My name is Leo Snygans and I am a status refugee in Ireland. It has been a challenging few years, and still going through immense obstacles of finding to live and not survive anymore. I was recently nominated for the Alive Global Award and visited Mexico as part of the honour. What a blessed opportunity and self-reflection on my life. I wanted to share the experience and what it taught me with all of you.
Travelling to Mexico
I went with five friends from diverse backgrounds, and we left on 7 July. I travelled on a United Nations Travel Document and faced a huge group of immigration officers interrogating me on arrival. I remained calm as this has been part of my journey, constantly questioning where I come from. My answer is always I am a citizen of the world.
My time in Mexico City
We met lovely Valeria and spent a few days in Mexico City. A place filled with so much culture and proudly kept clean despite the organised chaos. I was put with John Jo, an authentic Irish man. As a member of the LGBTQ plus community, I sometimes walk with fear and a mask, as judgement is the order of the day. We bonded from the starting weekend in Ireland and shared intimate space for the following eight weeks. I was spending time in Oaxaca for two weeks in the language school and staying with a missionary family Magdalena and Pedro, for that time.
It freaked me out being amongst deeply religious people and being the person I am. I kept my head up high and reflected my respect and humanity as I always do. We cannot change people’s mindsets in life, but we can represent ourselves as individuals from this small, insignificant planet, a tiny little dot in one universe. Goodbyes ended up in tears from all parties as we shared a moment, we usually will not be due to religious affiliations.
Next….to La Ventanille
We were on our way to La Ventanille in southern Mexico. Temperatures consistently exceed 30 degrees, and very rural. On arrival, I settled into the little bungalow next to the beach. A place still recovering from a category two hurricane just three weeks before my arrival.
Flipflops and shorts, and t-shirts became the fashion of the day. Duties include looking after white tail deer on the endangered species list, feeding crocodiles and cleaning their areas, cleaning and looking after freshwater turtles and searching at night-time for Humpback turtle nests. All are part of an eco-tourism project sustaining the survival of all species affected by global warming. On the other side, I was teaching English and helping in the local kitchen where I had my lovely Mexican, traditional cuisine daily.
On off days going to local beaches reflects paradise as we know it. Unexpectedly I became a life safer one Sunday and took a gentleman from rough seas filled with strong currents.
Standing at the crossroad of knowing my life might end too, but no two thoughts of saving a fellow human through this process, meeting new friends for life. The universe is putting you in a situation where it needs you to be.
How I reflected on my life in Ireland
Sadly, my only income was cancelled in Ireland. My soul was agitated, know it that I might lose my accommodation and all for being an ambassador for a country that treats asylum seekers and refugees so unkindly.I mean this in the context of existing Direct Provision Centres and the lack of integration of overall treatment of all asylum seekers and refugees. As I am, I pulled myself together and concentrated on the mission. I adopted it quickly as I grew up in the mother continent Africa. Even though deeply affected by chaos, the rhythm of African drums beats in my soul.
Eight weeks is a long time spent in a different place and limited communication with the outside world. I realise how the western world, the judges of all societies, lack entirely behind. The organic living of people deeply affected by global warming is driven by over-consumerism from western countries. A people are so happy with the minimum possessions of earthly goodies. Children played barefoot on the beach, and grown-ups sat around tables having honest conversations. Everybody knows each other’s name and neighbours share hands with each other all the time. Food so natural from the land defeats the monster of process catering to developed countries, causing so much illness.
Time is just a matter of existence here. I was listening to sounds long forgotten, tickling my brain to a place of calmness. A trip needed so desperately, as I thought about ending my life before I left. The pressures of a bureaucratic system keep me down and a hostage to people not knowing how lucky they are with their birth right in a place so much better than others. A privileged forgotten and taken for granted.
On departure, I cried for three days as I am a sensitive being, and I became part of a people speaking a tongue that was new to me. Love without judgement and making me a part of something so special. Yes, A place lacking a lot of improvement, but not my place to change, but to respect as these people have been there for a long time. I realise how far western society has moved from nature and that bond needs to be mended yesterday as we face dire circumstances.
I thank everyone from the University of Galway, Alive Program, Intercultural Learning/EIL, and all others involved for this opportunity of a lifetime. I grew so much and got reminded to be humble and thank full for the precious gift of life. I recommend this experience to any individual as there is no age restriction. My life is fuller, and I appreciate my existence on a planet still divided on silly grounds of religion, sex and race.
We have no more time to talk about nationalism. This land on Earth belongs to all. We are all just visitors to this time and place.