Portugal, 1994

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Ramiro de Sousa Barbosa

 

The story I am going to tell is about me, my Erasmus colleague and a student that we meet at the university residence, at Brussels, Belgium, in 1994. I stayed in a university residence very eclectic in terms of nationalities; we had students and also non-students from Canada, Latvia, Belgium, Algeria, among other countries. The mentioned student was Belgian but with Algerian roots. It was usual for us to visit the cities of Belgium every weekend, mainly with my colleague, although sometimes we had traveled with other students from the residence. One day, we decided to visit London, England. The Algerian student went with us. So we agreed on a weekend to visit England, London, in the expectation of being different and supposedly pleasant. First we should took the ferry from Belgium to the port of entry in London, and from there pick a train to the central of London. The boat trip went very well and in a pleasant way, being done essentially at night. When we got to the customs for entry into England, the "problems" begun. Both I and my colleague passed through customs without any problems and very quickly, showing only the identity card. When it was the Algerian student turn, and even before showing any documents, he is called to the side by the custom agents to have a small talk, and then he is taken to an office of the building, without us realizing what was going on. We thought that they took this procedure due to the North Africa appearance of the student. We had more than two hours waiting for him to be released, having, meanwhile, lost the bus connection to the central of London. When he finally appears, and as expected, he was very upset and throws to the ground and far away his traveling bag. Then he runs to the bag and begins to kick it violently discharging his anger for what happened, and at the same time saying something like this: "I was the only one to be stopped due to my origin and appearance." After calming the colleague, we took the next bus. Arriving at the destination, still in the morning, we start by visiting all the interest points of London. By lunch time, we decided to go to Hyde Park, to take the meal. We had brought some sandwiches and drinks from residence. When the Algerian student open the bag and starts to remove his things, we saw the picture: the sandwiches and the drinks were all broken up, having soaked the whole bag. Again, he demonstrates his anger by throwing once more time the bag the the ground and saying some words that we did not understood. We shared our lunch with him and then continued our visit through the city. Everything went wonderfully, having turned into a pleasant and interesting experience in the end. The Erasmus program was not only about finalizing the course project but, equally important, getting to know other cultures and sharing experiences that otherwise would not be possible. At that time, the current issue of “terrorism” was already a main concern, being given a lots of attention to people from “certain countries”, especially in England, for good and for bad, as we experienced.