[i] Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our Specially Unknown project. Today we are guests of Mr. [name] from Conakry. We are currently in Bochum. Thank you very much for inviting us and for agreeing to our proposal to share your life story with us. I am a field worker and have the task to interview 10 people from Guinea about their life story. We thank them very much for this. Could you please introduce yourself?

[r] Hello, my name is [name]. I come from Guinea, I was born in Conakry and I am 25 years old.

[i] I see you are in the middle of life. 25 years old. Where do you come from? Maybe we’ll try to get a look back at your childhood, youth and memories. What have you experienced in Guinea? Where should we start?

So, I lived in Conakry, in DARRESALAM. This is the district where I was born and lived with my family. I have two brothers with whom I experienced everything together. One is called [name] and the other [name], I am the oldest of us. I had a bigger brother, but he didn’t survive. He died, and now there are only three of us.

They talk about their brother who is no longer alive. Do you still have any memories?

No, I didn’t know him, my mother told me about him. He lived only 2-3 weeks, then he died. I also went to school in Guinea and. He started school at the age of four. There it was very beautiful, I had friends. I never really liked school. That was simply not my thing. My father always said: “You have to go to school if you want me to help you”. Since I was 12 years old I had only one dream: I always wanted to become an electrician. That was just my dream to become an electrician.

[i] Why become an electrician? Were there any relatives who did this job, or why?

In DARRESALAM we had a neighbour. If something didn’t work with the electricity, he could repair it. When I said I wanted to do that, he took me with him to help. I was carrying things for him and he showed me some tricks, like how to fix lamps. So a few little things. I wasn’t allowed to touch electricity, I just wasn’t allowed to do everything. And since then I have said that this is a great job and I would like to do it sometime also gladly times. Yes, that’s how it came. I asked my father to help me. Help me to achieve that. I didn’t want to continue school any longer. My father said that a man always has to finish school first. That was his dream, but I wanted to live my dream. But with us in Africa you can’t give the parents…

[i] Contradict?

Exactly, when they say something, you have to obey. That’s how we learned it, that’s how they taught us. When parents talk, you can’t even look them in the eye.

[i] Reputation? How else is that interpreted? They say that when you talk to them, you can’t look at them.

[i] Interpretation? Insolence? So far I still don’t know why or why. Maybe it would be disrespectful if you looked at your parents. For example, if they want to say something or yell at you. You always have to stay calm until they are done. When they have said everything, you can either apologize or do what they asked you to do. You always have to listen and only talk when asked.

[i] We are with the boy who wants to become an electrician. Your father? Your mother?

Of course, my mother wanted me to do that, too. She thought it was cool. But you always had to do that together with school. But I didn’t really want school.

So were there discussions or conversations about it?

[r] No, not really, I can see that from my father’s point of view. I was also afraid of my father and my uncle. I was even more afraid of him, he was really different from my father. All my brothers, even the children of our neighbors, were afraid of this uncle. He said everything only once, if you didn’t hear or understand something, it didn’t matter to him – you just had to hear directly. It’s just complicated. My uncle died in a car accident in 2004, that was suicide.

[i] I’m sorry, heartfelt condolences.

The first time I saw him in that car. Completely burned… This picture is still very present, I see it almost every day. He had still discussed with my father. It was at 3 in the morning, there was this discussion with my father.

[i] In the morning?

[r] Yes, it was 3 o’clock in the morning. I don’t know what they were talking about. My uncle hit his wife. My father said he couldn’t do that. He went to his car and distributed gas everywhere. He took a lighter and… BOOM! It was really hard.

[i] Suicide?

Yes, that was 2004. I think. Yes, 2004. Our neighbours then began to spread rumours that we had a suicide… horrible family are. That our family is cursed. That was a disaster.

[i] How did you experience that as a teenager? Were there friends or others who openly spoke to you about it?

[r] How? Friends of my uncle do you mean?

[i] No, after he killed himself: Were there neighbors who talked about it? Or was it spoken to in the street?

A few did. The worst thing about it, which hurt me a lot, was that. So, some people took pictures. Photos of my uncle’s body. They started selling it. That was bad for me. Seeing that people make money with it. That was really catastrophic. Of course, I couldn’t sue anyone either – we don’t have that. Until now I have only this memory in my head.

Do they dream about it?

No, it comes when I’m alone, listening to music or thinking about my home country.

[i] Have you been able to process that?

It’s much better, it’s been a long time. Now it’s quite OK.

[i] We talked about your uncle and your father. How was the relationship?

The relationship was very cool, my parents loved me. My mother told me very little about her childhood. She became him. She was married at the age of 14, so she was very young. I said “Wow, Mum! You were really young! She said she was forced, didn’t know anything about her wedding. She came from school and there were many people there. Her mother and others were preparing for the wedding. But she knew nothing about it. Her brother told her it was her wedding. She did not believe that. But that was normal then.

