Thursday, 19 June 2008

Immigration Blues (Part One)

Welcome back.

All sorts of things to blog about, but strangely lacking in energy. Must be the heat or something

Anyway, to ease myself back into the habit gently...

I was waiting for a bus to Tel Aviv a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, I'll get that pesky licence sorted out one day. Perhaps.)

An Indian fellow sits next to me on the bench. I look up, nod, and return to my magazine. He strikes up a conversation.

'Where are you from?'

I tell him. I was meeting a friend for dinner, and was hungry (not an unusual state of affairs). I wasn't in the mood for small talk.

'You live here?'

I nod. Only me. Why do all the crazies have to head straight to me?

He tells me that he works here, and that he lives in Herzliya, a short bus ride away. He pauses. I can tell that he is waiting for me to reciprocate. I sigh and put my magazine away.

I ask him what he does. He's a cleaner. It's hard work, he tells me, six days a week. But the money is ok, and he is able to put a little aside for his visa every month.

He wasn't talking Visacard. My curiosity was piqued. 'Pay for your visa?'

Of course, he tells me. It expires in 3 months and he needs to pay his agent to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

I take this in.

'How much did you pay for your visa?' he asks.

I tell him, truthfully, that I can't remember. He looks somewhat sceptical.

We sit in silence for a moment. A bus approaches. We look up expectantly. It's not the right one.

'What is your job?'

I tell him, as truthfully as I can without feeling like a complete dilettante. He nods, somewhat uncomprehendingly.

'Why did you come to work? You have to leave soon?'

I explain that I came to Israel for other reasons than work, and that my marriage meant that I was entitled to remain in the country for pretty much as long as my wife was able and willling to put up with me. He nods thoughtfully.

'How much did the visa cost?'

I tell him again, truthfully, that I don't really remember. He presses me. I think for a moment and tell him something around NIS 500 ($100) or thereabouts. He drinks this in silently.

I turn to my magazine for a moment, but can't help myself. I fold it and put it away. 'How much did you pay for your visa?' I ask.

'6 Lakh Rupees.'

My familiarity with Indian currency is non existent. I roll my eyes in my head, grasping for a concept that would help me translate this to real money. He helps me out.


My eyes almost pop out of my head.

We sit in silence.

Eventually, I speak. 'Why did you choose to come to Israel, instead of...say London?' His English was reasonable, and there is a large Indian community in the United Kingdom. It seemed to make more sense to me. Not that I have anything against Israel, but it didn't seem like the destination, if you know what I mean.

'Ah...cost too much. Only educated people go to England. Thy get good jobs, can afford to pay for visa. Not like me.' He paused for a moment. 'I'm lucky to be here.'

$9000 for a one year visa to work as a cleaner. Some leech scored more than $8000 off the guy, for the dubious benefits of cleaning houses.

My bus arrives. I bid him farewell and go my way.

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