At Khartoum international airport’s Departure Hall, in a special site where tens of Sudanese gather during the day, many of those coming to say their goodbyes to the young man departing believe he has reached the ultimate solution to all his social, economic and political problems. Sometimes the person departing shares this belief too; especially those carrying one-way tickets. Perhaps this credulous belief is an outcome of twenty-something years old guys thinking, “to leave is the best way to wipe off the bitter taste of struggle and heat.”
Youssef, a handsome and elegant Sudanese young man stands in between the food hall and toilet at one of Moscow’s fancy restaurants. Dasha starts heading his way saying “Oshen krasivo”, meaning “very handsome”; Youssefsmiles warmly at her. Although he tried walking off, Dasha insisted on talking to him, since fifteen minutes ago she heard him speaking to the manager about Alexandar Pushkin, Maxim Gorky, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He speaks the language fluently and in full command, discussing Russian history and switching smoothly into the ancient language from the time of Saint Petersburg, the founder of Russia.
All of his charm and knowledge could leave no other choice for Tampol, the restaurant manager, and Dasha, but to be completely captivated. Dasha decided to make a move and flirt when he was standing near the toilet. She assumed he is a restaurant client and tourist; fascinated with Russia and Soviet art, literature and history. Youssef walks away, resisting her blue eyes and snow-like skin. Dasha or Sasha or Karina or even Peter reckons then that Youssef is the man who fixes the Sheisha or Hookah in this fancy restaurant. In fact, the cost of one meal in this restaurant is equivalent to his monthly expenses.
Tampol and Youssef are pursuing their Masters in Russian Literature part-time; and frequently chat about it when they get a break from Dasha and her friends’ orders. The only opportunity available for Masters students is the much loved Shisha which supports Sudanese and Arab students in Moscow, Rostov and Saint Petersburg.
Near an ancient lake on the Russian-Latvian borders, Rasheed appears from between the trees. Two Russian farmers exchange looks of astonishment- where did this creature come from? Regardless, humans stays human. Rasheed looked spent after walking tens of kilometers from that distant point where the smuggling car dropped him, so the farmers escort him home with them. One farmer went to call the police, while the other one started preparing a warm bowl of soup. The police arrives along with border guards, who are used to seeing Blacks, Browns, Asians and Arabs; the ones who take this road to Western Europe. However, they are usually stopped by the harsh cold, or police investigations that trap them for months, before they are finally returned to the departure hall.
At the departure hall those who are coming to say goodbye follow their travelling loved one through a balcony facing the luggage scale, then one last smile, followed by digital smiles on social media outlets. For every photo captured at a historical or popular site, there are thousands more where the person smiling is fighting for a better life. It’s rare for the person holding the green passport to be a wine drinking tourist; our brown pound is dispensable in contrast to the blonde Euro and Dollar.