[i] That was so common?

Exactly, I don’t know if it’s culture or something. She said she was 14 when she got married. That wasn’t through love, “Love comes later” was always said to her. It takes time.

[i] Fate? That’s just like that?

[r] Could be. It’s just…

[i] Your father? What did he tell you about it?

My dad doesn’t talk that much, really not much. He’s not evil, he’s not. But he just doesn’t talk that much. He is always one who… How can I explain that? Of course he has his job as a truck driver. He even used to have a tank truck like that. He also had an accident in one of those trucks once. His neck was seriously injured. He can’t turn his head far to the left or right. He always has neck and back pain. Fortunately nobody died. Sometimes, when he is at home, he goes into his room and turns on the TV. He stays there all the time. On Sunday he doesn’t go out either. Nobody goes to work, and that’s his weekend. He sometimes sat outside with his children. To talk etc. It was nice to talk to him, for example to ask what our week was like. He worked so much. How goes in the morning at 8:00 o’clock comes very late only back home.

[i] And on the weekend?

On the weekend, at least on Sunday, he was always at home.

Did you ever do anything together?

[r] No, I can’t remember.

[i] I.e., education was more…

The problem in our homeland is that we are afraid of our parents. Since we can remember, we have been afraid and respectful of them. For example, when we see that someone older wants to work something, we have to help. You have to go there, help and offer it.

[i] How to offer?

You can’t say they’re old. We say: I like to help, we do it alone.

So [i] You offer help?


[i] What was her mother’s profession? Housewife?

She was only at school at the time. When she got married, she couldn’t go on with school. That’s why she didn’t learn a profession and was only at home as a housewife. Sometimes she sold things, as well as a merchant.

So, in addition to education and housework, she also contributed to the livelihood?

Not always. My father took care of the family, of course. He worked, brought money and everything home. He didn’t want my mother to do anything. He wanted her to stay at home and take care of the children.

[i] How would you describe your childhood? Beautiful?

It was beautiful, of course. I had friends, school, neighbors. I had friends almost everywhere, no matter where I went. My uncle said: No matter where you go, you always have to be open to people. If you can do that, you can deal with any person. Of course there are people with whom it is difficult to be friends or to do something together. But if you know how to do that, you can deal with almost anyone. And that’s what I did. I don’t get angry so quickly or…

[i] Is that tolerance?

Exactly, I tolerate a lot. When I talk or talk to someone. Of course, there are also people who get angry or aggressive very quickly. Sometimes, even when I want to, I can’t talk to people like that… What’s the word?

[i] The conversation or the situation quasi relax?

Exactly, there are also people who don’t deviate very quickly from their own point of view during conversations. They are then immediately on 180 and try to say things like that. When I talk to people like that, I can’t join in, I try to stay calm. If both are aggressive & loud, you won’t be able to understand each other. My uncle said I should always try to control my anger.

[i] They often talk about their uncle. Does that mean there was a lot of communication?

I was afraid of him, but there was a lot of communication with him. He often came home after work and said he had to give me tutoring. And I hated that. Tutoring with him was like that… If he taught me something and I forgot, he hit me. Very hard even, so that I don’t forget it again. Apart from tutoring we also played, for example, that was a very nice time. Then he gave me advice for my life. He also gave me tips for later, for my time as an adult, so to speak. What will await me in the future. I.e. he was strict and beat you, but at the same time there were other things he gave.

[i] The warmth? Advice?

Exactly, there were such and such days. I’ve never understood why he beats children for no reason. I always thought it might be stress from work. Or anger. That he would take that anger home with him and when he saw the kids, he said. “Bring your book and let’s do homework.” If you do something wrong, he’ll try to take all his anger out on you. So was my imagination about it. But I don’t know if that’s right or wrong.

[i] Is that how you perceived him?

Exactly, but there were also days when he was really sweet. He came home from work and had bought chocolate, for example. Or milk shakes for the kids or there was money and he said, buy something – you have to decide what you do with it. There were those days, too. There were just good days and then bad days. That was nice.

Did he also take on educational tasks like learning?

Exactly, we also called him father, so we always called him that. We always said Papa. We had our father, but we also called my father’s brother father.

I.e., he could immediately take over the role of the father?

[r] Yes exactly.

If you compare it with today, do you miss him?

[r] Yes, he does, he belongs to the family. And he no longer exists in this world.

I.e., despite the violence he has done to you: You had to understand that. You couldn’t solve it through communication. Did one also feel this hard contact in the same way?

At the time I thought he didn’t like me.

[i] Still now?

