Chapter V

Jackson Died in Taipei

I remember the stalwart, young man from Ghana. I first had a glimpse of him at Agape, the church I used to attend on Chung Shan North Road, Taipei. He and his two friends had walked up to the altar for prayers.

And what were their prayers? They’d traveled all the way to this island in search of work. The economic situation back home was unbearable.

Like the others, Jackson didn’t at all look emaciated. Tall and hefty, you could take him for a middleweight boxer. I helped Jackson and his friends out with a US$40 donation but I heard very little of him thereafter.

Again, like many others, the soft-spoken Jackson had enrolled at ShrDA to study Chinese. ShrDA and other language institutions provide a loophole for the likes of Jackson. Though 3D employment abounds - I mean the dangerous, dirty and dull jobs that many newly affluent Taiwanese don’t want to do - the government here discourages foreigners such as Jackson from taking up such jobs. Though there are plenty of foreigners legally employed by Taiwanese to do construction and other menial jobs, these foreigners are mainly from neighboring countries. For Africans like Jackson, it’s virtually impossible to land such a job.

But Africans are die-hards. Accustomed to hardship, they’d go to any length in order to survive. So it’s not uncommon for them to borrow the US$2,000 or so it costs for a flight ticket. And once they are here, they’d do anything it takes not only to recover their expenses but also to save up some money to help their poor ones back home. But those who are caught overstaying are put in jail where they lament in gloomy conditions.