[i] Hello!
[r] Hello!
[i] Do you have an object that is close to your heart to introduce me?
[r] So I have two things that are close to my heart. First of all, it’s a storm lamp. It is something that is not known at all in France, that exists, I believe in museums, but it is an everyday object in Chad. I remember that, during all my schooling, I had to deal with this object to study. So in storm lamps like this, you have to put kerosene in them to be able to work. It smokes a little bit so it’s not necessarily very good for your health, but anyway, that’s what I used to use to work. That’s it, and so I, it’s an important object that has enlightened me both literally and figuratively.
[i] And the second one?
[r] The second one is a book… So it could be any book, but I chose this one. It’s Camara Laye’s black child, it’s one of the first books I read and through the book, I also want to talk about studies. I am the son of a teacher, so I was led to read books very early on, my father made me read. I remember that, even in the second grade, he gave me a little children’s book whose title I don’t remember and asked me to summarize it. At that time, of course, I didn’t really know what a summary was, but there was a cousin in Chad who was in third place at that time and who briefly explained to me what a summary was. And well, here it is, it helped me a little bit to summarize this children’s book, and since then I have been very attached to reading, to African novels first, and everything that can be read, finally.
[i] All right! So it was initiatory then?
r] It was, it was initiatory at first, because, being the son of a teacher, my father, and I am the first boy, we are two boys in the family, so, voilà, he was betting a lot on me. I had to succeed, I had to avoid ending up on the street, and for my father, it was through books. And then, well, finally, it became a passion, a personal passion… Later in high school, we will also have reading competitions with friends on children’s literature such as the Club des 5, the Clan des 7, which is very well known in France, because 6th and 5th graders in France read these kinds of literature. So it had become a kind of competition, a game. During recess, we had to tell all this, the last adventures we read in a book, in a comic strip. Like, adventures of Tintin and Snowy, etc., etc., etc.
[i] All right! Can you introduce yourself a little?
[r] So, my name is[name of the interviewee]. What else can I say? That’s it, my name is[name of the interviewee]. [Laughs]
[i] So your journey?
[r] So, my journey then…
[i] Who is[name of interviewee]?
r] If you want after high school, I was enrolled in… in a course, let’s say out of university. And then very quickly, so I started studying philosophy, in a religious institute and then at some point, I gave up these philosophy studies after two years, to… to start a degree in modern literature at Bangui University. After this degree in modern literature, I enrolled for… for the master’s year that I had to suspend because, in the meantime, I lost my father and therefore all the support I could benefit from also for… to prepare my master’s degree in Bangui. So I had to return to Chad in Sarh. And very quickly, I joined the teaching staff of Charles Lwanga College, where I taught French in college and literature in the second year, for 4-5 years. And since I always had this desire to go back to school, and I had to suspend it – it’s quite classic in Chad – to assume my responsibilities, which at that time consisted in helping my little sisters, my little brother, my little nephews to continue their studies. Once they were well engaged in their studies, they finished their secondary school studies, I had the opportunity to go to France and therefore to resume their studies. That’s it! That’s it!
[i] Tell me, which country do you come from?
i] I am from Chad. It’s in central Africa.
[i] Were you born there?
[r] I was born in Chad, indeed. I studied there, grew up there and went to France quite late, because when I arrived in France, I was 30 years old.
[i] When?
[r] I arrived in France…
i] I was talking about your birth, under what conditions, at what time? That’s not the age I’m asking.
r] I was born into a family, let’s say normal, a sibling of ten children, I am the fourth and first boy. It’s a pretty happy, quiet family. My father was a teacher, a little old-fashioned, as it can speak to some of us, and therefore very rigorous, very rigid, and straddling the discipline, etc., etc., etc. And then my mother is a seamstress…. A seamstress, like that also exists there. There was no ready-to-wear at that time. So everything was tailor-made, and there were local dressmakers who made camisoles, trousers, shirts, and that was my mother’s job. It still is, by the way.
[i] Under what circumstances were you born? Do you remember a little bit? Have you heard a little bit about it?
[r] So I was told a little bit. I was born after three girls. My father was impatiently waiting for a boy. So I was told that when I was born, my father didn’t rush to the maternity ward because he was fed up with daughters, until my aunt came to tell him the news: “Ah! say, you just had a son”. And then my father rushed to the hospital to see me, welcome me and all that. And so I remember that, very early on, my father always told me, it’s quite special, that I had a lot of responsibilities, I was the only boy among the girls. In our traditions, in our culture, it is a big responsibility. So, as a child, I was accustomed, not to inherit money or a house, but to inherit an office from which I had no choice, and finally this is what happened when my father died, while most of my sisters were still of school age. And so, I had to stop studying to start doing what is called preceptorship in high schools and colleges before integrating quite quickly, I was very lucky, the Charles Lwanga college, where I had a formal contract as a French teacher.
