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Dear Mrs Mpe-Nke,

I heard that they’re going to demolish your village. Such a pity! I can still vividly remember the few days I spent there: all the blue-painted houses, the tall imposing trees forming a ring around the clearing, as a sort of monumental reminder of the sacredness of your village, cut out from the world of economic growth and contradictions. An Eden. They said they want to build a big motorway and you happen to be in the way. A shame. It’s quite difficult for me to understand how you must feel. I mean, you’ve been living, so far, in exactly the same place where your grandparents and your grandparents’ parents were born. Untouched by time. Now it all crumbles away.

Where I live, everything is so startlingly different! We’re rushing ahead, growing, building up, destroying and recreating. You would be very confused to live here, where in a year’s time houses that you’ve always seen can suddenly be replaced by a leisure centre. To be honest, I think we’re a bit confused, too.

There’s just one thing we’re really certain about: there’s no time to wait. If you lag behind, you’re lost. You have to stride on, otherwise the entire world will just leave you behind, helpless and very perplexed. Just strut on! When it comes to deciding where you should run, well... that is a completely different kettle of fish!

We know that if we just let ourselves go on like this, we’ll find ourselves in so contradictory a situation that the buildings of our cities will just fall down like those magnificent trees that now still surround and embrace your village. We move furiously – unable to stop, for sure – and are now facing the necessity to harness this movement if we want to get anything good from it, like a giant dam can harness the powerful flow of a mighty river to set a turbine in motion. Or like your herd when they’re attacked by the hyenas. If the herdsman is not able to direct them towards the stables where they’re safely guarded, your antelopes just disperse, running at full pelt, and get lost in the wild. Those poor creatures are not used to it! I remember that when I was there you found a carcass of one of them, its flesh torn apart as it fell into a precipice. An awful sight that was!

Anyway, as I was saying, our cities are not very good at running. That’s why we have to guard them so that they don’t stumble and fall into a ravine. And in the Alps we have so many cliffs and steep slopes where they could fall... Pollution, for instance. I know this must be quite complicated for you, but I’ll try to explain. When you run madly around like your antelopes – I told you, I don’t really know why we do it, we just know we have to, I guess – we don’t run on foot: we use cars... lots of them, hundreds, even thousands of them. You will see cars as soon as your village is wiped out. Then you will notice that they give off a sort of dark misty air, like smoke. We call it smog, and I can assure you that that thing makes the slopes of the Alps even more slippery, so that it gets easier and easier to fall from the cliffs. And once you’ve lost your balance, there’s little to cling to, you just tumble down.

But anyway, how could you possibly understand this? I hope you won’t, ever, because it’s frightfully complicated.
I heard they’ll try to find you some space in a small village nearby. You shouldn’t feel homesick there. I just wonder how long it’ll take before…

Anyway, this letter is getting really long, and I know your English is not great. So I’ll just stop straightaway.

Wish you all the best.




Written in the Foilo group of the YPAC 2013

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