Meet Baye

  Baye, a few weeks after landing in Lampedusa, Italy. November 2016. © Pamela Kerpius

Baye, a few weeks after landing in Lampedusa, Italy. November 2016. © Pamela Kerpius

 

Meet Baye.


20 years old and from Dakar, Senegal.

To reach Lampedusa he crossed five countries: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the most dangerous of all, Libya.

His trip took one month, 15 days. A shorter trip than most West Africans because his brother was able to provide more money to expedite the journey. He crossed the Sahara Desert in a vehicle with 25 people; everyone received 5 liters of water, and there were extra canisters kept on hand if their bottles ran out, which of course they did.

Baye kept decoy money in his pocket, about 15 dinars, so when they were stopped and robbed along the way, he was able to continue his journey with the true stash of money he kept hidden in his bag. Around six or 7 o’clock in the evening the car would stop so everyone could sleep.

My understanding is that you cannot travel the desert at night, that you need the daylight to guide you. But I’m not sure yet, and couldn’t confirm it in my conversation with Baye on account of a language barrier.

Baye speaks French and some English, but he is not yet fluent in the latter. To help, Amadou (24, from Guinea, and a French-only speaker; pictured at bottom) helped to guide the conversation using Google Translate from my computer. I would type phrases in English and he would read it aloud in French.

It helped to have him read it, because it meant he could adjust the phrasing to mirror how people really talk. It also helped because Baye didn’t have to think about translation while trying to recount an already stressful story.

 

“Because it is a country of peace.” Lampedusa, Italy; November 2016.

  Amadou helps translate, in Lampedusa, Italy. November 2016. © Pamela Kerpius

Amadou helps translate, in Lampedusa, Italy. November 2016. © Pamela Kerpius

 


We talked more after Baye’s interview. I asked Amadou where he hoped to go and he said the United States. I asked why (see Google Translate screenshot) and he typed, “because it is a country of peace.”

Baye spent six days in Tripoli, Libya. I don’t have details about where he stayed or what the conditions were. He finally reached the Libyan coast.

He crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dinghy with 150 others at midnight on a moonlit night. He spend 6-7 hours on the boat until they were rescued by a German ship. He traveled with one foot dangling over the edge of the inflatable boat.

He wants to go back to school. He is a plumber and wants to work. He would really like to go to New York, Florida, or Texas.

Baye is an amazing human being.

Read Baye's two-year followup story, recorded May 2018 >