[i] Good afternoon. [Name] First of all, thank you for accepting this invitation. Can you introduce yourself?

[r] Thank you. I’m [Name]. I’m from the Congo. I’ve been in Holland since 2001. Yeah, what else can I say? Yeah, I… I came here as a refugee. So, uh… briefly, say, that’s me.

[i] You said you’re from Congo-Kinshasa.

[r] That’s right.

[i] And that you came here as a refugee.


When you fled the Congo, what did you take with you?

When I left, I didn’t really take anything. Nothing at all. But then I came here to the shelter. It was in Rijsbergen, near Breda, I met a gentleman. His name was Willem Kramer. He worked at the Refugee Work at the time. He gave me a dictionary. And that was the first donation I received, back then. For me it was the most important one. And I still have it.

[i] What does this dictionary mean to you?

[r] It’s a Dutch-French dictionary of Prism. For me it means a lot, because when he gave me this, I understood that it was some kind of solution of contact and communication. It was difficult to communicate with him. And I had to realize at that moment that the Dutch language was an answer to the question: How should I live on? Because, I come from… I’ve been a refugee. So, how am I supposed to live if I can’t understand, talk, or master the language? And so I’m… from that moment I realized that this dictionary not only had the meaning of a dictionary, from French to Dutch, or Dutch to French, but it was also a push point for me, that I had to learn more, discover more, and the language can be good… Yes, I’m not that good, but still it was an opportunity for me to get in touch with people. So the solution of the language barrier to a career for my future in the Netherlands.

[i] Have you kept this dictionary since 2001?

[r] Right. You can see, it’s… I use it from time to time, which is why the color has gone up a bit, but it’s important to me… I also write in there now and then, I always write what I think, what… And I wrote that in the shelter back then, so when it was still in 2001 when I wrote that, yes, it’s quite a long story.

[i] What did you write in there, for instance? Something funny?

Yes, I have a poem… I wrote a lot of poems. And all the poems were about love. About love, about love with people, and about love of thought, of dealing with others, of conflict resolution. So yeah, I wrote in French. But I’m going to read something, say. I wrote: Love wins over intelligence. The brain succumbs to the heart. Satisfaction becomes unattainable.

[i] What does this mean to you?

Um… yeah, for me It means that if we just look at love, sometimes you’re not smart anymore. Because it has to be balanced. And from love to the brain, where the intelligence is, so to speak. There’s no end. It’s universal. The discovery of love, of knowledge, of intelligence.

[i] Who was this piece of poem for, or was it just something to give you courage? To exist, to deal with this difficult time in your life?

[r] Yes, it was for me, for myself. Because I had been through some nasty things. So from what I’ve been through, all I can do, what my essence of life, was just love. And the love about myself. That was the only thing. Yet I remained with the question: How will I live, how will I live? I am alone. How would I live, alone in the Netherlands? How shall I go on? How will my brain want to work? The intelligence. How should I be intelligent? But between love and intelligence there is no end. So, it’s a flow of processes that will last forever. And maybe that’s why my attribute is built on it. On the basis of: How am I supposed to be smart? How should I be intelligent? How should I master what I have to do, how should I deal with what I would like to do? And, on the other hand, what kind of love should I have for myself and for people around me? Who of me deserves love, who doesn’t? That’s the way it goes, and it’s endless.

[i] And, did you write this piece in that dictionary because you intend to keep it for life, the dictionary?

[r] Yes. Yeah, that’s right. I would never go on without this dictionary, Maybe when I die, I’d ask to have this dictionary buried with me. It’s for me… it was a moment where I… where I was lonely, and Mr. Willem Kramer, I don’t know where he is now, whether he’s alive or not. But it was a long time ago, he was quite old. But that gentleman who shows love for me, to give me something. It was my birthday. So it was something for me, who, maybe he’s already forgotten. But for me, he has remained in my head, and he is constantly in my life, through this dictionary.

[i] While you were writing these emotional words, were you living in an asylum?

[r] Yes, I did. It was in OC [unclear].

[i] In Breda?

