Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Story,Based On A True National Geographic Documentary: JOURNEY

Its 6.30a.m in the morning, in a bedroom that was neatly made up already. The sound of the shower functioning in the bathroom can be heard, the sound of breads jumping out of the toaster can be heard as well. In a short distance, a sound of music can be heard. Coming from the living room. This place turns out to be a 3 bedroom apartment. The music plays on the Hi-Fi, it sings ; “just a small town girl, living in a lonely world, she took the midnight train goin anywhere”.

The male tenant comes out from the bathroom, started singing the third line of the song and so on, and started dancing and got dressed up excitedly at the same time. Picking up his bread and ate it at the same time while singing. As he finishes breakfast, he picks up his ipod and his sling bag and tune in to the same song and walks out the door. He walks down the street heading towards his destination, he stops by at the small news stand. Over there, an elderly man seems to be arranging the magazines, book and newspapers.

“Hello there Mr. Charles. Good morning.”
“My my~ hello there Bruce. Looking excited today I must say.”
“Really excited, first day on the job.”
“Owh~you finally got a job, congratulations to you.”
“Yeah, fresh grad. Got a good job that pays big money. And I really mean big money.”
“You got to be careful for what you wish for son. There must be a catch somewhere. Look at it this way, a fresh grad. No job experience earning the really big bucks on his first day of the job. *Giggles*”

“*Chuckles* Well, there’s a first time for everything.”
“*Laughs* If you say so Mr. Bruce. If you say so.” *hands newspaper over to Bruce*
“*Laughs* See you Mr. Charles. Take it easy.”

Bruce arrives at his destination, a building with the a big sign on top of it “JOURNEY”. He approaches the reception desk, he was ask to go to the 5th floor. As he walks out of the elevator, there’s another receptionist, he was then told to go to the conference room. A big room down the hall to his left and another left, he was told to wait as he will be greeted shortly by the person in charge. As he waits and waits, he gets anxious not knowing what to expect. 10 minutes later a man in a suit comes in.

“Morning, hello there sorry to keep you waiting. I’m David. I’m the one in charge in this department. You must be the new journalist. Bruce.”

“Ah yes, yes I am. I’m glad to be here.”
“Ok I’m just going to ask you a few questions and brief you and you can be on your way to your first assignment.”

“Assignment?” * looks confused*
“OK!! Do you know what is JOURNEY and what we do?”
“Yes, JOURNEY is a weekly news magazine. Just like TIME magazine but JOURNEY goes more into depth then TIME does. Deeper than ever.”

“Good, you did your homework well. Ok listen. *leans over* listen carefully, I don’t~ well, we don’t usually do this to the new people. But, for the job you’re doing, we need to make sure that you are up for it and we want to make sure that our employees are top notch in their performance. Do you have what it takes to work here? To perform at top notch?”

“Yes yes I do. I am confident that I am able to perform at top notch.”
“Very good.  So,*raises voice and stands up* like I said, we never do this before to our new employees. You, will be sent on your first out of town work. I’m sending you to Somalia.”

“Whoa~ whoa~  what!?? What am I suppose to do there?”
“You’re the journalist. Report on what you see. Report on the conditions of the country. *Writes down a memo* here take this to the I.T department and there you’ll get a laptop and a DSLR camera. Not a scratch. It’s company’s property.”

“You do know I can sue you for what you are doing.”
“No, you can’t. Did you read the fine print on your contract?” Assures and asks Bruce.
“*Sighs**looks depressed*”

“You leave in two days’ time. Good luck. *As David was about to leave he turns around* owh~ one more thing, you will be book in a hotel with its package. And your contact,*hands over another memo*. He’ll be greeting you as you land.”

Two days later. A plane lands in the air strip of Mogadishu, Somalia. Bruce comes down from the plane looking cautious of his environment. Not knowing what to expect. He was greeted by a Somalian man, his contact. A approximately 6 feet plus man, who looks like Djimon Honsou.

“Hello there, you must be Bruce.”
“Yes I am, you must be my contact? Bashir?” *Shakes hand*
“Yes yes, now please hurry, get into my car and let’s get going.”

