Some people that I meet say they are surprised that I am seeking asylum…I’m too cool for that sh**. But that sh** is real dear friends and can happen to anyone.
I’m told it’s because I don’t have the profile: I am educated, have a professional job, speak a descent; good’ English (how funny!) and can take part in ‘normal’ usual conversations. They quickly go on explaining what a pavlova is or how the AFL or cricket work because they assume I might not understand.
The usual profile is the ‘strong English accent, mostly doing shifts, labour or hospitality jobs; living in certain suburbs like ‘Foostcray or Sunshine’ but not ‘Toorak, Prahran’.
They say I don’t look sad, angry or desperate…but they commonly ask me ‘if I miss my family’ to quickly add ‘how sad and horrible’ it must be!
They question how it must be hard to be on my own here in Melbourne, saying things like ‘I don’t have any idea what Christmas would be without my family’ or ‘oh my God a birthday on your own?’ and all the other things I have missed in the last three years.
They have no idea how many funerals I missed, how when I am alone I could speak about the smell of my city, the favourite soup I am craving or the beauty of my people.
They approach me with fear, sadness and many other stereotypes. About being a coloured woman and all the nonsense stories they have created of what Africa could be to them. How poor, war-torn and how bla bla bla…
What they don’t know is how all those things are considered minor to me… Because HOME is in my heart. I don’t think about the missed occasions anymore, instead I focus on the learned things I received from my family in the past: their love, generosity, resilience…and that’s what keep me going!
Also, I love my past because that’s what makes me the woman I am today. That’s what makes me strong. That’s what influence my decisions. the Friends I choose and the people I wanna hang out with. I don’t wanna be with people complaining about not having the latest version of Iphone! Or the people who have never read anything about the outside world or even traveled to start criticizing their little knowledge of Africa!
So please if you are trying to be friend, date or know a person seeking asylum or a refugee remember that they are just human beings coming from another place but so similar in many ways. Let love, friendship start the conversation and keep the pity-attitude for later!
My beliefs, the power of hope learned from what I have been through is what I would love to talk about more. I would enjoy a friend being brave to ask more about my family members instead of how bad I miss them; I would love to discover the Australian food while being invited to make one of my own dish; I would love that kind of nice-natural people who approach me with a beautiful heart instead of putting me in a box.
I am happy to talk about my curly fro hair as long as I can also touch your straight hair? I’m good to embrace a nickname when you have put in a effort to pronounce my name at least. Because I am doing the same for you. But please just don’t do thing you wouldn’t want someone to do to you.
For those who wonder how to truly engage or just support, more can be found on this great resourceful SBS article!