The Journey. Part One.
Where I live, the culture is strong, families they are large and tightknit, most are not wealthy, religion, politics and traditions, rank very high. Life hasn’t always been easy, but compared to a century ago, I can see progress.
I know most have large families but I am an only child. My Mum had four miscarriages before she had me. I have always loved to people watch, I’ve seen good things and bad, I’ve seen justice and injustice, I have seen hate and love.
I grew up with love from my parents and other family members. From a young age I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I was older. I wanted to be a doctor. I also knew, that was easier said than done, for my hardworking parents were not rich and education is expensive as is university. I’d known personally people who had died, because they were poor and couldn’t pay for the medicine that they needed, and I had seen many with various ailments that, was easily treatable, but for lack of funds, people had gotten worse, and has suffered for it. My passion of wanting to be a doctor never left me, and I studied hard at school and read the books that was given to me, I was like a sponge, I was keen, so while others wanted nice clothes or expensive shoes it wanted medical books, for knowledge is power, freedom, good health, resulting into a long life.
I did very well at school, I made my parents very proud, I later applied to go to university, I would need to move away from home for the first time in my life, but it was a means to an end. Mum and Dad, came with me, on the day I went to university, I had two small suitcases, one for my books and the other for clothes. In the Great Hall, Dad handed over the university fees, bless him, he told me, “I have been saving up this for you all of your life.”
I must admit I cried myself to sleep the first week of university, but with my mobile phone I was still able to find a quiet spot and talked to Mum and Dad every day.
I didn’t feel special, there was a lot of brighter, loud, and lovely Students at university. I slowly settled into my new life. The plaque I had on my wall was a well know proverb, it read, “Work as if you were to live forever, live as if you were to die tomorrow.” (Contributed by Dr. Bahri Ozturk 5th January 1988)
A year soon went by and in the second year I met a lovely man, I didn’t think that would happen, for I was there for one thing only and that was to learn and leave a doctor.
Life has a way of, twist and turns and in the same year of that year, I had fallen in love and got engaged! He is handsome, studying to be a doctor too and like me, speaks really good English. He is a year older than me, and he had already planned to go abroad as he said, “The University over there will vastly improve my chances of passing my exams.” I completely agreed with him. So, I was sad when he left the university, he didn’t go alone, some of his friends went with him too. And yes, I did cry for a week or two after he had gone.
After my second year of university had ended in half term, I was talking about it with my cousin, we have always been close, as we are of similar age, she planted an idea into my head, and soon we hatched a plan, I was SO excited.
We decided to surprise, my wonderful fiancé, I could almost see the shock on his face. My Cousin who knew someone, who in turn knew someone, and soon it was all taking shape nicely. My lovely Dad, would also help, for when I heard the price, of it all, his love for me is unconditional and gave me everything. The rest of the money that he had given me, was for when I would be married, that would have all gone to my husband, but now I had all of my dad’s money. I told dad, “I love you and when I qualify, I will repay you all of the money.”
The day finally arrived for us to be setting off, there were very important rules and regulations that had to be followed, including only one tiny bag and strangely, no I.D. was allowed. I left my passport with Mum who looked really worried, I told her with my reassuring smile, “Everything will be fine Mum, you don’t need to worry, I’ll text you when I arrive.”
My cousin told me, “We will go to Germany first, then from there to France.” We stayed in hostels and kept up our vegetarian diet, it wasn’t easy. In France, when I saw other people of the same nationality as myself, and saw the squalor they were living in, and heard their fears, it did shock me, I didn’t expect this, some were sick, I had heard of some who had died from covid 19! I was a long way from home, I felt homesick and wanted to see my parents faces, wishing they were near me, I took out my photo of them and held it close to my heart. Everything in little bag was carefully chosen, including, my red lipstick, comb, baby wipes, small bottle of water, my small book of prayers, my precious journal, mobile phone and the all-important money! I wrote in my journal every day, even I would never forget the horrors I saw at the campsites in France and the stench. I began to feel nervous, but I wasn’t alone, I had my kind cousin with me, it was her first time away from home too, and one of her sisters had said to her, “I don’t want you to go.” She had only told me this today! What a mess. There were so many rumours, good and bad, one word I heard as I was having a cup of tea, the word, “El Dorado,” What a great comforting word, of course I knew what it means, it was referring to the wonderful country I would be going to, a place of great abundance, to surprise my fiancé.