[i] Can you tell me a little bit about Charles Lwanga College?
r] Then the Charles Lwanga College is a school created by the Jesuit fathers, therefore in the south of Chad in Sarh. It is a college, we will say, which is based on excellence. So you shouldn’t take excellence…. So how… how do you explain excellence? In fact, excellence based on the ability of the child, the young person to work. This excellence was not based on the social environment. So the Charles Lwanga College trained both the sons of peasants and ministers, as well as ambassadors and expatriates. This education, it’s finally… it’s very famous. It is not the elders of the college who would say otherwise. We were taught everything. We were taught, not only to study, to succeed in school. We were taught, for example, how to garden. So, I remember when I was in college, all the high school students had to have their own small vegetable garden, have plants produced, and so that’s the aspect of contact with the land, with agriculture. Chad is still a largely rural country, and there were also training courses on sport, sport of all kinds. I discovered and experienced some sports disciplines as part of my college studies. Basketball, for example, because I come from Mosesala, and it’s even further south. And there, the sports that existed were… there were football and handball fields, but basketball, I experienced that when I arrived in Sarh for example. And so, in the different disciplines, whether it be sport, gardening or leisure, so here we were also organizing outings during the weekends, for example at Les Roniers, where it was an opportunity to unwind a little bit, to dance, and to do everything together. So it is a formation, as the Jesuit fathers liked to say, it is a formation that aims to develop the whole man, that is, man in all his dimensions. Man is not only the intellectual aspect, but also the intellectual, the physical, for example through sport and then openness to others, the fact of making children from all social classes live and above all subjecting them to the same principle. Because the children of ministers as well as expatriates were forced to clean the toilets, like everyone else. That’s it, and no one was avoiding it. Finally, it is a training that I would describe as complete, because it allows us to… to everyone… This is to give everyone the means to develop, not according to their origins, but according to their will, their ability to work. And so for that, recruitment was based on tests. On the tests, so if… that’s it, the young person is accepted on the test, that’s it, he was recruited like that. I think that fathers also did this at the time because Charles Lwanga College had the particularity of recruiting throughout Chad. At the time I was there, there were only 500 places for middle and high school, so we had to recruit on the basis of a few criteria and these were criteria of excellence.
i] All of Chad, i.e. Christians, Muslims?
Christians, Muslims, that’s it! The Jesuit Fathers have taught us this openness to the world through practice. It was at Charles Lwanga College that I learned to live diversity. So diversity for me is not a speech, it’s not a word, it’s experience. Because there were Muslims in there, Christians of both Catholic and Protestant persuasions. Muslims had dedicated rooms, for example, to pray, and during Ramadan periods, for example, in the kitchen, everything was set up to allow them to break the fast, etc. The same goes for Protestants who also had dedicated spaces. And in college, at that time, there was what we call the religious instruction course, where… here we were taught to understand other religions as well, including the Catholic religion, which is, in fact, the religion of these religious Jesuits at that time.
[i] All right! Can you tell me how long you lived in Chad at the same time?
r] Well, as I was saying earlier, I lived in Chad until I was 30, before leaving for… several reasons. I didn’t consider myself very lucky in Chad. I was hoping that by going back to school in France, I could be… finally open up to other opportunities. And so, when I… the opportunity presented itself, I took it and went to France to go back to school and integrate into social life in France.
[i] Okay… How was life in Chad? Can you tell me a little bit about life there?
[r] So it’s a huge subject. Chad is a country… it is one of the poorest countries in the world. So… I was saying earlier that, when I was a child, I used a storm lamp to light me up, and until I left for France about ten years ago. In my family, personally, we still had no electricity. So most people live below the poverty line. Despite this situation, I think I am still more in the middle class. Because, in this poverty, in this misery… in my family, we could eat on average twice a day. Some days, it may be that once, so we could also be treated when we were sick, but we had neighbours, I met friends who didn’t have the possibility that I had. So, even being poor, there was always poorer than me. I saw children die around me for nothing, for a few nivaquine tablets. It’s a deal… come on, 50, 100 CFA francs. I saw people die for 100 CFA francs. So it is an extremely poor country. So in the early 2000s, with the advent or exploitation of oil, it gave the population renewed hope, but very quickly, we saw that this oil windfall did not benefit the entire population. And it profoundly changed habits, because, overnight, we moved in some sectors to very, very high wages that were completely, how to say, that had no respect for… reality. Overnight, a guard could earn a fabulous salary and of course, it didn’t last long. The crisis has gone through this, and Chad, today, has remained a very, very poor country.