After a few hours they finally reach the main city in Somalia, the roads were filled with people walking on the side. The roads are desert kind, no tar just plain sand. The people puts on suspicious and cautious looks where ever they walk. There are kids and adults that are heavily armed with rifles and machetes. Most of the buildings that are once beautiful were reduce into rubbles due to the fighting between the government and the extremist Islamic groups. Bruce tries to strike a conversation in the car with Bashir;

“Tell me something about Somalia, how often do fights occurs here?”
“Almost every single moment, rebels or militia, they’ll just start a fight in the middle of the city. With or without people. Innocent or guilty ones.”

“And what about that?” * points at the 4 wheel following at the back with people sitting on the carry boy with rifles*
“That’s protection. It’s part of the package that you took.”
“*Laughs* owh, so its room, breakfast and the big guns.”
“Yes yes..”

Bruce only realize that Bashir was driving at top speed, evading bystanders and people crossing the roads.

“Do you or people in Somalia always drives this fast?”
“Yes, we do. It’s a must in Somalia because a fight can occur anytime and we must try to avoid it and get to our destination as fast as we could.”

*Out of nowhere, 6 heavily armed men in a 4 wheel drives pass them at top speed*

“You see that?” ask Bashir.
“Those are one of the rebels or maybe part of a militia. We must try to avoid them at all cost.”

Bashir speaks foreign language on the walkie-talkie to the car behind *keep a low profile. Inform everyone else. Maintain low profile.*

“So how safe is it for me to walk in the streets alone?” Asks Bruce.
“*Laughs* not safe at all. Because you are a foreigner. When they see you they always think you have a millions dollars. Even though you say you don’t but to them, you’ll always have a million dollars.” *laughs*

“*laughs* million dollars.. great.”

Bruce arrives safely at his hotel, it is no four season. But it will have to work. It’s heavily guarded. Bruce make his way to his room and unpacked his things and washed up before his next destination. Bruce prepares his camera and made his way to the car as Bashir was already warming up the engine. They made their way to a place somewhere in the city, somewhere near the frontline of battle, a place like a fort or base. You can see more heavily armed men resting some are just waiting to be attacked. Bruce puts on a flak jacket prepared for him. Bashir then took Bruce to meet the one leading this group. From a distance, bombs and rifles firing can be heard throughout.

“Bruce, this is General Ade. (pronounce Ar De). This is his militia group that he is leading.”
“Hello.” Says Bruce*they both gave each other a handshake and smiled*

“I’ll translate for you,” says Bashir.
“So who do you fight for?” Bruce starts the interview to the General.
“(Translated) at first we were fighting for our rights. Our own rights and beliefs. But after a while because the other extremist groups are just going over their heads, and they are destroying our country, now we fight for the government. To bring peace to our country.”

“How long have you been fighting?”
“(Translated) since 1976.”

“Have you ever gotten tired of fighting?”
“(Translated) no, because I am fighting to bring peace and the old Somalia back again.”

The group together with Bruce and Bashir continue to walk further into the frontline where the fights are happening. The firing of rifles gets closer.

“(Translated) be careful while walking here, bullets do tend to fly around.” says the general.

Bruce snaps some pictures for the magazine, pictures of militia men resting, taking aim at their enemy and many more. At some time, the fight seem to be getting too close, bullets were flying even closer to them.

“Ok Bruce we’ve got to go.” Alerts Bashir.

They ran to their car, while they get covered by the militia.
The following day, Bruce makes a video log.

“This is Bruce, journalist for JOURNEY magazine. It’s my second day here and, it’s been a difficult day and morning, perhaps not used to the fact that I’ve been hearing gun shots and bombs all night from a distance. Even now, you can still hear them sounds. I feel bad for those who are unable to stay sane after enduring all of these~~ things~~..  anyway, for today I’ll just be in my room, got lots of food to survive till the night and tomorrow. Got a few more days to go to cover a number of things. I just got to hang on.” *Video log end*

Its day three, Bruce destination today is a local radio station. Bruce makes his way to the old beat up radio station, its walls are cracked, the stairways looks old, the rooms were vintage, the hallways were dim. Bruce gets into one of the rooms where a broadcast in on the way as we speak. The radio DJs were women. Two women who were as well journalist but are working as radio DJ. Bruce have a sit down with them;

“So tell me something about Somalia’s radio.” Asks Bruce to one of the lady radio DJ named Ayan.
“(Translated)well as radio DJ we cannot just simply say whatever we want or we will get killed.”

