Dinner

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Ilium Novum – the eldest non-terrestrial university – I became friends with a young black woman my age, with the name Rachel. A couple of weeks after I met her for the first time, I learned that Rachel was the daughter of the ambassador of the Republic of New Africa to Elysia. Though I found it intriguing, my friend was deliberately playing down her parents since Rachel wanted to be judged on her own merits.

One day the ambassador’s daughter asked me whether I was interested to have dinner at her place. I said her that it was fine too me and later that day she took me home. Soon I learned that unlike myself, my friend did not live at the campus. But it was not until we arrived at her place that I found out she still lived with her parents.

I was welcomed by the ambassador and his wife, who were sitting in their luxury living while a blond woman – who could not have been much older than Rachel and me – in a black dress with a white apron was serving tea.

“Please take a seat, young man,” Rachel’s father said. “My daughter has told us you are an excellent student and that your uncle is a senator.” “Yes, that’s true, sir,” I answered while their maid gave me a cup of tea.

“Elysia is a very, very close ally of New Africa,” the ambassador said. “In fact without Elysian support, it would be very unlikely that my country would have existed at all.” Of course, I knew about of the existence of New Africa but I did not know much about its history.

“The idea for the Republic of New Africa,” Rachel’s father continued, “became vivid again during the twenty-twenties as result of ongoing discrimination of African-Americans in the former United States. A group of black intellectuals came to the conclusion that racism was too deep-rooted in American society and some radical solution was necessary.

“So they revived the idea of New Afrika but unlike the original concept, they did not seek to claim the old confederacy. Instead they preferred to move African-Americans to a space settlement and in the early thirties they contacted the Elysian government which was quite willing to supply a pair of O’Neill cylinders.”

“And how was this project funded?” I asked. “The provisional government of the Republic of New Africa and the Elysian authorities agreed on a hire-purchase scheme, which is now, fifty years later, as good as completely paid off.”

“Are most citizens of your country from the former US?” “No,” Rachel’s mother replied. “Only a third of our people has roots in the former US, the majority of our population consists of direct immigrants from Africa. After all we New Africa not New America and our government accepts all Africans who are looking for a better existence and we need them.”

Then their maid served us with a second round of tea. When she gave me my cup I smiled to her and when she had left the living, my friend said:

“Her name is Elise and she is our maid. An indentured servant to be precise, she is a recent terrestrial immigrant.” The latter information did not surprise me as an Elysian citizen would never be employed as a domestic servant of foreign residents – even if they were spacers too.

“There’s a silent agreement between Elysia and the Republic of New Africa,” the ambassador’s wife continued, “that the former country will take Eurasian immigrants while our country takes African immigrants. Of course, it is not done to speak of this publicly but it’s a fact.” I nodded.

Shortly thereafter Elise mentioned that dinner was ready. The ambassador and his wife stood up and Rachel and I followed them to the dining room. Since I saw that the table was set for four, I concluded that the maid would not have dinner with us.

During dinner Rachel’s mother explained how she had met her husband, a funny story but not something to retell here. Her spouse subsequently described his diplomatic career. By the time he finished, the blond maid served us dessert.

“What language is spoken in New Africa?” I asked while I was eating my ice cream. “Afrihili,” my friend Rachel said. “The founders of New Africa believed a country for people of African descent should have an African language, but then the question is what African language should be spoken? Fortunately there was Afrihili an international auxiliary language based upon different African languages. That would emphasis the pan-African nature of the new country.”

“Is that a difficult language?” “Well,” my friend said, “I don’t really know, after all it’s my native language. But Elise has some trouble to learn the language and she has only a basic knowledge of Afrihili.” “Why would she learn that language?”

“We want to bring her to New Africa after my retirement as ambassador,” Rachel’s father said. “She is still under contract for the next seven years. And since I have been ambassador for the last ten years, I will be replaced in the next two to three years.”

After dinner we had a few drinks and it was around midnight when I left. A few years later Rachel and I made a trip to the Republic of New Africa, but I will tell that another time.

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