It is said by people who know more about knowledge than me that to travel is to see and to have seen is to have learnt.
In my first language it is even more eloquent, it goes; “One that has not eaten elsewhere other than their home thinks his/her mum is the best cook in the world.”
As a budding young man I read several books about Italy, I don’t know why but I have always been fascinated by Italy and I have no personal attachment to that country, other than enthusiasm for AC Milan football club and Italy in the World Cup.
But early in my adolescent life all the books about Italy that I managed to read seemed to tell a story similar to my own African experiences. These stories would be about employment, city living, family and community relations and so on.
I always thought that if ever there was a comparison between Europe and Africa, (or anything like surrogate brothers), Italians were the closest to Africans as chimps are to human beings.
Yet I am aware of the geography of the world I live in and I know as well that if an Italian reads this article he/she will think of me as a crazy loser in life.
The way Italians marry, conduct business with each other, compete and relate as genders is not very different from our African ways.
In old Italy, a family chose the design of their communities by controlling friendships and commerce and even marriage was a calculated step, the way we do it in my culture.
Recently I met an Italian landlord. She owns an old town house in my neighborhood and I was interested in renting part of it. She stated her price and we agreed.
We had a deal. I paid my rent for two months and like in the old Italian books, when I gave her the money and looked into her eyes, I did not think for a moment that a lady with children as old as I am would later be in a position to play dirty tricks with money.
I held her in so much high regard that I did not feel it was necessary to immediately get a receipt for my payment. But alas!!!
After moving into the house I found that many of the things she promised were not available, all the amenities mentioned in our verbal and electronic exchange were not there.
I decided to inform her that I was leaving her house and considering alternatives elsewhere. As a result, I asked her to return my money. She refused.
Switched off her phone and left me with no alternative but to go to her house and demand my money back.
At her house, the lady left a small open window at a vantage point from which she could see who was coming into her yard and when she did not like what she saw she would simply just ‘chill’ and no amount of knocking, phone calling or even noise would bring her out.
As an African man that has grown up in the urban section of renters I have inbred skills of dealing with landlords in urban centers. So the next day I devised a new mechanism to get my money.
I pitched camp in a nearby library and after thirty minute intervals would go to check on my hustling indebtor. It took a whole of 6 weeks to speak with her again and even then I had to connive with the maid to waylay the landlord.
Like me, the maid had her own issues with her boss. She had not been paid for services in three months and whenever the topic came up between the two her boss would immediately point out the failings of the maid.
This state of affairs ensured that whoever had a bone to pick with the Italian lady would find a willing ally in the home of the Italian.
The connection between the Italian and the African is that both have a marginally high propensity to be unfair once they are positioned in places of advantage.
There are many maids in my neighborhoods that would identify with the young maid who works for an untrustworthy landlord and the actions of this landlord are very much in sync with what many people renting/living in African urban centres only know about so well.
Next week I’ll write you more about the maid and her endeavors to get her three month payment.