I don’t know. I’ve always seen it this way: “He doesn’t love us.” He beats me and even my two brothers. I just remember one day when he said, “We’re supposed to buy cigarettes. He had told us the brand, but I hadn’t understood it properly. But you couldn’t say you didn’t understand. He would have beaten us. Even if he had said “Buy me a Coke! If you just bought and didn’t hear Coke, you don’t smell to ask. You have to go and buy and come back. It was the same with cigarettes. I wasn’t allowed to say that I didn’t hear anything. So either you ask and get blows, or you buy something, something wrong, and get blows again. Either or. I was afraid to ask questions and bought something wrong. Then I came back and knew immediately that I had bought the wrong one. He hit me, Mom sat there and cried because it hurt so much.

Couldn’t she intervene?

She couldn’t and can’t do that. When someone wanted to interfere, my uncle would say, “These are my children! “And they have to do what I want! My mama cried. My mom had only intervened once. My uncle said “No, that’s not good what you’re doing now.” He said, these are my children who have to listen when I say something.

[i] To what extent did religion play a role in your upbringing?

Religion. Of course we could, we had to pray – five times a day. My mom always said that on Fridays we had to go to the mosque together.

[i] Was that fun?

[r] Yes, it was beautiful.

[i] What exactly?

Everyone had nice clothes on, for example. You’d also see people you didn’t see all week.

[i] Is there a childhood memory? Can you tell us something?

[r] Childhood memories… Actually… A few…

[i] Were there any special friends?

What I miss is the time with my friends. We used to play football together or we used to play hide and seek. And then… Outside, behind our home, we made tea together and talked about Europe. We talked about politics, although I’m not interested in politics at all. Of course, topics like football, politics, Europe or America. Someone starts a topic and we talk about it all day long. I miss that.

[i] You were just talking about football. Was there also a club?

There were people talking about football I never really liked football. My friends said I was crazy because I’m the only one who doesn’t like football. I was very interested in dance at the time. I wanted to dance – as a hobby.

[i] What dance?

[r] Hip-hop, I just wanted hip-hop dancing.

[i] And in my spare time? Soccer did you tell?

[r] We played football. I only played so I wouldn’t have to sit next to it and watch. Just so I didn’t have to sit there alone.

Did you also sing in your spare time?

I sang again, it was even a song about my home country. But only among friends, not like a pop star or anything else.

[i] The place where they lived. What was the place like?

We lived in a house that belonged to my father. He built it. It was very nice. I had my own room, it was really perfect.

[i] And the neighbors?

We had good neighbors and of course bad neighbors. Opposite our home there is a… So he was in the military, in the army. Once upon a time there was a conflict, he fought with my family. My cousin was with his daughter, that hurt him very much. He then kidnapped him, arrested him and locked him up. We looked everywhere for him, for almost a year, nobody knew where he was. My dad had been looking everywhere for my cousin. When my dad found out where my cousin is, he… So then the neighbour moved the cousin again, so he took him away from there again. He took him to another prison. Whenever we found out where my cousin was, he moved him again. That went on for almost three years. My father was so worried because it was the cousin on his father’s side. From my aunt. So my dad’s little sister. My brother had seen him once, they gave him almost nothing to eat. He was so thin and looked so finished. Only because of his daughter and because he has more power than my family… He is rich and had a high position in the army. I don’t know how, but my father managed to get my cousin out. These people were of course very bad, bad neighbors.

[i] Conakry is a city with many different tribes. How was that with you in the neighborhood?

Where I had lived, there was only Fula. Only the ethnic group Fula lives there, and then there are some Malinka. Like my mother, her ancestors even come from Mali. But I don’t speak the language, she didn’t teach me.

i.e. they also have cousins and relatives from Mali?

Exactly, my mother’s brothers and sisters.

Was there a lot of contact?

Yes, they all live in Conakry, all of them. So almost all of them. Others live in Mamou.

[i] Inland?

[r] Yes exactly.

[i] Again their neighborhood. Were there any other things besides the soldier? So between the neighbors? Were there any other things besides the neighbor who was a soldier?

Exactly, there was another incident. Behind our house we have other neighbours. I was still very young. The mother of one of my friends was sick. But she didn’t know she had this disease. Once upon a time… we played with my friends. His mother did not see me coming. My buddy sat right next to her. I came and scared his mother. She was so somehow… She was very nervous and had gotten scared, then she took a stone and threw it at me. She hurt my knee in the process. You can still see the scar from it today. I was at home for three months and couldn’t walk. My mom and this lady, you always argued. My mother asked if she wanted to kill me.

Was there a place in that place where you grew up where you felt particularly comfortable? Where you say that was beautiful?

That was at home, just at home. I feel comfortable and safe there. At Mom’s and Dad’s. My dad even didn’t want us to go anywhere. For example, to spend the night away from home or something, we just had to be at home.

