[i] Welcome [name], thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview… first, I would like to ask you a question. Where are you now? And what did you do today? It seems to me that this day was not like any other day for you?

[r] Ah, it was a horrible day, my God!

[i] Can you tell us why?

[r] Honestly, I’ll tell you what… This day is really very important, because it’s been about two years since I arrived in France, and it’s only today that I was able to rent a shared room, in a nice apartment, and next to the faculty and my job at the same time. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m doing something. Here we are, finally a step towards stability… Before that, I went through a very difficult time today… it was a day… I’m not telling you! Since this morning, I haven’t stopped… between work and moving… In short, a busy day, physically and morally tiring… but I am satisfied… it was a good day…

[i] Tell us about your work…

[r] My work… Well… my work, for some time… I’ll tell you all about it from the beginning…. I was accepted to the Master’s degree in Créteil at the UPEC (Université Paris-Est Créteil). I was accepted to the Master’s degree (1 and 2) Public Policies, international humanitarian action course. For me, this master’s degree is the realization of a dream. Well, in France, when you are a student, you are only allowed a certain number of working hours. At the same time, we don’t have a lot of choices, there’s McDonald’s or other similar jobs… As a result, I chose to work at Carrefour, I applied and now I work there on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturday is fine because I start at noon, but Sunday is hell. I wake up at 6 in the morning, or no, I have to be there at 6 in the morning, and I work until 1 in the afternoon. It’s the first time I’ve worked so hard, it’s not easy, it’s tiring, but I guess you get used to it… The most important thing is to sleep well the night before and not to stay up late… [laughs]… we’ll see.

[i] Okay… so you’ve been in Paris for two years…?

[r] So… in October 2018, it will be 2 years… wow… a year and 11 months… wow! Yes… a year and 11 months.

[i] So you work and study at the same time, what do you think of this rhythm in relation to the rhythm of life in Syria? Is it different?

[r] What do you mean by that?

[i] I want to talk about the rhythm of life…

[r] Honestly, we can’t compare. Indeed, the rhythm in Syria, I lived it like everyone else, thinking it was normal. It’s horrible, but since everyone was going through the same thing, we didn’t realize… But now that I’m experiencing something completely different. Since I was a child, it was my dream to live this way of life… student life, the world of work… It’s very different from life in Syria… if I tell you about when I went to university… … how I felt when I went to college and how I took my exams… Attendance was not mandatory. I studied English literature at Damascus University. The one who knew Damascus University of Letters will understand what I’m talking about… because it was really a mess, a total mess. I don’t want to stress this too much, but honestly people bothered me. I didn’t feel comfortable, so much so that I didn’t even make any friends, except two, that I happened to know who I sometimes talk to. I didn’t feel like I was enjoying student life when I was young! Now I consider that I am no longer old enough, even if there is no age to study. I thought, “Great, I just graduated high school, I’m going to college…” but I was disappointed… It was a mess, I was not happy at all… My exams were an ordeal, I was always frustrated, I systematically failed… It was revolting to me, because I was really bad because I was always repeating the same grade. As if I didn’t know how to study, or that I wasn’t made for studying. No, I’m not! When I arrived here and studied French at UPEC (levels B1 and B2), it turned out that I studied well, I was brave, I attended the courses…. And I have made many friends of different nationalities; some from Asia, some from America, some from Brazil… A real student life, what, everything here is different… it’s not the same life…

[i] What makes you think that student life here is different?

[r] I’ll tell you… as far as college or even another field is concerned, what fascinated me here and gave me an iron will is that here, in this country, in this continent, when you want to do something, when you have a goal and you know where you want to go, then you can achieve your goal. You, if you want to do any work and you know where you want to go and you work there and that… really… you give yourself the means you will succeed… If you make an effort, they’ll be rewarded. Unfortunately, that’s what depressed me in Syria and I didn’t realize it. Now, whatever you do, you stay like everyone else, everything is decided in advance, we were a herd that was moving in the same direction. Whether I work or not; whether I study or not, in any case, there are not many possibilities and choices… The more I work, the more I get tired, the more the results of my efforts are visible, and lead me step by step towards the realization of my project, that’s what, honestly, is different. Here my work capacity is back, I like to get tired, because here fatigue is not lost, that’s the difference.

[i] Okay, and what are the other activities you do in Paris?

