The Interview

By Esperance

Wahemu was a young man, a high school graduate/ leaver who always dreamed of working in the Bank. Sometimes as a young boy he would accompany his mother to the bank and would read teller 1 teller 2, teller 3 etc.  The bank hall had always impressed him and when he would go back home with his mother after she had made necessary transactions,he would become very pensive One day his mother asked:

“What are you thinking about young man?”

He answered  “I would like to become a Banker when I grow up”

“In that case you need to put more effort into your studies.” The mother answered him

Since that day he has become more serious with his studies. Time went on, and he finished his elementary school with success and then joined high school in hope of finishing it and choosing a course that will lead to his dream job.

When he finished school, the situation at home wasn’t well and his mother asked him to wait a bit as she and the father sorted some things because the recession had hit the country the previous year. Things became difficult for all citizens, prices were high, some businesses closed because of high taxes, the civil servants were retrenched, his dad was among those. It was a difficult period for the family and also for the whole country. To him, full of hope and determination this presented another opportunity to do things differently. 

Very energetic, spontaneous and with a good attitude Wahemu was not deterred by those events. To avoid losing time he started to volunteer around. It is during this period when the Trust –Lee Bank has opened a Branch in the Gonduana country and precisely in the city. Since Wahemu was well informed, this news didn’t take long to reach him. He started to explore many opportunities that the bank had advertised. As an international bank, one of the local policies required that the locally qualified are to be included with at least a percentage of 60%. Among many advertised jobs, the one that suited him was to be a cleaner/ messenger post. It is in the morning that he performed his cleaning duties and in the afternoon he would serve as a messenger. This was not an easy position; but at least he could be there and maybe later advance his studies and become a teller as that was his dream.

The day of the interview he arrived earlier than the rest and when the Bank opened he was the first one to be received. That made an impression on the interviewing board. A few minutes later other people came in.Since it was first in/ first served,his name was called first.

When the time came for the interview he entered the interview room naturally and elegantly and was told to be comfortable. Many questions were asked about himself, his ambitions and his motivation. He was very clear from the start, very articulate and audible enough. All he could observe was some of the interviewers were nodding their heads. At the end of the interview Kibiru asked his age. Mr Kibiru was  a member of the board and he now was among the 7 panelists present that day. With no time Wahemu answered: . ‘’It is a taboo’’. The room fell silent. Another one asked why? Because in our culture we believe life is eternal. You do not need to cut it in some numbers. The same goes for the number of children. You don’t count your children; it is like putting a limit to the blessings and good things  you can receive from the universe.  That is why for example my uncle whenever he is asked his age he always answers I was born around that time when the first King of Ethiopia visited the country. It is up to you to know when that event happened. Mr Jean Fredrique who had a background in anthropology and has conducted many research projects in the Graben region became very interested in his case and told himself ” I still have a lot to learn’’. Mr. Fredrique was recruited solely because he was an anthropologist and has conducted quite a number of studies in the region and has knowledge of the local people and their culture. Apparently Mr. Fredrique was learning something new..

The interview went on well and he was informed that he will be informed of their decision in a weeks’ time.

While going through the selection his case was again revisited. While the rest of the board did not see any reason to employ him because he was the least qualified in the whole group, Mr. Jean Fredrique defended him saying he is teachable, friendly and defends what he knows with confidence. That is how he got the job and the coming week he reported early as usual.

Time went on well. He adjusted to his new job well. And after 6 months he enrolled himself in evening classes to continue his studies. He started with a Certificate in Accounts in the City College. Change became obvious. When the time came for promotion his name was put on the list. Finally, he became a teller. This was after 5 years of faithfully working at the bank and attending college in the evening. He took his job seriously and excelled in his work. He was a faithful employee and a great colleague. He always took an initiative of training the new employees and made everyone feel safe around him.