[i] How did you see society? How’s that? The people, the fellow men? Good? What were they like?

[r] All perfect. Everything was really great. Family, neighbours, friends, acquaintances. All good.

And between society and government? Was there peace?

There were always problems with the government. Whenever we had a… There were demonstrations almost every day in Guinea. We have no electricity, no water, we always had to fetch about 20 litres or sometimes even 40 litres from far away on foot. So that our mothers have water at home. No electricity… It was… Electricity would have been necessary, because otherwise the people get angry. Then the people go on the street and demonstrate. Then no more cars will drive, the streets will be closed and… just make shit.

Do adults or teenagers do that?

Actually the teenagers. Awake people who are e.g. married, rather little. Of course, the older people stay at home and we go outside. We block off the road and burn tyres. We stand there and demonstrate for changes in our country. Then the military often comes and they even shoot at the people. They kill like cockroaches, nobody itches. If the people demonstrate and something goes wrong, then

[i] Did you see for yourself the military shooting at people?

Often. I was there. I’m almost always present at demonstrations. After that there were always blows from my dad, but I was always there. I think that was in 2007 or 2009. We just wanted to demonstrate in the city centre. On that day there were a lot of demonstrators and a lot of policemen. We wanted to make a change and show that. We wanted to do something for our homeland. The politicians only take care of their own families. We were there and… They shoot at the people. A boy, he was between nine or twelve years old, he was a child. They shot him, he was dead immediately. One of my friends said, let’s just go back. I said no. Look what you’re doing. I don’t know why I wasn’t afraid. Many of us, we wanted to go on. Just keep going. I said there is no going back. But luckily: Every time I was there, I came home healthy again.

And this teenager or child who was shot, did you know him?

I didn’t know him, we only met there. There were also many different people: women, children, men. Also some older people.

[i] And the school? What was that like?

The school was beautiful, at the beginning. It was very nice. I had friends there, too.

[i] How do you imagine the system compared to Germany?

[r] The school there?

[i] Yes, when does it start? Was there school in the afternoon as well?

[r] Yes, actually from 7 o’clock. From 7 to 12 o’clock, then we drove home. Then we came home at 2 pm until 4 pm. Sometimes until 18 o’clock. Then we went home again.

Was there anything else besides school they had to learn?

After school, in the evening, there was this Koranic school. We had to learn the Koran there. You have to know what the Koran says, so you know what to say when you’re in trouble. It is said that God is everywhere. That’s what we learned there to know how the world works. Or what awaits us after death. And it was also beautiful.

[i] Yes, very beautiful. And then what? How did it come… What actually happened that they said I had to leave here?

[r] As I said before, so: I always wanted to go to Europe, for a very long time. I always wanted to get away from home. To see away from my family and the world. To know what… I was just curious and wanted to see what…

[i] What is outside Guinea?

[r] Exactly, exactly. I used to always want to go to Canada, that was my dreamland. When I was little, I always wanted to fly to Canada. I even had the chance, but my father didn’t want it and said no. I can’t send you to a place where you don’t know anyone, you don’t have a family. I told Dad that I could go anywhere when I grew up. Whether you want it or not. He didn’t want to get to know people. At some point I told Dad that I just had to leave now. I have to gain new experiences. Outside Guinea, outside Africa.

[i] I’m just asking myself a question. How come? At home, childhood, family – all good. That you just have this need to leave now? Were there any other factors?

[r] Not really. I wanted to… The real reason why I left the country was… I wanted to realize my dream of becoming an electrician. I wanted to become a real electrician. And I can only do that if I fly to either Europe or America. There is school, theory and practice. It’s only practical with us. You don’t go to school to load such professions. Then I told my dad and he made it possible with space, of course.

[i] You just told me about hope. And your father also helped him with that decision?

What my father always wanted was school. When I left the country, he always said, “Boy, keep going to school! He wanted me to have an office job in front of a computer or something. But I didn’t want that.

Becoming an electrician has always been your dream job. To what extent was this dream fulfilled or not fulfilled?

[r] Has the dream already been fulfilled?

[i] Yes exactly.

