Chapter 1: Diaspora
CopyrightÂ© 2014 by Lazlo Zalezac
July 27, 1993
Leadership can be a subtle thing, particularly when it is unsought. Some people become leaders without knowing it. It is rare, but it does happen. Such individuals go through life behaving naturally, speaking honestly, and acting properly without realizing that others see this and emulate it, consciously or unconsciously. The individual just continues being himself or herself unaware that others are watching or measuring themselves against them.
It is more than just being articulate, attractive, charismatic, or intelligent. These unknowing leaders tend to assess things for themselves and select the appropriate reaction. People see those things, recognize the value of following the example of someone who see circumstances clearly and reacts in an appropriate manner.
These people are honestly surprised when others come to them for advice or credit them with having helped in some matter. They are shocked when a hint of disapproval of something on their part causes others to re-examine it. In some cases, they aren’t even aware that their concern is what triggered others to be concerned.
Jomo Sy was one of those individuals who was a leader in his community and was totally unaware of it. He went out to his farm and worked hard to produce quality crops. He supported his wife in building her business. These were just things that he did without thought since they came quite naturally to him. Others saw his success, his humility, and his hard work. They sought the same for themselves using him as a role model.
Hearth Chou looked up from her papers at Jomo Sy. He was standing there looking uneasy, as if he had something to say that was distasteful. She frowned at the idea that something was bothering him. He was not the type to complain, to demand, or to create problems. If he had a problem, then it was likely something very serious.
“What’s the matter, Jomo Sy?”
“I was wondering...”
She waited for him to continue, but he fidgeted nervously and looked down at the floor.
“Is there a problem?” she asked concerned by his behavior.
He blurted out, “My wife, Kiah, wants a house.”
He and his family, like the rest of the refugees, were still living in a tent. It was okay, but the canvas walls didn’t stop sounds from traveling in and out of the tent. His wife was tired of waking in the middle of the night to the cries of babies wanting to be fed. She was tired of the winding blowing against the walls of the tent making flapping sounds. She wanted a real house with real walls that would give greater privacy and be a little quieter.
“That’s great,” Hearth Chou said.
“You’re not mad?”
“I was worried that you’d think I was complaining. I’m not really. It’s just that we’ve been living in a tent for four years and Kiah wants to have a real house.”
Hearth Chou smiled. Once again, Jomo had come in time to solve a problem with which the Jade Force had been wrestling. The Misera Civil War had given the Jade Warriors a new home. Whereas the Jade Academy had Vam refugee families that had moved in and provided supporting services, the Jade Warriors in their new home were without that kind of support. They were hoping to get the Sumar refugees to join them in their new home.
That hadn’t been their original plan. When they had taken the contract for the refugees, the idea was to turn the camps into fully functioning towns with healthy economies that interacted with the nearby Gemort towns. They had envisioned turning the desert into an oasis of farm lands, markets, and shipping facilities.
“I understand completely.”
A look of relief spread over his face. He had been afraid that they would interpret his request as a complaint about how they were being treated. He didn’t want to complain, it was just that they wanted a better place to live than an old canvas tent.
Hearth Chou said, “It just so happens that I have a nice townhouse available. Are you interested?”
“What’s a townhouse?” he asked.
He came from a rural area that was poor. They didn’t have tract housing or houses built according to various architectural styles. People built their own house with materials gathered locally. There weren’t cut boards or factory made bricks. In his area, they made the bottom of the house from handmade bricks and had a thatched roof that was replaced frequently.
Generally, the houses weren’t big although they did provide enough room for everyone to sleep at night. Days were spent outside working, so the small size wasn’t that much of a problem. Even cooking was usually performed outside. The house was a shelter from weather. It was a place to store family treasures, a place to sleep, and a place to gather as a family in the late evening.
Hearth Chou said, “Hold on. Let me find a picture of it.”
“Okay,” he replied wondering why she would need picture of something that was around here.
She went over to shelf and pulled down a binder. She walked back to her desk and set the binder down in the middle. She opened it and then turned it so that Jomo could see the content inside the binder. There was a large picture of a townhouse.
“That’s the outside of a townhouse. It’s really a bunch of houses build side-by-side along a street. Here’s the driveway for you to park your car...”
“A car? I don’t have a car.”
“That’s a minor detail,” she said.
“I don’t understand.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Tracing a finger over the photograph, she said, “From the driveway, you’ll walk along a pathway to the front door ... That’s this area right here. That’s how you go into the townhouse.”
Confused, he agreed with her, “Okay.”
His tent had a flap. The hut back at his old place had a door, but it wasn’t like the one in the picture. It was a hide stretched over a frame that he set in place at night. Then he realized the door in the picture looked almost like the door to this building.
“Is the door the same size as the one to this building?”
“It works just like this one?”
“And it’s on the house.”
