Thursday, April 20, 2006

Anything for the Visa

I am always amazed at the number of young Ugandans who would do virtually anything to go and live abroad (Europe and USA being the preferred destinations). Some people spend every waking moment planning how to acquire that precious visa at the expense of doing things that would benefit their lives in Uganda at present.

I got thinking about this recently when I bumped in a young lady I studied with at University. After exchanging the usual greetings we got to talking about what some of the people we studied with were doing and it turned out that quite a number had since left the country. What really struck me though, was how this lady went on and on about how bad luck seems to foil all her attempts to get abroad.

Apparently my friend has never bothered to get any meaningful employment, outside one or two research assistant jobs, in the four years since graduation. Initially she was waiting on her brother in the states to “hook her up” with a pass to the states. The brother wasn’t able to help despite his constant promises of “working on the things”, which was hardly surprising considering he was an illegal alien. After giving up on her brother she has since attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain UK and US visas at least five times. In the process she has spent millions in dealing with crooked “travel consultants” (racketeers and scammers are more suitable names), visa fees, acquiring bank statements etc.

If my friend was a down-on-luck, unemployed and uneducated girl from the village I would probably understand her actions. But she is not. She has a university degree and if she can marshal 1 million shillings to pay a travel consultant for a visa every time she wants to travel (when will these people learn), she can get money to get her started in something.

She is not the only one. Because of the nature of the work I do, people are always asking me how I can help them get scholarships for short courses abroad or which conferences I can get them registered for. Many of these people are only looking at the course or conference as a ticket to the “greener pastures” offered in these countries.

I will be the first to concede that life in Uganda can be pretty difficult sometimes and that everyone has the right to pursue whatever they think will make them happy and prosperous. However, what makes me want to weep is that Uganda is losing out on many young people who cannot look around them and see that opportunities are here too. Many have delusions of a life of glamour and quick riches in the lands yonder.

Utter madness is when a young widow stakes her land title, sells all her property, sends the kids to granny and “invests” all her money in obtaining a visa. She gets rejected, she can’t get back her money and in the end she decides to take her own life. Why, Why, Why.

I think a very serious change in the mindset is required.


jkb said...

Jay, I read all your postings religiously, but none of them has been powerful thus far! Folks in LDCs seldom realize how cruel life can be in DCs. The Mexicans for instance keep attempting 'desert storms' to beat USA immigration sytem, thus risking their own lives

I have tried to communicate the economic vices in my postings like the high cost of living, low social values, prejudicial perceptions and the struggles of a common man who has no community or family to fall back on to! But now props from u too? I am speechless!

savage said...

I just KEEP wishing that if there was a way, Every single Ugandan should be given a visa and given chance to say come to the U.S to see for themselves that life here is not all it's cracked up to be.
A couple of times I talk to my friends in Kampala and I tell them that after 6 years away, I just about had my share of life here and I am planning to come home for good and they think I am crazy.There are so many of these guy's whose lives I would trade anything for, but they don't realize how blessed they are. They just wanna get onto that plane and come to the U.S.
I have lived the good life here and the hard broke life in Kampala and I have personally come to realize that being able to acquire all fancy things doesn't necesarily make me happy.I am one unhappy Ugandan despite being able to live it up.

inktus said...

i'm proud of u, jay! for being one of those who understand that a country with oppurtunity and potential is worth investing in.

Lovely Amphibian said...

I guess, seeing as the 'Summers' have said it, i have no biz-ness dreaming of the making it big in the land of opportunity. i dreamt of flying out too, like four years ago. it was an obsession until i realised that i was losing alot more than just sleep. if i hadnt given that up, i would probably be on ef those bums in the UK who survive by hating on other Ugandans, ratting on them to the authorities.

baz said...

What's that song about living in New York but leaving before it makes you hard?

Jay said...

I have some friends who got deported in a major swoop last year and their stories are not funny.

mbabazi said...

Hi Jay, I stumbled onto your page purely by mistake but am glad i did. A very interesting eye view I must say! What do u do, if u don't mind me asking?

Girl next door said...

Great post! People sacrifice so much to get abroad and sure enough there are lots of opportunities in the West that may not come easy at home. But everything comes at a price. People abroad need to continue telling people at home that life abroad is difficult--you basically trade one set of problems for another. There's so much to experience but you will work your ass off for everything.