[r] So…. the other activities… So… in college, I discovered things a little by chance and attended two workshops, one cooking and one theatre. The cooking workshop was rather funny, a little messy, the workshop had been set up for the first time, it wasn’t great, but I had fun, I prepared a Syrian dessert with cheese, I taught them the recipe, it was very funny to see French people taste this dessert and to say “well, is it possible a cake with cheese in it?” At first, they were shocked but then they found it good, so it was still a good experience even though I was bored. The second workshop was a nice surprise. So for the theater…. So in college, I had to choose options to validate my year. So, I had the choice between four options, all more difficult one than the other, there was the option “History of France” and I don’t like history in general, and another option of I don’t know what… well, boring subjects… and among these options there was “theatre”. I said to myself, “Go, you have experience in this field, go and register”… Especially since it seemed to be the least bad option…. So I chose it and convinced two girlfriends, Nour and Waad and my friend Saher to join me. There were also French students, we were a heterogeneous group of about twenty people, some of whom spoke fluent French, and others, like us, who learned French, which gave us an interesting mix. Our teacher was very nice… well, not at all[laughs], let’s move on… In fact, she didn’t have a clear idea of what we were going to do, she told us that the first two sessions were going to start with improvisation… To see what would come out as fun little sketches…. Honestly, we were all bored, no one was motivated… Maybe the problem was the teacher, she was difficult… But we started doing it, we started improvising sketches and everything… Little by little, little stories came out here and there… We were able to bring out a dozen sketches that we put together one day, with Waad and Nour, we were having coffee and we thought why not write a sketch about our country. So we started writing it and the next day we introduced it and… they loved it, they were taped.

[i] Did you present the sketch to an audience?

[r] Yes, of course! We played it in front of about 40-45 people from the university…. Their reaction was incredible, people laughed and cried at the same time…

[i] What was the concept of the sketch?

[r] So… the concept of the sketch… It starts with…. There was a screen behind us that displayed a starry night to create a nocturnal atmosphere, Waad was sleeping on a table, I was sitting on his right and Nour on his left. We turned our backs to each other without moving. Then Waad wakes up, but we understand that she is in a dream… So she wakes up, she stretches. She looks and finds Nour on the left. She said to him, “Who the hell are you?” Nour replied, “What? Don’t you recognize me? Are you stupid or what? Don’t you recognize me?” She said, “No, sorry, who are you?” Nour: “But I am you!” She thinks… she’s lost… what do you mean, I’m you… she repeats: “Who the hell are you?”… In fact, Nour is the version of Waad who lived in Damascus. Then Waad said: “Oh yes, that’s right in Damascus I had pimples…”. In short, they talk to each other and Waad ends up recognizing each other. Then while they were talking, I got up…. I enter the conversation and tell Waad: “No, no, no, no, it’s me, you”. They both look at me and say, “Who is this one?” I say, “Wait, I’m you, but your French version…” Then the Syrian version starts yelling at me. She says to me, “What are you doing here?!” And I would say the same thing to him and we started arguing… And Waad was between the two of us…. Each one tried to attract Waad to her, each one tried to prove to her that we were the best version. So Nour puts on Lena’s song about Damascus. She told him to remember how much she loved walking in the Hamidiyeh souk, how much she loved admiring the citadel of Damascus, how much she loved eating croissants on the way to Bab Touma…. Anyway, she brings back memories and Waad starts crying. So I grab him and say, “No, my darling, come this way!” “You love France very much!” “You love the Eiffel Tower, you love picnicking on the docks, you love lightning…” Anyway. And I put her “life in pink” and I start to make her dance. She’s starting to be very happy…. But Nour gets angry from afar, then she starts telling Waad: “Aren’t you afraid to forget Arabic? You love the Arabic language!” But I say to him: “No, you love French and anyway, you have many friends here who speak Arabic so you won’t forget it since you practice…” So we start arguing again, so after a while Waad explodes: “Stop it, both of you, I can’t take it anymore and I don’t know who to go with, so please get away from me!” She then returns to her initial position and falls asleep. So Nour and I look at each other, then we look at Waad, then we look at each other again… And now it’s like there’s an agreement between us, we think maybe we should make peace because it belongs to both of us, and there’s no point in arguing. In fact, the idea of the sketch is to tell what happens to us when we come here, we try to integrate but we are lost, and in Damascus we loved things that no longer exist today. We’re divided between two inaccessible worlds. And the idea we wanted to share is that there’s no need to choose, you can find an intermediate world and take what’s beautiful in both, and become a new person. It is no longer possible to take sides, there is something new now.

[i] Do you think you have reached a balance between these two worlds?

