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Leslie Musoko

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Member Since: Mar, 2010

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Blogs by Leslie Musoko

Creature of habit...
8/6/2010 3:22:36 AM

“You buy nothing, so leave! Allez.” She said almost sounding as upset as she looked. I scampered away with my luggage and my tail between my legs. I was a sucker for getting myself in these situations and so she had said nothing new that I wasn’t accustomed to hearing. The problem now was what was I going to do with the next five hours to burn?
“You buy nothing, so leave! Allez.” She said almost sounding as upset as she looked. I scampered away with my luggage and my tail between my legs. I was a sucker for getting myself in these situations and so she had said nothing new that I wasn’t accustomed to hearing. The problem now was what was I going to do with the next five hours to burn?
Twenty four hours before I was cordially escorted from the premises of the only open cafe at 6AM in Paris-Gare-du-Nord, I was the young voyageur climbing aboard the National Express from Manchester to London. I had saved up what little money I could get from my part time job at University and now looked forward to spending some quality time with my aunt and uncle in Paris. At nineteen, I had assured myself that I won’t leave Paris without having a story to tell that’ll lift the roof of the halls of residence where I lived with friends. I was the last to leave for the summer holidays but knew that no one could boast having the type of opportunity that I had been given. My aunt hadn’t debated my proposal to visit and had gone as far as saying I could stay in Paris all through summer if it was what I wanted. I knew some French but staying in Paris would give me all the leverage to improve on it. I was not one for getting excited but I had made an exception for this trip and packed a day earlier than I’d normally do just to make sure I had all the necessities to take Paris by storm.
Time flew on the three hour journey to London without much event as I slept to regain some nutrients that had been lost whilst thinking of the odyssey that lay before me the night before. When we pulled into Euston Station I knew I was really in my element. I was on time and the ferry that left for Paris was expected to leave in the next three hours from Dover so I decided to walk a bit and enjoy the fresh weather in the city. Three hours became two and I decide to give my aunt a call to let her know I was on my way. I spoke to her briefly and before long I was thanking my lucky stars for what God had given me. No sooner had I started strolling towards the train for Dover when it occurred to me that I was missing something. It was 1989 and the age of modern technology was still in its infancy but unfortunately the same could not be said for theft which had become a landmark. I realized that my wallet had gone and so had the little cash I had along with my aunt’s address. I was paralyzed in London without money and just a ferry ticket that linked on to a train in France. I put my thinking hat on immediately and realized that going back to Manchester was not an option. I had no money and besides that there was very little left to do for the three months vacation. I had to put the ticket to use and gamble on finding a way to my aunt’s home in Paris. If there was anything I knew about myself it was that my faith always prevailed despite the hardships that had come and gone.
After retracing my steps back and forth across the busy station in Euston in search for my wallet I finally got on board the train headed for Dover. Naturally things had gone from bad to worse as is the case most times and I discovered that in searching for my wallet I had missed the early ferry to France. So I had another wait in Dover for three hours and got on board the midnight ferry. My aunt who probably was expecting me the night before had no knowledge of where I was or whether I would make it.
The ferry ride was a test of nerves as I tried to put together a plan of what I would do when I got to France. How on earth was I going to meet them and where would I get her number. I knew I was pretty good at remembering numbers and addresses because of the tough spots I had found myself in time and again but trying to think of which number I had punched in the phone booth back in Euston was utter madness. There had to be another way and I had to look deeper and think harder.
Before long the fairy pulled into Calais and then I was aboard a train headed for Boulogne. The railway attendant looked at my ticket and just as he was about to stamp it he looked curiously at me and asked where I was headed for. I told him Paris and then he looked again at my ticket and said it was for Boulogne. I contested emphatically and then as an after thought he shook his head. He told me that there were two places called Boulogne, a Boulogne that was a city and Boulogne Billancourt which was in Paris. Naturally when I had purchased my ticket from the Holiday Reservation Office back in Manchester they had been so kind to neglect telling me this information. It then dawned on me why my ticket had appeared to be reasonably cheap. Telling them I was going to Paris had made no difference. Just the mere fact that Boulogne was on the address they had given me a ticket to Boulogne! The attendant looked at the distress on my face and looked upon me with kindness and said he would put me on a train to Paris. He said he would give me a ticket that would get me into Paris and then it was up to me what happened next. Things were slowly improving at last. Someone up there was watching my distress and looking down on me with pity. I hoped he would shed some light on how I would make contact with my aunt.
Before I could start saying a new set of prayers I noticed a girl looking at me curiously in the corner of my eye from across the rows in the carriage. I was cautious not to look at first just in case I appeared to be keen. She was amongst friends both boys and girls and while she was engrossed in conversation I took a closer look at the group noticing that they were young and about my age. This could be my way out I thought but my French was very poor and so I hesitated and waited. I told myself if she looked I’ll look back and see what happened. She looked. Our eyes connected and then she smiled and got up to approach me. She said something in French and I told her that mine was none existent, with what little I could remember. She didn’t seem to care. She was impressed with what little I knew and asked me to join them. Before long I was supplied with food and water and began to feel again as though my father in the heavens above had realized my needs. Soon one of the boys in the group asked me a direct question about where I was going to in Paris and I confided in him. He told me that the main group was continuing onwards to the south of France but he was stopping at Paris. He said he couldn’t help me with money but my best bet of getting the address for my aunt was by going to the post office. He said he had to meet someone in Paris and so I would have to wait on my own at the train station in Paris until the Post office opened at 8am. I began to feel like a man who had been given all the angels in the world to guide him for his faith.
We arrived in Paris and I wished my new friends well and then began walking around the station waiting for the post office to open. I spotted an open cafe and decided to rest my legs believing that at that time of the morning no one would notice. I told myself that I had just enough for water and to make a single phone call but decided not to get the water just in case I needed the money for later. I knew that when the post office opened it would also be the time my aunt and uncle left for work so I’d have to wait another four hours at least until noon when I prayed my uncle would come home for lunch.
It was as I sat outside the empty cafe to rest my weary legs after pounding the concrete in the station for a couple of hours when the kind lady told me to get lost. There was no one for miles but my presence seemed to irritate her nonetheless. Our train from Calais had arrived almost two hours earlier and I had another hour to kill before the post office opened. Time crawled as it does by which time I had sunken in spirit and all bodily fluids and then I was in the post office living on my faith again that I would be able to get my aunts address. I searched through the directories like a lunatic until I spotted her name, number and address. I now had another four hours to go till noon and seeing how deserted the post office was I stole a quiet spot behind some of the large shelves and curled up to get some sleep.
Two hours later I emerged refreshed but starved and returned to the public toilets in the train station for a wash up. I don’t know how I burned the last two hours on my last breath but they passed and then I was again in a phone booth making a call to my aunt. On the other end of the line, my uncle picked up the phone and began talking to me in French. He spoke no English and started directing me on what underground station and bus to use to get to his house. When he finished talking I told him thank you and hailed a cab. There was one thing on my mind and that was getting out of the station and trains for a while. I had made it thus far and could care less about anything else. The last thing I heard that day was my uncle’s voice as he paid the cab driver,
‘Ca c’est tres grave,’ he complained. I think in those days of French francs it had cost him a small fortune. From my perspective I had a rehearsed pattern of events that would follow and heard very little of what was said. It was quite simple, get home, shower, eat and sleep.

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