[i] And in your family, how was life, in a very general way, your sisters, your brothers…?
r] In my family, I think that… let’s say that everyone, except my older sisters who didn’t succeed in school… From me, well, everyone was able to finish their studies, settle down. So, among my sisters, I have one who… who has become a teacher and who has also resumed her studies, so that she can now become an inspector of primary education. So… here we are, middle classes… and I have one of my sisters who is… who works, who is a bank agent, a bank employee, after studying rather in the field of human resources. So it’s going well… and my other sisters are, either in teaching or social work. I have a sister who is a social worker. I have a sister who has studied in the field of communication. It’s the last one, but it’s hard to find a job. And then there’s another one who’s a teacher too. So that’s it, my brother is a college teacher. He is a history and geography teacher in middle and high schools in N’Djaména.
[i] It’s your little brother or… ?
[r] He’s my little brother.
[i] So how many of you are there in all?
[r] There are ten of us in all, we are a sibling of ten. We lost a sister in the early 2000s, in 2004 to be exact. And so right now, we are two brothers and seven sisters.
[i] Okay… Do you still have family in Chad?
[r] So of course, I have my whole family in Chad. My project to go to France is a rather late project. And so yes, yes, my whole family, as I was saying, I lost my father in the meantime. And my mother, sisters and brothers are all in Chad.
[i] Okay, you’re still in touch with everyone?
r] I am in regular contact with my family, rather by phone, because the Internet is very, very, very, very bad in Chad, and it remains a rare and expensive commodity for the majority of the population. So, that’s it, I communicate more by phone than by Internet.
[i] Okay. So can you tell me when you arrived in France?
r] I arrived in France in 2008, 2008… and then… in July, summer 2008. And soon I was enrolled in university to take up studies.
[i] Was it the first time you came to France?
[r] It was the first time to come to France, yes…
[i] Okay, and under what circumstances did you arrive?
r] So I arrived, let’s say, by a regular flight,[laughs] N’Djaména-Paris, an Air France flight, in the summer of 2008.
[i] Okay, since you arrived in France, have you stayed in Paris where you were exactly where?
r] I have almost always lived in Paris, but since March, a few months ago, I have been living at the gates of Paris, at La Plaine-Saint-Denis.
[i] Okay. Can you talk about staying in France.
r] When we arrived here from Africa for the first time, even though we read a lot, we met a lot of whites, especially me, in the context of cooperation, I had a lot of teachers who were French, and through films, etc., etc. It is true that contact with reality is quite far from everything that can be read through books, and seen through movies, etc. So this feeling of greatness….. this crazy world that swarms in the streets, in the squares, on public transport, etc. is something quite impressive. But I will admit that I didn’t spend too much time staying in wonder, because I knew what was in store for me. I was there to go back to school and try to find a place for myself, a place in French society. And so, quite quickly through studies, I started to create networks for myself to be able to integrate into daily life.
[r] What are your expectations when you come to France?
r] So my expectations when I come to France are already to be able to live freely… to live freely, to be able to express myself without too much worry. That’s it, and then I thought to myself that there, I can have a certain chance too of…. to achieve what I want to do, especially through studies. That’s it, to be able to live and work. And make a living from my work.
[i] Can you do more to understand what it means to live freely?
[r] Bah! Living freely is for me, not to be worried about his opinions already, and then at the level of… equal opportunities too. Equal opportunities, i.e., at the level of work, for example, being able to access a job if I have the necessary and sufficient skills and training compared to what is expected at the level of that work. Here, avoid a kind of… I would say cronyism. These are my high expectations. I didn’t come here to benefit from a certain manna. I’m here to, I would say, take advantage of this opportunity to… to make a living from my efforts. That’s it, to live honestly, with dignity.
i] And compared to your country of origin, what is the difference?
r] Compared to my country of origin, job cronyism is quite widespread. It was something that shocked me. That’s all I’m going to say.
[i] Can you tell me a little bit about the environment in which you live today in France? Not from your stay, but what is your living environment, your living environment?
r] So, I lived for a long time in the 17th arrondissement and then in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, rather in a posh neighbourhood, I would say, of Paris. So my environment is Parisian life. It’s a little sleepy, subway and all that, coffee, etc. with cultural activities. I like to visit museums very much. I like to go to the theatre from time to time, and then occasionally too, why not have a drink in the cafés, with people I can meet on this or that occasion and with whom I have friendly relationships.
i] Are there any differences between these neighbourhoods[that] you just mentioned?
[r] So… yes! The 17th arrondissement is a northern part of Paris, quite popular, quite popular, quite diversified, we will say, but it is a rather outlying part of northern Paris… well, life is beautiful too. In the 3rd arrondissement, on the other hand, we are completely in the centre of Paris, so close to all amenities with a very, very lively life, both during the day and at night. There is Châtelet not very far away, there is the Centre Georges Pompidou which also mixes many cultures. Next to it is the Centre des arts et métiers. And then a little further on, there is the more popular side of Strasbourg Saint-Denis, etc., etc., etc. There’s the Republic Square not far away. So it’s a place to live… it’s a neighbourhood where you can really enjoy Parisian life just a stone’s throw from home. I really liked those sides, but I had to leave a few months ago, because the rent was getting more and more expensive, and I couldn’t afford to live there all the time.
