Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Story of a Fellow Foreigner

In yesterday's snow aftermath in Padua, I was waiting at the bus stop to catch my ride to work. The 8:40 bus left 3 minutes ahead of time, according to my watch, so I began my long wait to get to the city center. A man arrived at the stop just after me and had seen the same bus leaving early. We started talking.

It turns out that he is a neighbor who is from Nigeria. He was taking the bus because his Fiat Punto wouldn't start. It had been that way since Saturday's snowfall and the deep dip in temperatures. Even though he has a degree in Business Economy received in his country, his job here in Italy involves being a professional cleaner. Yet his paycheck in that humble job, with the advantageous exchange rate, is about three times more than what he was making in Nigeria when he was involved in bookkeeping for the military service.

He came to Italy because a friend said he could probably find a good job here, even in his field. Of course, his friend was terrible optimistic about an African man actually being able to use his degree in this country.

Now, four years laster, he plods along and endures prejudice everyday from a population who has become quite hostile toward foreigners in recent years, especially those that look different. He seemed so sincerely happy to speak in English to someone, me, who would actually have a decent conversation with him.

He dreams of moving to another country, maybe Canada, and continuing his studies to eventually get a Ph.D and teach. I sincerely hope he can do that although I am doubtful because he seems to just get-by here. He'll probably need a lot of cash to chase that dream. At the moment, he is in contact with an internet company that says his paperwork and credentials are ready to make the formal request to emigrate to Canada but they are asking him for Euro 360 upfront. He is afraid they just want his money and that they are not trustworthy. I tried to give him suggestions about how to find out more about the company through official Italian channels. He was leaving the bus at that point and I don't know if he understood exactly which government body I was referring to.

He believes God will help him find his way. He's happy he tried to come to this country despite some of the unpleasant surprises he found once here.

I may be having some of my own troubles during this Christmas season but P. put that in perspective.


  1. Being from an immigrant family myself, I wish this man the best of luck in his endeavors.

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