Sunday, April 1, 2012

yesterday I beat an Iraqi at chess

I know the object of this blog is generally adventure or misadventures through CS. A lighthearted selling point to come and visit me in the best city in Australia. It goes without saying as I am having a few months off CS whilst the Kitchen gets redone that the adventures seem to dwindle and my political side runs a little rampant.

Once again you'll find me on the topic of aslyum seekers I have focused more on the aslyum issues with my spare time just recantly. Spare time... thats a joke. Sunday was my first day off in two weeks after working 12hour days slotting in University in between, volleyball & more work. But CS takes a lot of my time as well so as I am not hosting I do have a spare hour now and then inbetween jobs.

So what do I do on my first day off in weeks I joined two other ladies to head out to Darwin's newest Detention centre Wickham Point for my first ever unofficial - official visit.

You can sit there and preach that aslyum seekers are all good people but reality is I still had that nervous apprehension of actually meeting some of them. The term "detention" does its job of creating an undeserved stigma to the "detainees" You instantly think they are criminals when in fact they haven't done anything illegal.

Its. not. illegal. to. seek. aslyum. in. Australia.

Entering the compound I had heard horror stories about the SERCO guards and how the rules changed as their moods on the day but we were greeted with a smile and a hello from the gate guard a happy guy from New York who had met a Darwin girl over the internet, had a baby with her and had been living in the NT for five years. Thankfully it seemed we had arrived on a good day.

The compound had huge electric fences doubled up with barbed wire on the top and all the gates needed buzzes and guards to escort you. As we were signed in the three guards at the desk smiled and chatted to us letting us in with relative ease. We headed over to the visitors room which had another guard to watch over. We were to meet 13 detainees all up however we were a little late they had all left so we waited for a short while and three guys from Iraq showed up. Their english was so minimal it was hard to determine if they understood me or not. We chatted and they smiled and nodded saying yes evey now and then. Two of them were brothers the other guy had met them on the boat. It all seemed a little awkward trying to have a conversation with people who didn't understand me but they were so nice and helpful I was taken aback. One of the ladies I was visiting with had brought a whole lot of food for them she handed it over telling them to eat yet they took the plate around making sure we ate first. As we moved from outside into the airconditioned room they picked up all the chairs not letting us help at all. Making sure we were all seated and comfortable before they themselves were.

Another Iraqi turned up whoose english was amazing and he soon started to translate for us things became a little more comfortable and before you know it another five detainees arrived a mixture of Iraqis & Iranians. We sat around in a circle showing pictures & talking. Previous to the visit we were informed of the racial tension between Iraqis & Iranians but as we all sat in that room I never noticed anything they all seemed so grateful that we were there visiting them. I really believe that whatever issues they may have had in their country need to be corrected if they are to become Australia citizens and what better way to do it but when they are all forced into manadatory detention. Maybe something good can come out of detention.

Out comes the games so I started up a game of chess with the Iraqi whoose english was awesome he had a pretty sarcastic sense of humour I thought he would fit right into Australian way. I can't remember their names as we all know I am horrible with accents and difficult names one guy told me I could call him Ali but it turns out 90% of them had Ali as the start so I wonder if they mind if I create Aussie nicknames for them. I'm not going to lie I was wondering if I should play my best chess because I felt guilty if I was going to win at chess when they were trapped in detention but surely they wouldn't want me to throw the game? I am a little bit of a guru at chess I warned them. Hell when I was 12 I was champion of my school and competed in a Territory wide school tournament. Granted I am now 30 so my 12 year old accomplishments probably don't hold up so well... but I am good at chess.

I decided not to throw the game I feel sympathy is not always the best approach. I think if I was in detention I wouldnt want people to let me win because they feel sorry for me. I ended up "wiping the floor" with my opponent quite quickly. Perhaps too quickly another Iraqi who was some kind of backgammon champion said next visit he wanted to play me at chess.

As we were forced to leave early due to a shift changeover I wanted to leave some board games I had accumulated from Lawn Sales the morning before. The guy who was watching over us informed me that I wasn't allowed. So this was when defensive Amanda almost caused an full blown argument with the guys who have some of the highest security clearance in the NT.

"Why not, on the Immigration website it says they are perfectly acceptable gifts"
"No you can't leave them"
"Well what can I do I want to leave them what do I need to do"
"They need to go through clearance"
"Where can I put them through clearance the guys at the door let them all through"
"You can't do this today"

It was very much a case of 6pm Sunday afternoon I want to get the fuck out of here so I am not going to get involved with clearing some board games.

Despite the fact they had been through the scanners it appeared that that day the guard had decided they weren't allowed to have gifts. Perhaps he had woken up on the wrong side of the bed or his wife had used teeth on his morning blowjob who knows but he was a jerk and I had to step back in case I was written up as a security threat by my arguments. Stepping back from an ignorant argument drives me insane in fact its Monday morning and I am still angry!

Despite that the guy who wanted to vs me at chess had a packet of dominoes I had donated and managed to talk another guard into letting him keep it. With a grin and wink at me he walked off to his room his prize in hand.

As we left all the men said goodbye to us shaking our hands thanking us for coming. One man who I had not managed to talk with with came up and spoke to me in good english.

"Its so good that you come and visit us we appreciate you."
He placed his other hand over mine as he shook and his eyes expressed such intense gratitude it was then everything really hit home and I felt this kind of purpose thats been a little missing from my life recantly. This man had barely spoken to any of us arriving late and we had to leave early (heaven forbid we hold up the serco guards!) but he was so happy to have that short time with the outside world.

I couldn't believe my experience. I was so nervous and apprehensive wondering if I was going to be in a room with violent depressed people the stories that had been beaten into your head from the media & politicians. Not going to lie even the people on the detainees side stories had scared me a little. Yet instead I was greeted with some of the nicest people I have ever met, with such easy going calm personalities. Some of them with awesome sarcastic sense of humour. Normal people who just wanted a chance that I was born with. People I would much prefer to be surrounded by then some of those I see every day living sheltered lives around me. Granted they hadn't been in detention as long as some of the other people some only a couple of months perhaps their moods would change as time goes on. But maybe with my visits I can help keep them from falling into that depression. I left Wickhams Point that day my brain going over a million times my experience. I just wish all those bogan ignorant Aussies would take an hour out of their day and meet some of the people. Maybe we could change more minds.

I have another visit with the same two ladies for Good Friday after the Rally I will proudly march in.

Until we are all free none of us are free.

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