I am from Burma and I am 67 years old

 

 

 

 

 

image c. Janet Galbraith

I am from Burma and I am 67 years old

as told to F.S. in Nauru
Voiced by Janet Galbraith
A woman from Burma held hostage in Nauru for more than 4 years now asked F.S. to share her story.
Thank you to F.S. for your sensitive work.
Her story was part of WTF's empty chair installation at QPF 2017.

 

Five Days Horror Trip

Our first feature story is by a writer who has been a constant active member and support to many.

Thank you to Boush for this story.

FIVE DAYS HORROR TRIP

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They were terrible days.

We were travelling. Each one of us carried many dreams, many hopes – thinking of the day we would be safely in Australia.

Unfortunately, all our dreams and hopes were shattered in the Indian Ocean.

We met two men. They were smuggling people from Indonesia to Australia by dead boats. They took us to a secret place in Bogor City in Indonesia and kept us for long days in a place called Villa L. The men promised us that we would move from this place after three days.

We were about 44 Sudanese. They took our money and left us with nothing – just one of them visited every day to bring us food. They told us we must be patient, ‘then you will move soon’. They said to us, ‘we need to prepare some things for the trip, like oil, GPS for directions, satellite phone for emergency and dresses for water’. They left us in the Villa and were gone.

Three days passed – no news.

We waited for days.
We were patient for many days.
No news.
We contacted them, they just said ‘wait wait’.

Like that we spent one month.

Late one night they came back to us: ‘Tomorrow the trip will start’, they said. ‘We have prepared everything for the trip’. At that moment we became happy after such long waiting but our mistake was we did not pay good attention to them.

They lied to us.

They did not prepare everything as we needed. They did not buy the things for us. A GPS and a satellite phone are important things!

The next evening, they took us into cars and we travelled to Bondung Island. It took about 7 hours from Bogor by car. At the time I talked to one of my friends secretly: ‘Hey, I am thinking the things were not prepared. I think they lied to us’. My friend and I were now to go in different cars. He said; ‘If you or me reach before the other we will check as quickly as possible to make sure our boat is prepared’.

I was first to reach the boat. I saw the boat – it was not good.

I saw three people inside the boat. They were boat captains. I asked the first one; ‘Hi man, please show me the GPS and satellite phone’. He said: ‘I am not Captain; I don’t know this’. I tried to ask the second one. He also said ‘I am not Captain’. He said to me that the third man is Captain. While I tried to ask the third man, one of my friends cheered at me and said; ‘Hey B why you ask more? Don’t talk more, let us move’. I said to my friend: ‘Hey it would not be good to go without phone or something to tell us the way’.

They said; ‘No problem. Let’s go forward’.

I said; ‘If this is good thinking, let’s move!’

We started our trip at 03:00am that day. We were on a dead boat. All my friends were happy because of the long waiting, but I was sad. I felt there was something wrong. They didn’t care about it. Our boat was moving well at the beginning and most of us slept. Three hours passed. Morning came. At 06:00am the boat was disrupted. People woke up quickly. We were all afraid asking each other; ‘What happened?’ ‘What happened?’. Two captains were asleep – just one was a driver. I reminded my friends about GPS and satellite phone. Too late they started to ask the captain about those. I said to them: ‘No matter to ask now, it’s not time for asking but it’s time for thinking how to check the boat and repair it’.

Of the three captains, two were fool men – only one was a good driver. He had great heart. He didn’t think about death. He encouraged us forward.

We had stopped and were in the water. We were afraid and the Captains were afraid too but the driver told us: ‘Please don’t worry. It’s a little problem. It just needs I change its oil.’ ‘Death is coming in its time’, we said. ‘Let’s have patience’.

The driver was a little man but strong. The boat moved powerfully jumping side to side, side to side. It could not stop. It seemed to us like we were going to drown. Then the boat settled. We checked our boat and started again on our way to Christmas Island. But the boat could not move fast. It had a problem in the engine. It was like the boat walked slowly, slowly.

After 9 hours we reached a place called Two Islands. This was a terrible place with horror waves reaching so high. When we were at Two Islands, we were all thinking it would be better if we stopped there but not one of us liked to say that. Also, at that moment, the captain told us, ‘Don’t speak loudly. Sometimes here are Indonesian police navy’. He said we must lay down inside the boat and ‘no one look out’. We did that and the boat slowly moved from there.

We were not fortunate – our boat was so bad. It was a dead boat and the waves hit us hard. The waves were so big. They were hitting us so hard. So big, so hard, so big, so hard. We were all afraid and thought of death. The captains were also afraid, the same as us. We all lost our ways of thinking – we were just calling God to save us from the horror waves. Truly it was terrible – we had death’s shadow in our two eyes.

