Vignettes — #9


Daan Spijer
4 min readAug 8, 2020


© Daan Spijer

“So, remind me, Mr Afghadi, what work you were doing before you left your country.”

“Please, call me Imran. I like people use first name in this country.” Imran is sitting a bit uncomfortably on a metal chair in a soulless office run by an NGO charged with helping refugees. Facing him across a stained desk is a young woman with dark curly hair and rimless glasses. Looking at her, he acutely misses his wife. “Can I call you with first name? How you pronounce?”

“Yes, certainly. It’s Im-o-jin.”

“Imogen, I was doctor in hospital in small city when Taliban come. I very frightened, because last time they come they shoot my brother. We are Shi’a and my brother he study engineer in France. When Taliban come again, I take my family away. I had money and we get to Malaysia. I get on boat and get to Australia.”

She leafs through a file on the desk. “Did you only ever work as a doctor?”

“No. When I am at university, I need money, because my parents are poor. I work on building. I learn carp… How you call building with wood?”

“Carpentry. Did you do any sort of apprenticeship?”

“What is that?”

“Did you … um… did you learn officially to become a carpenter. Like learn all about wood and making joins and go to classes?”

“Ah, yes. I go to class at night one time each week. It mean it take eight years for medicine degree. But I have full license for carpenter builder.”

Imogen flips through the folder on her desk again. “It makes no mention of any building qualifications here.”

“No. I not tell when I come to Australia. I live in camp in north …”

“Yes, Port Hedland.”

“Yes, they ask me my work in Afghanistan and I say doctor, because I think it better to work here as doctor — more money. I did not say builder.”

“That’s a shame, because to practise medicine here you would have to jump through hoops to re-qualify.”

“Jump through hoops? I not understand.”

“It means you have to do many difficult things. Firstly, you’ll have to do English classes and pass a test to show your grasp of the language is up to…



Daan Spijer

Lawyer, mediator, award-winning writer and photographer, living with his wife Sally in Mt Eliza, (south of Melbourne) Australia