[i] Good evening [name].

[r] Good evening [name].

[r] You brought us an object, can you tell us his story?

[i] Yes, of course. This is actually a keychain, and I keep it with me at all times. Because this is the keychain I had from my father, who died when I was 4. So, uh….. This is a keychain that reminds me of my childhood, my family… Syria. And I really like this keychain. And here, there’s something else in the keychain, there’s a little piece called “Death Note” That’s….  [comes] from the cartoon. Because I work in the media field. So, in the cartoon. And it was… I had this keychain from Japan. During the participation [in] an “animated” [animation] event. So both keychains are very important to me. Because this is from my father, and this is like the success of my professional life, we can say…. So… I have kept… When… I left my country, I decided to keep both, to be… connected with my family’s memory, good times… and my history with work, etc. And it gives me a lot of energy when I’m a little optimistic… not optimistic, pessimistic, demotivated, etc. And I decided to bring this keychain.

[i] And if you can take us back in time… And bring us back to your childhood… your neighborhood… your hometown…

r] Yes, actually, my childhood was a very beautiful time because I grew up in [a] very small family. I’m an only child. And… I grew up with my mother, and in my neighborhood in Damascus, with… my friends from… school. And… it went very, very well. We played a lot We have… played with video games, [we] went out to dinner, to school, of course… always, we spent time together. And, in fact, my neighbourhood is in the city of Damascus, a place called “El Mouhajerin”, and it is a nice neighbourhood. There are not many people. There is diversity. Because I am of Circassian origin. And there are my friends, of Damascus origin [from Damascus]. So we [lived] together like that. It was very, very good. We [did] a lot of activities like all children…. We played [in] football We have…. go to the pool, movies, walks, etc. And…. It was really a great time for me.

[i] Did you go to school in Damascus too?

[r] Yes, school… I studied all my studies in Damascus. The schools were in the same area, in “Mouhajerin”. And I kept, in fact, my friends… since the nursery… I have, until now, friends from the nursery… from…. how to say… uh… high school, and after… school, the Baccalaureate, etc. And we stay… in communication… Even [if] I am now in France. There are friends who stay in Damascus, there are friends who are now in Germany. So we always communicate on social networks, etc. I’m someone who keeps… his friends. My friends, actually….. So I had many [friends] from each era, and I keep them all, until now. And I keep… the bonds between my friends, always.

[i] It was chance that made it so that you kept the same friends you had when you were a child, at school, then in high school?


[i] After that, did you go to university in Damascus too?

[r] Yes… the university, in fact, we [have] separated because each person has chosen a university… or… how do you say… a] specialty. But, despite that, we were still together over the weekend…. There are some… parties, something, someone’s birthday, always, we’re together. And also, there is a friend who is the first friend [to] me, since the nursery school, we kept… being together… after also… the university. We worked together for three years because his father has a company that sells… medical tools… for… operations, so… I continued with my friend, together, in this company for three years. And I was… I… actually started my professional life.

[i] But that was before the… after college, or… ?

[r] This is after the… the university. Yes…

[i] And you studied in what?

[r] I studied for… business management, “Business administration”. And then directly after that, I started with my friend in the field of…. medical.

[i] For how long?

[r] Uh… three years, and then I… I thought… I have to change because, in fact, the company was… a “business family”, quite small. So there’s….. a point…. where] we get to [where] we decide, we decide that… we now have to go to the next step. So, by chance, I changed, in the media field. It was a company well known in the Arab world, a television for children called “Spacetoon”. And I started working with “Spacetoon”. In my childhood, it was my television, my favorite channel. I watched all the shows, cartoons, etc. in Arabic. And it was by chance [that] I joined this company. I worked there for [for] twelve years.

[i] In Damascus?

[r] In Damascus, yes.

[i] And, after that?

[r] After… In 2011, in fact, the Syrian revolution began, and I kept my work with “Spacetoon”. But in 2015, I left Syria because it was dangerous for me. I am a political refugee, etc. So I left my country [for] France.

[i] If we’re talking about your departure now, then?

[r] Yes, okay, actually…

[i] For what reasons, in fact?

[r] It was also by chance, because I made some videos with my friends, together, against the regime, funny… something comical… We did this before, since 2012-2013…. But in 2015, we knew that this video [would] be what we call it, known [by] the secret police. So I felt the danger. And [because of] this danger, I decided to leave my country, because I saw, there are friends who [have] been kidnapped in prisons. And France was actually also by chance. Because, during my work with “Spacetoon”, always, twice a year… I’m going… I went to Cannes, to participate [in] the television festival in Cannes. So, I already had the visa, and I was lucky to have the visa, and it was a very, very… how do you say, good luck for me, to leave my country. Because for other people, there is no choice…. It is either in Lebanon or Jordan, etc. But for me, I decided, okay, I know a little, I know a little bit about France since my trip. So France is a country that respects the right to expression, the right to live. And I thought, okay, I’m really going to turn the page now, and start a new page in my life.

[i] So, have you ever visited France before?

[r] Yes, yes…. Several times, since 2000, I think, 2005 until 2015, every year, at least twice. Yes..