She turned to the next picture in the binder. He looked at it closely. That did not look like any room he had ever been in.
“This is a picture of the living room. As you can see, it’s got a nice carpet on the floor. If you don’t like carpet, we have wood or tile floors. Your wife might like the wood floors since they are easy to care for. They are really pretty ... that little picture there is one of the wood floors.”
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t want splinters on my feet.”
“You won’t get splinters from that floor,” she said thinking that her sales job wasn’t going very well.
“I don’t believe it,” he said flatly.
“You don’t have to get the wood floor. The room has windows facing the front yard.”
“That’s the only room?” he asked with his brows knitted.
It was hard to tell how big the room was from the picture. It looked a little bigger than the tent, but it was hard to tell. There wasn’t a person in the picture to get a sense of scale.
“No. That’s just the front room,” she turned to the next page. “This is the kitchen.”
He studied the picture carefully. It really didn’t make much sense to him. There were lots of things in it, but he’d never seen those things used.
“Where do you build a fire?” he asked.
“There’s no need to build a fire. It has a stove ... that’s this thing here ... It lets you cook your food without having to build a fire. You just turn it on, it gets hot, and then you cook on it.”
“My wife might like that,” he said in a reserved manner.
“It comes with a refrigerator. Just like the one we have here, except it is smaller. It’s the right size for a family.”
“My wife would really like one of those,” he said much a more positive tone of voice.
His wife was always talking about the wonderful refrigerator they had in the camp. He had to admit that a warm melon was good, but a cold melon on a hot day was great.
“I’m sure she would,” Hearth Chou said. She turned to the next page. She said, “This is the toilet.”
“That’s like the toilets here.”
They had transitioned from the pit toilets to a row of porcelain toilets separated into stalls by small walls. It was enclosed in a large room that also had showers and sinks. They had two of them, one for the men and one for the women. To Jomo, it had been kind of strange using them at first, but the one of the Jade Warriors had explained how to use it.
The picture of the toilet room didn’t have a urinal. He figured that it probably had one somewhere.
“That’s right. It’s just like the toilets here except it is for one person at a time.”
He frowned thinking about the line that could result from having a facility with only one toilet. There were usually a lot of people using the toilets first thing in the morning.
“How far is it from the house?” he asked.
“It’s inside the house.”
“We wouldn’t have to leave the house to use it?”
“Wow! My wife would really like that. Although having people come into our house to use it wouldn’t be all that good.”
“Only your family would use it. Maybe some guests might need to use it when visiting, but it would be yours alone.”
He looked at the picture of the toilet impressed that a house had its own toilet just for the people living there. That would really impress people.
“That’s some house.”
Suppressing the urge to laugh, Hearth Chou said, “Yes, it is.”
She turned the page and pointed to the picture of a large empty room. She said, “This would be a bedroom for you and your wife.”
“What about the kids? Where would they sleep?”
“There are two more bedrooms. One for each of your kids.”
“I don’t think they would like that. They’d get lonely. We’re used to sleeping together.”
“Well, you could put both of them in the same room,” Hearth Chou said.
She flipped the pages in the binder, showing two separate bedrooms. He looked at the pictures wide-eyed.
“Is that it?”
“There’s a garage,” she said flipping to the last page in the binder.
“It doesn’t look as nice as the other rooms.”
“It’s for storing your car.”
“I don’t have a car,” he said.
“That’s a minor detail. I’m sure that you’ll get a car,” she said.
“I’ll get a car?” he asked, wondering why he would need such a thing. He just walked out to his field and back to the main camp. It wouldn’t be possible to drive a car around the camp anyway, there were too many people and tents.
“Well, it’s actually a small electrically powered cart.”
“How much is this going to cost?”
“It comes with a job,” she said.
“What kind of job?”
“Farming,” she said.
“That’s what I already do,” he said.
“Yes, that’s true. You would do farming at a different farm.”
“I already have a farm,” he said. “Why do I need to work on a different farm to get a house?”
“The house is a long way from here,” she answered.
She said, “You’d have to move away from here.”
“I like it here,” Jomo said getting worried. “It’s our home.”
There had been a time when he wanted nothing more than to leave the refugee camp. At first, it had been a place of sheer misery. Then Jade Force had come and changed everything. As time had passed, it had become a home. Now the thought of leaving the refugee camp was hard.
“Well, we’re hoping that a lot of the people from the camp will move there.”
“I haven’t heard that,” he said.
His wife, with her running the restaurant, was usually the first to hear all of the rumors. She hadn’t mentioned anything about people moving away. Hearing this for the first time from Hearth Chou was kind of disturbing.
“You and your family would be among the first people to move there,” she said. “In fact, you’re the first one I’ve told about this.”
“Why would we want to go there? We like it here. We want to stay here. Can’t you build that townhouse here?”