Of course I did that when I came here to Germany. I had the opportunity here and started. I also participated, it was very nice. Then I met a woman. My first big love, it was very nice with you. We were not together for long and suddenly she was pregnant. When she told me that, it was like hell for me. I was so scared and I didn’t know what I was doing and it was too much for me. I am in a strange country where I don’t know anyone and nobody knows me and I am having a child here. What is going on? I was terrified, and then… I said: “Never mind”. Fortunately I had my carer Franko here. He gave me some ideas what I could do to stay calm. I also took part in that. The language was not so easy. At that time I didn’t understand so much. We communicated somehow with hands and feet and understood each other. When she got pregnant, two months later, she left me. I thought those were the hormones. I accepted that until she had the child. I tried everything, I really loved her, and then… Then she had the child, but I wasn’t told. She then had the child and one day later I only found out about it. That hurt me very much. I wanted to go with my caregiver to the hospital to see the child. Her mother didn’t want me to take the child. This stress with child, baby and education… It was just too much for me. I couldn’t concentrate at school anymore. Thinking so much… I tried to win her back. But everything I did was wrong. I was not allowed to take the child, tears immediately came to my eyes. I did not want that. But I did not know whether I was happy or sad. Maybe I was ashamed too, her whole family was there. Was that possible from here or from her mother? My partner told me that herself, I was not allowed to take my child. I didn’t do that either.

[i] Because she was angry with you or what?

Eventually, when it was all over, she told me that it all came from her mother. About foreigners or refugees coming here, and no idea… Her mother simply had a false impression of refugees. She did all that, although she loved me too. She used to love me. I wanted to fight and be there for my daughter. I tried everything. But I have always lost until now.

[i] Was there any instance where they could insist? Is it a boy or a girl? Girls. Could you claim that?

I used to visit her. But I wasn’t allowed to touch her, that was the rule. They said that would scare her. I didn’t know how that could scare my daughter if I held her. But they laugh when I say or do something. I had never had anything like it before. OK, I’ve never left Guinea before. That was the first time I saw it: That was my child and I was happy. I wasn’t allowed to touch her but could watch her play. Slowly she grew up and I always argued with my partner. We weren’t together, but we always fought and now there is always a lady from the youth welfare office when I see the child. The child can sit or play. But when the child cries, they say I have to keep my distance. I took part and did not want to give up my child, my flesh and blood! I have seen her every two weeks only for 1 hour. I was there again for 1 hour on Friday after work. 1 hour. Then I play with her and drive back again. When I was there and I see her, I am happy when I see her. And then I go home again. It was very nice to see you. But they made my life hell. So my partner. I told him that I would not give up the child. No matter what they do. I really loved her mother, she was my first big love. I have never been so in love in my life. The whole thing then went to court again. They said that I could see another hour more. But that is far too little. She does not know me. She knows that I am her father, but I am afraid of myself. When I say come to me, she says no. If I want to hold her, then she wants to go back down and to her mother. I thought to myself, she is still a child and did not see it differently. I wasn’t allowed to touch her here before. Now she has grown up and comes to me every weekend to spend the night here. Back then, with education and family, it was all too much for me. I dropped out of training, I couldn’t do it all at once. I wanted to fight for my daughter first so that I would not lose her. If I hadn’t done that back then, I would really have lost her. I am very happy about that, you can still finish your training. All I have to do is register and continue somewhere.

That’s great that you fight so hard for your daughter.

She is my life.

[i] You can’t say that everywhere. That’s very nice. D. H. You now have a daughter here, too.

Yes exactly, my little girl.

[i] Now she’s not afraid anymore?

[r] No. We talk a lot when she’s here. We play and walk together. We really talk a lot, or she helps me cook. She helps me cut onions or carrots and clean them.

[i] You said you had a hard time with your daughter. What’s the relationship like with your ex now?

We’re not together anymore, we’re just talking.

[i] On the “parent level”?

Exactly, if anything is wrong then she calls me. If the child is sick or she needs a signature, etc. She has a boyfriend again, since then things are going much better.

[i] Fate: You have something in common. That’s nice. Now, looking back to your farewell from Guinea. What was it like for you when you were ready to say, “Here we go”? How was that feeling?

[r] Beautiful and sad.

At the same time?

Yes, it was so beautiful because I was curious what awaited me in the future. Sad because I had to leave my family. That’s why it was sad for me and the family.

Was there any friends outside the family?

Yes, a friend, but I didn’t know her so long before the trip. She was also there and sad.

And did you take anything from home with you? A piece of home?

[r] Yes, a chain. I always have this chain with me. When I see it, I think of home and of friends who gave me the chain.

[i] Can you give us this chain a second?

[r] Gladly.

[i] Please show us this memento. What do you see there? It’s beautiful. Who did you get it from?

From my best friend I’ve left for so long.

[i] Friend?

[r] Yes exactly. My first best friend. He’s also called Alpha, like me.

[i] The chain from alpha to alpha. Was there an occasion, why?

He wanted me not to forget him and think of him when I have the chain.

[i] So, that was just before he left?

[r] Exactly.

What if they wear the chain?

Then I feel as if he were with me. Hard to describe. When I have this chain on, of course I feel good. And then I think about him every day. We always travelled together and did everything together. He was always on the road with me, no matter where I went. Except to school. Because he trained as a mechanic and I went to school. He was even a very good mechanic.