[r] No, not yet. In other words, I am delighted to be here, I love France. But I’m still in the comparison and irritation…. I always think it’s better here than there, I still react under the influence of emotions… I consider that I still need time and maturity… I still feel anger when I think of Syria and my memories there… So, not yet… I need time…

[i] Okay, and in France are there things that bother you on a daily basis?

i] What bothers me is the order of the staff, in relation to my experience, and the way I see life, in short my own feelings. Uh… for example, my opinion is that in France, especially in Paris, the pace of life in Paris is very fast. In Paris, you always feel like you’re late, you don’t have enough time, everyone runs and you feel obliged to run with them… it’s stressful… In addition to a really very embarrassing feeling that doesn’t go away, which is the feeling of insecurity… I still feel that I don’t have a solid foundation yet…. As a result…. That’s why I’m still worried and not very comfortable…. Stress, fast pace of life, lack of security… that’s what bothers me…

[i] What basics do you need to feel safe?

[r] See, it’s pretty obvious… For example, the image I have of myself in safety is the one where I finished my master’s degree and I have a recognized diploma in my pocket. I will then have a bac+5 and here, it is very considered. And also, when I have obtained a permanent contract for a job I love, and not a job just to earn money… These are the bases that make you feel that you have reached a certain balance. It’s very basic actually, I’m not asking for much…. That’s what I imagine….

[i] Do you think your French friends understand when you explain that these basics are important to you?

[r] Of course, it’s the same for everyone! They all have the same housing problem, everyone runs, everyone is afraid of losing their jobs, of not being able to pay the rent, of being evicted from their house… That’s how it works in this country… After that I didn’t live outside Paris, I think it’s less bad but I’m not sure… But here it is like that for most people… work, rental and all that…

[i] What are the places where you usually go to Paris?

[r] So…. With regard to college and my work, I am often in Créteil in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris. There is a nice lake, sometimes I go there with friends… There are also good restaurants there…. Before I moved, I lived in a small town in the south as well, in Sucy-en-brie. I finally found a forest not far from home, I was riding my bike and I stayed 2-3 hours to go around… it was a real forest to such an extent that once I saw a deer… it is bordering a nature reserve… And when I go to Paris, for example, there are many places… I love staying on the quays in Jaurès… we have beers, cigarettes… There are nice bars, good restaurants… I like a lot of places actually but…. But yes, I think that, in Jaurès, I am having a really good time… I don’t know why…

[i] Do you like very touristic places?

Look, I haven’t been to many places, but what I can say is that I love the Sacred Heart. I love the church inside, I sit down and think about it… I don’t know… I like the atmosphere of the churches in general… I don’t know why… And there’s a great view, you can see all of Paris, it’s our own Mount Qassioun[laughs]… In short, I like it very much… On the other hand, I don’t like the Eiffel Tower at all…. I can’t get there…. It’s a place I find suffocating, I don’t know why… Our Lady… well…. There was a time when I loved Saint-Michel very much but now no longer too much…. I have become like some unpleasant Parisians who do not approach tourist areas…. Now I prefer my corners to myself, familiar places… [Laughs]

[i] Before coming to France, to Paris, you had imagined how the city, you had imagined doing what here? And also what places you imagined you’d visit, and everything… ?

[r] I don’t know why, but before I came, I hadn’t imagined anything special… I don’t know about that…. I just had this image of people walking down the street…. Well, nothing special, what…. Obviously, I had the image of the Eiffel Tower, and of course I wanted to see it… necessarily what… But… uh… I don’t know… I don’t remember what I imagined… That was a long time ago… But as I told you, I didn’t really have a particular image in mind…

[i] Now let’s talk about your friends, do you have more French or Arab friends?

[r] So let me think… I spend more time with French people. I really like their company, I have met several people recently… They are very nice, funny, cool and calm… I like this side where you feel comfortable, you say what you want without holding back… In fact, we can be comfortable here, they really accept you as you are, so there’s no need to pretend and create a character… As long as you don’t play a role, they’re going to love you… In short, most of my friends are French….

[i] The Arabs and especially the Syrians who come here… How do you find them…? Do you think they are trying to live as they did in their country of origin? Or do you think they did what you did and tried to fit in?

[r] First of all, I don’t know many Syrians here, they can be counted on the fingers of your hand. Well… of the five I know, four try to integrate like me, they quickly made friends, they quickly learned the language, they have new projects… So yes, in my friends, there is a good part of it! Uh… there’s just one probably because she came with her family, so she stayed in a closed environment, she can’t go in and out as she wants… She is still young and brief, she is not very comfortable…. But no, the rest of my friends, it’s okay, let’s go! It’s really something that makes me happy….