[r] Breda, yes, it was in Breda. Let’s talk about Holland. When you arrived in Holland, in another world, what was your impression? The first impression, it was a bit of a conflict of what I see as a contrast between my environment where I am and the people I met, and at the same time: what about me? What’s coming tomorrow? What would happen tomorrow? The fear of insecurity. Still, I had in the Netherlands. It took me a lot of time to get rid of that feeling. But still, so far, at some point, I have that with me. That: “Yes, I’m not safe yet. So, about cultural conflicts for example, yes, I’m from Congo. Exactly from Bujimayi, it’s really in the middle of Congo. There er… Yeah, yeah. We don’t see that many white people. And all of a sudden, you’ve got all white people around you. So right, that’s a shock, say, in myself. And at the same time, yes… people don’t understand you, people don’t understand you at all. You go to an asylum, where people, maybe they don’t believe you. They say, yes, your story is not credible. They don’t understand you at all. They don’t understand what you’ve been through. And that insecurity, that feeling of insecurity, and yet you suddenly find yourself in a camp, yeah, I’ll call it the camp, or a centre, asylum seekers’ centre, where… you have to deal with people who may be very difficult, who may be brutal. The people who don’t think like you, who, yeah, they’re all different. And they also come with their problems. And all those people, yes, they’re all on top of each other. Okay. Go on, get on with your life. Yeah, until, until finally, a decision was made that I had to leave that OC. Then I’m already in, from 2002, and then I had to come to The Hague. So from Breda [unclear] I went to The Hague. Yes, I remember, my first place was somewhere there, near Schou… Yes, somewhere there, in The Hague South. I don’t remember the street. Schouendreef, yes, that was it, that was the place. So I had to go there… it was kind of an open house. I was with two boys. One from Angola, and the other from West Africa. From that moment on, I had to go to school, I had to do something. And slowly, slowly, I got my language from level 0, to level 1 and level 2 and then I had to choose an education. I did commercial assistant in Mondriaan, and then I did accounting assistant, level 3. And then I did administrator level 4. And then I decided to go to college anyway, so I enrolled at InHolland. I only didn’t finish 1 year, then I quit for other reasons.

[i] You talked about difficult times at the AZC, times of uncertainty, of which you didn’t know how to overcome. What did you do to overcome these difficulties, these uncertainties, to have a little more confidence?

Yes, I think, personally I don’t know what I’ve done, but maybe it hopes, just I hoped it will work out. That’s also a word I learned in Holland, there I also have this, this little notebook, so to speak. This was a gift from a doctor, who occasionally came to visit me, I had to talk to [him] a lot… psychologist. And Mrs. Linaling, who gave me this, this little book. And, uh… I learned from her. It’s all right. Doesn’t matter. It’s gonna be okay anyway. And that maybe gave me the strength. So, it’s hard too, one day goes by, and another day comes. And maybe, who knows, the sun will shine, the next day. And that’s how it happened.

[i] What year did you decide to live in The Hague?

[r] I came here to The Hague in 2002, yes.

[i] And did you have a reason to come to The Hague?

[r] I got a residence permit, so I had to get out of the OC. But before my stay, no, I have to go back a little… I had gotten a negative answer. And, uh… the buildup, my mentor, say, at the shelter, who said: Yes, I don’t know how that works, but he had contacted the system of the organization, He said: Yes, [Name] must leave the shelter. I think it has something to do with whatever the situation was there. I couldn’t, I’m just getting a little crazy about everything that’s going on there. I could imagine different people from different countries coming with their own problem. They come on top of each other and they have to live there, live there. And you don’t know how or what would come. And every character plays, every trait plays. The other people are super aggressive, the others are not. I don’t know, but it was one day, I got called to go to the office, and when I was there they told me: yes, you got a transfer, that was the word. You got the transfer from OC to a KBK, something like that. A room of single minors, something like that. That’s how I got from there to The Hague. It wasn’t just me, it was a couple of people. And when I got here, my mentor put me in touch with a lawyer, and that lawyer helped me, And then I got a residence permit. It was valid for three years. From the moment I got here to almost three years.

[i] Wasn’t it your personal decision to come and live in The Hague?

[r] Indeed, yes, it was.

[i] And then you found a house?

[r] Yes. It was a room… it was a three-bedroom house, and I had to find a room too… yeah, I had a little room. And that’s where I stayed. There was almost everything there. A small kitchen, we have to share one with the other guys. We had television, living room, everyone has their own room. In the room, you had a bed, a little table, say, where, maybe when you work, you can do like this. So that was kind of the first step, actually, to feel a Dutch life, what it’s like. Because in the OC, you don’t have to deal with the Dutch. To make equal, with ordinary, people who are also refugees. So that was the first step, also the first good contact, with life in the Netherlands. Um, a bit of freedom. Right, but under the supervision of a mentor. But, yes, you can enjoy it. You can cook for yourself, you can get a little money from the builder’s house. Yeah, it was something, something like that. So you had to watch that too, and I remember, after a few weeks, I had to buy my first bike. That’s Holland too, bikes. Then I had to buy my first bike too, yeah.

[i] If you had to compare these two cities: The Hague and Breda. How do you describe this change? From the OC to The Hague?

Let’s just say, for me it was all a bit… I wasn’t living my life then, Hey. I just had to do what people say. Yeah, what they decide, what they choose. In Breda, it was a shelter, so I had no view and outside. In The Hague, I had to come, and for me, it was kind of, yeah, now’s the start of your life. Now is the start of what you have to do, now you really start. When I got to The Hague, yeah, I had to register for school right away. And I had to do this and this. Doing activities. That’s everyday life. And that’s how I fell in love with The Hague. I’m also a little in love with The Hague. I just, yeah… life in The Hague has something beautiful, something good and… Yeah, how can I say it, how can I explain it more? The fact that I’m in The Hague, yes, I feel a bit at home too. A bit at home. It’s, I got a little bit of love from this city, like, yeah, my own country. But I’m not in my own country, I do feel a little bit at home here.

