Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Nice Try

Towards the end of January, I had a man come into my office. The receptionist told me that he appeared not to speak any French, so I addressed him in English. Talking and moving slowly as if he wasn’t feeling well, he explained that he was an architect from Ghana who had come to Burkina looking for work. I asked him how he had hoped to find a job here if he didn’t speak any French? He told me that that’s why he was planning to return home to Ghana. All his money was gone, but apparently the Ghanaian embassy was prepared to help him get back. However, he had no money to eat for the next several days and was sick too.

I grabbed a nearby sheet of paper and pen and asked him to write down his full name. Next, I asked the receptionist to get me the phone number of the Ghanaian embassy in Ouaga. Then I made a phone call. After a few minutes, I was talking to the Consular Officer and explained the situation to him. He asked for the man’s name again. Then he said, “I’m sorry, but I believe that man is a trickster. I have no record of this man, and if we were prepared to help him, his file would have crossed my desk. Tell him to come here to see me.”

I turned to the man in my office. “The embassy says they have no record of you. So here’s what I want you to do: Go to the embassy and bring me back a piece of paper with the embassy’s stamp on it to verify your story and what they are prepared to do for you.”

“But I’m sick,” he continued. “Can’t you just give me some money for medicine?”

“As soon as you come back from the embassy,” I replied, pointing to the door. With a sad and reproachful look on his face, he slowly shuffled out of my office and the building. Glancing through the window, I noted that his pace picked up quite briskly as he made his way as quickly as possible to the front gate.

I never saw him again.

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