[i] I would like to talk a little bit about your hobbies in general, and what you may have brought with you to Paris, and what you left in Syria.

[i] My hobbies…? What do I have for leisure again? [laughs] Basically, it was music actually, but since I haven’t had a place of my own in a long time, I can’t practice and play as I want because I’m still at someone’s house, so I can’t… I don’t want to disturb… But for example, before moving here, I lived with a French family (my loves…) so, this family has three children, Lila, Sacha and Clio So Lila plays the guitar, and I learned the piano because they have one, I play well now, and Sacha also plays the piano and sings. We had discovered a singer together, her name was Billie Eilish, she is only 16 years old but she sings very well, we all liked the same song, it’s a very quiet song, so we used to meet Lila on guitar, me on piano and Sacha in the back singing and drumming, it was a great experience and the song was great but we didn’t record it, I don’t know why. Oh, yes, I do! Because Lila doesn’t like being filmed, I have to convince her to record. To come back to our subject, in Syria I used to make more music than here, I had more possibilities, I miss it, I miss my musician friends too, Here it’s not the same… maybe it’s because I didn’t look hard. Maybe later? Of course, music is part of my life, I already play several instruments, I will not lose my musical knowledge. If I find people I can play with… of course why not, maybe we have to wait a little longer…

[i] During these two years in Paris, what were the moments that marked you? The moments that marked you in a negative or positive way… that you consider important…

[r] A moment or moments?

[i] As you wish….

[r] Um… I’ll tell you this in no particular order… For example, today, I never forget that, at last, I am at home at the same time, I will never forget the French family, they came with me and helped me to move. Benoit, Emilie, Sacha and Lila want to see where I’m going to live, they helped me carry a ton of suitcases… may God’s satisfaction be on them… I remember in front of the door when I left their house, I was already not well… I was really moved, and when Emilie took me in her arms, we both cried at that moment, I understood that these people were my family here. I had lost the notion of family, the security when you have a family, and that family in 8 months, became my family I don’t know how to explain these moments, but it’s great! These people loved me without asking for anything in return. I loved them very much, even adored them. They gave me something very important. They gave me a home while I was in a difficult situation, they didn’t just give me a home, they shared their whole life with me. I will never forget these moments, they are engraved in me, they were strong moments… There was also the moment when I arrived at their house, I was with all my suitcases, I was tense, I was looking at them… they were looking at me. We were like “hello, hello…”, we didn’t know each other… we were very embarrassed the first day… But on the second day, I think, after a glass of wine, the situation was completely unblocked. So it was also a very difficult time… I wasn’t happy yet. I thought, I’m going to have to live with five people and on top of that, I was still a beginner in French, I could barely speak… It was hard and I cried a lot… So there’s also….. The time I learned that I had been taken on a master’s degree. I was really happy, I didn’t expect it, really…. I wanted this master’s degree for a long time, but I really didn’t think I would be accepted… it was a really good time… There are also small moments related to being safe or not…. When I went to see my friends in the Netherlands, the moment I arrived at their home, I felt like I was with my family, I love them so much… and the moment I said goodbye to them and drove away again, I looked behind me and saw them say goodbye to me by hand… in those moments, I cried a lot… This feeling of losing someone is very hard for me. All I have to do is say goodbye to someone, even if I know I’m going to see him again, deep down inside, I’m not at peace, I feel vulnerable, I don’t want to lose someone, I’ve already lost too many people…. I can’t take any more nostalgia… that’s really hard…

[i] What do you miss?

[r] Well…. I miss many people…. I miss my father terribly…. He is really a loved one to me…. He’s my father, he’s my best friend, the apple of my eye… I dream of being able to take him in my arms, I miss him so much… And… uh….. It is he who gives me strength and self-confidence… There is no one like him, no soul so beautiful… I am not the only one to say it, all those who know him also say it… And I would love to see it…. I’m afraid I can’t… before he… no, I don’t want to think about it, but I’d love to see him. I miss my sister Maya very much too… So much so that we can’t talk together anymore, because every time we talk, we say to each other, “I miss you, I miss you, when are we going to see you again?” And here we are, we’re fed up, we don’t know what to say to each other anymore… It’s a difficult situation…. Dhia and her children, my mother, all the others…. My family is the only thing that matters to me in Syria… to tell the truth… Syria means nothing to me anymore… For me, it’s a stuffy place. I wasn’t happy there. But my soul is still there because my family is there. So that’s what I miss most… That’s it…

[i] Did your family find that you had changed after two years in France? Is the Nour that left still the same today?

