COVID19 Grant for the artist Romeo Kodra (part III).

I highly recommend to everyone the vomit cleaning work experience inside Helsinki’s and Espoo’s public transportation buses during the night shift for 10,67€ per hour (without calculating the taxes … please google the average wages in Finland). If nothing else, it gives meaning and a dream interpreting cipher to those, especially migrants like myself, disoriented within the real heterotopia of the world’s happiest country. Illuminating in this sense were also the personal stories of the workers (all migrants, of course): a Tamil that, eager to emigrate (destination: EU!), sold everything in his posses, paid 25.000$ to human traffickers which abandoned him in one of Erdogan’s concentration camps (operating thanks to EU funds) and constricted to pay another 25.000$ (he is still, after four years, paying his cousin from London that helped him) to “the officials” just for being thrown somewhere in an unknown Greek island; a Kurd journalist from Baghdad that have mentioned the corruption affairs of a politician in a daily newspaper and for this constricted to abandon his life in less than two hours; a Syrian that hates the socialists as well as the Americans and cannot understand why I “cannot see how socialist the Americans are” … but he admires Trump and sympathizes for a communist world (I think my friend’s weltanschauung is an interesting case study for geopolitical think tankers); a Bangladeshi, that was so incredulous when he learns that I know what kathakali is, for this reason, to change his shift only to talk to me about the dances of his country; etc. But the most illuminating was the outbreak of COVID19.

There was some terrible news, between March and April 2020, coming from my parents living in Bergamo, Italy. The COVID19 was causing deaths never seen in the livings’ memory. My father told me Bergamo reminded him of Sarajevo 1992, without bomb outbreaks but with COVID19 outbreaks, and, of course, more ambulance siren sounds. Meanwhile, in Espoo, I and my fellows had a problem: what to do with the alcohol tester, without blowing on which we could not start, clean, and fuel the public transportation buses? I contacted my supervisor that contacted the bus company office about this problem. “We will let you know as soon as possible” was the answer. Meantime, following the government’s advise, I and my fellows were informed by the company on how to wash the hands, how to use the hand sanitizer, and also how to wear a face mask. However, a week later we had a mouthpiece for the alcohol tester of 30 to 50 buses we had to work with every night. I told to the supervisor that this is not very intelligent considering that I will put the same mouthpiece in 30-50 different alcohol testers. After seeing him shrugging I thought was better to go directly to the bus company offices. There, when I asked for the mouthpieces, the desk officer thought I had lost mine and gave me a new one with the advice “Try not to lose it!”. I said, ” I need 50 mouthpieces!” after which the desk officer looked at me like I was joking. But when I explained the problem he understood. Yet, I could not have more than three mouthpieces that he had in his office. However, he promised the bus company “will find a solution”. After a week or so, I got a tubular junction for the alcohol tester mouthpiece.

“Is this a joke!” I said to the desk officer. “Yes? What do you suggest, though?” he asked after my rhetoric question. “I dream you could deactivate the buses’ alcohol testers,” I replied. “No, that’s not possible,” he said. “Why?” I asked genuinely. “Because of security reasons. Don’t you know that?”. I told him, “Yes, I know about your security reasons.” That was the last time I asked regarding protection dispositive for coronavirus.

I and my Tamil fellow got ill for four or five days each but nothing happened to us. The other fellows used to say that we were lucky because we already passed through COVID19, but I think it was just the normal flu, because of our low immune system, considering that the Tamil guy used to work 12-16 hours in two working places (he, after the night shift, worked in another place where he used to clean the cabins of the Helsinki-Tallinn ferries) and I used to walk (6+6km) to my working place to spare 120€ per month for the bus tickets. With my fellows we talked a lot about the outbreaks of COVID19, its genesis in a wet market in Wuhan, or the more or less conspiratory theory of the Chinese government intentionally spreading the virus, or its contrary according to which it is the US government spreading the virus. Yet, from all the theories we had the same result: the problem is the system. A system that pressures on animals (bats) living space and conditions or the superpowers’ (US, China, EU, Russia, etc.) antagonism for the supremacy within the system. The sure thing is that the system is not with and/or for us, because after COVID19 outbreaks, for us, there were no breakouts: we could not work remotely or just quit the job as we had to feed our families and ourselves. On contrary, strange enough (or maybe not so strange), COVID19 outbreaks eased and helped our job, considering that there was no vomit to clean and, generally, the public transportation buses were cleaner as, because of COVID19, fewer people traveled to avoid contact with other people.

On June 2nd, 2020 I quit my job as I was involved with the European Commission for the evaluation of research, art, and cultural cooperation projects (projects up to 2 or 4 million €) where I am paid better (450€ per day). Of course, it is a freelance job and the precariousness is always incumbent (one does not work every day), but in this case, unlike vomit cleaners, maybe because of the “nobility” or “elitist” kind of job, the system protects the employees.

Yet, because of the COVID19 travel restrictions, I feel like in Albania before 1996: in a coffin.

“I feel like in Albania before 1996: in a coffin.”
Mixed technique on paper (drawing/painting: gesso paint, ink, chunky graphite) 21cm x 29cm.

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