Paul is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he arrived in Durham in 2013. He likes to sew, and he enjoys making clothes and bags with his sewing machine. He speaks several languages fluently, including Arabic, French, and Sango, and enjoys improving his English skills by going to class and practicing speaking with others.
Q: What would you say to a new family from the DRC or the CAR who has just arrived in Durham?
A: Well. What must I say to the new family who has come after me. I want very much to welcome [them] to America, because here, things are good. There are no problems, not at all. Therefore, my family who has come after me: welcome to America. I would give [them] a lot of advice. Life here is not like life where we come from. When you come here, it changes your whole mentality. You must respect the law here. The law here is not like the law we knew before. You must respect the law here. You must continue your life. Now, I am here. I very much like America. Why do I like America? Because we have peace. Where I was before, I did not sleep normally, but I arrived in America and I sleep well, I can walk without fear, I have found a family who comes to visit me. I think that God is great. I pray a lot for my friend who will come after me. The life here is a little hard for me. Why do I say that? Because I do not work. But then how am I supposed to have money? There are [sewing] machines, but no customers. I like [to sew], that’s my profession, but I can’t do it. How can I do it? I have to ask others to come to my home to help me. I don’t like that. It doesn’t work for me.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in your life in the United States?
A: Now, besides money, no, that’s okay, that will be fine, but there is one thing: English. That has improved a lot. That I understand. Because I like to speak English. Because here if you cannot speak English, that doesn’t work. Therefore, always, day and night, I think and I pray a lot to God to learn English quickly. That’s the best. I thank very much everyone who has come to my home to help me. I don’t forget anyone. I have lots of friends; students at Duke, more at CWS, and more at World Relief.
Translated by: Zoë Bakker and Josie Holasek
Bonus video: Pierre and Paul sing a song in Sango, a language of the Central African Republic. Paul described it as a “song of one’s heart in joy.”