Hearth Chou swallowed heavily. She didn’t think there was a refugee in any camp run by anyone other than Jade Force who would argue that they wanted stay in the refugee camp. It was an offhand compliment for how well they managed the place.
“No, we can’t build one here. That townhouse is in a very special place,” she said patiently.
“What’s so special about the place?”
Hearth Chou said, “That’s where the new home of Jade Force is. We’re asking you and your family to move there with us.”
She sat back and watched the emotions flicker across his face. He was surprised, pleased, and shocked to learn that Jade Force wanted him and his family to move to their new home with them. He didn’t know what to say.
“I know this comes as a surprise to you. I know that it might be strange and unsettling to you.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“What I would like to do, is to have you and your family go to our new home for a visit. Then you’ll see if you like it as much as we do.”
Jomo said, “I suppose we could do that. Would we be back by lunch time?”
“It will take a day to get there. You and your family would want to take two or three days looking at the townhouse, the area, and the farm. Then it will take a day to come back here. After you come back, you and your family can discuss it, to decide if you’d like to live here or there.”
“It would take a whole day to get there?”
“Yes. It is very far from here. You would have to go there by airplane,” she said.
“I’ve never been on an airplane.”
“It’s like riding in a truck except a little higher off the ground,” she said.
He laughed at the joke. He’d seen the planes flying around and knew they traveled a lot higher off the ground than a truck bouncing down the road.
“I should talk it over with my family,” he said.
“That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.”
“What about my farm and my wife’s business while we’re away visiting this ... townhouse?”
“She has people who can run her business for her. I think you can arrange for a couple of other farmers to watch over your farm for five days.”
“I suppose I could do that,” he said doubtfully.
“Remember, those same farmers will probably be making the same trip after you. You’ll need to help them when it is their turn.”
“That makes sense,” he said. “I’d have to tell them what I’m doing.”
“This isn’t a secret. You can tell everyone about what we’ve discussed. After all, I’ll be making other people the same offer. I know that rumors travel quickly around this place.”
“I’m sure that will be good for my wife’s business, tonight,” Jomo said with a smile.
“Spoken like a real businessman. I think she might want to make an extra batch of sweet potato bread for tonight.”
The news about possibly moving away traveled through the camp at the speed of light. Within an hour, everyone knew that there were plans for them to move. That same day, another twenty or so families were called to visit Hearth Chou to discuss a visit to the new location. They had all been told the same thing, there was a job and a house waiting for them at the new home of Jade Force.
The reactions were divided. Some people were wondering if they’d get invited to move. Some people were convinced they wouldn’t be invited. Others wondered how they’d react if they were asked. Some were all for going. Others didn’t want to leave, no matter what. Most weren’t sure of what they wanted. There was a lot of talk, but no real decisions were getting made.
When Jomo returned from working on his little plot of land, he was surprised by all of the people who were gathered at his wife’s restaurant. The place was packed to standing room only. She’d sold out of sweet potato bread a long time ago. Now she was just serving water.
Kiah handed him a bowl of vegetable stew and a hunk of bread. It was the last serving of the dinner that she had served that evening.
Apologizing, she said, “This was all I was able to save for you.”
“That’s okay. It looks like business was good today,” he said looking at the collection of pots waiting to be washed.
“It’s the news about the move. There are a lot of rumors.”
“There always are,” he said.
Someone called for her. She turned to see what was the problem. Seeing that she was busy, he decided it would be best to eat. The noise was so loud that he couldn’t hear himself think. He took his bowl of stew and piece of bread back to the tent to eat there in peace and quiet.
He thought about the townhouse. He’d seen the pictures of it, but they didn’t mean much to him. The rooms could have been small or huge, it was hard to tell. He was more afraid of it being too big than too small. He was a simple man and not one who strove for ‘bigger and better’ than anyone else. He decided that they’d have to see it, before he’d say that they’d live there.
He wondered about the future for his children. There wasn’t much of one in this camp, and he knew it. They were learning a lot in school that wouldn’t have much value here, but would be useful in the outside world. They knew how to read and write a lot of words. They read books, one a week. At least, attending class as often as he had, he could read some of the books, too.
Not only were they learning their numbers, but they were learning algebra, now. That had really stumped him until he had cornered the teacher after class and had her explain some of it in terms he could understand. It had taken the question of how many bushels of sweet potatoes would he have to sell, at two dollars a bushel, to get ten dollars. Then the concept seemed to click.
Then they’d started graphing an equation for how much money he would make by growing different amounts of sweet potatoes. Suddenly, there was a graph on the blackboard and he understood it. It was one of those moments in his life where it was like everything clear for a minute.
He spent almost the whole evening discussing it with the teacher. He had walked away feeling ten feet tall. He’d learned something that would help him plan his crops better, and be a better farmer. That was an eye-opening experience.