[i] And you didn’t encounter any difficulties when you asked to be a refugee in France?

r] In fact, the image, in relation to, like a “tourist” or a business trip for a week, ten days, is really totally different compared to the image of an asylum seeker and the administrative procedures… Because, when we are, as in a “business trip”, in quotation marks, we do not think about [the] papers, etc. Okay, I have my visa [card], there are professional activities for a few days, and it’s over. A few days ago, to do the tourist activities. But when… I went to France, I came to France as an asylum seeker, I came with the visa in fact, short stay, short stay. But when I started with the process, it was difficult. It was a shock! I’ll explain why. I have…. I went to the prefecture and said to myself, okay, I came there at 9:00, quiet, okay, the procedures, I ask for the papers, etc. But I found that there are a lot of people. And once [per] week the prefecture accepts only 10 people, despite [that] there may be 100, 150 people waiting since I don’t know what time we wait. So, okay, I figured, maybe 9:00 is too much. So, okay, next week I’m gonna be… maybe at 7:00, and it’s the same story! And then, okay, 5:00, and the same story. And I actually spent 5 or… Six weeks, and the sixth week, I thought, okay, it’s too much like that! And I went to the prefecture, an hour after midnight, and I was the first. And yet, when the doors [opened], everyone [fought] to be in the 10 people. But, fortunately, on that day, there were a few officials in the prefecture who said, “Are there Syrian people here?” And I said, “Yes, me, please, ma’am.” And [I am] past…. That was just to get the file, to [fill it out] and then to send it by mail, to start the administrative procedures. So it was really a year… a pretty difficult time… Also, because I was in the apartment with my friends, Two, married couple. So I said to myself, okay, maybe two weeks and there’s [one] apartment, quietly, I’m moving, etc. But I actually spent two and a half months at their house and it was difficult because they are a married couple, and I, the house, the apartment, it is …

[i] Is it a family member?

[r] Actually, no, actually, friends. So, they’re not friends… close friends, very close friends. So, they were very nice, but I was stressed because I can’t imagine, that [it would be] like that! And we add the second thing, it’s the language…. Because I speak Arabic, English, I studied a little Japanese, but nothing at all French. And in the prefecture, it’s always French, it’s logical. So I decided to, okay, when I talk to the officials, he tells me: “you have to do this and that, the papers,” etc., he explains, explains… And I said, “Okay, ma’am, thank you, ma’am, thank you very much”, just like that. Because I knew that, afterwards, there were lists or something to explain the procedures. So when I was at home, I translated and it was very hard for me. But step by step, it was better, actually. I think after…. We can say, breaking the language barrier… the language, life really changes completely. Totally.

[i] So, so, your first days in Paris, apart from the administrative worries, how did [it] go?

[r] [It went well] because I was with my friends, we did a little… tour, in Paris, Eiffel Tower, Champs Élysées, Louvre, etc., etc., etc.. So it was almost like a normal tourist day. And then we had dinner in some restaurant, I remember, it was a restaurant near Bastille, and yes, I said, okay, life in France, actually, is beautiful! Yes, so until now too, I say, life in France is beautiful! It is just the administrative procedures that have changed completely after me. Now, there are not the same approaches like that, I [know it by] other friends. Now, there is an appointment with the OFI, That is the first step. And even it’s a little far away, it’s not very close, maybe after a month, or a month and a half, but it’s an appointment. And then the process starts little by little, like that, so now, I think, it’s better

[i] And the image of Paris, does it correspond to the representation you made in your thoughts before coming?

Honestly, like everyone else, like all foreigners, when we think of Paris, we think of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Élysées, and again the tourist stuff. But I noticed, on a first day in Paris, I noticed that there is a hidden link, one can say, because Paris looks like something, near Damascus. Perhaps because, in ancient times, it was colonized by France. So, maybe in terms of architecture, there are some details, I don’t know how to explain this, but I noticed when I was in the streets of Paris, there is something, some positive feelings, there is a connection, with the atmosphere generally. And that was very good for me. I was relaxed, like that… Okay, I thought, Really, Paris, I feel that it’s a city [where] I can continue my life [in] Paris, yes…..

[i] Once the administrative problems are over, a day, or an ordinary day at [name], what does it consist of?

[r] Actually, it consists, always I’m someone who does a lot of planning. That’s, every day, I wake up [I take] a paper and a pen, and I say, okay, what are we supposed to do today? this and that and that… Always, my brain always works like that…. So, normally, it might be shopping, reading a few books or [connecting] with my family, because I… my mother [stayed] in Damascus, and my wife [stayed] there too. So every day, I talk to them. And also, try to learn the language. At first, I have… I can’t find some associations, someone who can help me with the language. So I had the “Lingo” application on my laptop, and I thought, okay, I’ll start like that, just to break the ice. And then, of course, I will find some courses, or something in languages, for languages.

[i] And, when did your integration into the host society take place?

[r] In fact, I can say, during the year… I came to France in March 2015. From March 2015 to the end of 2015, I cannot say that I was really integrated into society, because of the language, because of the steps, many steps, etc., etc., etc. But then, with… from 2016, I can say, I found an association called Kodiko, by chance, a Facebook group for Syrians, Syrian people in Paris. So I thought, okay, I have time, why not [get involved with the Kodiko program. The Kodiko program: it is a program to integrate refugees into society, work, etc. So, with this program, we had a team of employees. I had a very, very nice lady from Total, and every two weeks we [made] an appointment in which she helped me with…. improve the CV in the “French” way, the cover letter, what is my professional project, what is the action plan, etc., etc., etc. And in parallel, through Kodiko, I found another association called Inflect. It is an association of trainees and students from the Sorbonne who give F.L.E. courses: French as a foreign language for refugees. So I started with this association, and it was an intensive program, five days a week. Every day, two hours ago, and with that, I progressed with the language, because I started with the A2 level, in French. That’s a bit of a beginner. And for a year, fortunately thanks to my teacher Marion, she was very, very smart, very, very, very professional, for a year, the goal, in fact, was to reach a B1 level, intermediate. But thanks to her, me and two other people, we made it to level B2. And we passed DELF B2. For a year, then, it was really a success story for me. And after that, my self-confidence [increased], I said to myself, okay, I can do… how do you say, succeed, etc., etc., etc. And what’s the next step, etc.? So after that, I found in Kodiko, that there is a status called “auto-entrepreneur” in which I can continue to work with my former company “Spacetoon”. But not as an employee, as an advisor. I have…. spoken with the management of “Spacetoon”, and I say, now, if you want, I can continue with you, but not as an employee. I can provide advice in the media, communications, etc. Because I have all my networks with all the cartoon production studios in France and all over the world. So, he said, fortunately, yes, of course! You worked with us for two years, and, really… we want to continue that. Be an employee, it’s going to be impossible. So, as an auto-entrepreneur. And at that [moment], I started working. Now I feel that, okay, I’m someone who works, who… who, because… after college, I worked. I’m not used to staying like this, and asking for something. So, with the status of auto-entrepreneur, it was really great for me! Now I have learned the language… one can say… the language… sufficient, from,… to] live the daily life at least. And then I work, I had money, I pay taxes, etc. So, at that moment [there], I said to myself, now, I can say, I am almost integrated into… in society.