[r] Uh….. In your opinion, of course…. Or according to them…. So…. Frankly, no, because….. For example, as my father and my whole family always tell me, That, uh….. There’s nothing that gets in my way, when I want to do something, I get there. What irritates me is that they’re not afraid for me. They tell me they’re not afraid for me because I can handle it. I would sometimes like them to be afraid for me, if they knew what I was going through here… It’s better if they don’t know… I don’t tell everything in detail because there are complicated things… But they still have this idea that, this is Nour she’s getting by, we don’t have to worry about her… So no I don’t think they think I’ve changed, but, yes, I’ve changed on some aspects, now I’m a very honest person. Before I was afraid to express myself… especially on certain subjects, such as… (Sorry, I’m blowing my nose…)

[i] No problem.

For example, a taboo subject in our country, which I dare to discuss with no one, and on which I cannot give my opinion, is religion. Now I’m comfortable talking about it with my father. What’s convenient with my father is, uh…. Not practical, how to say… what’s the word again… What I mean is, he’s a believer. But the great thing is that it doesn’t force you to do this or that… He respects you for who you are. You want to talk about a subject, it’s up to you, if you don’t want to talk about it, no big deal. But there were still limits. Now there is no more, I can discuss everything with him, we talk about everything without getting angry. We can express ourselves freely. Right now we are even talking about sexuality, and it is a completely taboo subject in Syria. And as I lived in this French family, I saw how Emily handled this subject with her teenage children, I saw some really amazing things for me. I was thinking, is it normal the way he manages… From his point of view, my questions were strange…. I was wondering why it was so complicated to talk about this subject with my parents. So we discussed it with my father and he told me, you teach me things… I mean, not teach me things, but teach me how to handle certain situations…. And also that this subject is made into a whole story when it is a normal subject. Anyway, that’s it…

[i] Do you think the French are more comfortable with this subject?

[r] We cannot generalize, because it is something very personal, there are believers, unbelievers. But at the family where I was… Emily is a non-practicing Jew, she has no faith…. And Benedict is Catholic and he too is not in there at all. And the children, nothing at all, you know… So it’s really something personal and it varies from one person to another. But where I was, there were a lot of things I liked… It really made me feel comfortable, the way Emily was handling this subject with her children… I thought it was great…. I’ll give you a little example. One day, she and I were sitting in the room of the girls who were staying with their grandmother. Emily and I were in their room, cleaning and talking at the same time, then in Lila’s things we found a condom. Emily laughs and tells me….. “What is Lila doing with it? “and she throws it on the table. For five minutes, I didn’t know what to say in parenthesis, Lila is between 16 and 17 years old, I asked Emily, “That’s normal for you!” She said, “What’s the problem!” If only we could find the same thing in my house at home! It’s serious… very serious. It is impossible to imagine such a situation! She told me that’s normal, it’s during sex education class that she got it, we give them to educate them…. So that’s normal. Such a situation shocks me!

[i] Nour, what drives you in life? What motivates you? Who makes you move forward to make your dreams come true? Here in Paris?

[i] It has nothing to do with Paris, it’s a question of values Your values, it’s your essence that motivates you to move forward Whether you’re in France, Africa or Syria… they’re the same.

[i] They don’t change, in your opinion… depending on the place? What changes is the way of being, the conditions but the values themselves, no, it doesn’t change… you, Haitham, don’t like lying. Each person has their own values. As far as I’m concerned, I found what I wanted in my life… to help…. I have always been interested in the human being, I like to get to know other people and help in any way I can. It gives me satisfaction, which is why I chose the subject of my master’s degree, and why I know my future for at least another 10 years. Now I see my future very clearly before, I didn’t know what to do for the next day, I was afraid. It has nothing to do with France. Well, France gives me the opportunity to do all this, once again this master will open doors for me, so here it is….

[i] What is the French view of refugees? What is the stereotype of a refugee in France?

[r] Unfortunately, the image of a refugee or migrant here is very poor, because most people do not give a good image of themselves. It doesn’t matter where they come from Afghanistan, Africa, Syria. They come from all over, but it doesn’t matter, they’re not making a good impression. It’s as if they were dependent on society, all the French repeat the same thing, “It’s incredible that we pay taxes so that they don’t do anything. No one wants to work. They enjoy it for a long time ” I was discussing this with Emily, she told me ” If only every migrant paid one euro in taxes.” Emily doesn’t think it’s fair to pay phenomenal amounts, while others don’t want to work, they’re content to do nothing. Every time I meet a Frenchman, either this family or their friends or even my friends, everyone tells me that they did not expect this image of the immigrant, the refugee in particular. “Are you a refugee? It doesn’t show.” How do I have to be me? Dirty, with torn clothes? Poor? Poor? Do I have to have bad manners? What’s your image of a refugee, I don’t know why you have that image? Is this idea due to the media, or are people responsible for this bad image? But… no… One of my projects in this country is to show that we are not all like that. Look among us, there are people who want to work and have projects, if I am a refugee, it does not mean that I was a good-for-nothing in my country. I would like to make the French understand that I had a good social status, nothing to do with money. We were among the people who had studied, we had a good reputation, the image of refugees is a little distorted here, unfortunately. The image of refugees is not yet very good.