[i] Where are you now?
r] I am at Plaine Saint-Denis, so it’s in an intermediate apartment, in a neighbourhood…. It’s in the new districts of Saint-Denis, so it’s a rather interesting district that is developing very quickly. So, I am also lucky enough to have the metro next door on the street, so I live a stone’s throw from Paris, 800m from Paris in fact, and it finally makes it possible… to solve both my concern to be able to reduce my rents, to continue to enjoy the conveniences of Parisian life because I am within reach of the metro. That’s it, it’s a rather interesting neighbourhood where life is much simpler, I would say, unfortunately compared to what can be observed in other places in Saint-Denis or in the 93 department.
[i] Okay. Did you study in France?
[r] Yes, I studied in France. So I studied at Paris V, René Descartes where I did a master’s degree in didactics. Then, I continued at the Sorbonne where I did a master’s degree in training engineering and pedagogical engineering, in connection at the time with the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which was rue de l’Abbé Grégoire in the 6th arrondissement, before moving to the suburbs to expand.
r] Can you tell me about these studies, a little didactic, engineering, it’s about doing what… it’s about doing what?
r] So the didactics is the one of teaching. So it’s a master’s degree that… that trains people for teaching jobs. It’s linked to the department of…. of the educational sciences of Paris V. So that’s it, by the way, it was the last year. It corresponded to the transition of French universities to the LMD system[bachelor-master-doctorate]. So I was at the crossroads of students who were still being awarded a master’s degree because after the universities had moved to the LMD system. So at La Sorbone, on the other hand, it’s not teaching, but it’s more like training. This is why the Master’s degree is called training engineering and pedagogical engineering. So, if you like, I was trained to, say, be a training specialist, training actions. So in what I have done, I am able today to…. to evaluate, study the training needs of any structure and to be able to make appropriate training and internal development proposals for the structure that could make this request. [I ] Are you currently working in France?
[r] Yes, I work in France.
[i] How long has it been?
r] Since I arrived because, already, when I was at university, since I didn’t have a scholarship, I had to be able to earn an income quickly, so like most people, I had a student job. I was also very lucky at this level because I was able to find a job as a teaching assistant in a high school in Paris in the 16th century. This is the Janson High School in Sailly where, voilà, I started… where I had my first job, I would say… where I almost even stayed because the headmistress of the college at the time, Mrs. Dujenais, wanted to propose to me… to take the exam and be able to stay in Janson de Sailly. It wasn’t really my project. I wanted to move towards adult education in particular. Then, quite quickly, when I finished my studies, I started working in training organizations on the devices, how to say, on the devices of Fongecif. All this…. For a few years, and then since then, I have been working in structures called CRPs. So a CRP is a professional reintegration centre.
i] The work you do is in line with the training you were able to do?
r] So here again, I think I was very lucky because, yes, the work I am currently doing is in line with my training, since it remains in the field of training. So I always do the pedagogical and training work. In the meantime, as an employee, I have also been trained in the field of professional integration. So I currently wear two hats and since December, I have been acting for a colleague who was in charge of training, who is in charge of teaching, who is on sick leave, and so it is completely within the scope of my job to act in these positions of responsibility.
[i] Can you tell me a little more about your work? What does it consist of? How long have you been doing this job? Do you like it?
[r] I have been in this specific field for five years. Well, yes, I like it because it stays in my profession. I give French courses… and I give French courses to adults undergoing reconversion. And then I also work on the integration dimension, putting people into employment, so it consists in establishing links, partnerships with structures, companies that can then recruit the people we train. That’s it! That’s it!
[i] Okay. Can you tell me about your daily life in Paris now? Your daily life, that is, your life…?
r] So my daily life is the daily life of any Parisian, so work, work takes most of my time, it makes sense. And then, after work, after work, it’s… it’s a little bit of cultural life, recreational life, family life too, because here I am, living as a couple, I have a little girl to take care of. So, there is a part of my time that is devoted to work logically, a part to family life, then associative and cultural life.
[i] Okay, so… it’s part of your hobbies? You want to tell me a little bit about your hobbies?
[r] Oh, yes, then! My hobbies are… I like walking a lot, so I do a lot of hiking quite regularly in the woods around Paris. I like cycling too. When I can, I go to the theatre regularly…. And then I participate in the life of some associations as well, cultural or humanitarian.
[i] Okay. You talk to me a little bit about Fontainebleau, is that part of your leisure time too?
[r] Yes, then! Fontainebleau is part of my… my hobbies. I really like walking in the forest of Fontainebleau, but I also go there for associative reasons. So, I regularly go there either for meetings or for… studies on the themes of these associations.
