Thursday, September 16, 2010
What's the password?
The American behind the bullet-proof glass looked at his monitor and grabbed the snaking microphone, "Mr. Julius? Window 9". His warm-showered, gelled hair looked like plastic in the fluorescent office light. His accent was Jersey.
Outside they had cued for hours in the purple darkness. Men on the left, women (and shouldered babies) on the right. They had emptied their empty pockets. Held their arms up, turned around. Embassy security was tight after a bomb ripped 400 people there in 1998.
No more chances.
First 20, then 50, then 100 dreams tentatively walked into the waiting room, looking around for clues of how to act, how to better their odds. Their verdicts would come in only a few hours.
Kenya: I want to attend my daughter's wedding. Please.
America: Your application is denied. Outdated bank statement.
America: That's all for today, sir.
Kenya: I will not leave this place without a visa.
America: Call security. Next, please. Lemuya, Julius?
Kenya: Yes, sir!
America: Why do you want to go to the US?
Kenya: I am a Pastor, attending a conference for Pastors in South Carolina. I am invited by so-and-so.
America: What do you do for income, Mr. Julius?
Kenya: I am a pastor.
America: I suggest you save for a few years and come back, Mr. Julius, your ties to Kenya are not particularly strong.
Kenya: I have a family-
America: Yes, I understand, but your ties to Kenya are weak.
Kenya: Weak? I am a Pastor with a Parish.
America: Do you own land? A business? You have no money. How will you support yourself in America?
Kenya: You mean for the one week conference?
Kenya: The church is paying for everything, it says right here-
America: I'm sorry sir, that's all for today.
Human: Excuse me, I am a friend of Mr. Lemuya here, we've worked together here for 2 years doing various community development projects. He's my main man in Kenya. I trust him with everything. What's the problem?
America: His ties to Kenya aren't particularly strong.
Human: What does that mean?
America: No money, no business, he could make so much more money in America, the risk is too high that he'll stay for us to admit him.
Human: He's a pastoralist. A nomad. They own nothing but cows and goats.
America: Nomads don't get visas. Come back again in a few years.
What are we doing? In those years, must he shed his identity? Must he go to school, get a job, open accounts etc? Money. Our password is money. I am so ashamed.
Until this peaceful warrior lands on American soil, you'll have to come to Kenya to be his friend, to hear his stories and his laugh, to dance with him and to feel the supernova that is emitted from his heart.