[i] And, after that, you had another training? Or, you have… You stayed just…. ?

[r] In fact, here in France, I found something, especially in Paris, that networks are very, very, very important. Because I started with Kodiko, via Kodiko, I know Inflect, so I know the language, after… with Kodiko and Total, I found… a training, two days, at MEDEF. So, with this training I met a lady too, very, very nice. And she was in charge of the refugee integration program, and through her, I started [to] think about [my] professional project, because I said to myself, okay, now I work, I continue with the media field, communication consulting, etc., etc., etc. But it’s not something stable for me, it’s not something [strategic], you can say in quotation marks. Because I have only one foreign customer in Dubai, and maybe there’s a day coming and the customer says, “Okay, thank you very much, that’s it, we’re done here!” And that’s death to me. So I thought, okay, this is a new page. I think I’ve changed everything! Why not follow… a professional project in Paris that… is like my passion. So, I figured, what’s my passion? And during my life, especially in 2015, I noticed that I really like cooking. I like it very much, because you have to cook, Always, I am dependent [on] my mother and my wife in Damascus. Okay, I’m coming… home, there’s… there’s… there… food, etc. But in France, okay. First day, a “sandwich”. Second day, a salad, a pizza, but then… It’s, it’s too much like that! You have to try something different. Or something I… I used to eat, like Syrian dishes. So I tried to make the basic dishes, you could say, the “hummus” I don’t know, the very, very [basic] stuff. Sometimes I ask my mother, “How do you do that, how do you do that?” And, sometimes, in Youtube, I look for something… Pasta, I don’t know, “pizza”, Not in the oven, but pizza… I don’t know…. with tortilla bread, so I don’t know… And after that, I thought, okay, I really like cooking, why not follow that path. And by Kodiko, MEDEF, etc., I get to the point that, okay, I’m really going to try to start my professional project in the field of [the] kitchen. And it will be… I thought at first, okay, maybe a restaurant, but there’s no money capital. So, maybe a food truck. But also, I found that it costs how much, it costs too much! So in the two-day training, at MEDEF, I sometimes… find an idea, a chef at home, – that, no need for money – that gives Syrian dishes in the French way. And then I thought, okay, I have an idea, I have something, now I have to follow that. So the network is very, very important to.. Because each person, perhaps, will help to know another person who knows another thing, another path…. I don’t know…. Training, etc., etc., etc. And like that, I think…. That, in my opinion, is the way to succeed in France, and particularly in Paris.

[i] And, you left from your passion?

[r] Exactly, exactly. At first, you have to find out what passion is. Because I think there are two types of people. There are people who prefer to be employees, who do not like to take risks. Okay, I’m an employee, I know that at the end of each month I earn this… money figure and that’s it, it’s quiet. But the salaried path, I think in France, is quite difficult, compared to the “entrepreneurial” path. Because “entrepreneurial” is the approach, two weeks is online. We’re filling out a form. It’s complicated, but after that, it only lasts two weeks, then it’s, that’s it! There’s a paper. Now I am an auto-entrepreneur. And, there is a tax system. It’s different, but it’s not complicated like the employee system. And then, we have to find the passion, the professional project, and follow… But it [includes] taking risks, because the auto-entrepreneur, maybe, unless he makes a lot of money, the other month, nothing at all. So, we must, how do we say it, regulate, balance. And I chose that, because I spent twelve years with the three years also, in the other field, fifteen years, as an employee. And, now it’s a new page. I have to try something else.

[i] So, you spent the most important part of your time doing this training?

[r] That’s right.

[i] In the kitchen.

[i] That’s right, because.. Via the lady from MEDEF, she told me, okay, maybe we should look for professional training. Because I, okay, I cook for my friends, etc. here in France, but it’s not something professional. Cooking here in France is something really very regulated. There are many rules, many things, and I don’t know, I’m a novice cook, [who] obeys like that. So, by it, I started until… just….. at the beginning of March, I started a professional training, traditional French cuisine. And it continues until the end of May, with three months… three weeks of mandatory internship. And this training is with… in the school of… a very, very famous chef in France, named Thierry Marx. So, it was really an exceptional opportunity for me! It’s hard training, it’s very, very intensive. It is in fact the same two-year pedagogy, in the culinary school, in “normal” quotation marks. But that’s, how do you say it in French… maybe compacted! I don’t know if we can say compacted or intensive, in two months. So it’s really very hard! But I’m really very optimistic, very happy with this training.

[i] And how does French cuisine differ from Syrian cuisine?