[r] Can you tell me a little bit about these associations? How many are there, about? Or what kind of associations? [Laughs]
[r] So, I worked quite a bit for the Catholic Delegation for Cooperation. It is a Catholic-based association that trains volunteers for countries in the South. And so it consists in addressing subjects on development, North-South relations. Then the people who leave are people of all ages. At the beginning, we recruited young people but today, we see more and more people coming in, retired people who want to devote their time and experience to the needs of people in the South, and whom we train on development issues before leaving, but the other associations are more… associations, that is… rather religious too.
[i] And of a cultural nature?
r] So, the associations… the cultural association in which I participate is an association created by Chadians and their ancestors whose objective is to bring Chadian culture to life, particularly for Chadians and their ancestors, so by ancestors I mean children born to, at least, a Chadian parent and… or spouses of French, Chadians… So we work a lot on tales, Chadian folklore, etc. And then the language too, there we have a project of…. to teach at least one of the languages of…. from Chad to these Chadian ascendants.
[i] Can you develop this project a little bit? Why languages? l
r] Because we consider that language is the vehicle of culture, language is the vehicle of culture, therefore, through language learning, children or other ascendants who are the spouses of… of Chadians here, can more easily access the way of thinking, philosophy, the history of… from Chad as well through this means. And then, it must be said that this also constitutes a request on the part of children or spouses because, well, sometimes, Chadians, people born in Chad who have arrived in France as adults from time to time, they talk in local languages. So that’s it, it’s also part of the desire of children and spouses to understand what’s being said so that they don’t feel left out of the discussion, out of the conversation.
[r] Can you tell me exactly what your role is? Your work exactly as it relates to language learning?
r] So then I, in the group, as I studied linguistics too, well I… I am the one who leads a little bit of the work, let’s say… training is a very big word, but I… I am the one who is careful, who presents the more technical aspects, let’s say, the construction of the supports, so that the animators we will train, can transmit the language to the interested, later on.
[i] Okay. Are there any other associations, any other news you want to talk about?
[r] No, I’ve gone around. [I ] All right. Can you tell me in a general way about your relationships with your friends and family, your community… people you meet at work.
[r] I would say that I am, I live and I feel completely integrated in France. I am, how can I put it that way, I am a French taxpayer and I have relations with my community, certainly, even if I don’t like that term very much, but I also have many relations with the French people of all walks of life. I really like travelling in France, going to the hinterland as they say, that’s it. In my relationships, there is everything, there are French, Chadians and other Africans, etc.
[i] Can you tell me about some of the French cities you have visited?
r] Uh well… I’ve travelled a lot in France, but there are some regions where I go more often than others, notably Brittany. I know Brittany quite well, especially Morbihan, which is South Brittany and then, quite recently, I had stays in the Côtes d’Armor and Finistère. I know the Centre de France region very well, on the Aveyron side, in the Massif Central. I go there regularly because I have many friends who are there, whom I will visit. And as I like hiking a lot, I started to make paths of Saint-Jacques in stages, and as a result, it allowed me to cross Auvergne, Var, Pyrenees, etc. etc. etc.. I know a little bit of Picardy, the Somme, it’s a region where I also go quite regularly. Afterwards, I visited the other big cities to visit them for tourism: Montpellier, Avignon, Nice, Monaco. Here, I know very little about Bordeaux, I have been there, but the same, Toulouse, I was there quickly but I didn’t have the opportunity to visit it more than the other cities I just mentioned. For a while, I used to go to Lille quite often too, so I know Lille and the Lille suburbs, Tourcoing, all that. Of course, Paris and the Paris region!
[i] So, of all these cities, which one really catches your attention? What do you like about this city? The one that caught your attention, in particular?
r] Finally… France is a country with a very great diversity in the field of landscape, so it is very different from one region to another. And on that side, there is…. how to say, a particular charm to each region, but I arrived in Paris, and it is in Paris that I live. And Paris… I fell in love with this city of Paris that I love very much. I like to travel around Paris. Recently, we have been hiking from north to south and from west to east…
[i] From Paris?
[r] From Paris. And I’ve lived in Paris for more than ten years, but around the corner, I’m always surprised by something I feel like I’ve never seen before. However, Paris, finally at the end, is not that big! But even after years, Paris still has some surprises in store. I like to stroll in all weathers in Paris, in summer, in winter… Every time it’s different. And then, living in Paris, I also often have the opportunity to make the tourist guide for friends and family passing through. So this is an opportunity for me to visit and revisit the most touristic places in Paris. So I would say that I really like Paris even if unfortunately the cost of living makes it difficult to project oneself there in the long term.
[i] Are there any monuments you visited in Paris, museums? What are the particularities and stories that can be remembered from these few monuments? Any places you’ve visited?
