Looking Back II
Indeed, their journey from the very beginning could have been smooth—that is, enjoyable—had they had the needful administrative experience of traveling overseas or, at least, if they were skillful enough in many foreign languages; but they lacked both of these crucial skills.
If the audacity of hope has been the defining force for Barack Obama’s impressive life story and his uncharacteristically remarkable and triumphant political career, it can be said that the audacity of defying obstacles was the driving force for these young men not just throughout that adventurous journey, but it was and still is the single determinant pillar, the raison d'être of their lives. It is often said, with good reasons, that what does not kill us makes stronger to mean that we learn better and grow stronger through experience, usually through bad experience. But for these young souls, the seemingly insurmountable daily challenges of their lives do not just so much make them stronger and better and wiser as that, by learning from those struggles for survival and betterment, they have come to embody a sense of conscientious readiness for whatever may come, for they know that life, in essence, is always comprised of tops and downs, just like each hill must have its downhill. That reality they’ve understood, admitted, and embraced it; it is wisdom in disguise!
They were driven not by the general false belief that life is somehow readymade over there, but by the fact that it was a precious opportunity for them to realize their potential; that is to say, their decision to travel was perfectly entirely based on the undoubted desire to seek knowledge—it was a mission, a self-appointed mission. As such, they did not leave their fate, as so often happens with many African youths in recent years, to mere chance or to some dubious circumstances of good fortune: theirs was a well-thought-out journey. It was not a journey of despair undertaken by desperate souls, but that of deserved accomplishments by young and enthusiastic boys full of undeniable potential.
Their trip took place in late September, that is, in autumn 2013, and it was their first time to ever experience such a season. More than the differences in seasons, however, they didn’t fail to notice the glaringly perceptible contrasts between what they left and everything that was mow about them. From the skies, for instance, they could see how immense their city of destination was; and the airport where they landed was as big and crowded and busy as they could never have imagined.
They were also quick to realize that, here, almost everyone smokes almost everywhere. Not soon had they left the airport to see that smoking was a—natural?—habit, and they had to gently request their taxi driver to stop smoking on their ride. As if it were the most common thing to do, as if it were a universally approved behavior as that of greeting, the driver lightened his cigarette as soon as he started the car. But that was not the most socking thing about him. As though he intended to make them share the disturbing and disconcerting exhaled smoke, he started to chatter about everything with them. (That too—chattering with strangers—was a common, most natural thing here.) While in contrast to where they left—that is, their homeland—gusts are met with greetings and friendly smiles and fresh water, not with bad smoke and unworthy questions. And so they had to courteously ask him to stop smoking, but even that did not induce him to stop bantering too!
Also perceptible was the dramatic change in the weather. They left a rainy season with a fairly hot weather; they are from a tropical country and have nothing to do with either the yellowing leaves of autumn or the naked trees in winter. Here, it was raining too, but the weather was much colder. To them, even more fascinating was to see the denuding trees despite the frequently pouring rain…
While enjoying what they could enjoy and adapting to what they could adapt to their new environment, they started what they came for: study. The languages, they were quick to learn and to integrate into their hosting society. And despite the undeniable daily challenges, everything seemed to go fairly well. They were quick, too, to establish themselves as diligent, committed, and engaging students in their academic environments. But then came the summer of 2016.
Before then, they had nothing and were living with nothing, yet they never complained. But that summer made sure to leave them with less than nothing. Everything about it is a blow to these miserable souls, an agonizing despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, a haunting memory of a flowing sea of troubles. It was in that summer that many of them became school-less and homeless—that is, destitute! And it was during that cursed summer that they all saw their dreams shuttered, their hopes squashed, and their lives become not dissimilar to that of Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean and other miserable souls of his Misérables.
But they managed to survive the storms and resist the unsettling waves of the stormy sea of troubles. And slowly, but surely, they are rebuilding their confidence, determination, commitment, and diligence for a better future. Against all odds, they have surmounted the insurmountable. And once again, they have defied the insuperable obstacles of their incontrovertibly hazardous adventure.
They have now graduated. And proud of themselves and relieved, they certainly are. But are they happy, and can they be said to be happy?