Taxi tales 22 – “criminal” from Eritrea

May 2017, Melbourne from airport home

Driver Johannes from Africa, Christian, married,  3 kids, mid fifties.


When it was my turn boarding a taxi, I got an old style not very flashy Commodore. The driver did not look very presentable either. But he told me the most interesting story of his life….

Johannes became very excited when I mentioned my address, and assured me he knew exactly where I live. ( Mixed feeling at this point as it’s a bit creepy). He was not excited about large fare, but a proximity to his home, where he can get a cup of good coffee. Apparently, he brings Arabica beans from his annual trips to Ethiopia, makes coffee  from scratch himself and claims it to be the best.

He is from a Christian family (a large cross on the review mirror was a proof) and his religion is very similar to Greek Orthodox. He can speak English, French and Italian,  as well as his mother tongue. Visiting Venice in the past,  he could discuss the quality of Espresso with the shop owners in Italian, which shocked them to the core. Johannes traveled extensively in the past and visited many European countries. His father was a colonel in the Army and his mother was a teacher. Johannes’s daughter is a lecturer at Monash University and she taught one subject in my daughter’s course. (My daughter confirmed that fact later).

Back in his country Johannes was a lecturer in psychology at a local university. His main subjects were ego  and superego psychology. (I was getting more and more interested as I know a few people with ego problems). We briefly discussed a few aspects of personality disorders.

During political unrest in 2000′  Johannes was arrested while lecturing at university. Apparently, questions like “Who I am? How do I fit into society? Do my unrealistic expectations fit into the external real world?” are dangerous and provocative. He spent three months in jail because his lectures were “calling students to rebel”.  To take Johannes out of prison, his brother sold one property, raised $10k and bribed some officials. Johannes was released from the jail and immediately crossed the border to Kenia, where he asked for asylum.

While there,  he wrote a petition in perfect English to UNICEF about his case. His letter obviously caught attention as it was unexpected that someone among refugees was educated to this level. As a result, he was invited for a meeting with three high profile officers. Still doubtful about his past, they tested his abilities to speak foreign languages, asked some political questions and finally came to his past employment. One officer asked him if he heard about one lecturer from the university, who was recently arrested,  and if he knew that person since they both worked at the same place.

“Yes, I do” , said Johannes, “I know him very well indeed. Because that lecturer is me”. The committee was stunned. They still could not believe that and asked for more proof. They also showed him  a local newspaper where it was a story about the arrest.

A few days later Johannes got a recommendation letter, visa and ticket to Australia. And he has lived here since.



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