[i] Why is that?

[r] Yeah, it could be because I started a business in 2003. So I was still studying, and then I started my own company, a cleaning company. And… that also gave me a little strength, a little energy. So I did quite a bit. And, uh, contact, too, with ordinary people, the people here. I met good friends here, too, so I did real life here. Yeah, I’ve met almost all of them, the four corners of The Hague I know. So it’s not like any other city, or cities. I’m not out much, so I do almost everything right here. That plays a little bit, yeah. That also plays on how I feel about The Hague. I just think it’s a beautiful city.

[i] What are the places you visit in The Hague?

[r] Yes Scheveningen. Yeah. Scheveningen, near the beach. Also Kijkduin. Usually when I feel lonely, or I get a bit depressed about something, or if something doesn’t go well, I go for a walk, and I walk along the sea. And, yeah, I calm down. And that’s something too, that plays a lot in me, about what I feel from The Hague. It’s a place where I, I know where I can come to rest when I have some stress.

[i] Are there other places, like monuments, specific buildings you visit here?

[r] I… I have the story of Johan de Wit, it’s in the centre, it’s an image of someone who does that, Johan de Wit. That man had a story in the Netherlands. And from that story I have discovered some positive things about him. He’s a philosopher. Sometimes I go to the Omniversum museum, or just walk in the center Enzo. The centre that keeps on changing, that’s it a bit, nothing else.

[i] Where do you live in The Hague now?

[r] Now, I live in Moerwijk. It’s a bit… Yes, a bit of a slum… district of The Hague. But it’s also a neighbourhood where I moved in based on what I’ve done here. I’ve done several projects in The Hague, in the context of society. All these projects also brought me into contact with people. I did a project about a cultural fashion show, to fight against mis… misunderstanding, so to speak, and prejudices about people’s cultures. I did a project about Welcome to Moerwijk, a neighborhood where a lot of countries, people are, different cultures, really a multicultural neighborhood. At the same time, the connection between people at certain times is not strong. So everyone is a bit on their own, a bit isolated. So you don’t see so many activities of the neighborhood, or street parties or something like that, no. So I had done a project to make and strengthen this connection. I’d also been with a friend of mine, who also had a foundation. Welcome. A project of Culinair Moerwijk, where just people like me, from different countries, who came here, and once a week, they go, say, to show diversity of cooking, and let others taste it. So those are some of the projects I’ve done.

[i] What were the goals of those projects in the cultural field?

r] It was more, in all the projects I did, it was more to bring people together. To show that somebody can meet somebody else. But he does have something to learn from where he comes from, so integration and assimilation of cultures. And at the same time to the host country, yes, what do we bring, if we come? We don’t just come just like that, we come up with something. Nobody can go from A to B, just like that, without a story. So there’s always something he’s done, that he’s come here. But since he came, it’s good to see. What’s the message, what did he bring? What’s positive about the person? It’s easy, it’s very easy to judge someone from the window. You see a guy walking down the street with a cap like that on his head, Yeah, he walks a little tough Enzo. You say, “Yeah, this is a criminal. But maybe he’s a very gentle guy. He’d help you on the street when you need it. So, strengthen the connection between the people, and show that leaves a chance, bring people together, leave people open. That was kind of the message of the projects I was doing.

[i] Looking back, have you managed to strengthen the connection between people from different cultures?

[r] I guess I didn’t succeed, not really. It did happen to a few people that I’m good with. But, there are a few things I haven’t, I haven’t succeeded… Among other things, yes, I really had to leave Holland at some point. But yes, it didn’t happen. I got a decision from the IND at the extension of my status, that I am not allowed to work, so I had to stop my company. So, I had a problem where I… so all those projects where I can just get sponsorship, yeah, I didn’t have to do that, so it’s no good. So that’s why I thought: I can’t do anything else. I had to sit and wait for another decision to be made about my situation. So that also plays a bit. So, I’ve been pretty active, but to say I’ve had success with everything I’ve done? Yes, I wonder, because the government’s decision is different from what I predicted.

[i] Do you think your failures are related to the authorities’ decision?

[r] Yes, I do. Yes, I do.

[i] Forget your failures a little, what was your success?