[i] In your opinion, France is a welcoming country for immigrants?

[r] Yes, really very welcoming, more than enough.

[i] What do you mean? Because this country has welcomed people without being prepared for it. The other countries in Europe had been much better prepared and organized. Here in France, we accept a lot of people… and here it is, it’s the crisis, and we can’t handle it, I don’t know how to explain it. On one side this country opens its arms as if it were saying: “You are not well in your country, come here it is your home.” But at the same time they do not know how to manage, finding housing in this country is a disaster.

[i] How did you manage the administrative procedures? Was it easy?

[r] I’m going to cry again, oh my God! It’s a subject that makes me angry, I don’t know what to say, it’s really difficult, it’s not possible, as it’s complicated to queue up for papers, papers… To infinity. And it’s slow… slow… it doesn’t make sense. The worst part is that when I didn’t speak French. No one made the effort to speak another language, not even English, English is international! Nothing… as if they were telling me, if you don’t speak French, too bad for you. That was my first slap in the face…. Go and learn French, what a motivation! I’ve been here for two years, and I feel like it will take me many more years to finish my papers. I’m still missing some papers, it’s very difficult. This is a subject…. painful. [i] Do you like the French language?

[r] Oh yes really, it’s a beautiful language, really beautiful language. Now that I speak French, not perfectly as I would like, I don’t understand 100%. But I can easily have a normal conversation with my friends. Every time I speak French, in the middle of a discussion, I think to myself, what a beautiful thing French is. It sounds like music, and besides I speak that language, now I can even joke. It’s not easy to joke or argue in a language you don’t know well, so I’m happy, a very beautiful language. The French do not know that French is pleasant to hear, every time I say that, I am told that French is very dry, that it is a flat intonation. And I tell them that I think it’s beautiful and sexy. I really like this language.

[i] Well, what is your experience with public transport in Paris? There is a lot of talk about it in France.

[r] That’s a pretty good question! I really like the subway, I can dream, I enjoy watching this mix of people. On the other hand, I hate some metro and RER lines, I don’t like getting on the RER, I hate RER C.

[i] Why?

[r] So is the RER D. Even the people who use these lines are ugly, not pleasant. For example, at the end of line 4, direction Porte de Clignancourt, oh my God, that’s weird. In the middle of the road, we pass Saint-Germain Les Halles-Châtelet, until then everything is fine, the people are calm. Apparently, all these people go down to Les Halles, and there you continue towards the East station, direction Clignancourt And there, it’s nonsense, people get very embarrassing always drunk. And I still have a problem with these people. But recently, where I live, I’ve been avoiding taking public transport, I’ve been taking my bike, even if it takes half an hour, three quarters of an hour, but I’m taking my bike, putting on my headphones and riding, it’s better than taking the bus. That’s it, that’s my experience with public transport.

[i] This question leads to another: are there many faces of Paris?

[r] Yes… in this city you can find crazy, drunk, good people, well educated, educated, cultured, art lovers. I don’t know… in every district, there are a certain type of people, and when you know Paris well, you know that there are limits not to cross. This city is full of contradictions, we find the good and its opposite…

[i] What did you like most about this city? And what’s bothering you?

[r] Let me tell you about Paris rather than the Île-de-France in general. I like the fact that we find the countryside there, and for me the countryside is a source of energy. When you get tired of the city, you have many places to go, and fill up with energy. What I don’t like about Paris is the dirt, really Paris is dirty. The dirt of Paris reminds me of Damascus, seeing the sewage in the street, as if it were normal, the smell of urine is the smell of Paris. Pollution, noise, really a lot of noise. I like architecture… this city has a soul, a history, a heritage of stories. You walk down a street, and you can’t help but think about all the famous people who have been there before you, it’s great! My feelings for this city are contradictory, I love and hate many things at once, but that’s life, it’s not perfect, it’s life.

[i] You think you’re still staying in Paris, do you intend to move? If you have a choice, of course?

