The Python Trail, Afuma portrays the kind of journey that many immigrants have made, but few have described. When he arrived in Maine as a college freshman, he’d never heard of a washing machine, a microwave oven, or a coffee maker; the bed sheets were so clean and white, he was afraid he’d dirty them; and he believed computer printers were run by ghosts.
As much as anything, Afuma was shocked to learn that poverty and homelessness existed in a place whose streets he’d thought were paved with gold. It had never occurred to him that he himself might face hardships here, so that, despite having earned a master’s degree in public administration, he would fail time and time again to find meaningful employment. Scam artists preyed on him. Racism, though subtle, followed him wherever he went.
Richard Afuma is a native of Kom, a remote region of Cameroon, which in his childhood was among the most primitive places in Africa. The oldest boy in a family of eleven children, he made his way at the age of eight from a mud-walled and thatched-roof hut to a school run by Baptist missionaries, and from there on a journey through a labyrinth of corruption, prejudice, and the capricious whims of “benefactors” to southern Maine, and a life he could not possibly have imagined. A graduate of Westbrook College, now the University of New England, and of the University of Maine’s School of Public Administration, Afuma has a daughter and lives in Portland, Maine, where he works teaching life skills to men and women with cognitive disabilities.