Bear with me. There’s a point to this.
A couple of weeks ago, I stupidly left my phone on the train. A quite new phone to me, an iPhone 5s, I could not at the moment afford to replace it. The train was headed towards Milan. Bad news, as it would be out of range of solid, honest Swiss citizens.
Anyway, we tried calling it, and somebody answered. A guy, speaking slightly broken Italian, told he us he was near Cantú, which is over an hour away by car, and an intimidating rats nest of confusing roads south of Como. Initially I decided to try to go there at the weekend, but a bit later, decided to call to see if I could go that night (Tuesday).
Oh no, he said, now I’m in Milan. I’m taking the train to Brescia. Cue sinking feeling - Brescia is half way to Verona, and a good 2 hour drive on a good day. We resolved to go on the coming Sunday. If, indeed, we could get hold of this chap, who told me his name was Michele. Again, the conversation was difficult.
So, on Sunday I tried to call, but could not get through. We set off anyway, feeling quite pessimistic. After all, this phone represents something close to a third of the monthly income for a large number of Italians. Quite some temptation. But around half way there, he called back, and apologised for sleeping late. He promised he’s be available all day to meet up, and we arranged to wait for him near the hospital.
Pretty much on time, he turned up, smartly dressed, with my phone. He didn’t want to take any reward, but I insisted. The reason for his accent turned out to be that he was from Senegal. And the reason he was sleeping late turned out to be that he’d been travelling all week in his job, or more accurately, vocation, to arrange the financing and export of Italian light agricultural machinery to rural Senegal. After some encouragement he told us about his work, how he had persuaded companies, ambassadors, finance ministers and religious leaders to back his project. He had targeted the kind of machinery that could be affordable and practical in Senegal, and became nominated as the agent for Casorzo s.r.l in Africa
He was a really fascinating, kind, enthusiastic and open-spirited guy, and a real tonic to talk to. An instant friend.
Oh yeah, he let slip he was a Muslim. He hardly needed to say so: it was obvious, and for all the right reasons.