Does he repair cars?

[r] Yes exactly.

[i] Now to the journey, how did you get to Germany?

I flew by plane, from Conakry. First to France and from there to Düsseldorf.

What was it like for you? Inside the plane? Or have you ever flown by plane before?

Never before, that was my first time. At first I was curious and then a little bit scared. I’ve never flown before – that’s why I was so afraid. Anything can happen. When we were at the top – that was a very nice feeling.

[i] Feeling liberated?

Exactly, a great feeling. Just very beautiful. I thought, “Wow I’m flying and my dreams are going to be slow! Those were my thoughts when flying. That was, I think, July 11th. 2010

[i] Was that more in the evening or in the morning?

[r] In the evening. Or was it afternoon? Either 17 or 18 o’clock.

[i] Was that a window seat?

Right at the window to see the clouds. Everything was as small as on a map somehow. That was simply beautiful. The houses and trees were so small. Then you see all the rivers. It was just wonderful.

Did you see the sea and Conakry?

[r] You see Conakry completely somehow. At a glance. It was very beautiful.

When was the landing about?

[r] I forgot.

Did you change planes in Paris?

Exactly, we had a connecting flight there. From there to Germany, Düsseldorf.

[i] Were there already any acquaintances in Germany?

[r] I beg your pardon?

Have there been any connections before?

[r] Yes, I have an uncle somewhere here. I actually came here because of him, but I haven’t found him yet.

[i] You just told me about Düsseldorf. What were you thinking?

[r] When I landed in Düsseldorf… It was all new. So many new people, everyone knows! Completely white – everything! It was as if I was dreaming, and then… everything was bright and beautiful. A huge airport. And then… It was… simply everything new.

What was it like with all the bureaucracy? What was it like at the airport? And what was it like afterwards?

[r] I only knew my mother tongue and French. But French or Fulda didn’t have that many people. Then I asked how to get ahead here. But… whenever I said something, the answer was “Je ne parle pas français”. Fortunately, an African helped me, a black man. He showed me how to get from Düsseldorf to Dortmund.

How did this new language sound to you?

The language was funny to me, as if they wanted to fuck with me. That can’t be a language, no one understands the other! All I heard was that they were all talking. But I always wondered what they were talking about. Do they understand themselves at all? Or are they kidding me? Or themselves? Those were my first thoughts that all this must be wrong after all. “Only my language is right” – that was my thing. Then I went to Dortmund and stayed there for 2 weeks. Then I came to a children’s home where I started learning the language.

[i] In Dortmund?

[r] Yes exactly. Then I learned the language for 7 months. At some point they brought me to Bochum because it was full in Dortmund. Again to another institution. But that was an apartment. I was 17 years old there. Or about 18. In this house I stayed 1 year and 2 months. Then I graduated from school, 9th and 10th, and then I started my training.

[i] As an electrician?

Exactly, I did only 3 months of practical training and the boss was very satisfied. The colleagues were all very nice. Everyone was always nice to me. I did every job the way they wanted me to. When I made mistakes, they showed me how to do it right. The internship was very nice and I was asked to graduate. Then I could start training if I wanted to. It wasn’t easy, the German language is very difficult for me. Then I finished school and started training. Until then this girl came, of whom I had told before. And all the chaos and conflicts with the woman I thought was the right one.

[i] OK… Maybe again to the arrival: So the arrival in Dortmund. What impressions did you have? The city itself? What was your first impression?

1. Was I afraid, and 2. Did I only see new things. Things I couldn’t even have dreamed of. It was all so white for me, just white people. That was the only thing I saw.

[i] This has to do with my own position that white people, for example, in Guinea in the. minority and exactly the opposite here?

Exactly. And those blue eyes, I’ve never seen anything like it! They have different eye colors. Very long hair, all the way to the bottom. I thought all the time, this is a dream… It doesn’t really exist. And then I heard the language again and thought, where did I end up here? What is that? How can you understand that at all? If you learn that, can you even speak it at some point? I had thousands of unanswered questions. That’s how it started. But slowly, slowly I have it somehow… I got used to the language and the people. What I had seen was not a dream.

Was it a beautiful dream before?

Yes, it was a really nice dream.

And then, this experience – what did you think about these people? What was your impression of them?

What I saw in these people was that nobody cares about each other. They run and run… they don’t have time to say hello. They run all the time. I thought to myself, why is everyone here doing this? I got to know people in the institution. They had appointments, some had to go to work or pick up children. Everyone has something in mind. That can’t be normal this constant running and running! But that is Europe. I never think I can do that, it’s a real sport what they do here. Everyone runs so fast that you couldn’t talk to them if you wanted to make contact.

Were there hurdles?