“Why so? And~ how do you~~ do your jobs?”
“(Translated), we do our work based on how the extremist group wants us to do it. Means, we report it based on how they want it to be. If we don’t they’ll kill us. We are not even allowed to play any form of music on air. They’ll kill us for that too.”

“Technically, it’s tough to be a journalist here in Somalia as well..”
“(Translated) very-very tough.. the extremist they do not like journalists. They’ll kill you if they know you are a journalist. Just like us. We have a big bounty on our heads these days.”

“Getting home and getting to work must be an impossible journey for you everyday.”
“(Translated) owh~ we do not go home, we stay here most of the time. If we do need go out we just use our burqa. Covering our faces so that they can’t recognize us.”

“How about a social life? Do you girls have a boyfriend?”
“(translated) *giggles* yes we do, but it’s been two years since I’ve spoken to mine. It’s been 8 months for my friend here.”

“You guys don’t get text messages from your boyfriend?”
“(Translated) no we don’t. it’s hard here, we only get text messages from the extremist. Threat messages, threatening to kill us.”

Bashir brought Bruce up to the roof after the interview, the roof, its floor is filled with cracks. It also has sandbags stacked up. They did not go out onto the roof, they observed it from the entrance leading towards the roof.

“What’s with the sandbags?” Ask Bruce to Bashir.
“There is sniper activity up here.”
“Snipers? Really??.”
“Yes, you see those towers over there? Those get shot down by the extremists if they do not like what they hear. To stop the transmission.”

*Bombs can be heard again not too far*
“We better get going now.” Says Bruce.
“No we can’t already.”
“Why not?”
“I have forgotten to tell you. The curfew here is 4pm. Don’t you realize you were back in your hotel before 4pm? And not gotten out since then?”

“Damn. Some country this is.”

There was a another room in the radio station, where Bruce was taken to. This room its filled with recordings of Somalia’s songs that was recorded over the years before the extremists took over, the recordings are now being sent overseas, to be digitalized by a governmental group. So preserve Somalia’s early recordings of songs. Bruce was also told that, through this recordings it will bring back Somalia to its peaceful and harmonious ways. In other words, Somalia’s history, will bring the old Somalia back, before the time the extremists groups took over.

The next morning, Bruce was taken to the beach. At the shore, there are beat up boats laying around. The surrounding area was surrounded by big broken down buildings. Bruce snaps few pictures of the place. He was told by Bashir that the biggest broken down building was actually a club. People go there to dance, drink, sing and do whatever people do in clubs. Because of the extremist, it was closed down and destroyed as well.

Bruce begins his video log;

“Today is day 4th day of my so called journey. I’m still sane and I’m not losing my mind yet. I’m back here at my hotel, its 4.30p.m. the curfew at 4p.m. Tomorrow I’ll be making my way to the hospital in the morning and making my way to Puntland. The place where the pirates are and I don’t think there are curfews there. *Exhales* I still remember what Mr. Charles said, there is a catch to what I am doing~~ fresh grad, no job experience, earning the really big bucks.. I guess this is it. Till the next log” Video log ends.

In the morning, Bruce visits the hospital where the patients are not the wounded but in fact those who are affected by what have happen to Somalia. Most of the people that he was shown to are all mentally stress. In simple words, they have lost their minds, but not to the extent that they are unable to attend to themselves. There are some of them that went to that point but most of them haven’t. The doctor that brought him around brings him to the front yard, where there is a tree and a chain around it. The doctor explains that, for the patients who did go mental to an extend where they can be dangerous, they are bound to the chain. Bruce was explained as well that, the doctor gave his patients medication to calm them down.