[r] So, I visited all the great classics of monuments, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, most of the museums. I was very struck by the cultural excitement when I arrived in Paris, and the Louvre is one of them. This memory of the past is part of the things that are missing and that I missed in Chad and… and that’s it. I visit these museums, these monuments with many, many emotions often. Of course, I have also visited the Museum of the History of Immigration several times, which traces a little bit the relationship that people of immigrant background have had, particularly with France and their contributions to French social, cultural and intellectual life.
[r] Monuments like the Eiffel Tower, you were telling me about the Eiffel Tower, here, what caught your attention? Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe? I don’t know if there’s an idea you can remember, that you can share with us?
r] The Eiffel Tower is symbolism because, we will remember that it is something that was not made to be preserved because the Eiffel Tower, as we know, was built for the Universal Exhibition. And finally, we found it pretty, we kept it, and it became the symbol of Paris. So it is this symbol aspect, I, it is something that speaks to me a lot, because it is that the cultural aspect is often also based on an attachment to the heritage, to a certain collective legend. And this collective legend, that’s it, I find it strong when we talk about the Eiffel Tower, it’s Paris. So I am touched by these symbolisms and it is something I also dream of, it is something that will bring together an entire city, an entire nation. I find that[these] things are unfortunately missing in my country of origin. The Arc de Triomphe is such a monument. That, on the other hand, is also memory, respect for all those who fought to liberate the country. It is a tribute from the nation to its sons, its brave sons, if I may put it that way. And to make the connection with the, the Arc de Triomphe, there is also the… so what is it already called…
[i] The Louvre?
[r] No, no, no, no, no, no… the Hall of Fame! Here we are, the Pantheon, for the more cultural aspect, it is more men of culture, of letters who are there. This national tribute to the men and women who have worked, who have contributed to the development of an entire country, an entire city, these are things that strike me, and that is it. I dream of my Chadian Pantheon, I dream of my Eiffel Tower, of my Chadian Eiffel Tower. I dream of my Chadian Arc de Triomphe. I dream of something, of a symbol that will one day bring together all Chadians from all walks of life. From north to south, beyond all religious and other considerations, something that brings together all the daughters and sons of Chad. That’s something I dream about.
[i] Okay. So, can you tell me what are the major events, key moments in your life in Paris, France? What are the key moments, major ones?
[r] So I must admit that I was very lucky when I arrived in France. Because well, I started studying right away and clack, clack, clack, I had work so I didn’t ask myself many questions. I thought everything was easy and at one point, where I was working was… the atmosphere had become complicated and so I had to stop. I had to stop because I didn’t see myself continuing in this training organization. And so, I had to go out of work for a few months, and it was a difficult time. It was a very difficult time, because it wasn’t about money because I was entitled to unemployment, and I didn’t have any money problems. But let’s just say it was the first time I’ve been out of work, since I went to school because there are studies, after work, after everything that followed, and then overnight, I find myself… finally…. with nothing to do on a daily basis, and it’s been a very difficult time. Fortunately, it only lasted a few months, 5-6 months and I found a new job. The second period, probably difficult too, is… when I got divorced. That’s it, it’s… it’s an ordeal that was quite overwhelming and that affected me so durably.
[i] What was difficult?
r] We ask ourselves questions, we question ourselves and then it is also the reflection around these relationships based on love and which, from one day to the next, become… conflict, with unbearable anger, and these are the upheavals in relationships too. It created in my life, for quite a long time, a great moment of loneliness, not that I was alone but… internally I was quite alone, I was asking myself many questions. So these were the two big difficult moments I’ve been through since I’ve been in France.
[i] Everything is in order in your residence papers? Didn’t you have any difficulties?
[r] No, no, no! I didn’t have any difficulty on that side either. I arrived with a student visa and then as part of my studies, I had a job offer, which allowed me to change my status, and since then I have had a residence permit so I have never had problems with regularity of stay.
[r] All right. Can you talk a little bit about your perception of Paris? In a general way, what are your perceptions of Paris?
For me Paris is not a French city, it is a city of the world. It is a city in the world where there is, then, there is anonymity, with all its positive and negative sides. No one takes care of anyone. But at the same time, anonymity can also be experienced as a lack of recognition, that’s all. I, on the other hand, like the anonymous side of things. The fact that Paris breeds all the populations of the world, also for me it is a city of the world. It is a city where, beyond the difficulties related to transport, anonymity etc., it is a city where I feel good where there are many opportunities for culture, leisure and meetings too. I am very attached to this city of Paris.
i] In a very general way, can you tell me how you see social issues in France?