[r] Personally, since I couldn’t move in Syria, for me, now it’s a reaction to move. I no longer want to stay in the same place all the time, and since I have the opportunity to leave, why not? Why don’t I move, Paris is pretty. Frankly, my intuition tells me that I will learn a lot in this country, but I won’t stay, I don’t think I will. This country will keep a big place in my heart, I may come back often, I may even end up settling there, but my current plans are to travel. I think maybe I’ll live 4 months in Africa, in India, I don’t want to get attached to a place anymore, I want to leave, to be free.

[i] This expatriation experience, do you think it will be useful when you leave again?

[r] Of course, any person who emigrates acquires a great capacity for reflection, he develops a new way of thinking. The most important thing is the ability to adapt. When I arrived, I knew nothing, no language, no nothing at all, I had to learn and adapt, without stress…. Taking things as they came, all this brings out the best in you, you become tolerant, In Paris, there is everything, so it’s up to you to see what you want, you find everything in Paris: racists, non-racists, the most important thing is to accept people as they are, they are human beings. I can’t accept a killer, but I accept gays, blacks, I don’t know why here, being black is a problem.

[i] Have you been a victim of racism?

[r] No, racism, no,

[i] Discrimination?

[r] Never. Maybe some people have an image of us Arabs, the Syrians, but no, no, no one has ever made me a free reflection like that, no.

[i] The French at first glance consider you as French or as a foreigner?

No, people never think of me as French. Well, they often think of me as Italian, Spanish or Indian, I have had several versions on my appearance. But in any case, I don’t look anything like a French woman. As I have a small accent in French, at first there is a little confusion, but it is easy to understand that I am not French, it is still early for my level of French.

[i] Do you think that one day you will be able to feel 100% French?

[r] No.

[i] No? Why?

[r] Because I’m not French… What I meant before…. I don’t want to be the image of something, I don’t understand this nationality thing, you have to be that or that, I don’t like that, I would like to be a set of beautiful things. Beautiful things from France, from Syria, ready to learn beautiful things from other countries, new things, even if I had French nationality, it won’t mean anything. Unfortunately, nationality is a document that allows me to travel, I am not interested in being something in particular.

[i] Well, have you kept habits, habits specific to Syria?

Let’s see… what was my habit in Syria? You can’t believe me… no nothing. In Syria, in the morning I listened to metal, and I always did the same thing, but it has nothing to do with Syria, it’s personal… I like… no, honestly no.

[i] What about French cuisine? And Syrian cuisine?

[r] In the family where I was, Emily loves cooking, she is passionate. Yesterday, I made a Syrian dish, green beans in olive oil, they really liked it. Here, I am more interested in cooking than in Syria. With Emily, we decided every week to make a Syrian or French dish. I don’t remember the name of Emilie’s dishes because her family is of Eastern European origin. The Jews there have dishes that look like ours, a strange mixture. Now I like cooking, I taught the girls at home the word “habibti” Sacha calls me “my habibti”, Or “my habibti”. I like that word, I repeat it often, so they learned it, and we use it naturally now. I also taught them swear words, but I won’t say them, these words touch me. One evening I taught them to write their first names in Arabic, they loved Arabic calligraphy. However, my writing is not great, but for them, it’s fluid with points, a whole evening… What they liked most was Sacha’s first name and Lila. Lila, it’s Leila, they liked the letter I. I wrote Leila, I told them after the word “naiman”, which is said after the shower. It was a lot of fun.

[i] Do you make them listen to Arabic music?

[r] No, because I don’t really listen to them. I once put a song for Emily, but she doesn’t like to listen to a song without understanding the lyrics, she likes to know what the song is about, so even the songs in English, she doesn’t listen, only in French. So Arabic music, no. I don’t listen to it myself.

[i] Which of the French singers do you prefer?

[r] I love France Gall, I find my values in her songs. For example, in the song “Resist”, “Resist, prove that you exist”, In these words, we find challenge, freedom, she doesn’t care about anything, I loved it. It’s my favorite song. There are also variety songs, there are songs that are not bad.

[i] Let’s stay in art. Museums, exhibitions, paintings, art in general, did you visit Paris?

[r] Yes, I have visited many museums, the Musée d’Orsay, the Invalides, the Picasso Museum. I don’t remember, but it was interesting. But I get bored very quickly, I like to see the paintings, but I get bored, after an hour it’s good, I get bored, it’s not an essential thing in my life. The Picasso Museum, I may have loved it because it is a celebrity and I liked the idea of the exhibition. But in general, museums are not my thing.

