“Tell me everything you have been doing since you came to Europe” Austin said.
I didn’t remember how many times he had asked for that information in the past but right there, i felt it was time to open up to him.
He was right there beside me on the bed.
We were in Stockholm Sweden and it was during the winter.
I had met Austin back in Lagos in 2006 at the Lekki Beach.
I was with Juliet my friend when he walked up to us.
One thing had led to another and we eventually introduced ourselves.
There was something about him that was very difficult to understand, He seemed too cold and confident and also seemed to have had answers to every questions.
After our time in the beach, He had come up to where i packed my Toyota Rav4 Jeep and continued talking to me even when i stopped answering his questions.
We eventually started dating but knowing that i was returning to Italy soon, i thought everything was going to end. Little did i know it was the beginning of us together.
That was how i met Austin, the most intelligent and the most dangerous man i ever met in my life.
Austin Azubuike was never scared of anything. He lived his life like a programmed robot, planning his way to the end before starting anything.
My name is Maria. Not my real name because i had to change the name. The kind of work i did in Europe warranted that i changed it. Not just me, but all the other street girls.
Yes, i was a street girl. Not that i wanted to be but that was where i found myself. Not just me but over 95% of all the Nigerian girls that came to Europe during that period.
Only quite a few of the girls came for academic purposes. And even at that, half of them eventually ended up in the streets.
The central Europe was not meant for African girls except that the parents lived there to support you.
The purpose was mostly that the Nigerian men, who were supposed to be taking care of most of the girls, also came to Europe for the same thing; money. There was no way for them to hustle and share the money with women at the end of the day.
For that purpose again, there was only one thing left for the girls to do; hustle too.
European system had no special provisions for African women. The same law that guided men also guided women.
Deal on drugs and go to prison. Most men who had no hearts to deal on drugs ended up doing other jobs such as loading fridges and tyres for business men who came from Africa. Some resorted to stealing and some did whatever thing that could fetch them money.
That was the fate of the Africans who traveled through the deserts to Southern European countries for greener pastures.
I was born in Ekpoma, Edo State Nigeria in 1981. I was only 18 years when i was taken to Europe.
I first came to Italy in 1999.
I had just failed my second attempt at Jamb and couldn’t get admission into the University.
I was angry that i was going to wait for another year before another Jamb. Therefore when the offer to travel abroad came, I took it.
“I don’t know why You always ask this question. You have seen and helped many Edo girls in Europe and i am sure you know what they all did. We all did the same thing Austin, all of us” I said.
I knew he wanted to know more. I had been with him while he questioned some of the girls he had rescued. It had always been the same routine; What they did before they came to Europe, How they came to Europe, why they came to Europe, what they did in the past and all that.
I had been with him and watched as he helped these teenage girls. At a stage, i wished i had met him when i newly came to Europe but i was there long before he came.
I had decided to open up to him, although he already knew most of the things about me.
I was Born Angela. When i was young, my mother told me that i looked like an Angel; therefore she had given me that name.
I graduated from Secondary School in Uromi in 1998. After failing My Jamb exam in 1998, i waited for a whole year at home before re-taking the same exam. The result of the second attempt was also bad and i didn’t know what to do with myself.
Then she came.
Aunty Pamela. She lived in Lagos Nigeria and had a small boutique in Surulere.
She said she wanted to send me to Europe to live and work there.
Her offer took away the bitter memories of Jamb and to make things better for me, my parents encouraged and supported me to follow Aunty Pamela.
We traveled to Lagos and went to where Aunty Pamela had her shop. I spent a few days before i was told that we were going to Ghana.
As a teenager, I was trilled with such news as going to a different Country.
However, when we were smuggled into Porto Novo through Ogun State, i knew that it wasn’t going to be all rosy on the way to wherever i was going to end up.
Back in Edo State, women who traveled to Europe were making waves. We had heard so many news about how they picked up cars in the streets and how it was generally very easy to become rich over there.
We saw it as a blessing for any family to have one daughter who lived in Europe.
What baffled me was how our men were not the ones who went to Europe to make the money.
In other tribes i knew, it was men who struggled to make money.
Even in Ekpoma and Benin where i grew up, over 95 percent of the shops were owned by men, especially the Igbo men who were blessed with trading occupation.
But i couldn’t understand why it had to be Edo Women who were preferred to go and make money in Europe. But i wasn’t going to ask questions. Maybe the gods preferred women to men over there.
I didn’t know much about the World but since there was Television, I knew that the World was a big place.
At a stage, all these things didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was that i was going to Europe to make money. How i was going to achieve that wasn’t my troubles, someone was taking me there and it was her responsibility to make sure i made the money.
We got to Porto Novo and slept in a hotel for the night.
It was the beginning of my journey to Europe.