But it was not time to die.

We spent hours struggling and fought with terrifying waves. When we went up on high waves they returned us back again. We went up and they returned us back – smash. Up … and back. Up …. and back. Like that we lost many hours.

Night came.

It was too dark. Unfortunately, we did not have something to light in the night. Our captain had only one bad torch. Its light wasn’t good and the other two captains – they couldn’t drive the boat! The boat was so small and bad and the moon was hidden by clouds. We started to move now slowly slowly. At midnight we saw light from afar. We thought there was Christmas Island but it was not Christmas. It was our death’s shadow. It was a big ship coming toward us. They could not see us because we had no light. It was coming to hit us. We didn’t think it was a big ship because it looked like a hill – dark under and light over it. When we reached near it – about 15 metres only – the captain cried out saying ‘ShipShipShip’. We all cried out the same: ‘ShipShipShipShipShip’. The captain turned the boat left as quickly as possible and the ship pushed water very hardly toward us. The water pushed us out from it and away. We all said the same: ‘Thank you great God for helping your innocent children’.

The ship passed and we lost our way.

Not one of us knew directions. The Captain tried to look at his old tools. Suddenly he found an old bad GPS. We tried to use it but it could not work. The Captain tried to use his compass and tell us our direction. We continued on moving slowly. He said to us; ‘This direction will lead us to Christmas’, but we didn’t trust him. We said to the Captain: ‘You take us and lead us into wherever you like to go but we are fully convinced we will be food for fish in this ocean in the end’. We were all silent. No one could talk to another. We all just thought about our families who we had left. And we thought of death.

Two days passed like that.

On the third day, morning came. We were still fighting with terrifying waves at midday. At 03:00 pm we saw a big white ship cross near us. We tried to cry out to it but they didn’t stop. We forgot it. When we woke again another ship came and crossed us. The captain said: ‘They are all going to Christmas’. We became happy because we now knew the way.

The sun set and night came again with its dark dress. It was a horror day. The captain could not see well and our boat was getting broken. Water entered into little spaces. We started to use a stick to push water out. Suddenly my friend saw a big barrel tied with a long rope coming across in front of us. My friend cried at me ‘Hey, B, tell the captain something is coming toward us – let the captain stop the boat.’ I told him quickly and we tried to stop it. Suddenly he cut the silk of the electric which linked to the engine. The boat suddenly stopped again. The barrel had crossed us. We were there about half an hour. When we started moving – slowly slowly – it was too dark and we lost the way again.

We saw another light far away. It was a ship also. We started going near it. We needed to stop it to help us. They stopped at first but then they ran. They thought we were enemies. They refused to meet us. We forgot them and moved slowly slowly till the sun began to shine. It was morning.

This day we called ‘broken stick’.
There was heavy rain from morning up to sunset. The weather was completely changed. We thought it was Australia’s weather. We were on the ocean moving so slowly – desperately. We suffered from hunger. Our body’s power had been lost. We all became tired from the slow long trip – five days in the boat. Our body’s skin had changed because of the salt. The sun had set down and night came upon us again with its dark dress. We became so tired from taking water out from inside the boat and the stick which we used had broken. We felt afraid. We tried to use an empty bucket to take out water till morning came.

We didn’t know where we were going – just God knew that.

At midday our boat stopped again and the boat could not stop bringing in water. The boat was moving from side to side – crashing from one side and then the other. One side … the other. One side … the other. It seemed we were going to drown. We were in horror.

Suddenly we saw a small boat coming toward us. We tried to stop it. They were Indonesian fishermen. Our captain talked to them and said: ‘Where is Indonesia?’ They said; ‘It’s the way you were going and from here to Indonesia it takes 18 hours’. The captain told us we must go back to Indonesia because the boat is not good and the oil also is going to finish. We were on our way to Indonesia. We moved very sadly. The boat moved slowly, full of our sadness. After a few hours we saw the Two Islands again. We tried to pass it from afar but some of us wanted to stop there and others wanted to go ahead. Finally we agreed and said: ‘Its better we go ahead’.

At 02:30 we reached Bondung Island in Indonesia. All three captains were afraid of the police. They thought if we reach the beach the police will catch us. They said: ‘It’s a big problem for us – not for you – because we are captains.’ We told them: ‘Please don’t worry, let’s go near, there is no way we can stay in the water.’

When we reached near the edge of the island – we were about 20m away – the waves hit us hard and our boat broke. It divided into two parts. We began to drown in the ocean. Suddenly a strong wave came and pushed us out of the water. The three captains escaped quickly. Some of us were injured but no one died.
The police came and took us into immigration detention.

This was a five-day trip of horror.

– B 2013