I read from my little prayer book, in the mornings and before it went dark, and it really did bring me peace. Another thing I was looking forward to was that my twenty second birthday would be on December the thirteen.
Personal hygiene was difficult in the vast camp in France, I remember talking to another woman, when I asked her, “Why do you want to move from France?” Her words, full of hope, said, “Over there, across the waters, there is good education, good healthcare, good standard of living, good job opportunities, I would feel safer there than in France.” (The Independent) Those words from the lady who was clearly pregnant, she would be joining her husband, he is on the other side of the short waters, that separated them. I asked her, “When is your baby due?” She said, December the thirteen,” There was an instant bond between us, when I told her, “On that date will be my twenty second birthday.”
We were then informed, “Tonight we will be travelling across the waters,” My cousin and I was told, what time to be there. I could see the dingy, there was three of them, there was a lot of people, most were silent with their own, deep thoughts. We were told, “The boats will go thirty minutes apart, there will be twenty-nine in each boat,” A man spoke what I was thinking and asked the question, “Have we got life jackets?” The man with the gun in his hand, his nose and mouth covered with a scarf said, “No.” Another man, with a bigger gun in his hand said face also covered, “Line up now and I will take your money, check it and you can get onto the boat.” I was hungry, but this was the least of my problems, for I felt sick, so it was just as well I hadn’t eaten, “The journey would not be long,” The man had said, to me when he took my money. I got on the boat, I sat next to my cousin and the lady who is expecting her first child in December. It was there I saw two men who had changed their minds it was clear they didn’t want to get on the dingy, still on the shore, the third man, pointed the gun to their heads and pointed angrily to the dingy! So, they got on the dingy with us, they didn’t look happy, one of them was close to tears. More and more people kept coming onto the little dingy, it didn’t feel safe, but I know this journey had been done many times before me. I linked arms with my cousin and the pregnant lady, the other side of me. We were off! The engine didn’t sound strong, but was grateful that the waters were calm. I felt OK now, it was only twenty miles to land.
I remembered then that I had a small piece of cheese and bread, wrapped up in my little bag, I knew the cheese was a little mouldy and the bread was stale, it was better than nothing, but my next meal after this would be fantastic, I took it out and shared it with my cousin and the pregnant lady, we ate in silence. This would be more than enough to keep me going till I reach land on the other side. I was really looking forward to a hot bath, sleep and seeing my fiancé.
It was mainly dark, on the little dingy, one man had a torch, after what seem an aged, it was well over four hours, the waters became rougher, I was afraid, while I clung onto my little bag, I had lots to think about, I remember when I was younger when little things would worry me, I also remembered the good times, the times of feeling loved by my parents and of always feeling safe with them. I remembered the hot days, and when I would drink cold clean water, now I was freezing cold in French, cold waters, I was shivering. To be honest, I was feeling a little sad, even though, I shouldn’t have been sad, but hey I’m human, I seemed to be letting my surroundings affect my emotions. There was no laughter on the dingy, so I knew it wasn’t just me, feeling this way, it was sort of gloomy, as if we were all holding our breath.
The waters became dangerously rough and tossed the tiny dingy about like a leaf on a stream, the waters were so vast and we were so tiny, we were screaming, crying, desperately trying to hold onto something, but there was nothing, we were literately all in the same boat! Without warning it suddenly capsized, it was every person for himself or herself! I couldn’t see anything it was pitch dark, I just heard, shouts, crying, splashes, prayers to God, this was my greatest fear dying by drowning, I can’t swim! I was afraid and alone.