r] So in a very general way, unfortunately in France as everywhere else, inequalities exist, inequalities exist in all social strata. It’s a reality, we’d be lying if we didn’t recognize it. There are…. so, inequalities in opportunities, in education, in jobs, etc., etc., in the sense that… when you have a good network, you have more ease than others. Nevertheless, nevertheless, I consider that French schools, despite everything, are still able to give the population the opportunity to succeed. So certainly, not with the same opportunities, but for someone who takes ownership of studies, who takes advantage of these frameworks, and who trains well, I think that this person can have chances to succeed, to integrate into life. It may be a little more difficult at first compared to people who have a better chance at first, but overall, I don’t think the situation is hopeless. Afterwards, other social issues are more of a political nature as well, and I find that today in France, as in many countries unfortunately, politics has become electoralist at all levels, whether at the municipal level, at the regional level, or at the highest level. Politics is usually done only to get re-elected. As a result, the big issues, the big social issues are not addressed frankly by politicians for fear of not being re-elected and therefore problems are accumulating, and we are in the midst of a yellow vest movement. The yellow vests are a tension born of these inequalities, of all these problems that have not been solved for years, and which are now splashing in everyone’s face. The issue of gasoline and the minimum wage are only the tip of the iceberg. But that being said, I don’t think the situation is hopeless. I think that political leaders have a role to play in this, and more political courage should be shown and the quarrels of daily life should also be overcome in order to… I was talking earlier about the symbolism of the nation, of the city, that is, to ensure that people can also unite around something bigger than the small disagreements in everyday life.
i] What about health care?
[r] So thank God I am in good health. I am affiliated to social security, I have a correct mutual insurance. So already, I’m healthy, I’m getting wood. But… every time I’ve had some health problems, that’s it, everything has been taken care of and I think it’s good on that side. But here it is, I have a mutual insurance company, maybe not everyone has the chance to have a complementary health insurance that reimburses the care that the insurance company does not cover. Social security is social security.
[i] Can we draw a parallel with your country of origin?
[r] So, not at all!! Not at all, because the Chadian health system is on the ground, chaotic. There is no, there is no health care, no social security system. No! No, there is no possible parallel with Chad.
[i] Okay. Are you a naturalized person? What is your status in France today?
r] No, I am not naturalized, I am a French resident, i.e. I have the ten-year card. I am not against naturalization, but for the moment, I have not simply made the process.
[i] For what reasons?
[r] I think… a little lazy. A little bit out of laziness because these are procedures that are quite long and quite constraining, and voilà, I just have to take the time to do it because during the first two, three years when you have to go back several times a year, to the prefecture with a file this big all the time, it was quite exhausting, and when I got my ten-year card, I said to myself, “Wow! I’m going to take a break” and then… simply I haven’t taken the time, at the moment, to make this request for naturalization. But as I meet the conditions, let’s say, if the opportunity presents itself, I intend, one day, to ask to be naturalized French since my life is in France. As I was saying, I am a French taxpayer, so I might as well not only take advantage of the duties of the French, but also of this… because today, all the duties of the French are subject to me but their rights, not necessarily. For example, to be able to express myself in elections and all that, just for that reason, it is something that would push me one day to ask to be naturalized French.
[i] Is this important to you?
r] At this level, it’s important because I tell myself, I no longer live in my country, I live here. So not being able to fully participate in the life I am in is a kind of bat status what! I’m not there, I’m not completely here, so at some point, here’s the chance to make a choice and that choice for me, it probably also involves participating fully in the life of the city, so becoming a French citizen.
[i] Can you tell me about your intentions?
i] My intentions… there are projects in Chad in which I was quite involved, but time and then the difficulties, especially in transport, made me move a little far from that. These are projects in education, especially for girls, the enrolment of girls, but well, I’m still keeping an eye on that. So, for the time being, I don’t have any projections in Chad. Perhaps, why not in ten years’ time, consider taking over this project. And why not, maybe try to see if a return… to the country is possible. But for the moment, it is not a project, it is not a short-term project, it is a medium-term project.
i] What could encourage your return to Chad or influence your decision to return to Chad one day?
r] What could accelerate my return to Chad is already a political normalization, a consolidation of political life. For the time being, this is not really the case. And here I am, I don’t want to get into political battles, nor to suffer the effect of a policy, I would say, of inequality. So if these conditions… it may seem irresponsible to express oneself in this way, but here we are, not everyone can do everything, but I would gladly participate in projects, as I said, to educate, but politics is not something I want, either directly or indirectly, and I do not want to suffer the effects of a policy that would not give everyone a chance.
[i] Aren’t you forbidden to stay in Chad?
[r] No.
[i] So, you go back from time to time?
[r] I go back from time to time, regularly.
[i] And your family? Have you any news?
i] Yes, I have news from my family, there are my sisters, my mother who have already come here to visit me, I am in regular contact with my family.
[i] How many times a year do you go back?
[i] It is very variable. Until 2014, I went there almost every two years, but since 2014, I haven’t been back, so it’s starting to date a little bit, but I have a project to go back very soon.
[i] Okay, tell me, are you married?
[r] I am divorced, and currently I am living in a cohabitation.
