I’ve just received a reply to an email I sent to a friend informing them that I had been offered a fellowship to study at the prestigious Radio Netherlands Training Centre (RNTC).
All he said was good luck in your studies and don’t come back until there is CHANGE. He added “find something else to do there to kill time”.
I just laughed off his suggestion and I wondered how do you kill time in Amsterdam after you have over stayed?
In June last year, I spent a week in Amsterdam where I was taking part in a seminar called Expression Under Repression organised by Hivos. Before my return home, I took a stroll in the city famous for it’s “red light district“. I met a guy from Sierra Leone, at first I thought he wanted to con me, but then I realised he was just trying to be friendly.
He told me about his wife and three kids and how he was struggling to get his asylum papers in order. He said his main challenge was the Dutch language as he was supposed to be fluent if he was to pass the integration test. This guy had been there for over four years.
My ‘guide’ then asked me if I was planning to return to Zimbabwe. I told him yes, I’m going back. He was dejected probably wondering how stupid I was not to stay. It got me thinking about why it is often tough for young Africans to get a VISA to travel to Europe. They just go and stay low, as the saying goes.
Life may be tough in Zimbabwe but I don’t think “staying low” in Amsterdam will do me justice. I have told myself that if I am going to leave Zimbabwe, I will get my papers in order and be free as I move around in whatever country I decide to settle in.
Through my travels, especially in South Africa, I have seen people in self imposed exile suffer. They struggle to make ends meet, doing menial jobs and when pay day comes, their employers call the police and they have no choice but to run.
Such is the reality as I pack my bags in a few days time. I just wonder how you pack for self imposed exile? What do you take, what do you leave?