[r] Actually, it’s… very different because, in the ingredients, Syrian cuisine is quite different… how do you say? simple enough, you can say, quite simple enough, especially [at the] level of [the] presentation of the dishes, there are no exceptional things. But in France, I noticed, wahoo! It’s when you see a dish in a restaurant, in quotation marks, “gastro”, it’s… it’s really a… What’s the word? Maybe in English, “peace of art” It’s… It’s… wahoo! So I really like it. And I thought, why not bring traditional Syrian dishes, but in the French way, like that, for people, not for Syrians or foreigners, for French people and especially, I say… my customer, my customers of the future, [it] are the “boo-boo”, who like… who like… try something different, who like travel, who like the world’s cuisine. So… They are my customers [in the] future.

[i] The only difference is in the presentation of the dishes?

[r] That’s the… we can say, the major difference, the most important, the clearest thing… But also, there are in the… the dishes… the… the… how do you say it? the ingredients, the things you mix, there are some differences, but I think it’s not very far, at that level, because, France and Syria, they are in the Mediterranean countries, so, like Turkey, Tunis, etc. Italy, there is something related, I think.

[i] And oriental pastry is… ?

[r] Yes, yes, it’s…

[i] Compared to French cakes?

Yes, the French cake is wahoo! There are many choices. I thought that cake is always sweet. In our country, cake is something, cake and sweet. But I sometimes find here in France, there are salty cakes, cakes… yes. So, always, every day, there are things… new things… you know.

[i] So that gives you ideas?

[r] Yes, of course!

[i] In the future in… In relation to your project of…. In relation to…. your passion is cooking, and to get into this business?

[r] Absolutely! That’s right. That’s right. Now I have some ideas, but they’re, they’re basic ideas. But I think, I need the experience, again. And for that, I thought, after the training. My original action plan, after the training, I launch [into] my professional project, home chef, etc. But I found that I need a network, and it’s not easy directly, so there’s no network. So, in training, I sometimes think that it is necessary, perhaps after training, to find a paid job. At least a year, or two years. In a restaurant, in a house, either a small gastronomic house, or a large house, to have the experience on the spot, to have the networks. to be connected with the market, the market, it is what the customer is, what are the… the new things, etc. So, we’ll see about that. Maybe after that, I’ll look for a job. And at the same time, I keep my job as a communication consultant until [to the point that… I feel that the cooking path now is strong, it’s good, how do you say, launched. And maybe, at this point, I’ll stop communication, to become a communication advisor. And I’m going to focus 100% on the kitchen area.

[i] It’s obvious that you have a very busy schedule!

[r] Yes, of course, of course.

[i] Do you find time for activities such as weekends? What do you do, for example, on weekends?

[r] During the weekend, before the training, it was always, going out with my friends… in restaurants, maybe walking, just walking, etc. in a bar… like that. But, after that, now, I also started with the… before the training, I started giving Arabic language courses for French people. I found an association, I really like, in fact, to look for associations, and find the activities. Because, in my opinion, this is necessary for integration. So I found an association called Causons, which gives… which has a great idea, actually, I can say. Because always, normally foreigners, refugees, [need] something from… of French society. Either [a] dwelling, or the language, or… administrative procedures, etc., etc., etc. So with this association, it’s the other way around. Refugees give courses… in… local… languages, with… the cultural aspect. For French people who are interested in learning languages, foreign. So I started with Causons, we did three days of training. And after that now, for two months, I had a class, a course… Arabic language, oral expression. And now I have four French students. And every week, we have, once, we have a meeting. I teach Arabic classes. And, at the same time, when I give Arabic classes, I give in French. So, that’s, how do you say, “win-win” situation. Because I have improved my French, French language, and at the same time, I give, I communicate with people, and sometimes I ask questions about cooking, etc., etc., etc. So, it’s the interaction… social, we can say.

[i] This is every weekend that…?

[r] Yes, actually, now it is like that. So, my weekend is very busy. But after the cooking training, I’m going to stop for a while and rest, maybe for a week, two weeks, just relax, relax, relax. And then I’m going to look for a job in the kitchen.

[i] What about the relationship with your home community here in Paris?

[r] Yes…. actually…

[i] What is the context?

[r] Yes, actually, I can divide it into two parts. The first part, when… we can say, 2015 and 2016, I made a decision. To be well integrated into French society, I said to myself, I will focus on creating links and networks with French people. Because if I stay with the Syrian people, the Arab people, at this very sensitive time, I can’t learn the language. Maybe know how… the French society, etc., etc., etc. At the end, when I felt that now, okay, I’m almost integrated, I tried to…. to approach Syrian people, Arab people, and I have some friends…. And, always we see each other… And….

[i] It takes place in traditional cafés or in houses of…. your friends? Or do you organize parties?

[r] Yes, like that, like that, either with the Inflect association, because there are many people of different origins, Sudanese people, Syrian people, etc. So I created my… what do you call it? My…. community. In parallel with the other community, French, etc., etc., etc. For…. This is a strategy, which I did to be connected with everything. Not…. 100% focusing right with Syrian people, or with Arab people, no. I… connects me in parallel with many, we can say, groups, friends. And each group, there are groups to just go out, etc. there are groups…

[i] So it’s not just Syrians, is it?

[i] Ah…just maybe three, four…friends. I am, because I am someone who… who… who… keeps… a] small quantity of friends, but of quality, one can say. When someone becomes my friend, it’s really for life. Just like that. But, it’s not, for example, there are people who, perhaps, [have] dozens of friends, or twenty friends, but it’s very, how they say it, but it’s not very heavy. But I prefer quality over quantity.

[i] And when there was an event, for example in Syria, or the news we watch on TV, or to discuss the next day…. Or there was a… How do you get together and talk about this?