Bruce departs for Puntland that very afternoon. Another state in Somalia. He lands on Puntland airstrip, there waiting for him was another contact, Kareem. It was high noon, Bruce first stop was a restaurant that look a lot like a stall. Few long wooden tables and chairs. Flies hovering the area, its kitchen was beat up but good enough to cook a simple meal. For they can only cook 1 kind of meal, rice, pratha bread, and curry for their toppings. It’s not Kenny rogers but for them, it’s survival. Bruce was next brought to where they say the pirates of Somalia are, the marina where all the fishing boats and a number of other big boats can be seen. Puntland itself can be considered a place for the pirates, in other words their headquarters. Around the marina, again men and children, heavily armed can be seen walking around, they’re always on the caution.

Bruce once again snap some photos of the place. Of the people that were there, eyes were at him as soon as the shutter of his camera was heard. Kareem advises Bruce to make a move out of the place immediately. Somewhere not too far from the marina, there is a prison. Bruce’s next destination, Puntland prison. Bruce steps out of the car, it can be seen, the basketball court, all fenced up. All the way up high up. Bruce was brought onto a tour of the prison, after the tour, he was brought where the basketball yard is. But not beyond the fence.

“So most of the prisoners here, what did they do mostly?” Bruce ask the prison guard.
“(Translated) Piracy.”
“So most of them here are pirates?”
“(Translated) yes yes, hold on, I’ll call you a prisoner.”*the guards calls a prisoner*
“So why did you go into becoming a pirate?” Bruce asks the prisoner.
“(Translated) we were given no choice, we had to, to survive. The government wouldn’t help us, so we do what we think is or was right at that time to get money.”

“Nice meeting you.”

Bruce snaps some pictures of the prison. After the prison tour, Bruce was brought to an area, where there were caves, lots of caves. He arrives and was greeted by a lady who acts as his tour guide around the caves. Bruce enters one of the caves and sees drawings on the wall of the cave. He puts on his flash gun and started snapping away. The lady explains that, the drawings on the caves indicate early life of Somalia. In other words the history of Somalia. The lady also explained that, through Somalia’s history that is the only, to bring peace and harmony back to Somalia. Bruce proceeded with the lady to the other caves, and snap even more pictures of the drawings on its walls.

The beginning of Bruce Video log.

“This is day five of my journey in Somalia. I’ll be making my way back. Back home tomorrow. Today actually, its past midnight. Somalia it’s not so bad after all after getting to know its roots and all. *chuckles* I apologize if I am not speaking rationally, haven’t been sleeping well.. for the past few days.. anyways, *gunshots can be heard nearby*
Did you hear that? *gunshots getting louder* *bombs exploded nearby Bruce’s Puntland hotel* What the hell?” *Bruce stoods up to see what is going on*

Kareem barges into Bruce’s room;
“Bruce we got to go!!!!!”
“To the air strip!!! Hurry!!! C’mon!!!”

*video log continuous*
“Just for the record, it is past midnight, its 4 something in the morning. OUT!”
Video log end.

Bruce grabs and packs everything in a hurry. Made his way down and fast forwarded themselves to the airstrip.

“Why are they attacking?” Ask Bruce to Kareem.
“I guess they saw you taking pictures yesterday.”
“Damn it, I’m sorry.”
“No sweat my friend. This happens almost every day. We’ll get you to your plane.”

They arrived at the airstrip at the nick of time, the plane all fired up ready to go. Bruce gives his good byes and thank you to Kareem. He was assured that, Kareem and his men will hold back and lead the attackers away. Bruce understood, he made his way up to the plane. Bruce give a sigh of relieve as the plane gets up in the air as the sun shines into Bruce’s window seat. He leans back, exhales his breath. He opens his laptop to start another video log.

As Bruce opens up his laptop and started recording. He is still out of breath to say anything. Bruce touches his head to see if he got shot or injured in any ways. As the recording continuous, the laptop camera facing him, allows him to see himself on the monitor. His shirt has a left pocket, and he did not carry any pen in it, and yet he stained his shirt. Just right on where his pocket is.


~ Based on a true National Geographic Documentary; Don’t Tell My Mother : Somalia.
~ The Documentary was produced by Diego Buñuel.
~ Names are changed.
~ Parts are added with the facts to fit in with the storyline that was created.

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