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A Court Of Fowls: Episode 17

...A woman in a manís world could only do so much for her country. I was tired of writing Hassanís letters or endlessly drafting his speeches, to which his only contributions were
flamboyant signatures. Imagine that! A mere slip of a girl interpreting the Presidentís policies and turning these into clever passages for my Minister to regurgitate at public gatherings. I ended up quite drained, and increasingly frustrated about my poor remuneration...

Stewart Munro's girlfriend Amina is far from pleased with life in her homeland, Somalia.

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ĎMy whole nation is graceful.
Nobody has to tell me how to walk or how to stand.
We have an air, a dignity:
whatever happens you keep your head up.í
(Iman, Somali supermodel)

Chapter 6
Flight

Stewart behaved honourably, though I could sense that underneath,
he was like one of those puffed up little turtle doves chasing
its hoped for partner at the start of the mating season. Men, I find
(donít you?) are like that. Their intentions are blatantly obvious no
matter how hard they try to disguise it. I was okay, I suppose, about
his attentiveness but more than a little taken aback by his declaration
of love. After all, it had been just a short time since we met.
Iím not sure about the kissing. It wasnít altogether unpleasant but
the taste of his smokey mouth was not exactly to my liking. Of
course many other Somali women would not have allowed a kiss on
so short an acquaintance. My experience of Rome (where the boys
were such a pain Ė like little bitches on heat) gave me some insight
into the European culture, very different to our own, and allowed
me to tolerate Stewartís mark of affection.

The main thing was that I genuinely enjoyed his company. I hope
that doesnít sound contradictory. I wasnít really looking for romance
when I offered to escort Stewart around Mogadishu, though I might
have accepted his overtures if the Ďatmosphericsí were right.

I got a little tearful when I waved him off Ė I had come to see
him as a nice friend. And I hope youíll understand as well, that in
Somalia back then, we lacked intellectual stimulation and didnít get
to meet many interesting foreign people. Of course itís even worse
now. Everyone has heard of Somalia, and for not a single reason that
is creditworthy. No wonder Somalis with any gumption took off at
the first available opportunity for Nairobi, London, or Rome. Even
much further afield nowadays. Perth and Vancouver! Always assum-
ing access to the necessary foreign exchange. Our bright young men
and women have become a nation of taxi drivers in exile.

After heíd gone, and thinking about it dispassionately, I did see
the faintest of possibilities that Stewart might be my ticket out of
Mogadishu. It was obvious he liked me. I began to wonder in spite
of my initial reservations whether I should have encouraged him to
seduce me? Whichever way you look at it, the Ambassador Hotel
was not my idea of the quintessential romantic rendezvous; and taking
Stewart to my home was out of the question. ĎNot so fast young
lady.í Thatís what my father used to say even when I wanted to go out
with friends in the evening. And mother had drummed in the message
that keeping men at a distance was always a good policy. I am
almost one hundred per cent certain Stewart would have lost some
respect for me it I had let him make love without a period of, what is
the word for it in Europe ....... courting.

Friends and family told me ad infinitum that I was a bright girl.
ĎAnd so good looking, my baby,í mother was always saying in that whimpering
tone of hers, Ďwhy are you wasting your time here?í Well, here is the
reason. When I returned from Rome and contrasted their lives with
ours in Mogadishu, it seemed we Somalis were living in near stone
age conditions with no immediate prospect of improvement. I saw
lots of my contemporaries leaving. What hope was there if everyone
with an ounce of intelligence fled the country? Scuttling away like
rats from a sinking ship. I saw it as my duty to put in a solid spell of
hard work at home.

When the post of assistant to the Minister of External Affairs
came up, it seemed to provide the perfect chance for me to show my
worth; to fulfill that sense of responsibility. I passed the interview
with ease Ė perhaps Mr Hassan had half an eye on qualities other
than those listed in my curriculum vitae but Iím pretty sure I outperformed
my opponents in most other respects too.

Once Iíd surmounted the initial learning curve I was soon, to my
regret, marking time, more or less. Certainly I felt little sense of
achievement in the four years I worked for the Minister. He proved
in the event to be a nice enough boss, if not entirely trustworthy.

Like a lot of Somali men, he spent more time engaged in leisure activity
or conducting his own private business, than handling affairs of
state. No wonder his office looked like a storage depot. I was always
rather shocked that Hassan should treat his Ministerial post so lightly
and was amazed President Barre did not dismiss him.

Before I met Stewart, honestly, I had already made up my mind
that enough was enough. A woman in a manís world could only do
so much for her country. I was tired of writing Hassanís letters or
endlessly drafting his speeches, to which his only contributions were
flamboyant signatures. Imagine that! A mere slip of a girl interpreting
the Presidentís policies and turning these into clever passages for
my Minister to regurgitate at public gatherings. I ended up quite
drained, and increasingly frustrated about my poor remuneration,
and lack of advancement. I felt sure I could easily have held down a
more senior position in External Affairs. But that was a pipe dream.

Such jobs were never given to women, and certainly not to someone
so young.

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