[i] In fact, I have an example, just yesterday, with the association Causons. We did an event, every… last… every last… how do you say? Saturday of every month, we do a cultural event, [open] to the public. So, I was there yesterday. And I have…. receive, many people… from different origins, from Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria. In fact, in the event, I made two dishes of “hummus” and… what do you call it, eggplant caviar. So, there’s a… lady… who… was talking to me. She told me, in Arabic, in “Syrian accent”, she said to me: “Wahoo! “Hummus” was very, very good, thank you very much for that.” etc., etc. What city in Syria are you from?” I said, I [told him], “In Damascus, and you, what city in Syria? ” She told me, “No, I’m French.” And I was shocked! “You speak Arabic with a Syrian accent, like me! “That’s weird, that’s weird! What the hell is this?! She said to me, “My husband is Syrian. And I learned the language with him, he teaches Arabic.” Etc. Afterwards, we exchanged phone numbers, maybe to meet with her and her husband afterwards. So, like that, I…. With the event, with… the] outings… I’m increasing, we can say, my network of friends or professional, too.

[i] So here, if we talk about the community of countries of origin, Syria, does this evoke nostalgia in you?

[r] Yes, I miss… my country. But frankly, it’s not… a very, very strong nostalgia. In relation to [to] others. For example, I… I know that there are people of different origins, not necessarily Syrians, who say here in France, refugees, who say, “Okay, oh! I miss my country. I can’t wait until the day I can get home.” And, I… I feel like these are… what do you call them? Some… Signs of… poorly integrated, in my opinion. So, for me, I can be happy with my life in France. But at the same time, I have a nostalgia for [my] country. For the moment, because the… because of the “complicated” political situation in Syria, I really can’t say that… There is a date, or a day, that we, that I know I’m going to go home. So I have the attitude that, okay, for now, I said to myself, my life will go on in France, maybe… always. So…. I am in this…. You can say, “mind set”. Or attitude, like that. Because otherwise, it’s, it’s… I’m going to suffer. You see, I’m going to suffer. Waiting like…. Okay, now what’s going on in Syria? Is that better? Is that worse? etc., etc. But I’ve decided… Stop…. I have to stop with this. Now I have to think that my life will go on in France, always. And, if there is a day coming, I’m sure there’s… there’s a day in the future, the situation will change. So, at this point, I’m going to decide, quietly, Okay, my life in France is like that. And what is in Syria for me? Maybe, it’s not necessarily either stay in France all the time, or, or go back to… my country. Maybe, maybe stay in France, and during the… during the… holidays, or… I don’t know, if I can do… … a project there. Maybe, I’ll… be between the two countries, why not? We’ll see about that. Tomorrow, with the kitchen, we’ll see…  [Laughs]

[i] But your link with your country of origin, how did you keep it then?

[r] I keep frankly with social networks. Because frankly, not many of my friends, or family members, are staying in Syria now. They are everywhere, [in] Turkey, [in] Dubai, [in] Germany. I just, maybe, have three… three friends in Damascus, and the rest of them are everywhere. But I keep with social networks, always, I try to be connected, not every day, but it depends. That’s unfortunately the… the possible way, for now.

[i] And looking at the tragedies of the Syrian people, what does this bring to you?

[r] I don’t exactly understand the… the…

[i] That is, the deaths, every day, of the bombings.

[r] Oh yes.

[i] The war in Syria.

[r] It’s difficult in fact, it’s difficult, especially because… I have…. two friends, who… A friend who… died in the prisons [of the] regime. And, one, the others, the other, he’s still in prison. So…. It’s difficult. And it’s, it’s the friends from my neighborhood, my childhood. So… And also things, the… the news in the media. Always, it’s…. It’s really difficult! Because…. Especially for the citizens, normal citizens, who [just] need to live now, after… seven years, there are many people who, okay, not either with the regime, or against. They have… They just… want to live and find the basics, electricity, work, etc. The… the… the… Not to be…. In….. In danger, etc. So, it’s, it’s really hard. I always am, what do you call it? It hurts. Inside. But, there is no, what do you call it…. There is no solution. I can say, I can’t do anything, nothing at all, now. So… it’s really hard. And it continues… The crisis… This is catastrophic!

[i] And… What don’t you like about Syria?

[r] In Syria, I really like… my neighbourhood, I like…

[i] No, what don’t you like?

[r] Oh, yes, sorry!

[i] It doesn’t matter.

[r] I don’t actually like it… I don’t like… everyday life, especially after the revolution. Especially after 2011, because I… I was there, between 2011 and 2015. It’s four years. So…. That time, daily life, it was really very, very sad!

[i] [A] what level?

[r] All levels. We can start with… electricity, it was wrong. Every 100 meters, in the street, as I drive my car, there is a… how do you say? control, a checkpoint. And you always remember the war. In fact, always, you have to do every check, give the card, the ID, and…. Where are you from? You… Where are you… where are you going? Etc. Where do you live? Etc. And always, it’s not the nice way. That’s the second thing. Thirdly, the danger of death. Just, I give you for example, you walk down the street, and there’s a “boom”! Something [serious]. And we’ve seen something like that, a lot in life. And always, the news, always the atmosphere. Everyone talks about the subject of war, etc. The danger of being kidnapped in prisons, if there is someone who thinks that… I am against the regime, etc., etc., etc. So it was really in the bases…. Very, very stressful!