[r] I beg your pardon?

[i] Hurdles you had to overcome? Besides the language?

Yes, the first real hurdle was the Youth Welfare Office.

[i] Oh, your institution cooperated with the Youth Welfare Office?

Exactly, the minors were concerned with the Youth Welfare Office. They were responsible there and do everything for the minors.

[i] What was the relationship like with your supervisor?

In the beginning it was very difficult for me because I used to do everything the way I wanted. Here it’s different: There are so many rules, “you have to go to bed at 10 o’clock”, etc. I didn’t know that and it was too much for me. You can’t do that, you should. E.g. clubs from 18 years: Before 18 I was not allowed to meet with friends or go out! If you were outside after 22 o’clock, they called the police. Something like that is not normal! With us you can stay somewhere as long as you want. And then you come home again. But here it was different.

Did you feel that much more severely?

Exactly, it was just too much.

So were there any rules that you broke?

[r] Yes, so many rules… In the facility in Dortmund, there were even more rules. In Bochum the rules were different because they lived in the apartment. It was no longer a children’s home, I had my key… stayed as long as I wanted outside and still came back in.

[i] There you were already 18?

Just before 18 I had that. The counselors came only 1 or 2 times a week. A little entertainment, a few appointments, and so on.

I know you as a very open person who communicates a lot. Our first appointment was in Bochum in the Bermuda Triangle – that was very interesting. They were very, very cordial. What friends do you have in Bochum? Also German friends?

Of course I have many friends. But there are also many different kinds of friendships. There are friends you can trust. Then there are some who are OK. Just comrades or acquaintances. Or with others you just go to a party. You could entrust your life to others. I have German friends, Turks, Africans… Poland. I have many different friends and friendships.

Was it like that in the beginning?

No matter where I go, I am simply a “human type”. I like to communicate, I like to talk to people.

Do you have any hobbies here?

[r] Sport, I like going to the gym. I also played a little basketball. And I love swimming and cooking. Also for stress management, then I just cook something. Try new recipes, just buy something in the supermarket and do it.

Was it always like that?

No, I only started cooking in Germany.

What was it like at the beginning with the food here?

Bad, really bad at the beginning. I can’t say that what they’re cooking doesn’t taste good, but… I just didn’t know that. You have to try everything first. What you don’t like might be tasted by others. The food was catastrophic for me.

[i] What did you often eat then?

Bread was the worst, almost every time there was bread.


[r] Yes, and always this toast… Dinner was at 16 o’clock. In my home country we eat like this around 8 pm. 19 to 20 o’clock dinner, from time to time even until 22 o’clock. Here the dinner was so early… And afterwards, when you were still hungry, there was bread. Again. Just like in the morning. Well, OK.

[i] What’s cultural in Bochum? Activities?

[r] I was in the theatre once, a buddy had a theatre group there. In the beginning I also took part. But because of my child… The rehearsals were always on weekends, and then I just wanted to enjoy those days with my daughter. Therefore I could not take part any more.

[i] So how do you spend your free time?

Actually, only with my daughter. I’m only free on weekends, and after work I pick up my daughter from kindergarten.

[i] Are there places in Bochum that you find beautiful and where you like to go?

In summer already. But now in winter everything is cold outside.

[i] And where?

Where I used to live is a beautiful park. For a walk, it’s very big.

[i] City centre?

[r] Bochum Wattenscheid.

[i] Is there a “place to be” for you in your spare time?

Once a month, usually on Thursdays, I go to a creek. There I meet colleagues – we drink and then talk. I think that’s very nice, after that we usually meet again in a pizzeria. Then we eat something and go home again.

[i] What makes the people from Bochum so special? Compared to those from Guinea?

The people here in Bochum are very open-minded. I think that’s very good. Not like with us. If you ask someone here for something, they also say directly no if they don’t have time or don’t want to. In Guinea you can’t actually say “no” – not always. Everyone who comes to us, actually 80 %, always join in when you ask a question. Then they also help when you ask. Or if you ask someone… Or if you get to know someone, for example. You talk and talk and then say “I would like to get to know you”. She says it’s nice – but how do we do it? Then she says, but I’m not interested at the moment. One has talked beautifully, but then staying in touch is not possible. That’s what I learned here too, this direct contact with people. They say here immediately if something does not suit them. Or if you love someone, and suddenly no longer… That is of course hard, but somehow I find that even very good. Before you hurt someone, it’s better to tell them that. It’s hard, of course. With us, for example, you can marry 4 women if you can. Why do you marry a 2nd time? The women should then help each other. But if you love someone, then you cannot marry a 2nd woman. If you no longer love this person, then talk to this person. Maybe you can save it, otherwise you have to break up. Then you can marry someone else. But 2 women? That really is a risk. Some children argue e.g. Always, sometimes also the 2 women – I find that still worse. If your wife brings a second man home with her. You don’t think that’s cool either and say “Nope! It doesn’t work that way, you just have to think differently from time to time. The culture here in Europe is different from ours.