The great success of me was with my company. My business, I started, when I started my business, I had a loan of 50 euros. I had borrowed 50 euros from someone, to register with the Chamber of Commerce, as a cleaning company, one-man business. After a while I signed my first contract with Zara. That’s how it went. From one, to the other, to the other. So I hired a lot of staff, I had a company. Yeah, my business was doing well. So, uh… after a while, I went from sole proprietorship to VOF, general partnership. And after that, it went really, really well. The company went really well. That was a good time. Another success, yes. When I saw: the project I did was successful. I remember I had invited alderman Rabin. He came a little late. But it was nice, because we were waiting for him. The director of the city office was there, Stichting Boog was there, Stichting Welkom, projects in which I put a lot of energy. There was someone from the housing corporation, so it was quite a lot of people. I was almost 63, or… no, 26 nationalities anyway, on that day from [indistinct]. When he came, everybody said, “Yeah, let’s start,” and I say, “No, I’m not gonna start, I’m waiting for him. And then he came a little late and so, he did apologize. Then he said the words of welcome, then he did the project, and I did an interview with him. And after that, a friend of mine, who says to me: yes, now I realize how you are. By “you”, he means how Africans think about the positioning of hierarchy. So, we really respect how it’s done. So if it’s high, he has to say a word, we’re waiting for him. If he comes, then we’ll start. And then I said to him: yes, that’s why we say Africans always have time, but you have watches. We always wait, but you just have watches. It has to be this way, it has to be this way. We? We wait, we wait… It was a success. The next day, I got good reactions. People really accepted me with enthusiasm. At the next action of the project, the alderman talked about me in the… in the meeting, I heard that. Yeah, it was a success. It was fun.

[i] And the content of these activities, what was it exactly?

Well, I’ve…

[i] The cultural activities.

I had a project called Welcome to Moerwijk. In that project, we were going to talk about when someone comes to Holland. What are the first impressions? I made a theater later. Theatre was about… what… is the cultural conflict when someone arrives in Holland? And what do you expect here? It was the time when Mrs Verdonk said we had to take an integration course. Anyone in Holland… it was very good, and that’s fine by me. It was a successful project of hers. It’s important to learn the language, and people need to understand what’s going on in Dutch society. And, I wondered: but why doesn’t the government ask, what do we expect from the Netherlands? The Netherlands expects us to integrate, the integration course. But what do we actually expect from the Netherlands? And that’s a question that also plays a role in the theatre. I showed a little: yes, everyone expects something. But what? How can we make that clear? And after that, we conducted a debate about what society is like in the Netherlands. It’s important to speak Dutch there. And I remember that… the director of the office who was going to do that. And there was a woman, who came from Congo, who wanted to do a reaction. But she couldn’t speak Dutch. But still, that director of the district office then, has come to communication with the woman. And they try and… until suddenly, the message was clear, what she meant. And that’s the hardest thing, to have two people from different countries together. And, yes, people just got along just fine with each other. There was another activity, there was a fashion show. Africans in general love clothes. Africans like chic design, and… Sometimes, someone who’s really poor, but he buys expensive clothes. Sometimes he doesn’t eat at home, but he buys expensive clothes. And that actually plays with that. How is it possible for the host country to understand that phenomenon? I explained that in that project as well. It was a cultural fashion show. We show a bit, an aspect of Congolese, about clothing, appearance of Congolese. In the meantime, I had also hung a few paintings on the wall, to tell: why people flee to the Netherlands, why do foreign people come to the Netherlands? Each painting had a message. For example, it was a truck, where there is a roof on a truck. Can you imagine, a car with a roof. And the message with that was just: people don’t have a house, people just have trouble with life. And because of those economic problems, people can also become refugees, be refugees. The Netherlands is not allowed to receive economic refugees either, but that exists. But besides that, there was also a painting about more than eight million women who were raped, in Congo, by that war between Rwanda and Congo. And all these problems, I was able to show them, their consequences. Through gold, through coltan, cobalt, oil, through everything in Congolese soil. I have also shown that. Because of these problems, people have fled. So, the problem of refugees must be addressed. Not with the lecture, not with sending money or this and that. It needs to be tackled, with the multinationals, companies that go there for this material, or land value, gold… gold. So, it was a bit of a message, different messages, that’s what it was all about. And in the end, yeah, there’s never anything without dancing. African dances. So we also showed a little bit how Africans enjoy, and so on. So, you can always have a bit of partying, a bit of African music. And that African music, it was a Congolese team, band, from guys who were born here. They sing, so to speak, in Dutch, Lingala, and French. And that’s why you see that, there’s a leeway, a kind of mixed language, that originates where people with different cultures come. So it’s not just languages, it’s all kinds of things. It was a very big project with different messages,

[i] To the question of what is expected of the Netherlands, what was the answer?

