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An extract from a new book by M.M. Afrah to be published in Canada in the winter of 2002.


Keynaan recalls the story of the immigrants and refugees who were accomplished in their home countries as doctors, lawyers, engineers, geologists, scientists, writers and computer programmers. They thought their credentials were strong enough for anybody to hire them.

Then came the shock. All they could get were jobs as parking lot attendants, grass cutters, snow shovellers, window cleaners, security guards (watchmen) or garbage collectors. What they did not know was that their resumes should indicate they should have had what employers euphemistically call "The Canadian Experience." They were not even given the chance to prove themselves.

"I worked as a waiter in order to be able to pay the rent, feed and clothe my children," a Bangladeshi engineer told Keynaan one day over a cup of steaming coffee and a doughnut.

"But in Canada you don't have to look over your shoulders for the secret police agents, militia gunmen or potential muggers," Keynaan told him, after sipping his hot coffee.

"Yes. You're right. But when will the long dismal years of exile would finally be end?"

"In the process you may arrive at a breaking point, but don't loss hope," Keynaan soothed the desperate Bangladeshi engineer.

Keynaan's reverie was interrupted by one of the Russian crews. Drinking Stoli vodka straight from the bottle he told the family, in tortured English, to fasten their seat belts and to wear life jackets as they were to fly over the Indian Ocean, to avoid land-based anti-aircraft guns. He is an Afghan war veteran and looked more fearful than the Somali gunmen.

He barked another question in Russian. He then rubbed his forefingers and thumb together in the universal symbol of money.

"What did he say?" Marian asked.

"He wanted us to pay him."

The Russian was so drunk he is reading the Canadian passport upside down.

"Da, da. Kanadeski. Nyet Amerikanski?" He made an obscure joke about Americans and Canadians and hooted with laughter.

With his straw-coloured felt hat, he looked like a Devil's Island convict. Former helicopter pilots who flew their armour-plated Hind helicopter gunships in Afghanistan, no war was too dangerous for them, no weather was stormy enough to keep them on the ground, no landing strip too short or too rough to keep them from flying their Soviet-era Antanovs and Topelovs.

There have been several crash landings and shootouts with local militia and insurgents, but they had survived.

"They are the daredevils of the African skies," Kenya's big selling Daily Nation said in its editorial, after a giant Antanov crash landed on a golf course after it was hit by a heat-seeking, shoulder-fired Stinger missile. It was ferrying a huge cargo of RPG-7 anti-tank rocket-launchers to Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebels in Angola in exchange for diamonds. The RPG-7 is a compact, easy-to-carry weapon that weighs only 19 pounds and has a maximum effective range of 555 yards on a static target, and 330 yards on a moving target.

The newspaper dubbed the Russian pilots as the new Red Mercenaries and gunrunners in Africa, replacing the White Soldiers of Fortune of the 1960s. It described them as "Communists-have-been" They had seen too much in Afghanistan to fear death. Their worst nightmare, however, is unexploded ordnance, landmines and booby traps in the middle of the dirt runways.

Keynaan kicked his carryall bag under the seat in front of him in impotent rage, trying to think something bad enough to say to the drunken Russian.

"You're drunk!" he yelled at last, and felt somewhat relieved.

"Yes, thank God!" said the Russian in sodden voice. "Getting out of Somalia without a bullet in your belly is a Red Letter Day, and being drunk is halfway to heaven, believe me," he added.

"You're probably right. I've always known that."

"Then why did you come back to this hell?"

"Because I find it impossible to do anything else."

"Welcome to Somalia, the land of wars and famine," the Russian said as he counted and recounted the green backs to be sure he has got the right amount.

He staggered to the flight cabin and in less than few seconds another Russian, the one with the fake Brooklyn accent, arrived with a bottle of Stoli vodka, cans of Coca Cola and a bottle of Perrier water. Keynaan declined the vodka but accepted the bottle of Perrier water for himself and the Coke for the family.

"How is the flight?" Keynaan asked him, just to hear again his fake Brooklyn accent.

"No thanks if we succeed and no help if we fail," he said, paraphrasing an old KGB dictum.

"What happened to the KGB after the Prestroika and Glasnost?"

"That was then. This is now. Now, we are fine-tuning everything. People in the West believe in Noah's Ark, they are very anxious to tarnish Mother Russia's image even the Prestroika and Glasnost in place. An old Armenian proverb says; "the mouse dreams, dreams that would terrify the cat." The Kremlin oligarchy is now dreaming a dream that would terrify the Americans," he said in whisper after looking over his shoulders.

"How does it feel to drop bombs disguised as colourful toys on an Afghan village where you know is full of women and children?"

"But you were never told by the Western press that these same women and children threw hand grenades or Molotov cocktails at our brave Soviet soldiers and lynched some of my best friends at the bazaars in Kabul, while the Mujahadeen sat there, smoking marijuana, laughing. I stopped making friends after that."

"Your diplomats in Kabul have been feeding the Kremlin reports that the war against the Mujahideen is being won by the heroic Red Army. The opposite was the truth."

"A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip."

"I've heard that before. I bet you say that to everybody who wants to listen."

"Da, da, but I am usually right. Don't trust the Western media and diplomats. You read me?'

"Loud and clear."

Drinking the rot-gut from the bottle, the Russian related how the West, specifically the United States and Britain ostracized the newly born Soviet Union in the immediate aftermath of the Great Bolshevik Revolution gathered momentum during World War Two when Adolf Hitler had given secret orders to invade Russia.

"Uncle Joe Stalin was caught with his pants down after months in bed with that little Austrian corporal," he said it with laughter.

"Probably the marriage license was fake," Keynan said with a smile.

To be continued.
By M.M.Afrah 2001 All rights are reserved

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