The HOSTEL

by Frank Nsubuga Mukisa

I thought this was a chance to get away but It felt like it was a story repeated. I thought this time I was sure of safety. A thousand wrongs done, couldn\'t outweigh sheltering me. 

It’s always hard having to leave, but we do it to steer our lives to the dreams we have.  Once I felt at home, I couldn’t describe it anymore. My very last days in Edgewell reminded me when I left home the first time, and again I felt unsafe. 

But thanks to Alex, a friend I met in a social group, he let me stay for three nights and three days. I can’t remember in my life sleeping from 8pm to 8am. My first morning, I felt so fresh and brand new, an assurance for a bright beginning, though I was still unsure of my decision moving out of Edgewel. The only thing that kept me at peace was my guardian Angel, who watched my every step and guided my every move. 

Waiting for my application approval, seemed like waiting for rain in the Sahara. It felt like an eternity waiting for a “YES”. “Everything happens for a good reason” my nan used to say. Whilst I was in the office waiting, I met a young friend, ‘Happy’. Her questions and conversations brightened me up until she had to go home.

Back we go again, into worrying about the unknown. Driving home with my guardian Angel, my phone rang. I picked up and heard the voice on the other side saying, “your application has been accepted”.

This delighted us and we remembered my college and tuition applications and they were all ‘Yeses’ too!”. I let out a sigh of relief,  just like the day when I stepped onto the airplane running away from the “righteous”.

My guardian angel drove me straight to Safe Harbour Hostel. Right away I was given a room, sharing it with Tak. I felt on top of a mountain looking down at the city. The freedom of eating every meal without silent treatment.

In the morning Tak woke me up for breakfast. In my mind, it still seemed unbelievable I made it out again.The hostel is more like a hotel and I am a  customer, eating and sleeping.

All of us had the same stories, just looking at some of them, I could tell what was in their minds. A sign of relief and being born again, though I was not sure from what, but I could sense the similarities and the hope in almost all of us ‘customers’. Many were grateful, though a few wanted more. To me, it was a mission accomplished, a war won, and a test passed.

Rooms were shared by two to four travellers waiting to be given a permanent home, making the hostel a temporary accommodation.There were no criteria, someone could be dispersed within days, weeks, even months.

We all prayed and wished for the same in life, to be accepted and freed. The people brave enough would share their stories but not everyone. Many of us felt like outdated PCs needing new windows’ reinstallation.

The luckiest were those with the same religions and the same languages. All of us refugees and asylum seekers still had differences and many still lived in fear of expressing who they were. The fear of rejection by their own kind because of arrogance and selfishness. How we made it to the UK, ooh God! They were all quite journeys!

We survived through each journey to a new culture, unsure of what to find but with faith and hope to find freedom. One would think this similarity would bond all travellers but there were still prejudice and discriminations. 90% failed to accept and embrace our differences but still stuck within their own understandings. 1% were LGBTQ out of all the travellers but for some people, this was unacceptable. Yet their holy book brands them as peaceful and loving people. Shem was a sultan and gay but still in hiding. Within his circles, he would be homophobic and stereotypical.To me, it was hypocritical, but understandable.

A lot of free time depressed many, forcing them into jobs because of the appeal of fancy shoes and clothes. For Adam, male prostitution bailed him out. He asked if I, a sports man, was up for the job. Apparently we have “the energy” to work, only two hours and you can be smiling with money.

People from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, crossed borders on boats over oceans looking for freedom and safety from places they have never been before. Our past makes us stronger, but Rabat, an honest man, still lives in fear because the memory of witnessing his family being executed made him broken, not stronger. 

One of the reasons for feeling exploited is that help feels like a favour and a debt. Plus, our cultural values give elders power over the young people. Personally, in my culture, elders are supposed to know it all and can never be questioned, only respected.

Many sultans had no idea of personal cleanliness, no matter how old they were. They must have been pampered back home yet here they were, having to do everything on their own. Some were promised good jobs and houses but the reality was they were being kept in people’s houses with no payment and no freedom. Many are still being treated as machines and expected to deliver the best from their bones.

 

Safe Harbour hostel taught me a lot of life lessons and prepared me for the outside world. The differences in the residents are enough to portray the nature of the world. Even if we were gifted, I think most people are not well prepared to live alone and still need help to find themselves. I understand the reasons for the interviews, but they push people back into their fears. Some decide to bury all their thoughts and fears into being busy and not talking about their past experiences. Safe Harbour is a hell in heaven.  

Frank Nsubuga Mukisa

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