[r] Nobody could give the answer. Haha. But I think that when someone comes to Holland, he expects nothing more than just to earn the chance. The chance to earn it. That’s very important. Give him the chance. And the chance you give him today, it could have a good effect on a thousand other people who are still in Africa. Just imagine, just imagine, if someone who comes from a war zone, he just wants to settle down, he just wants to have a normal life. He would never go against the law, he would never do anything criminal, because then he’s going to have a problem, he’s never going to cause another problem. No, he just wants a place where he can stay calm and do his life there. But when his request isn’t understood, yeah, that system becomes like a bad nightmare for him. And from that moment, he has to survive, but how will he survive? Then comes the problem, then maybe he’ll fall into crime if that’s offered to him. then comes the problem, after problem, after problem. So, the research that’s being done, about what do people who go, what do they expect? I think the same question can also be turned around a little bit, because white Dutch people are also everywhere, Hey. In all countries, are Dutch people who live there. What do Dutch people expect there, in those countries where they are? Imagine you’re in a country where you’re not understood. Everywhere you’re hunted, everything you do, it’s just seen as not good. At that point, you’ll say, “Yeah, what am I doing here? So life, the world goes on, the world goes on, so it’s good, it’s important that we give hand to hand, and support for a better future.

[i] And you personally, what did you expect?

[r] I came here as a young boy. I didn’t know I was coming to Holland, I just wanted a safe place, that’s how I came to Holland. I don’t expect anything, actually, from Holland. I didn’t know if I’d live here until today, but I’m still here. And then I say: yes, happily. Thank God. But, what do I expect from the Netherlands now? The understanding of people. Is very important, yes. People are just looking for a place where they can have peace. People can say: yes, Holland is full, and so, and so. That’s true, it’s pretty full. 17 million people, it’s not nothing. It’s quite a lot. But I think the Netherlands can do even more and better in another world, not just here.

[i] After you arrived in The Hague, you enrolled in university. Why did you choose business administration?

Yes, I think that… it’s also a little, yeah, the business where I felt comfortable. Yeah, I feel more in that direction, yeah. I just… Yeah, a little insight into numbers and stuff, organizing things. But also my attribute, I think my attribute plays with that too. with my company I felt I had to be a bit of a leader. And, uh… I see myself more with that leadership ability, and also for my company, I had to keep the bookkeeping good, neat. And that’s also a little, a few effects that it brought, yeah.

[i] Since when did you have these ambitions, since the Congo, or did it come from something?

[r] It’s from here, from here. I guess when I was little, I dreamed of becoming a doctor, of being a doctor. Yeah, that was just my… or being a pilot, that was just my dream and stuff. Yeah, when I grow up, I’m gonna be a pilot or a doctor. But, I didn’t get the chance. So life is a little wrong at certain times. But I think if I was in the Congo, maybe I’d be able to realize my dream. But it’s not like that. So, you never know what will happen tomorrow, right?

If you had three wishes today, what would they be?

[r] Yeah. Three biggest wishes? The first big wish I’d have is peace in Africa, especially in the Congo. It’s very important, the equality between people. People are dying there because the land, the earth is rich. They are the victims of nothing. It’s not fair, it’s not right. So my greatest wish is more about the continent of Africa, and Congo. If I can [indistinctly]. The second big wish is to get the chance. I think everyone deserves a good chance. And, uh… people shouldn’t be treated just based on what the number is, paper. Holland is so bureaucratic that what you say is what is written. What’s written, that determines who you’ll become. And that’s not human. It is nowadays that we have to come back to the human side a bit, I think. And I’m hoping for a good chance. A chance to… not just with the Dutch government, but with God’s chance as well. That God gives me a chance to realize what I would like to do in my life. I think that… we have a lot of things to do. And I’m still quite young, so yes. And the last big wish, that’s for my baby, yeah. It’s for my baby, so… I’m kidding, I’m just hoping it’s what’s best for her. So, that’s for me, it’s also a connection to what I just… my poem, what I just read. The intelligence, and the love. So, uh… It’s all about love in the world. Love for people, equal opportunities for people, but also science without borders.

[i] You’re already a daddy?

[r] Yes, I am.

What’s your daughter’s name, how old is she?

[r] I have a baby, a girl, her name is [Bea]. She lives in Belgium with her mother. I’m not with her mother, unfortunately. But she’s almost four now. Four years old. And… yes, she was born in 2011, on April 7. Yeah, that’s… she gives me the strength. She’s everything to me.

[i] And her name, [Bea], does it mean anything? Because I know the name has a meaning in Africa.

[r] She’s called [Bea][Name]. [Name] is my name. My parents gave it to me. [Bea], to me, the name does have a meaning.

[i] Like Beatitude, or?

It’s also from there, but we also believe that every name follows the person, so… what your name means, that’s what you become. That’s how we believe, that’s how I believe. Bea is someone who has a big heart, a big heart. Who’s open, who wears a lot. Um… My daughter, she was born when my company was about to go bankrupt. That was the hardest period, where I was fighting between how to make the company work, or did I have to stop everything and leave the country? I remember that… I had to make a difficult decision to go to Belgium. Because her mother, she lives in Belgium. She has Belgian nationality. So we had to go there. And so it happened that she was born there too. But, she has from me, the time I gave more love to her, that moment I was in a difficult situation. And that’s why I thought: yes, what’s the most beautiful name I can give? Only a name she can bear, with the trouble I had back then. And she really is a super girl, I think the name just plays on her. She’s so happy, and also, I see her like my mom. All these aspects play, so to speak.

