Eliciting the dreams of an Afghan refugee


His name is Mustafa and he’s turning 30 soon, well I didn’t wonder how old is he neither when I was checking-in three days ago at this not-so-bad hostel that in order to spot you have to ask foreigners not locals as it’s in the backpackers street of Penang ….. a lovely city where the buildings could tell how magnificent was it for Chinese old people to build a Fangzi here but the history narrates how proudly Sir Francis Light walked down this ground. Chulia street -Penang- Malaysia- Planet Earth-  3rd to the sun in the Solar System- The milky way. Mustafa  who didn’t know what’s the milky way – without an education and with his English that he practise everyday with both his guests and colleagues – would think that in a city in Europe where the wonders happen there’s a way that is milky. He was there standing as an owl hunting fat rats …. us the backpackers 🙂 he was the host – he  said it with pride but he lied.

Me – Hello ! tired of being stuck like a sardine in this Van for nearly 4 hours.

Mustafa  – Hello ! Welcome ! Passport or identity card please

Me – I’m not a rapist but yeah here is it.

Mustafa – One dorm one night 25 ( Malaysian) Ring-ing-gits

Not the guy to haggle with over the price, I paid and got my locker’s key and went upstairs

Mustafa – Have dorm, have a fan, toilet, hot water, A-C no ! ( it was as fast as Eminem singing the last verse of Mockingbird )

Me – Vego Vego Vego Vego.

I got the keys and thanked him Malaysia is hot and the only reason I know is that this part of Asia is hot and humid and because you can’t wander topless because you simply can’t. I didn’t take a shower I just went on a bike tour. A pedal bike that won’t cost more than 3$ a day.

I did almost all the touristic attractions. I fell in love with the city and all I wanted was to go back to the hostel and write about what I’ve found.

At the entrance were Mustafa and his fellows an Indian young boy and a Malay man around the big table and a white lady boy talking to a Chileno and a Chilena young lady. Took the shower, I dressed in my Lungi and went back and went out to write. As there were 6 chairs and 6 people + me. The Malay guy gave me his and said he’s going to shop from the grocery.

Mustafa: Penang good ?

Me: It is

I thought of Sir Francis Light and his cruises. I thought of mom, the old man whom I met at the restaurant and haggled with over the price of the hippie outfit. I felt guilty doing so because couple of months ago I was tipping in fancy restaurants. The pen broke so I turned back to him.

Me: Tell me about the war. Mustafa is your name right ?

Mustafa: The war is hard. You people travel.. you think it’s hard life. No try the war !!

Me: So true !

Mustafa: My father, mother, brother died in the war in Afghanistan. I’m from Ghazni … Hein … dangerous city .. be careful !

Me: I’m sorry

Mustafa: Oh it’s okay ! You are Arab …. right??

Me: No.. I’m a Berber .. Be careful

Mustafa: Sorry, I don’t like Arabs.

Me: You’re a good man Mustafa but why don’t you ?

Mustafa: I am refugee Ok?

Me: Okay

Mustafa: I came here to work and live peace but in this job you don’t want to have Arabs.

Me: I heard they tip well….. They spend too much money

Mustafa: Ah the money. They steal money. Ask me I know … Algeria, Morocco, Libya No, Egypsha Oh My God !!!

Me: I lived in some of these places Mustafa and I know there are both the good and bad people.

Mustafa: You are Muslim right?

Me: Yes Alhamdoulillah

Mustafa: Sex is haram right ? ( smiling )

Me: Hmmmmm Depends ( smiling )

Mustafa: Theft is haram too. Why Arabs steal ?

For a moment I thought of explaining to him that Arabs can be Christians, jews and irreligious but I assumed such a talk would ruin the night. So I nodded.

His Indian friend: Remember the Egyptian who stole the laptop. His name ?

Mustafa: Hahahaha yes the Egypshen !

Me: hahahaha Egyptian ( being dumb )

Mustafa: Anywayzzzzzz

Me: Mustafa, what if your wife asks you to go live in Ghazni. Will you go for it ?

Mustafa:Wife don’t know maaaaAaaaan ! ( His friend laughed ) My wife don’t ask questions. My wife answer……… Be careful !

Me: I’m seriously trying to be careful actually.

Mustafa: now girls are stupid… facebook, telephone love love love and in life.. real life no love.

Me: This is the sound of wisdom !!

Mustafa: Hein ?

Me: What’s your dream….. Mustafa ?

Mustafa turned back to his friend who was inches behind him and said something in a language they both know but I don’t. Something that I translated into: This is a silly boy and I deemed the post-comment grin an indecent suspicion.

Mustafa: Good house, Good country, Good job, Children. ( He lowered his voice as he noticed the guys at the other table stared.

Me: Hmmmmm you’re not demanding. Find one of the foreigners who come over and marry her.

Mustafa: hahahahaha hostel maaAaan ( Whispering ) budget people here and when they know  I’m Afghani, they freak out.

Me: Afghanistan is a good country. You guys have Cannabis and nature.I would marry an Afghan woman if you find me one…….  well I’m a Berber you know ….. Be careful !!

Mustafa: Afghani women good, they pray, they fast. Afghan woman you are  lucky !

Me: I just want to be happy. The passport doesn’t matter.

Mustafa: The problems Afghani women don’t have dreams. I want a woman with dreams and professional.

Me:Professional !?!

Mustafa: Travellers know life. Afghani women for example no.

Me: Yes….. true ! (serious )

Mustafa: Ok ! I have to go… night shift is long.

Me: So no dreams for you tonight

Mustafa: Peace and Love

I thought what answer was that. but as I remember the way he smiled when he said it. I thought of all the neo-hippies who use these words to use people.

Mustafa is still there….. He added me on Facebook and sent me a message in which he wrote on Sunday 7:07pm:

– Hello bro how are you
-You can call me ***** cuz my name is *****, so in Facebook cuz some people disturb me I changed my name.

Instead of writing back I thought of writing about him…… The poor 😦