My friend Mody, a Sudanese immigrant in Sicily, is looking for a job.
In fact, for Mody, looking for a job is a full-time job in and of itself and one that he is serious about. For the most part, immigrants, particularly men in Sicily, will work jobs in agriculture—farm work that requires long hours in the hot sun, for minimal pay and few, if any breaks. This is work that Mody is willing to do, but even that is hard to find. During one conversation, I try to be encouraging to Mody, telling him things will get better, that work will, eventually, be found. “Really, Michelle, you have a too a good view of things here. . . “, He said, and I felt utterly ashamed. Platitudes are rarely, if ever, helpful, and they are really as hollow as they sound. Now, I just listen. He often sounds utterly desperate. And his time at the center is dwindling. Then he will have to leave and will be expected to make his own way in Sicilian society, which includes, of course, work that can sustain him.
But what is the reality?
ANSAmed reported in August, that the fallout form Italy’s financial crisis is causing a ‘decrease in hires’, which translates into approximately 22,420 less new jobs for non-season jobs—work to be found in small companies. Reportedly, this will affect mostly regions in Northern Italy, where, previously, 27,000 more jobs were available last year. ANSAmed also reports, though that overall, companies are still expecting to hire a maximum of 113,000 foreign workers and that for jobs there will be a very slight hiring increase. Which jobs they will be, exactly, are not indicated.
Like platitudes, statistics mean nothing to Mody and others like him. He had worked in Arabic translation for an oil company, for a time. Such opportunities do not present themselves very often, though. He longs for independence and wants to live the “quiet life.” Only a job can make that possible. But this is the reality of life in a new and unfamiliar country. Of late, he found a temporary job of cleaning plastic along with his Tunisian friend. It is a dirty job; often they come upon snakes and other things in the dirt. But for now, it is something, at least.
Mody tells me that in about five months the center in which he and other men from various places have been staying, will release them into the world to make it on their own. “It is all just a matter of time, “ he says.
The summer has been long, drawn out and hot .“Mamma Mia , this heat, “ he says. Then he turns reflective. “ Life for people like us is very difficult.” I say nothing. No platitudes, no empty promises, no pity. Just the hope that his situation will eventually change for the better. Still, and amazingly so, he is grateful for whatever it is he already has. And it isn’t much.