[i] You’re not with her mom anymore, do you see her often?

[r] Occasionally I do. It’s not easy. Yeah, she’s in Belgium, I’m in Holland. But once in a while, I come to a solution with her mother, to get her. And, uh… we enjoyed, we enjoyed. Yeah. It’s not easy being mother and father. At the same time, you know your baby is so far away from you.

[i] When i hear you speak, i see that you have a big heart. Which brings me to the question of the greatest compliment you’ve ever received in your life. What is the greatest compliment you have ever received?

Wow, that’s hard to say. I think the biggest compliment was from [Bea]’s mother. I think that when she… yeah, when she gave birth, we were still together, yeah. She says, yeah, you made me a woman. I became a woman. Yes, I became a mother. She thanks me for that. I think that’s the greatest compliment.

[i] And that was very important to you?

[r] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some things that happen, we never know why. And I don’t know why that was. But life has just been tough. And it’s been unfair. But I think the biggest compliment I’ve gotten in my life was from her, when she… it was the day, in the hospital, in Saint Luc, the day she gave birth, she says, yes, thank you. [Name] I’m a mother, you made me a mother.

[i] Was it here in The Hague?

[r] No, it was in Belgium, yes.

[i] I see there were ups and downs in your life. What are you afraid of in your life?

[r] Yes… My biggest fear, after all this time I’ve been in Holland, is that I… with uncertainty about the future. Yeah. That’s my biggest fear. I don’t know if I… deserve that. Or, I haven’t figured out what’s going on in my head yet. That I have… done a lot, but at the same time, I remain uncertain about the future. I remain insecure about what tomorrow might bring. With all the changes that are happening in the Netherlands, you never know.

[i] Why that?

Yeah, you can see for yourself. How the system becomes We see how people, how ordinary, xenophobia rises in society. We see how, yes, all kinds of sides play. From the economic side, to the social side. The change is rock-hard. In so short a time, 2001 until now, so much change. And that change also has to do with me, as a foreigner. Immediately. And that’s my biggest fear, yes. We never know what could happen tomorrow. And, uh… the situation could be on the good side, it could be on the bad side. And that uncertainty, the longer it lasts, the worse it is.

What do you think is causing this feeling of insecurity, society, or events?

[r] I think the change, and everything that happens. I give an example, about the future certainty. A lot of people of my generation in the Netherlands, they don’t live in the Netherlands anymore, they are all gone. Very many are gone, very many. In The Hague we are maybe 3 or 4, which I can still see and recognize. Why? In 2006, or ‘7, there was the strategy of revoking residence permits, for example. Yeah, that played, a lot of people left. So, that always plays, yeah. The change in the political vision of the Netherlands, The change in the social security of the Netherlands, The change in the prediction of the future of the Netherlands. Yes, that could have a negative effect on us foreigners. But I hope that, we won’t go back… back as in South Africa, with the time of Mandela and Desmond Tutu, and England, and the Zulu, I hope not. Yeah, it’s just a joke, but it’s possible.

[i] Is there anything you’ve wanted but never had here in The Hague or in Holland in general?

[r] What would I like to have, but I haven’t received yet? Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know, what would I like? Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think I… I don’t think I’d want anything…

It could be anything, like a second child…

[r] I don’t know at all. But yeah, maybe the wish for the future, yeah, I don’t know. I’d like something that I… maybe I’d dream of buying a boat, I don’t know. I think these are quite something. But, yeah, sometimes you’re called that it’s coming, and it’s not coming. Look, Holland is a country where there’s a lot of wealth. So whatever you want, you can have it. You just have to work for it. So as long as you’re working on it, you just get it. So, if you want a car, yeah, you have to work, and then you have a car. So long, it depends on yourself what you get. But as long as it doesn’t depend on you, if it doesn’t depend on you, then it’s a problem. Yeah, because then other people are gonna decide in your name, in your place. That’s hard, yeah. But for me what would I like to do? Yeah, I work for, and I get it. But if it doesn’t depend on me, there’s nothing I can do about it.

[i] Just a question. Do you have any hobbies or particular interests?

[r] Sure, sure. I read a lot. That’s one of my hobbies. And, uh… walking. Yeah, I like to go out and stuff, too. Yeah, something I also like is just traveling, yeah. Discovering people. That’s something I’d, like to do. Yeah, maybe I could. Yeah, just travel the world, meet people and cultures. Learning from other people, yeah. So I read. I like to read. I love studying. So I like a lot of… Yeah.

