Visa GRANTED: read the email on that seemingly ordinary Tuesday after my wife had called me to deliver the news. Who do we tell first? we thought. How do we tell them? What do we say? When do we say it? When do we go? What do we take? It felt like the game 21 Questions but I knew none of the answers. Well, we can’t tell work colleagues first, even though we spend more time together because friends are more important. We can’t tell friends first because, well, family. The rest of the day felt like a haze and I couldn’t wait for the end of the day to speak with my wife again.
After the children had been dismissed, I checked my emails properly to ensure my wife hadn’t jumped the gun and spread “fake news”. Low and behold, it was all there. We were going to Australia and those 21 Questions started to circulates again. I called my wife and we arranged to have an impromptu date night on Wednesday, instead of the usual Thursday night. We decided a plan of action … and by we, I mean Ruth! She was ready to go in December. Bear in mind, this was only two months and some change away. I managed to convince her that it’s not going to be as simple to just pack up and sneak off in the middle of the night without any goodbyes and goodbyes take time.
After our regular sweet potato and butternut squash wrap/ burger, followed by two large salads and roasted corn, we started to answer some of those questions.
Who do we tell first?
We decided to call my mum, who is currently in Aus, first. It was one of those bittersweet moments. My wife came to a realisation that for something great to be enjoyed, something painful must be endured, generally. The first person Ruth wanted to tell the most was her mum, who passed away 10 years ago. I have often asked Ruth without the event of mum passing, would we be ‘living the dream’ and migrating our whole family to Australia? And Ruth’s mum was always a great believer that for one to be born, one has to make way, which she did to allow our son Junade to come into existence.
We decided to call my mum. Following our date, we dialled. As the phone rang, we were like children playing a prank on their parents; discussing how we are going to break the news! By this time, we had already bought the tickets and knew the day we were arriving. Unfortunately, there was no response, so we sent a message on WhatsApp.
“Hi Mum, are you free to talk!”
Looking back, I can see why my mum called back looking and sounding so worried. She had a missed call, followed by a text with no additional information except “…are you free to talk?”. She must’ve thought the worst, especially coming from Ruth’s phone instead of mine. Needless to say, s after sending the message, the call came from my mum concerned about what had happened. Her worried face seemed to soften when she saw us both on the video screen, beaming from the thought of what she is about to hear.
Nothing’s wrong… everything’s ok!
We were just wondering, what are you doing on the 27th of February?
Can you guys pick us up from the airport?
It was like slow motion as the penny dropped. 3…2…1… BOOM! The look on my mum’s face was priceless.
What followed within the next two weeks were similar expressions to the one above. From relatives, friends, colleagues, even parents at the school and football club I worked.
Brother and his family
My brother and his family were next to be informed. A deafening silence gripped the phone call and I continued to repeat the fact that the visas had been granted, in different ways, just to fill in the silence. Eventually, he responded and said “Congratulations aunty Ruth!” implying that Ruth was pregnant. Abdul, my brother, always knows how to break up a serious silence with a quick quip, which is one of his many charms. We explained that the visa had been granted and though he was troubled by the prospect of us leaving, he was happy for us and expressed that it was a great opportunity. I have cared for my brother since we were in Africa until we came to London at aged 8 (me) and aged 7 (my brother) and eventually becoming unaccompanied minors looked after by the local authority so I can detect when my brother has a deeply emotional reaction to something. And this was one of those times.
Since conception in 2011, I have been an integral part of FC Jean Tele‘s coaching staff supporting the development of football (soccer) players around the South London area. After informing the staff, the parents eventually, received the news and the overwhelming majority had the same reaction as my mum; Their mouths were wide open in disbelief. And the words, “You will be a great loss!” began to echo in my ears. Each parent I spoke to had nothing but kind words to say about me as a person as well as my coaching qualities, which they all rated highly.
One of the first people I told outside of my family was the new head at my school, who had just been appointed the job on a permanent basis. It was with a heavy heart I walked into his office that morning to inform him that the visas had been granted and that I would be leaving the school in February 2019. After the changes he had made in the school, I had begun to enjoy teaching again as I did not feel overwhelmed with assessments and planning at the beginning of each half term. We decided not to inform the staff and children until February.
Eventually, the time came to reveal to the whole school. As we stood in the staff room that Friday morning, my heart was beating “ten to the dozen” as my mother-in-law used to say. We went through the agenda one item at a time and then…
“Sadly, we will be losing our Mr Jalloh at the end of this half term…”
Go back up to the gif above to see the look on people’s faces around the room. There was a great collective sigh coupled with the words “WHAT!” and “NO!” simultaneously as many of the staffs’ eyes examined the room trying to locate me, seeking an explanation for this travesty. That moment seemed to last for a tremendous length of time while I stood there hoping the ground would quickly open and swallow me up – I’m not one for attention. I had sought refuge behind the fridge, thinking no one would see me there, however, after a few seconds, I had 30 pair of eyes on me. Finally, my ears stopped ringing and I heard, “Do you want to explain, Mr Jalloh or shall I?”
I explained that my parents had been in Australia for over 15 years and it was time to join them.
The following week, it was time to share the news with my current class, however, I felt a sense of loyalty towards my first class in the school, who I taught for two arduous years, which occurred as a result of the children’s protests and petitions. I was assigned as their teacher from year 3 to year 4 after the children and their parents demanded that I continue to teach the year 3s. Due to this history, I felt it was my duty to tell them first before it came out in the newsletter later that day. At 2:50pm on Friday 8 February, I told my old students who couldn’t believe that I was leaving, then at 3:00pm, I told my current class and unfortunately, as my previous class, some children didn’t take it very well and eventually floods of tears.
This became a familiar scene all through the school as children shared their disbelief and disappointment of my imminent departure. Some children I didn’t expect to be effected cried and I thought to myself, we never know what we mean to people until there’s a threat of them losing us.
The end is nothing but an opportunity for a new beginning
Aus, meet the Jallohs