[i] This is the effect of the war, but before that, Syrian society…

[r] Before, actually, maybe… I can tell the relationship, uh… with… the stranger. That’s it, that’s it. It’s not everyone like that. But I noticed, because, when I learned the Japanese language. We have a Japanese teacher. So sometimes we would go out… to… to a restaurant, or to tourist sites, etc. And I noticed that… the relationship between normal people on the street, and everyone who looks [like] Japanese, like a stranger. It’s not always nice! Always, there are…. the looks, there are, for example, direct questions, like that. “Ah! Where do you come from, China, from… ” etc., etc., etc. Or… People who [come] with the curiosity to talk, etc. The suckers…. Just like that. That… that’s something I don’t like. Because I have seen… with the trip to other countries, always the tourists, they are well respected… The…. Personal life, etc., etc., etc. But, at home…. That’s the thing, maybe… if we can… to be… “positive”. You could say, that’s because of…. or through curiosity. But sometimes it’s not like that. There are people who talk something wrong… something. towards] tourists, etc., etc., etc. So it was something…. Not nice. Not nice.

[i] And what do you like about Syria?

[r] In Syria, I love… my neighborhood, I love… I like the time of my childhood, as has already been said. I like a few restaurants, because, with experience, you can say, you choose every time, okay, now… We’re going to eat “Chawarma”. So, “Chawarma”, there’s this… The restaurant there, the pizza there, I don’t know! “pasta” there, etc., some dishes… Theatres…. What else? What else? Life in fact, life… in Damascus, it’s… it’s not very, very fast, like here, in Fr… in Paris, you see! The rhythm is quite… slower. And it’s something… really quiet. Okay, maybe in the professional level, it’s not… Good like that. But, generally speaking, the rhythm is not very, very…

[i] Human values, that is, solidarity, solidarity, the…

[r] That’s it, that’s it. The relationships, the links between society… the people in society, it’s very, very close. Sometimes it gives something [positive] and sometimes negative. Because, positive, it means… when there is someone very old, or… without work, without, without, etc., etc., etc. There is always someone, neighbour, cousin, etc., etc., who helps. That’s instead of the… what do you call it? The…. The task of…. of the government. Because we lack the… What’s the word? The…. Social assistance, retirement, etc. So, the… social network fills this… What’s the word? This “gap”, in quotation marks. But… sometimes, that’s the positive. The… the negative thing that.. Sometimes there are people who break into personal life… personal. For example, if there is someone single and… With…. who, who at thirty, maybe, I don’t know! The neighbor says, “Why are you single? Don’t you like children? Wouldn’t you like [to have] a family?” He asks very, very personal questions. If we… ask these questions here in France, it’s, it’s [a] disaster, like that! But in our country, in fact, it’s normal. Married couples, why you’re married, now [it’s] been three years, and… No children?! Why is that? Why is that? That’s weird, that’s weird! No ? etc., etc. Now I look at it, like something funny actually, yes.

[i] Let’s go back to France, then. What do you like about France, Paris?

[r] Ah! I like a lot of things, actually. Ah…. I just came from…. To… love… the rhythm of Paris, the rhythm of life, because that is very effective in the professional level. Here in Paris, in France generally, there are… respect… Work life and time… holidays, etc., are very separate. Now, okay, I’m in work, so it’s sacred. It’s work, 100% focused on it. And then, then, then….  [having] finished the job is personal time. So… there is no… someone who, okay, we have to do this job, etc., etc., etc. I really like this… thing. And then, too, I really like the diversity in Paris, the diversity of culture, the diversity of places. For example, as already mentioned, the… the “typical” image of Paris, Normally, in the “eyes” of tourists and foreigners, it is always the… the tourist sites. But after living in France, now three years, I noticed that there are at least five Paris. There are Paris Champs-Élysées, “tourist”, etc. Opera. There is Paris… What do you call it, “business”, like Defense. Everyone, just, walks very fast, seriously. It’s the… that gives the… the work atmosphere, the productivity. There is the Paris of… Belleville, la Chapelle, Paris, what do you call it? with [different] communities. Sometimes I walk down a street… in the Chapel, and I… I feel what it is, it’s a street… maybe in Damascus, or in an Arab country, etc. And there is Paris of the 15th century, which is [the] Paris… rich, the bourgeois, etc., etc., etc. The suburbs too, there are many… different, different, different atmospheres. So…. Yes, I like it very much, actually. At first, I was a little… shocked, in the picture. But now I’m looking at this, I just came from… to the point that, okay, that’s it, Paris, that’s it. It is… “Parisian” people, foreign people, people who… of foreign origin, but born… in Paris. So I really like this… What’s the word?  [This]… mixture, or this image, diverse.

[i] And in relation to time, for example, time, the absence of sunlight? The cold…

[r] Yes, yes, I am someone who loves the sun. And I like the summer. Maybe, because in our country…. It’s always, maybe, nine months, it’s summer. So I can’t be friendly with winter here in France. Especially this year, because it lasts a long time. So…. In fact, when I came… I came to France, I decided to… seek asylum, south of [la] France, perhaps Nice, Cannes, Montpellier, etc. But, by chance, I had my friends in Paris who said to me, “No, why the south? You got nothing, nobody there! etc., etc. Stay here in Paris. It’s the center, etc., etc., etc.” Stay here in Paris. It’s the center, etc., etc., etc.” So in Paris, it’s… with Paris when winter comes, etc. But, again, I get to the point that, generally, okay, now, when it’s winter, it’s winter. I spend my time waiting… for summer, that’s it.

[i] How do you see French society today?