[i] What kind of books do you read a lot?

Yeah, now that I’m more into the Africa story of each country, I’m trying to understand a little from 1885, what was going on, say, when they decided to do the division of Africa. And, uh… this tribe, just so it’s split up, you’re from Congo, you’re from other countries, for example. So those people who lived just before, they split up. And the impact, so far, that plays. We’re seeing it in Belgium, so, part of it’s French, part of it’s… so, I’m reading a little bit more about African history right now, so from 1885, what happens? And, uh, how did the different developments go from colonization to slavery and… Yeah, and what’s going on in the Congo now. My heart is still a little bit in Congo. It’s just terrible what’s happening there, and there’s a saying: if you don’t know, your story, your past, you will never predict your future and your, your present and your future. So it would be difficult to predict the future with certainty, as long as we don’t know what happened, when the decision was made to have Congo as it is.

[i] Do you sometimes read about the past of the Netherlands?

Yes, Holland, not really. I did learn at school. The story of William, of Orange, Napoleon Bonaparte, was that of France, of Rome, a bit of… history in general, of Holland. I learned that at school. Yes, you did. Now… yes, I’m not that interested. I just… I’m gonna tell you something, I had to buy a Dutch flag once. And that’s very funny, because I asked almost ten Dutch people: where can I buy the Dutch flag? They didn’t know. So about their own country, they don’t know anything. So they don’t care at all. I asked an old man, who said: yes you have to go to that place almost the eleventh person, he gave me the right answer. Yes, now, most Dutch people, they have more attention about development, what to do? But not really about history. Yeah, I don’t think so.

What do you think about your life in Africa, compared to your life in The Hague? Yes in Africa, I was a boy with a lot of future. With a lot of energy. I don’t come from a bad family, it’s not like that. My family was just good. We had every opportunity to… a good future. But unfortunately, that’s how it happened. In Holland, here I’ve learned what’s hardest, what’s no, what’s not allowed. I’ve learned in Holland what a negative decision means. If you get that, what plays, at the last second of a decision, it can bring your life to a drama. There is a big contrast. But still, in Africa there are difficult things that are not here. For example, I had to do my homework with… the light of the moon. Yeah, maybe you should study with those little lights. But here you have gas, electricity, everything. In Africa, you don’t get peanut butter with nuts, peanut butter with this, peanut butter with that, no. You just have peanut butter, peanut butter, ready. But here you have so much, so much of all kinds of… so you got peanut butter with little nuts, peanut butter with big nuts, with this, so, you got just all kinds of things, but still, people are never happy. They always want to have it. But in Africa, with small, people are just happy. So there’s just big, big contrasts. So from there, from all those contrasts, I say: a refugee who comes from Africa to the Netherlands, he never comes for crime. He just comes for rest, because he’s a refugee. He’s been through something bad. And if that person gets the chance, he can make a big contribution to society, than what you can imagine.

i] Do you think your life has changed your perspective, here in The Hague and in the Netherlands in general?

[r] Yes, I think I’ve also grown up a bit in my brain. Yes, I did, I came here as a child, but, I think that… I see more of the future in the Netherlands than if I were in the Congo, for example. My life in the Netherlands has made me a little strict, but at the same time, yes, I’ve learned more. Yeah, learned a lot. That builds my personality Hey, it has to be like that, different, it’s different.

[i] For example, if you write your story, how can the chapters be divided?

Yeah, I don’t know. That’s quite a difficult question, but at the same time a funny one. I would never know, but I think… That would be in two parts. Two parts. So first part just the kid in Africa, a happy kid in Africa.

[i] And the second part?

[r] Life in Holland. Life in the Netherlands, yes. Yes, I think that… it could be like that, yeah.

[i] Can you give a brief outline of what you would write in the first part, and in the second part?

Yes, as I say, a happy child in Africa. Someone for whom happiness in Africa is not like here. The freedom of Africa is not like here. People are poor, they die with everything. They always have to get some from Europe and stuff. Well, that’s true. But these people, they never know the word “stress”. Doesn’t exist for them, stress. They just live from day to day, but they’re happy. This contrast between poverty in Africa and poverty in Europe is completely different. The reality of life’s needs: the roof, clothes, and food Those three contrasts, if we move them to Africa, is different, And as a child in Africa, I never learned that these things are problems. That’s right, because I come from a good family. But there are people who come from a poor family, who maybe this one is a problem. But even with this situation, their child lives normally. They just see this child happy, happy. Compared to what we see on television, poor kids sitting on the street with no food like that. Yeah, I don’t know if that’s really true. I’m from a county, I don’t know if it’s true. It’s a difficult province at the moment, in Congo. Looks like media too. Yeah, but, me in that book, that part, I would talk about the good side. Yeah, from the kid in Africa. In the second part, yeah, I’ll talk about that… the first step in Holland, from the moment you get off the plane… plane to the moment you… Yeah, like I am now, for you.

