Veröffentlicht am 9. März 2016 | von Kimbie Humer-Vogl2
The language of sports is universal
I admit that I was not really amused, when the alarm clock rang at 7.00 a.m. last Saturday. It had been a long week with hard work, I would have preferred to sleep in! But the reason for my early rise was quite exciting: I was going to participate in the African Sledging Championships in Rauris!
Some time last summer I had confirmed my participation, and now the great day had come. When I was first asked if I would participate, I viewed the idea as a gag, but as time passed I realized that identifying myself with my African roots also has to do with showing solidarity with the African people. Because even though my parents aren’t Africans and even though I am „white“ my life did start in Africa and is now being continued in Europe, just like the lives of all the other African people who now live in Europe, no matter why they decided to leave their continent.
I was supposed to be picked up at 8.30 a.m. at Hallein station, but I was not really surprised that the bus did not arrive before 9.00 a.m. Beeing punctual is a very Austrian characteristic. I was frozen through by the time the bus arrived. After a very warm greeting I decided to catch up some sleep, and even though we had African live music all the way (at least I think so) the next thing I can remember is arriving in Rauris.
I step out of the bus and actually had no idea what was going to happen next. It didn’t take long before a young black man came up to me, introduced himself in perfect English and started a conversation. I knew that some African diplomats and consuls were expected and was pretty sure this young man was one of them. To my surprise Haci told me that he lives in the refugee camp in Thalgau! Haci stems from Sierra Leone, where English is the official first language. Just as in Nigeria, the home-country of Haci’s friend Moses, a young Christian, who also lives in Thalgau at the moment. Haci and Moses had come with their two friends from Morocco Murat and Mohammed, a delighting pair of brothers! Moses confirmed that their life in the refugee camp was pleasant and that they were all very thankful for the help they received in Austria. He said, they were all very confident, that everything would turn out positive in the End. I wish I could believe the same! Their life was not too exciting at the moment, Moses continued, so they were happy to have the opportunity of a really exciting day today. I offered to bring them some English books to the camp for a little bit of distraction, which they gladly accepted.
We ascended the mountain by chair-lift, which caused a lot of excitement, seeing as most of the competitors had never been on a chair-lift before!
The view was beautiful upon the mountain, it was warm and sunny and so we decided to have some tea on the terrace before enrolling for the big event. I learned that people in Morocco drink green tea, Haci and Moses preferred black tea and all of them had loads of sugar. I had brought a bar of Austrian chocolate that the young men really enjoyed, it was obviously a treat, but none the less they generously offered the chocolate around. It must be really hard to have no money at all, not even for small treats!
In the mean time we were accompanied by Essam, a nuclear doctor from Libya, who also has applied asylum in Austria. He had originally come to Austria for further education, during his stay the political situation in Libya however changed and there was no way back home any longer. I told Essam that I was sure everyone would be delighted to have him in Austria, seeing as we have far too few own doctors.
His answer surprised me: They don’t care a damn to who you are here, he told me. Neither him being a specified doctor, nor the fact that he had volunteered as a doctor during the past months, when so many refugees passed through the country, seems to be of any interest to the Austrian authorities. Apparently there are 200 Syrian doctors in Vienna and nobody cares. I could hardly believe this. 200 extra doctors would solve a great deal of the Austrian health problems. How can anybody be so ignorant as to show no interest in refugees with medical education.
Essam explained to me that it is not easy to get his medical education recognized in Austria. The authorities want original documents and those are hard for him to organize, seeing as his connections to Libya are no longer very good. All the same Essam seemed so positive, he wants to concentrate on improving his German in the meantime. He has already managed the B1 language exam and now wants to prepare for B2, but needs to visit a course in order to manage the exam. This course costs 450 Euros! That is far too much money for someone, who barely has enough money to pay for his food and room.
After the short rest we enrolled for the competition. Everyone was given a bag with treats, a drink, some sweets, and a hat. It was obvious how pleased the competitors were about that! Lots of photographs were taken showing us all in our new hats.
Then we were all given a free lunch. While queuing up for lunch, I was „adopted“ by two young men from Somalia. Obviously they were grateful for the extra rolls I bought for them. How awful it must be not even being able to afford an extra piece of bread, I thought again. And the two eighteen-years really looked like they could do with a few extra rolls. They were so thin. They told me that their journey from Somalia had taken more than a year. And that they had had no sleep for four nights before they arrived in Austria. Being a mother, I felt so sad that these boys were here all alone. They still seemed so young. Later I found out that a friend of mine is supporting them in their refugee asylum in Salzburg, which was a relief to hear. We were talking German all the time and I could hardly believe they had only been in Austria for a few months. Their German was really good. They were full of plans for their future. I really hope everything turns out like they hope for and that they manage to get good education and good jobs!
After lunch we all had first tries on the sledge. What fun, especially for those who had never done this before. All the time my new friends were around me, offering help, looking after my things, making sure I hadn’t forgot anything and asking me if I was fine. I know this respectful treatment was probably due to my old age of nearly 45, but all the same I really felt special and very safe. And I felt so ashamed that so many Austrians speak badly about refugees. How can they think like that? I wish everyone in Austria had more personal contact with refugees, I am sure many people would then change their opinion!
While waiting for my start I had lots of time to talk to other competitors. I met people from all over Africa, for instance from Djibouti, Ghana or Cameron. The competitors had come from all parts of Austria, for instance from Vienna or Linz. Some of them had been in Austria for many years, and seemed to feel at home here. Some still have contact to their home country, like Sally Goldenboy from Ghana. Sally is a musician and Salzburg’s first black bus-driver. He supports a school-project in Ghana.
Mana Aliyou, who won the men’s race, comes from Cameron. He can no longer visit his former home, it is too dangerous. Mana has been in Austria for 8 years and his German already has an Austrian accent. But that is not due to the fact that he is married to an Austrian, he told me. He and his wife speak French to each other, German to his wife’s family, Mana’s wife speaks French to the three small children, while Mana, who also speaks fluent Chinese speaks the language of his African tribe with the kids. Mana and I changed between English and German without really thinking about it….
Which brings me back to the heading of this small story: the language of sport is universal. And sport is capable of breaking all language and cultural barriers. Erwin Himmelbauer found that out many years ago and since has one idea after another to prove this thesis. And in times like the current ones, where it seems that boarders are being built rather than broken this is more important than ever!
I had a really special day, met wonderful people, heard touching stories and experienced lots of hope and confidence. I hope lots of these dreams come true!
Thank you dear Marion, Thomas and Erwin for organizing this amazing event!
Über Kimbie Humer-Vogl
Landtagsabgeordnete, stv. Klubobfrau, Bezirkssprecherin der Grünen Tennengau - Sprecherin für Gesundheit, Soziales, SeniorInnen, Inklusion, Ehrenamt, Religion