When I was growing up I had dreams. Big dreams. Dreams that I prayed and hoped would one day come true. However, I did not know what it really took to make dreams come true. I did not know how many storms I was gonna break through to see to it that my dreams came true. One of my dreams was to one day go abroad and study. I never talked to anyone about it, though till I finished high school.
I imagined how heavenly it would be to live abroad. Far away from where I called home. I pictured in my mind of how great, wonderful and beautiful the outer world (the world outside the small world that I knew) could be. It is good to have dreams and chase them with all you got. I chased mine and it was not easy.
A while after I finished high school I joined a language school with actually no concrete reason. I just thought it was cool to be able to speak a totaly different language. I chose German and fell in love with it. It was while I was there that I discovered new things, and made new friends. I got to know that after one could actually express themselves in German and at least get the first German level certificate, then it was a half way open door for one to go to Germany.
I learnt very fast and was among the best. My school director happened to be an agent. She helped people to go to Germany as Au-pairs. She approached me severally but I was reluctant to go to Germany since I had heard that it was very hard to get a German visa.
For those who have never heard about Au-pair, it is an exchange program, whereby one goes to a foreign country and lives with a family for a given period of time. Learns the language and the culture of that particular country, helps mostly with their kids and eventually (if all goes well) becomes part of the family.
A friend of mine introduced me to an agent in Buruburu by the name Olivia. I have named her because she shamefully and literally drained my emotions and wasted my time and that of many other girls. (I hope she can read this). Anyway, when I went to see her she sweet talked me into making her my agent, promising me that if I paid some down payment everything would go very fast and in a period of three months I would be in Austria.
I partly blame myself that I let her use me. I should have been well informed. I paid the down payment and in 3 weeks she told me she had found a family for me. I was very happy. Then the lies started flowing. This Agent put up my profile on a certain Au-Pair website and impersonated me without my knowledge. One day she tells me she found a family for me, another day she tells me the family fell out. She lied to me day in day out. I could not tell my parents or the people close to me what I was going through in the fear of them loosing hope.
I went to apply for my Visa after nearly a whole year of waiting and I was almost denied the visa due to one terrible mistake I made. I thought I knew so much since I could speak a little German but the shock was on me. The head of Immigration questioned me about my travel and I answered very well. Then she asked me what I knew about Vienna and thats when it hit me that I knew nothing. I had not cared to research.
I had to say something. So I answered her by saying; Vienna is the capital city of Austria. It has many people, there are many cars, its big… (Always say something, never keep quiet!) The look on her face was like are you kidding me? She stopped me and told me she had a problem with every girl going to apply for a visa because they did not know anything of where they were traveling to. She made me an offer to go and research about Vienna and tell her when I came to pick my visa.
After two months I got a call from the embassy to go pick my visa and I had to take my plane ticket with me. My happiness was short lived when my agent called me and told me my host family was not expecting me anymore. She told me to postpone my flight but I could not afford to do that.
The day came when I was to travel. I knew no one was picking me from the airport but only a cousin and an aunt of mine knew that. Everybody else at my farewell party knew otherwise. My grandpa (may his soul rest in peace) kept asking me whether someone was picking me at the airport and to avoid troubling him I kept saying yes.
I was sick the whole time on the flight. I slept most of it and did not eat at all. I landed at Vienna International Airport at 1 p.m. the next day. Police control! They checked my friend and me, the only blacks on that flight. Luckily her host family came for her. She left and I was taken to the interrogation room. I remember very well how cold it was. It was still winter, something I had never experienced.
You can imagine how scared I was all alone with the police. I had no one to fight for me. I was questioned and the whole time I tried to play cool. The little German I knew had melted away. I was totally confused. They mentioned deporting me. They asked for any document to prove what I was doing in Austria. All I had was a three month visa. Another terrible mistake.
I had some phone numbers in my diary book and they turned out to be very useful. I remember telling one policeman not to give up on me. He sympathized with me and did what I asked him. We made some few calls in Germany, Kenya and Austria.
The policeman left the room before we could decide what next. I stood up and whispered, “God please get me through this situation!” In an instant, God answered my prayer because the policeman came talking on phone to the guy who became my hero that day, a friend’s friend. The policeman agreed that I could go with that guy since I had a valid visa.
There are good people out there who are always eager to help. As I waited to be picked up from McDonalds, I stopped a woman with her daughter who turned out to be Kenyan and asked her where I could use a phone. She offered me her phone. I called the guy who was supposed to pick me and he assured me that he was still on his way to the airport.
I told the lady my situation and she gave me some advice. She gave me some money before she left and told me not to be scared. This whole time I had no idea who this guy who accepted to pick me up was. I thought he was a Kenyan because he sounded like one on the phone. He spoke Swahili on the phone. He sounded very relaxed and even cracked some jokes.
I was taken aback when a tall white Rastafarian entered McDonalds and shouted my name. We talked a little and he told me he was once in Kenya for Voluntary work. Funny enough, in the midst of us getting to know each other we realized we had once met in Kenya. What a small world. We finally left the airport at 7 p.m. I was very exhausted and totally drained.
In a foreign country, foreign language, in a stranger’s house, with no money and a three month visa to be prolonged by a host family that I did not have. I tried to reach my agent and she told me that her job was done, I was in Austria. Then she even stopped picking my calls.
I remember my conversations with my family during this period were total lies. I had to tell them that everything was fine and that I was with the host family. In real sense I was looking on the internet for a new family, which I found after a few weeks. From then my Au-Pair year in Vienna finally started. During that time of uncertainty I had great support from relatives and friends in Vienna who I can never thank enough.
Before traveling you should:
1) Research very well and get to know a hand full of the place you are going to.
2) Do not use an agent you barely know. Many out there are money milkers and do not care one bit about you.
3) Have basic knowledge of the language spoken in your destined country.
4) Never forget to carry something to show the reason of your travel.
5) Always have a leap of faith even in situations that are not within your power.
6) Be humble. Attitude speaks so much about you.
7) Carry some phone numbers of people who could help you in any little way
8) Always put God first!
Share your travel story here and I will be glad to read. Thank you for reading my brief portion.