[i] You’ve lived in Holland for about 13 or 14 years, have you come into contact with other Congolese and organizations?

[r] Yes, I am in contact with many Congolese. And also a Congolese organization. I… now, for example, there are activities at Karibu Bibi, is also an organization that is in The Hague, one supervised by STEK or something like that, where I, a few activities also participate. Yes, we’re there, but not that many, we don’t do that much either. Because… here in Europe, people here are individual. The connection isn’t that strong, but still, when we meet… Yeah, Africans warm blood, huh? Yeah, that’s how it goes.

We’re almost at the end of this interview, so I wanted to ask if there’s anything else you’d like to add?

[r] Yes, I’d like to say thank you first, thank you for this interview. I hope I’m not the only one doing the same interview. I also think that, um… I hope that… that people would understand behind these images, from the hardest to the happiest, from us as refugees in the Netherlands. We don’t expect the Netherlands to do everything for us, no. A refugee doesn’t expect that. He just wants a quiet place. And to have a chance to put the nightmares he has experienced behind him. That’s what I can say. I thank you for this action, I find it very interesting. And I hope it’s not the last. And, uh… I would still like, if it is possible, in the future, if you can, a good documentary to do, how difficult it is to people, who live in a shelter, how it is there, exactly, with these people. Maybe it’s different now than my time. But that’s important to show the reality.

[i] I heard about your goal during the period that you organized different activities You wanted the participants to develop a special bond. Do you think this is a contribution to society, from the Netherlands, here in The Hague, and especially in Moerwijk? Yes, indeed. I think that was a concrete contribution for me. People who came, it was on March 20 at Koningshuis, for… When I carried out the project, they exchanged their contacts. Phones, e-mail, and so on. Maybe so far, they’re in contact. So… my goal was to get people close. For me, it was just a big wish that these people get closer. The connection between people. The stronger it gets, the better it is. That’s where we avoid the prejudices, the misunderstandings, and then we build a better future and livable environment. That was my contribution. I hope I’ll get the chance to do this project again. Maybe in the same way, maybe in a different way. But to do it.

[i] In the future, do you still plan to organize such meetings and activities? Yes, I do. There’s a need. There is very great need. We just need to see how people are around. People are just lonely. Just lonely. I went to the supermarket a couple, two, three days ago, I met someone there who was talking to himself. I gave him my regards. Good day, sir. Right, he opened up. He told me about everything he’s been through, that his wife’s gone, this and that. Yeah. People just suffer. So there’s no connection, there’s no friendship, And that’s not just about a person. It also has to do with everything that’s going on around us. I have a neighbor next door. He’s become hyper anti-social. Then, he was just good. Was hyper social. I went to talk to him like that, have a little beer. And now, when I see him, I don’t recognize him anymore. What happens in his life, you’ll never know. I’m not interested in knowing what’s going on in his life either, but I think people should just keep being friendly with other people. That’s very important. It’s very important. And you build a better future with good bricks. And a good stone is the connection between us, is the relationship with your environment, with your neighbors, with people who come around you.

Do you do this for everyone or, in particular, for a certain group?

[r] I’m an open person to everyone. I never shut my mouth when I can talk, just say what I think. And I think that… I’m just doing it for everybody, yeah. The project was meant for everyone. It’s also on the Internet. You can see that… yes, it was Africans, it was Indian, it was Somali, it was Congolese, Europeans, Dutch. Diversity of people. That’s just the power of what I do. And that’s what I recognize myself in, with activities like that.

[i] Were they all people from The Hague, Moerwijk or from everywhere?

[r] According to the project, it had to be people from The Hague, but also from Moerwijk, who had to participate. But the people who came, they came from everywhere. I have people who came from Delft, I have people who came from Scheveningen, they came from everywhere. So it’s an open project for everyone, no matter who. The interesting thing is that the message is clearly told, and that people clearly understand what’s going on. and from that moment on you’re going to see for yourself: am I like the person who’s being played in the play? Am I like the person who’s selfish? Or, am I like the one who’s open to others, who can easily come and help others if necessary. If it’s an emergency.

[i] What is missing today to continue to organize such activities?

[r] Well, as I said, IND has determined. The IND’s decision was tough, I had to be in the Netherlands, but I had to work, unless I have a work permit. Yeah, but that’s impossible to get. I can’t do it myself, companies have to do it for me. But before that company does that, they have to let me know that in the Netherlands, there’s no one who’s going to do that work, in Europe, there’s no one who’s going to do that work. Therefore I, what can [unclear], super impossible. It’s just a tough decision, and I’m a victim of that. But that’s the way life goes. I hope it’ll be better in the future.

[i] Thank you very much. And thank you for sharing your life experience with us here in Holland. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.