[i] Can you tell me a little bit about your family here?
r] So I live with a girl with whom I have a little girl, six months old, who is herself in charge… she works in structures that receive asylum seekers.
[i] Do you often discuss these questions?
[r] Yes, so that’s what it’s like every day. She works with people who are in very precarious situations. So that’s it, for her it’s not just a job, it’s almost a kind of social commitment too. So yes, that’s part of the daily discussion topics.
[i] What was the motive for your meetings? Or how did you two meet…?
[r] Yes, that’s what brought us together in the first place.
[i] Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about your dating in France?
Let’s just say that my relationships are very diverse. Yes, I have both French and foreign friends. I get along very well with my co-workers with whom… with some of them, I even have a friendly relationship, I would say. So, I’m a curious man, I don’t put up a barrier. I don’t live in community ghettos. And then at the base, it seems that my community is even secondary because I tell myself that I did not leave Chad to meet the Chadians. If I meet any of them, it’s very good, it makes me happy. But my objective when I start from Chad is precisely to meet other people and if among these other people, there are Chadians, why not? That’s very good. So I am… I am quite open… to man, to all man as my Jesuit fathers used to say
i] Outside the big French cities, have you visited other cities in Europe yet? Big cities, what are the particularities…?
[r] Yes, I have visited a lot of cities in Europe. I visited Italy, I visited the Czech Republic. Well! I went quickly to Germany. In the islands, I went to Malta. Where else was I… in Portugal, I was in Madeira. Ben, Belgium and Switzerland, very often, very regularly. I have also travelled outside Europe, in particular, I had a fairly important stay in Mexico. I was also in Israel.
[i] What did you find special about it? And how can you compare these big cities in Paris?
[r] I confess that in Italy, Rome… Rome and Paris are two cities that have left their mark on me. Rome, I have the impression that it is an open-air museum and I was absolutely fascinated by Rome. In the European capitals I visited, Brussels, Madrid, Geneva, etc. Next to Paris, for me what is authoritative is Rome. I am under the spell of….
[i] Rome is also the seat of the Vatican?
Rome is the seat of the Vatican, indeed.
[i] Is there a connection or… why absolutely Rome?
i] So, the Vatican City is undoubtedly one of the important monuments that make the city of Rome proud, but next to that, there are others, other places like the Roman Forum, or the Colosseum, etc. All these works built two thousand years ago, but which… It is this side of crossing time and still existing, and which makes me think that modern man is finally… we are very small, we are dwarves, because two thousand years ago, people they have already done that. It’s pretty impressive, so for that, I… Then there is this history of the Roman underground that is not developing precisely, because every time they try to advance the work of the underground, archaeologists are forced to suspend because Rome is infested, in quotation marks, with stories. So every square inch in Rome seems to have a story, even several stories to tell. This is something that is quite fascinating for me, and I think it may also be related to the fact that I am a national of a country that is a little historically new. Because there are either not many productions or not enough discoveries. In my country, unfortunately, I haven’t had to do so much old, still visible, and so I, the old one, it’s… it’s something that strikes me… And for that, I’m fascinated by Rome too.
[i] Yet, this is the cradle of humanity, and of time, your country?
[r] So, this is the cradle of humanity. And what I’m saying is not the non-existence of the old one, it’s the enhancement… it’s the enhancement. How can we understand that in Chad today, there is not really a museum worthy of the name. So, beyond the non-existence of museums, it is also a cultural policy that popularizes this heritage. Chadians do not go to museums. Museums are for foreigners, expatriates. By the way, my concern is that we bring this back to life. I think that it is through the discovery, especially of Toumaï in Chad, that something of this kind should be promoted, but it must be said that, unfortunately, this is still not the case. So of course, the old one can exist in Chad because seven million years ago, the first man currently known, lived in Chad. So this is older than anything that can be seen in Rome or elsewhere, but unfortunately, there is no enhancement of this heritage. That’s what I’m sorry about.
[i] Thank you[name of interviewee]! We’ve gone through the questions, I’m asking the question or I’m still asking you again, if there are things to add or you’ve omitted, whether you want to do it.
No, I have nothing to add, except to finish with these two… two objects, that’s it. [He shows the kerosene lamp and a book]. So, simply to say that in life sometimes, well, when we want, we can, we can, we can. It’s a reality, so when you want, you can. This also involves meetings. You have to know how to seize opportunities and work in life, have self-confidence, because you can start from very far away and finally achieve the same objectives as everyone else. So, thanks to school, thanks to education, despite very difficult material living conditions, I have arrived where I am today. I work with people who have not attended the same institutions as me, as equals. So to want is to be able, if you know how to seize the opportunities that life gives you. You can’t be condemned by birth.
[i] So education must play a key role?
r] Education plays a key role. You are not condemned by the place where you were born. That’s it, that’s my last word.
i] Thank you, thank you very much[name of interviewee].
[r] Thanks to you
[i] To see us, very soon!