Meanwhile Mr. Fredrique befriended Wahemu and they had a good exchange of the local culture. They would meet once a week over a cup of coffee at the coffee shop near the bank. Mr. Fredrique asked many questions and Wahemu would have a joy of explaining. It wasn’t only a question answer time but they would both talk about their different backgrounds and make comparisons here and there.

But all was not well at some point. As much as he tried to do better the country was falling into recession again. People started talking about finding greener pastures outside the country and he became interested in applying for those opportunities. There were 3 good agencies in town that specialized those (immigration) services and by word of mouth had done many wonders. Many people started the process to relocate including him.  The previous year, 3 of his colleagues had left. His motivation was to be able to build himself and his family a good house, because it was almost impossible to build oneself a house because of many local taxes etc. He also wanted to build his parents a better house. He said that one doesn’t  live for himself only.  Sometimes he would daydream and make a list of what he could do if he succeeded to relocate. The list was endless. His friend who had relocated before him shared how much they were earning and he told himself that he can even do more than building houses. The list was truly endless. 

On the day of the interview at the immigration agency East Migration, now known as -Migration Worldwide he brought his family the children, a boy and a girl who were born 12 and 13 years ago and his wife. When his time came he asked many questions, when it came to give the details of his family members specifically on the name of his mother in law and other elders in the family he became numb. He only said he can’t. The interviewer was not an anthropologist this time and had no idea about the local cultures. He became agitated not knowing what to do with him since he had paid all the required amount. In a real sense, the culture prohibits one to call elders by their real names. As long as people are your elders you are not supposed to utter/use their real name. Instead he can say mother of this, father of my friend Jean or Paul. Or the mother of my wife. But not the real name, ever. It became a problem for him. The interview became paralyzed. There must be an alternative, but which one? This time around he didn’t  know how to express himself on this. Normally a very eloquent man, he was now in limbo. Will he find somebody to intervene for him? This was not the bank anymore and Fredrique, the anthropologist, was not around. The interviewer excused himself and left the room to consult the supervisor. What will people say if they hear that I pronounced the name of my mother in law? Can I let this opportunity go? How am I going to achieve my dreams without this opportunity? Perhaps I should have consulted my friends on how they went about it. People may say that I betrayed my culture, he was thinking. Perhaps they are going to disown me… Wahemu was lost in his own thoughts when suddenly he heard his name loud and clear being called behind him. He was called in the office of the Manager and was informed that he will be contacted again soon to be informed on the status of the case.

The time of decision came, and he was present again at the East Migration. This time all eyes were turned towards the east. The manager came to announce the decision. He found Wahemu calm and he went straight to the point. As per the regulations of immigration services and the company’s policies, your case did not succeed because it is incomplete. Fortunately you have a chance to appeal, now it is up to you. Wahemu needed to digest all this, he did not ask any further questions,instead he thanked the manager and left straight away, he needed some time to think about this.

Mr. Wahemu requested for a two week leave at his workplace in order to make a sound decision. It was a difficult moment for him; where he would need to choose to pursue his dream and be disowned by his clan or cancel the pursuit of his dream and guard his dignity among his clan’s men. Nobody knew the reason behind this leave except Mr.Fredrique. Mr.Fredrique himself was eagerly waiting for the outcome of this moment. Days went by before the two weeks ended went back to the East Office to clarify his decision. If it wasn’t for a balance he wanted to collect he would not have come at all. But he went in order to make things clear and to collect his balance. At the entrance of the building he met the Manager and after greetings he immediately said ‘’I have changed my mind’’.

The Manager asked: “What do you mean”?

Mr. Wahemu said “I will not appeal and I would not want to go on with the case”

The manager said  “You have made my work easier then. Let’s go inside and then you make a brief statement. After putting on the signature, the Manager tells him “That’s all” And the money will be transferred to your account in 3 days. And that is how Wahemu chose his clan values over a changed lifestyle. He gave up his ambitions in order to be correct among his kinsmen. He decided to renounce his case and stay in his country.

30 July, 2023