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Journal 8 - Lucky, from Liberia

February 1, 2006

This morning I found Lucky standing out by the run in the sun. He had just come from meeting with a lawyer at CETI, the Centro de Estacia Temporal de Inmigrantes (Immigrants' Temporary Residence Center), which is a government-run facility that houses and processes immigrants, determining whether they are eligible for asylum or whether they will return to their homelands. Many immigrants begin their time in Ceuta here at the Cruz Blanca before proceeding to CETI.

I asked Lucky if he had some time to answer some questions. Laura Schildt, who is in Cadiz studying immigration, had asked us to do some more formal interviews for her project. He agreed, I got a pen and paper, and we sat down together on the bus stop bench.

Lucky was born in 1983, the same year as I, in Lofa, Liberia. The war in his country began around 1989 over political problems; opposing groups struggling for power. Lucky was still quite young when bombing and violence made its way into his town. His life changed dramatically in a single day when rebels attacked his home. "I saw with my too eyes," he told me, as they cut off his father's head. Lucky lifted his shirt to show me a wound on his abdomen and told me of another scar on his right leg where they had cut him too. He said he woke up later in a hospital, and as soon as he could he fled the town. He has not heard from his mother or two younger sisters since that day. He told me he doesn't know whether they are dead or alive. From that point, he traveled from city to city for the next number of years, doing what he could to get by.

Finally in 2003, he made his way out of the country. Continuing as he had been, he traveled bit by bit with whatever help he could find along the way. He went Guinea, Mali and Algeria trying to find a safe a stable place. While in Algeria, he found a group of men who talked about going to Morocco and Europe. Lucky was interested but had no money or passport to make it across tight borders. They found someone who would take them in a truck. Those who had money to pay could sit; Lucky would stand.

His time in Morocco was really difficult. He was treated badly by police and spent a lot of time begging for money. After some time, he found a really nice person who volunteered not only to buy him a life jacket, but to swim him into Ceuta. Lucky said he realizes that many people pay large amounts to get into the Spanish city. All the people that have helped him along the way are "all godsends to me," he says.

Another man picked him up along the beach, gave him clothes and took him to the Cruz Blanca, where he is today. He says that any destination in Europe that offers him asylum would be welcome. He can read a little English, but would need to learn much wherever he would go.

I asked him about the strength that it takes to travel like he has. He says he tries to keep his mind occupied. If he sits still too long he starts to remember his family and he can loose his composure. He comes from a Christian family too. He smiled when he talked about how his mother used to stand up and speak in the church. "I love being a Christian!" he says. Even though he doesn't have anything, no Bible, God is his companion and he can pray to God for strength. That still cannot erase the difficulty of dealing with his past. He says sometimes he really just wants too see his family all together. In the times he thinks about his family, he feels most lonely.

As our conversation moved on, I had the chance to share some with him and gave him a piece of paper with a number of basic phrases in Spanish to get him going. He's the second Liberian I've met here with the name Lucky. As a person my age, I can't imagine what it would be like to have lived as he has. I can only hope and pray that God will continue to carry him especially close through his future.