[i] Shows, events? I’ve been to a few shows. The first time I attended a show, I didn’t speak French yet, so I didn’t understand anything, it was the two longest hours of my life. It made me tired, it was a gift, I couldn’t refuse, I was with a friend and I was tired. Then in college, I went to several shows, I understood French, so it was not bad. I understood quite well, it was fun, now I don’t have time, so I didn’t see anything new anymore.

[i], I’m going to ask you a question that has nothing to do with art, how do you feel when you see the armed soldiers in the streets of Paris?

[r] They are really beautiful, it seems like we choose the most beautiful ones, frankly I like them a lot. When I meet them, I like to greet them, they are calm and kind, they are there to protect and help, unlike ours in Syria. I like these ones.

[i] Were you not impressed the first time? Like in our country, what?

[r] No, it’s very different in our country. Soldiers are rude, dirty, poorly dressed. Here, it’s completely the opposite, we don’t bother you if you haven’t done anything, we don’t provoke you, it’s another mentality. I don’t feel the same way at all. These people are there to help and protect you, if you don’t respect the law, it’s normal to be punished. Their presence reassures me. The police and the army are something else in our country.

[i] What do you want to achieve in France? What are you thinking about? Your plans, your short-term projects? You said you liked helping people do volunteer work.

Emily and I have a project, we both had long discussions. We thought we were doing something for this country, helping certain categories of people. Both of us have sympathy for the elderly. When I worked at Monoprix in Sucy-en-Brie, there were many seniors. And it hurts my heart to see an elderly person struggling to walk with a cane, carrying heavy bags. Emily and I have a project for these people, it’s a project that has not yet matured, we really want to help these people. In France, there are really many elderly people. As far as I’m concerned, it’s in this area that I want to help, I’d like to do something.

[i] Good. [ Interviewee’s tunom], you lived in France for 2 years, one day you will return to Syria, and you will see people you have already known, maybe another generation, if you had to give them a piece of advice or two… what would it be?

[r] Stop being complicated, everyone must be able to live as they wish, let others live as they want. We live as if we had nothing to do but look at what others are doing, always saying, it’s shameful, it’s not good… It was this kind of behaviour that drove me to flee my country. What else could I tell them? Enjoy life, live life to the fullest, study to work… go out with your friends. Because we only have one life. If you don’t do what you want to do now, when are you going to do it? There is no other life after death, it’s lies. So live and leave the others alone.

[i] Well, I’m going to ask you a question about philosophy, let’s imagine that Paris is a person, how did you see it when you arrived? How do you see it now? A male or female face?

[r] For me, Paris had a female face. Now I see her as a tired mother, she tries to bring people together, she is strong, but she can’t do it. Maybe she hasn’t been educated, like the mothers here in Syria, she has 10 children, she can’t fully assume. I don’t know why, I see her exhausted with all these people, and she’s lost. Before I saw her as a very beautiful, European person. And no, she’s tired, I don’t know…

[i] One last question: what are your fears for your future?

[r] My anxieties like no one else?

[i] Yes…. [name of interviewee] who lives in Paris.

[r] I’m afraid of losing the people I love before I see them again. That’s a problem for me, I’m too scared, I’m afraid of being alone as I get older, like these elderly people, who have no one left. I’m afraid to be alone, to be really alone. And sometimes I’m afraid of not having a home, of moving all the time. As I get older, I would like to feel safe. What scares me the most is losing the people I love.

[i] Now a positive question: what are your wishes?

[r] You ask questions that make people cry and others that give hope… My wishes, my wishes is to see the people I love and also to realize my projects, and help people in need. There are many of them on earth, all over the world, there is a lot of sadness. The world has become sad. I can’t do anything alone, but if each of us tries to do something, maybe it will get better. Enough with the wars.

[i] I think we’ve clarified a lot of things. Do you have anything to add? Something we haven’t talked about?

[r] I would like to say that I am very happy here, it is a chance for me, even if all this came after a disaster that destroyed Syria. I’m glad I came here, I’m finally myself, I don’t have to lie anymore, I have no reason to lie, or to show another image than mine. If a person accepts me as I am, that’s fine, if not too bad, the person doesn’t deserve to be in my life. This country has opened my eyes, and I hope the same for all the people who have left, I hope they can find themselves, it is very important.

i] Thank you again, your answers are very interesting.

[r] Your questions too,

i] Your ideas are great, I wish you to succeed in your life, and to find solutions for everything, and that you will realize all your dreams very soon. Thank you… for all of us inchallah inch’Allah thank you Thank you.