Behind Bars and Missing Sweden

For 7 years Swedish citizen, Christina Gustafsson, has been jailed in Manila. She misses Sweden, nothing else, because she hardly remembers the outside world.

Smuggling narcotics is a serious crime in the Philippines and as a Filipina Christina knew it when she carried half a million worth of amphetamine through immigration authorities in Manila seven years ago.
 “I was very depressed at the time. I had just been through a divorce from my Swedish husband who accused me of infidelity. I loved him so much and” she says. A couple of years earlier she had caught her husband with a prostitute in the Philippines and that started the depression and led to heavy medication. The years they were married were filled with happiness.
“We sailed from Gothenburg to Mallorca and to the Philippines in his boat.  I couldn’t swim and I was scared, but I loved him so much, I did it anyway”, she recalls.

Single, wealthy and depressed
After the divorce, Christina moved to Germany, where she met a man who took care of her. She did not love him, but he helped her setting up a business selling phone cards to Filipinos in Germany. After a while Christina discovered that her German friend was married and she returned to her home country. When she left Germany, she had half a million of pesos in her luggage and by smuggling narcotics back to Germany, she could double that amount.
 “I only brought 1 kilo through customs. I am convicted of smuggling 2.5 kilos, but I have no idea where the rest of the drugs came
from. I didn’t bring it”, says Christina who is waiting for the Appeals Court to evaluate her case. If that court does not rule in favor of her, she is looking at approximately 40 years in Women’s Correctional Institute in Manila.

A religious buffet
“So far I have been here for two years. Before I was sentenced, I was at a real jail in Manila. That was terrible. It was small and crowded and terribly smelly”, she remembers. Compared to that, Women’s Correctional Institute is not so bad. It centers on a large, brightly painted yard where the inmates spend time singing and praying. “We have all kinds of religions represented here; Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7 day Adventists and so on”, she says.
During her time in ‘the real jail’, Christina converted from Catholicism to Islam. “But I only pray on Fridays in our mosque”, says Christina who has studies the Arabic alphabet in order to understand the prayers better.

A terribly boring life
In order to pass time, the 1600 female prisoners study and work all day. Christina graduated from ‘high school’ last month. Since then she has mainly worked, taking care of the plants, sweeping the streets of the yard and washing trash cans. “Four a day”, she smiles and informs that her wage is 100 pesos a week which is entirely spent on tooth paste, shampoo, soap, etc. Her biggest problem right now, is that she does not have a bucket large enough for a good shower.
 “The other girls have buckets of 5 gallons, but mine is too small and I have to borrow theirs all the time”, she says, hoping that her next visitor will bring a large plastic bucket for her.
“It is terribly boring to be here. I wish I could get out and move on with my life. If I ever get out of here, I will go to Sweden and start all over. I miss the job I had at a nursing home there”, she says. “I don’t miss anything else, because I honestly don’t remember what it is like out there”, she says.

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