Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Eritrea

I met Syres waiting in the lobby at Hotel Horizon in Khartoum, Sudan. I was waiting for my escort to pick me up and initiated conversation when I saw him curiously watching Asia net Malayalam channel on TV that was mounted on the wall. I asked him if he understood Malayalam. It was unlikely that Sudanese woman at the reception would know anything about Malayalam and I was keen to change it to BBC. He looked famished but had glint in his eyes. He had dusty brown complexion with wide ears, a bit skinny and wore cream coloured full sleeved shirt and gray trousers. Sitting at the one end, his torso was almost sunk in the new cushioned sofa. His eyes displayed eagerness while responding to my request to seek his permission to change TV channel. He wasn’t Keralite but from Eritrea, whose name I had only heard about but had no idea.

Soon I learnt that he was part of 3 million populations that spun off from Ethiopia just 15 years ago. Ethiopia with 90 million populations is not yet reconciled to this separation and has raged ongoing war Eritrea. After all, Eritrea has taken away Ethiopian access to Red Sea coastline and lucrative ports. Syres was proud of Eritrea fighting with all their might and refusing to succumb to Ethiopia despite American backing to Ethiopia. His village and home, being at the border was ravaged during ongoing war. He had to flee his hometown, abandoning everything he had and now entered Sudan to try his luck with job with refugee card given by UN. His ambition is to migrate to USA, Canada or any other western countries. He knows with his refugee status it is possible but is also aware that being a bachelor, it won’t be that easy. Preference is always given to those who have been displaced with family. Being orthodox Christian, and no knowledge of Arabic language, he knows he is like a fish out of water in Sudan. But with his rudimentary English language skills and graduation certification in accountancy; he has managed to get a job as an accountant in Hotel Horizon in Sudan.

That was his first day for work when I met him. Next day, when I entered the business center, he was sitting across the table, proudly going through ledger books on his table. His smile broadened, glint in his eyes became sharper, when I wished him and he greeted me as if I was his boss.

Now that I have met Eritrean national, I must know more about this tiny country.

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