Is that based on personal experience from the family or from neighbours? Polygamy?

My father also had two wives.

Was that more harmony or more conflict?

At first it was nice. My stepmother and my mother got along very well in the beginning. But the love… You can’t love both at the same time. There’s always one you love more than the other. But when you show someone that you love them more, there is always a conflict. One will then feel like a lover, the other will not. Then there was stress at home again. My father bought a house and separated the two. The other family was somewhere in another city, and the other stayed in Conakry. So I tell it from experience. It’s so bad.

[i] Back to life here in Bochum: Were there people who helped you with your arrival here?

Yes, my caregiver taught me a lot. He always said: “Patience, my friend”. In the beginning I always wanted everything fast, so I know it from before. He said, but life is not like that. He gave me an example: There were 6 tiles at the station, they were really big. He said I should jump. And immediately on the other side. I landed on the 3rd and couldn’t go on. He sent me back again, he himself ran very slowly and suddenly he was on the 6th tile. If you walk slowly, you reach everything. I will never forget this example. If you do it fast, you only get up to it. Middle and can not reach your goal. Slowly you can reach everything you want. I said: OK, then I will try that. He was really a very cool guy. He did his job very well.

Was there also discrimination experience here in Bochum?

Often even…

[i] So concrete that you realize you’re being treated differently now than the others. Your ex was like that, but I mean outside.

[r] Yes, actually… All I know is that I have… I experienced something like that once. With my best friend. We often went out together. We do a lot, are really good friends. We were celebrating and wanted to take the train home afterwards. There were some guys at the station. I had a cold and spat on the floor. Then one of them came and asked “Why did you do that? “What do you mean? I asked. He said he talked and then I spat. I said, why are you asking me something like that? I don’t know you and that’s floor. Others pee on it! He said he didn’t say that because I spat on the floor but because I didn’t wait until he finished speaking. The spitting just disturbed him, he felt attacked. He had the feeling that I was calling him a liar by spitting. It arrived at him as a misunderstanding. I didn’t even listen to him! And suddenly he hit me on the nose. That also bled immediately. My girlfriend was so angry that she wanted to interfere. I said let it go. His friends then came and apologised. He was drunk and so on. I said no, he doesn’t sound like one who is drunk. They wanted to bring him to me so that he would apologize. But he did not. He just said “Oh, let the Africans…” and so on. When he started the sentence like that, I hit his nose with my fist. Then he also bled and couldn’t do anything anymore. Then the station security came and sent us home.

[i] That can really happen to anyone here… Were there also nice memories with people from Bochum?

Yes, my first German friend here in Bochum. His name was Gordon. I know his family, we always chill with me…

[i] What does he do?

We always played with me at the beginning. Or are out drinking coffee and talking. We did a lot, it was very nice with that. He now travels from his work.

[i] What role does the culture of your homeland play for you here in Bochum? Are there things here from your homeland towards culture?

Ramadan, for example. And the Sugar Festival at the end of Ramadan. At the Sugar Festival, all Muslims go to the mosque. You meet all your friends, it feels a bit like home country. We speak our mother tongue, you shake hands after prayer. Then you tell each other a little and you go home to someone and cook there. You talk almost the whole day. A very nice feeling.

Does one celebrate celebrations here differently or in exactly the same way?

Exactly the same, or pretty much the same as in the home country. You put on different clothes. We have different suits there. For example, one is blue and white. The clothes are very, very nice.

So do you wear that too?

Exactly, that’s what you wear.

[i] On the subject of home: What is Bochum for you? What is home for you?

[r] For me… For me, my home is always where I live. But now I live here, this is my home. But Guinea, where I come from – of course you can’t forget that. Now I have a family here, a child. I can’t leave them here and go back. I cannot do that to her. That is why my home is here as long as I live here.

[i] How would you describe your community, people from Guinea, here? What are they like?

[r] Coll and nice, some of them. And… if you have problems, they will be there for you.

Is the understanding better like that?

[r] The language?

[i] No, understanding problems. When you talk to them.

They will be there and will support me. Not everyone can speak German, for example. If they have appointments (doctor, foreigners authority, youth welfare office), then they need a translator. Some also actively ask for interpreters. We even have a group here in such cases. It is easy to write, and there is usually someone who can translate and also has time for it. And we do it all for free. That’s why I think our community is very cool.

[i] How good is the networking in this community?

Very, very good – we help each other. That’s totally cool. The problem is if you fly to Spain, for example, and don’t speak the language at all. Then you get an appointment,