Then he’d had the sobering thought about what his son and daughter would be learning three years from now. After learning that stuff, he knew his son would never be happy just hoeing a row in a field, to keep the weeds out of it. His daughter wouldn’t be happy being a wife of a farmer.
He felt that his kids were going to be exposed to the great secrets that had been kept from him. He didn’t know what those secrets were, but that kind of knowledge made people rich, like people in the government and in business. He knew they always were reading things, meeting with other powerful people, and making important decisions. They lived in big houses in cities and drove cars.
He wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted for his children. He was impressed with the Jade Warriors. They knew lots of things about everything. He wouldn’t mind his daughter becoming a Jade Warrior although all that talk about fighting and war made him uneasy. War was what had driven him from his old home.
He finished his stew and sat there for another few minutes thinking about things. He had some basic questions for Hearth Chou. Her answers would be important in making a decision about moving.
Taking his dirty bowl and spoon, he returned to the restaurant. He figured he’d have to help his wife wash dishes that night. It wasn’t the kind of thing that most husbands did, but his wife appreciated it, particularly on a busy evening like this one.
He arrived back at the restaurant to find lots of loud voices talking over each other. There were all kinds of speculation about what they would find there and what life would be like there. Some of the suggestions were pretty far fetched.
Hearth Chou was seated there watching, but not saying a word. He wondered why she wasn’t saying anything about the things people were saying. Then he realized that she was listening to them hoping to learn of their hopes and fears.
He walked over to her. In a quiet voice, he said, “I have a question or two.”
Everyone around him got a lot quieter. It was as if they had been waiting for someone to question Hearth Chou on their behalf.
“Will my children continue to go school there?”
Everyone in the area stopped talking. They all turned to listen to his questions and her answers.
“Will my son have a job when he’s old enough to work?”
“We have a lot of jobs that he’d be able to do. It will be up to him to decide what job he wants. We do things based on skill. If he has the skill, then he can have the job.”
The answer was greeted with sighs of relief around the area.
“Will it pay well?”
“Yes. It will pay well.”
Jomo was silent for a moment while thinking about the answer. He wasn’t too worried about his son, thinking that males have it easier finding work. His daughter was another matter.
“Will my daughter be able to work when she gets older?”
“We do things based on skill. If a person has the skill, then that person can have the job. It doesn’t matter if that person is a male or female. All we care about are skills.”
“I think my daughter is smart. Is that good enough?”
Smiling, Hearth Chou said, “Your daughter is too young to work, yet, but she already has the skill required to be a filing clerk. If she were older, she’d be able to work in an office filing reports in our filing cabinets. She could also be a print researcher for us. I’m sure that when she’s ready to work, she’ll have a lot more job choices.”
One of the men said, “My wife knows how to read. Could she work as a filing clerk?”
“Yes. We have other jobs for people who know how to read that are much more challenging and interesting. A print researcher looks through magazines and newspapers to locate articles that might be of interest to us. It’s not a difficult job, but one that has to be done,” she answered.
“So my wife could work?”
“Would my wife have to work?”
Jomo said, “I am looking forward to seeing your new home.”
“I hope you decide to join us, Jomo. I think you and your family will have a bright future there.”
“How about me?” one of the more grumpy, and often irritating, residents of the camp asked.
“Even you would have a bright future there.”
Her comment brought a few chuckles from the people gathered there.
She said, “Here, all you’ve got is the land, what you raise, what you do with it, a handful of businesses, and odd jobs as labor. In time, you’ll start trading with other towns. You’ll have a real community, just like where you left. That can be yours if you want to stay.
“At our home, there’s a lot more that needs to be done. We’ll have farms, restaurants, and stores there, but we also have a lot of other kinds of work. We need groundskeepers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and general labor. We need office workers and researchers. We need managers and planners.
“I know that none of you know how to do any of those jobs. That’s not important, now. We will train you. You can sign up for any class that will give you a skill for a job. Any class for any job. You can qualify for a dozen different kinds of jobs, it that is what you want. If you don’t like a job, you can train for another one, and switch.
“It would be great if you and everyone else in the other camps join us in moving to our new home. We’re looking at a great future. At least, I think so. I’m looking forward to moving there.”
Jomo said, “Is the place more like where my old home was, or is it more like here?”
“I wish I could say that it was nicer than there, but it isn’t. To tell the truth, it’s exactly like here. It’s desert, and it’s hot.”
“You could have exaggerated and told us it was even worse,” Jomo said with a smile.
“Then no one would want to look at it,” she said with a broad smile. “No one else wanted the area we are moving to. We saw that you not only survived on this land; but thrived, despite its status as a refugee camp. You’re producing nearly enough food to feed everyone here. You’ve built businesses and created a community.
“We know of no other refugees that have done so well in a refugee camp. It isn’t just due to our intervention. You took what we gave you and made something of it! That’s a real testament to your character as people.”
Edited By TeNderLoin