[r] The company… It’s like….. That’s a good question! The French society….  [She] is diverse. There are actually many challenges. Because, always, there is the story of integration. And, we saw it as a…. a very… important subject in… the presidential election. It’s really something that I think everyone…. All the inhabitants of the…. France, and Paris, in particular, think [about] that, and ask questions…. How to do this? How…. What is the image of Paris? Is that…. Should we leave the doors open, for immigration or not? What is the role of migrants? Refugees, etc., etc., etc. So that’s….. It comes as a challenge, but, [at the same time, in my opinion, something that [makes] society evolve, if… I explain correctly. It is, it is a challenge, I can say, a challenge, and… I believe that… France will succeed with this challenge. I don’t know how? But, it’s, it’s… it’s… it’s one, something interactive now, between everyone. Everyone asks questions: “How do you do that? How do you do that? Integration, society.” So…. But I, as a foreigner, as a refugee, in my opinion, the… diversity gives… of] wealth in society. And, there are…. many… pleasures of countries, many countries that… to… which… which [are] built on diversity. Many people…. everywhere, working together, living together. Many religions, many origins. Who build society together. It gives, I think in the social level, respect. The….  [to each other] to each other. That, something that we lack in our… country. Okay, there are religious diversities, there are also diversities of cities, etc. People who come from…. People from, from…. from different backgrounds, like me, I am from… of Circassian origin. There are Kurds, there are Arabs, etc., religions. But, because of….. dictator regimes, in our country, we don’t talk about… on this subject, these subjects. So it’s still hidden. There is always…. Security [caution]…. As they say? There is always “risk of talking”, etc. But here in France, it’s open. It’s… freedom of speech, freedom of expression… Interaction. And that, in my opinion, gives wealth to society.

[i] So the look of the… French society, towards foreign countries, how do you find it?

[r] Yes, in fact, my personal experience, I really, I can say that I find everyone here in Paris very nice to me, especially as a refugee. Perhaps, now, there are some French people who… on the contrary, who tell me: there are French people who… are not nice to refugees. But, in my opinion, with my personal experience, I’ve never…. met anyone… not nice to me. Always, when… they… French people here in Paris are communicating with… feelings, especially with positive feelings, after… when they [know] that I am a refugee. They are… They are always interesting, interested to find out what the history of Syria is, what is going on. What is my professional project, life in France? He told me, if we can give some help, some guidance, advice, etc., we can give them some help. So for me, it was really great! Perhaps for others, there are some “incidents” or some time, negative or positive. But for me, it was really great!

[i] Your migratory experience here in Paris, what has it brought to your personality?

[r] She brought a lot of things, because, in Damascus, I was someone, an employee, always in my… What’s the word? Comfort zone, comfort zone. Ah, okay, I have my job, I have my house, my family, it’s always quiet. There is no challenge. There is no “challenge” to fight against and succeed. Here in France, since the first day, it has always been the story of [fighting] against, uh… the “challenge”. And…. If I had the chance to repeat my life in France, for the past three years, like this, I don’t change anything! Really. Because, thanks to that, I feel that, it helped me to build my personality. I am really another person, in many levels. Now, uh….. Originally, I was quite shy, quite introverted. But here in France, I have… I have been the opposite. And I noted in the events, when there is an event, and, we must, someone must speak, in French, for example, about life in France, etc. I… noticed that, me, always, okay, first one! And I do, yes, I talk. I… What’s the word? I throw myself out like that. And that’s something that… never does. … in Damascus. So that, I think, that’s thanks, in my opinion, to my life here, to…. in Paris. And it was great for me! Really, I’m very happy like that, and I feel that… my self-confidence is… It has] increased… seriously, one can say here in Paris.

[i] And what have you contributed to life here?

[r] Contribution… I’m thinking now with the Arabic course. I made an example of a contribution. Because I started as a language student. And I get to a point, now that it’s… I’m the one who gives. That’s in the level of the language, you could say. In the level of social life, also, perhaps, after my professional project, I hope to do some workshops. And it’s not just about working and making money. Really, I need to succeed [in] doing… something…. with French society, as they say in English: “Pay back to society”. And maybe that’s, that’s, that’s not now, then, but really….. I think, I need to do this. To complete my… my experience at 350, …360°, one can say. Since the first day, when someone [is] just zero, with the language, with everything, I’m just zero, or maybe less than zero. And then,[i] succeeded by 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., etc., etc. Just like that.

[i] And, for this experience, in fact, in relation to the courses you give to the… French, how do they perceive the Arabic language? In your experience….

[r] Okay, actually I noticed that there are a lot of people, French, who are interested [in]… the language or the culture. For example, before Let’s Talk, it’s… it’s how the idea of Let’s Talk comes to me? In fact, after [having] finished my French course, with my teacher, we talked, and she… she was very interested to know the history of the Arabic language, the Arabic culture, so we decided to make a language exchange. She is married to someone of Colombian origin. So, she speaks Spanish, and we said, okay, every week we do a language exchange. I give Arabic an hour, and you give me Spanish an hour. And, we started with that, but then… because of the… training, I’ve stopped Spanish for now. And so, in fact, I noticed that when I give Arabic to my teacher, my teacher, she is always interested in knowing. It’s not fair, okay, learning the language. She always asks questions about religions, about society, what is that, in relation to…. in France? In Syria, etc., etc., etc., so, also with Causons, I noted the… the students, also always, they sometimes cut me off, and asked questions like that, about Arab music, about… the theatre, I don’t know… poetry, etc., etc., etc. So, really, there’s…. a lot of people here who, who are interested in knowing. And I think it is us… migrants, refugees… now, the… ambassadors who bring, who, who… must bring or make the link between these people and our culture, either with language courses or with cultural events, cooking, music, just spoken interaction.

[i] And did this experience give you the… the distance to look at your original language, compared to a foreign language? How do you perceive Arabic today?

[r] Now thanks to…. Arabic classes, I’m always connected with……

[i] For example, you read books, you keep reading? Some… you have writers, poets?

[r] Yes.

[i] You look for example at the channel… the Syrian channel, for example?

