, when I thought he really needed it.  But I don’t want to make it a habit. He can still work, although he has been acutely seek recently, and looks quite tired now. We had to travel urgently to France because he was under coma. Fortunately, he is well alive as me. He keeps calling and making the same jokes, and- oh surprise- now asked me about marriage at grandchildren. ¡Another one!

So yes, people. I have moved but still carry the family story with me. I have learned it does not matter where you go, your deeper issues travel with you.

But I feel the right moment has arrived. I have been dating a Spanish guy for a time. Last Monday was  our first anniversary. My grandma is back to her country. Everybody is in good health and working again (Dad does not count). The Spanish economic crisis is reversing.  Maybe they should know that they son, “the teacher” as they call me, is gay. Not that it’s a complete surprise, but let’s try it. First,  mum and my hermanito. Then,  the rest.