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Participant Season 1

Evil? Campetition? No, not really, not in any serious way, in my humble option. Evil, that’s guys wanting to shoot you, for no better reason than you being there, unarmed, and them needing to boost their collective fighter ego. Evil, that’s police threatening to break your fingers, for trying to report mafia boys threatening to break your legs for not paying up. That’s evil. Campetition isn’t.

Won’t deny a certain embarrassment, especially around the video of me abysmally failing a delivery task that looks so simple on screen. Some of that footage is still circulating on social media, after all this time. Just the other day a four-year old pointed at me on the bus and went ‘man no know bike ride, man no know bike ride!’. His mom must have seen it too, she tried so hard not to laugh that she ended up with a hiccup. Nice lady, very nice lady, still regret we didn’t talk.

Embarrassing, yes, having been on Campetition is embarrassing. But the show only inflicts very minor humiliation. As a refugee, you quickly learn to endure much worse, day in, day out.

In my old life, as a professional, even the idea of participating in a contest to prove my ability to work as a delivery biker would of course have been anathema. You don’t think about this kind of career option, right? But when the casting crew shows up at your refugee camp and you haven’t eaten or slept properly for months, one week in a proper hotel, with breakfast, lunch and dinner, clean sheets and warm showers, sounds like an improbably good opportunity. And that’s before starting to hope to win, and get that fabulous one-year-visa, with work permit.

I didn’t even last through week one. Far too old and clanky, not fit enough, physically. I was the first in a long line of archetypical Campetition losers, only there for the laughs. With hindsight, an ice cube would have better odds at lasting in an oven than me in that show.

But, guess what, even the most embarrassing failure can bring about opportunity. Months after the show, and my subsequent relocation from Lesbos to Turkey under what they call the New Refugee Deal, a nice sounding name for a horrible dead end, I was contacted by the Red Crescent. One of my former foreign clients, from back home in Herat, had seen the footage of me crashing my bike and spilling my pizza boxes under the effect of the fire hose.

He recognized me, worried I might have been seriously injured, called his Member of Congress, another veteran, and got me onto a medical evacuation list. Next stop Ramstein air base in Germany, and new embarrassment, because my bruises had long healed. Except for a little diarrhoea, curtesy of the filthy water at the New Deal camp, I was as healthy as a refugee can be. They discharged me from the hospital on the same day, but allowed me to stay on base, for the time being.

Currently, I review Pashto social media post for the military intelligence guys, and translate whatever hints at terrorism plots targeting the US. Based on this job, and the free on base housing that comes with it, the Germans issued me with an identity card. It has to be renewed every twelve months, but overall, I’m living refugee paradise.

Do you really thing Campetition would have handed over my contact details if I had reason to rubbish them? Yes, that’s how it works.

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