[r] Unfortunately no, but… in fact, unfortunately I don’t have time to read. I am someone who likes to read generally, but here, especially this year, it was very, very busy for me, with a lot of activities. But I hope afterwards, I really… need to be connected with the Arabic books in particular. For example, I have a French friend and I gave him a book, an Arabic novel, but written in French, actually. It’s the writer, his name is Amine Maalouf. And the novel, it’s called…. <i>Samarkand</i>. It is very well known here, and it is very well known in fact, in France, and it is written in French. I read it in Arabic… in Damascus; and, I thought that, that’s

[i] Did you read it in Arabic?

[r] Yes, so I gave this to my friend here in France, and… He read it and said, “Wow! That’s great!” So, yes, that’s it, I communicated with Arabic and also, as we already said, with my friends who stay in Damascus. So that’s it for now, but then I hope for a lot of books, a lot of cultural things, I hope.

[i] What are your aspirations?

[r] On a personal level, I would very much like to succeed in my professional project. Here in France, and perhaps after doing another “Copy and Paste”, we can say, in Syria. you can say, nice for all the things that [happened]. And in the level, too, the society here in France, I really like being… Because I am now separated with my wife, of Syrian origin, so without children. So, it’s also a new page for me. I hope to find someone, why not, a French lady, or an Arab, I don’t know. But to build my life, as a family, a family here in France, again.

[i] So, do you think the opportunity could present itself here in France?

[r] Yes, yes, yes. Maybe, why not! We’ll see about that, it’s…. It’s just hope now. But we’ll see over time.

[i] If you have a wish to grant, what would it be, [name], for example?

[r] What does that mean…?

[i] A wish, that is, “umnia” [in Arabic].

[r] Ah! “umnia”, “umnia”. I hope…. I continue like this, in my life in France. I really hope maybe….. After, in the future, one day, to be… to have French nationality. When… that day comes, I can really tell myself that, okay, my experience is now complete. That’s how I started out, and it was, suddenly, I changed my life completely. From someone who is stable, in my country, who does not think he is living in another country, and, after arriving suddenly in France, as a refugee, with… the image of “refugee”, in quotation marks, with all the things that… come with the word “refugee”. And, to succeed, step by step. And end up being like a French person, really integrated. This is…. Nationality will give me the sign of being 100% integrated into French society.

[i] Here, for example, today, what can you bring to Syria?

I carry, I bring a lot of things, especially social ties. In the….. how people here in France, how they live, how they respect others, how… they work, really… a lot, seriously, how… The…. The role, or I don’t know, is…. whether it’s a French word or not, The tasks of… the “duties” [responsibilities] of society, of the government. Because here in France, there is a system, okay, there is the bureaucracy, there are always the papers, etc., but there is a system, which is missing in our country. In our country, there is no system. When you work, maybe you work without a contract, without a pension, without taxes. The interaction with… the government, even with the police, even with… the civil servants in… like the prefectures here, etc. There are no rules, it’s always personal. These are the things [that] we really lack. There is also a lack of justice in our country, there is corruption, there are many, many things that I have also seen the opposite in France, in Paris. So these are the things that, one day if… I come back [to] Syria, I will try to apply, I don’t know how. Maybe if there’s…. if there is the possibility of applying that in a professional setting a framework like that, why not Otherwise, it’s just… talking, comparing, comparing the two to open the eyes of people from there, asking for their rights to improve life, etc., etc.. So, that I think…..  [It’s a] very important thing to bring there.

[i] And how do you see Syria tomorrow?

[r] Syria tomorrow is… It’s not unfortunately, it’s not that “dewy” image, you could say. There are many “challenges”, many steps. Maybe as my personal step with my first job here in France. There are many jobs that… Because we have to rebuild the country.  [At] physical level, infrastructure, [At] personal, psychological, social, etc. level, so it’s not a… a day off, you could say. It’s really something that takes a lot of effort, time, etc., etc., etc. Perhaps, it is not our generation that will see the results. But, we must do something, and then, maybe the next generations, to live a healthier, more… we can say, better life.

[i] So if we choose, are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future?

[r] I am always a positive, optimistic person. But unfortunately, I can’t apply my optimism to anything physical, with Syria now. So, it’s just a feeling. Okay, I think the future will be better. But, really, there is no one, two, three, there is no very clear action plan for me. Perhaps in my personal or professional life, here in France, there is always an action plan, it is clear, okay, it is the first step, second step, etc., etc., etc. That is the goal, that is the “milestones”, etc. But in Syria, it’s just… We believe, we keep hope. And that’s all for now.

[i] And for you, for example, refugees, is this an opportunity for the host countries?

[r] Yes, I think so. Because, with refugees, I think, refugees bring a different perspective, a different culture, different things, and it enriches society. It helps to ask questions, to compare…. of interaction. And I always believe [in] the interaction between different things, the results, it’s always positive. It’s interaction, it’s not beating, it’s interaction… we can say, nice, interaction, with respect. It’s always, always, always, it’s a rule for me. The result will be… would be something positive for everyone.

[i] We talked about a lot of things, if you want to add something at the end, the floor is yours, to say something, a feeling, a wish, a… it’s your turn to speak.

[r] In fact, I’m really very happy to do this interview, because, with this, I’ve sometimes thought about things that maybe we don’t think in everyday life, and it really gave me the way they say, “highlight”, in English, to underline something in my background. And it really brought me feelings from my childhood, something sad something positive, etc., etc., etc. He just gives me… a very brief experience, but it’s a complete experience. It’s like life. It is, it is with sad things, positive things, hope, challenges, etc., etc., etc. So I thank you very much.

[i] I thank you, [name]. Thank you very much for the interview. And good luck with that.

[r] Thank you very much.