i went to the detention centre yesterday, which is generally just called "villawood" after the suburb it is located in.
it was my first solo visit and i was really pleased with it. while i waited in the reception area for my security processing one of the guys i intended to visit walked in! off the street! he was going in as a visitor after being moved to independent (or semi independent) housing. it was delightful to see him a step closer to real freedom after 31 months in detention.
we went behind bars and met his friend and countryman, who i also know. instead of going inside the noisy common room i sat at a picnic table with these guys and chatted for a good while. detainees are always polite and thankful for a visit but sometimes i feel tolerated rather than welcomed and i cant complain about that, i can also tolerate rather than welcome people who appear unexpectedly. this time though, it felt good, i felt like a friend and my almost-free friend offered and made me coffee. at t hat point i felt like i had "made it" he wasnt tolerating me, he was hosting me. i doubt that i have ever before been so deeply touched by a cup of bad instant coffee in an even worse foam cup :)
around this time i bumped into a young afghani i had met once before. (i'll call him ali) i hadnt got ali's name and wasnt able to ask for him so i was pleased to see him, especially because he is expecting release at any time and if that had happened he would have disappeared into the ether.
ali introduced me to another afghani, a man with a beautiful light about him and i dont think it was just his sparkly eyes or my appreciation for a nice dimple. this man left a wife and five children in pakistan two years ago, came to australia on a boat and is waiting for processing.
this guy was not the depressed and angry man that they become after years of detention, he was gracious about his situation, grateful that australia is careful about who crosses our borders, acknowledging that nobody asked him to come here, appreciative of his wife who is holding the family together as a single parent in a tough place.
this man, at 35, surpasses many double his age for grace and equanimity. it is unfortunate that he and those like him, are demonised by politicians and popular media because they have so very much to offer and as he said, a day in detention is worth a year of normal life for producing growth in a person.
the very first detainee i ever met, maker of a mean curry, Ramees' visa has been approved and here he is, celebrating greek easter as a free man