When I went to Denmark, it was a second war. Why do I say second war? When I got there, I had no background. I needed to learn everything because I had nothing. Even though I was a teacher, even if you were a doctor, even if you were a lawyer, you knew nothing.

“It’s a second war to learn from nothing and start a new life. My life after 35 years was over and I had to start again.”

I had to learn how to pay my bills. We never had to pay for water. We didn’t have electricity. We never even had a phone. The climate was also very different. We had to wear so many clothes at the same time because it was so cold. I went to Denmark in March, and it’s so cold in Denmark in March. We only had four months of summer in Denmark, but back in Congo we had 12!

Everything was the opposite, so I had to learn everything. I needed to learn the culture. I can remember struggling because the first time they invited me to a party, I wore a suit. When I went to the church for the party, I was the only one in a suit. So the next time they invited me to the party, I wore jeans. When I went there, I was the only one in jeans and everyone else was in a suit. It was terrible. Even though I wanted to leave, I had my son with me so I couldn’t. I thought I needed to find a new wife in Denmark, because I thought Odette had been killed. I met a woman from Rwanda who became my girlfriend, and we eventually had two sons. I needed a girlfriend because I didn’t know how to prepare food, or do anything in the home. Men never do that in Congo. Never.

Grenaa, Denmark

Grenaa, Denmark

I did so much in the Congo. I was a teacher and I was in politics, so I thought I had some idea of what life was like in Europe. This helped me to learn things a little bit in Denmark. For the first four years I learned. I went to school every day from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon. I spent four years learning Danish, and, after four years, I got a job. You cannot work in Denmark if you don’t speak Danish, so I had to learn Danish. It’s a small country, and what they do is called “conservatism.” It is so small that they need every person who came in to learn it all. They like their language and their culture. They all speak English because they learn it from primary school until university, but they never use it. Someone interviewing you for a job might speak very, very good English, but they can never speak it in the office.

 

Once I could speak Danish, I worked as a cleaner. It was hard to imagine because I worked in the president’s cabinet in Congo, and then my first job in Denmark I worked in cleaning. Sometimes I couldn’t believe it was really me. That was hard for me, but I just said I would forget, and I would do my job. I’d look to the future. I just focused on how to clean so I learned how to clean the floors and the tables. I worked there one year and eight months, and then I changed jobs.

Grenaa, DenmarkEvery day after work, even when I was cleaning, I went to the library. I wanted to read books, read about the news and practice Danish. So there was a woman there I met a few times. When she came to talk to me, she saw I was reading the news from France. She saw that it was French and she asked me “Hey, where are you from?” in Danish. I said I was from Congo, and she asked me how long I had been there. I told her I had been in Denmark for five years. I told her my job started at 5:00 in the morning and went to 1:00 p.m., and after I would go to the library and read the news. Her name was Anna Fox, I can remember that. I won’t ever forget her name. The next day she was there and she told me she wanted to get me another job. She told me I could distribute newspapers, and I said, “Yes!” She asked if I could start Monday, and again I said “Yes!”

FedEx in DenmarkThe next Monday I started in the car and I had to drive to different places, delivering the news. I did that for one year until one day, Anna came to me again and told me she had another job for me at FedEx. She worked with FedEx so she knew there was a job. They needed one person but there were nine candidates including me and they tested us on who could deliver letters the fastest. The morning of the test came and there were 11 letters to deliver and nine cars waiting for us. They told us to start and I looked at the addresses. I knew all of them. The first place was my pastor’s house, from my church. The second one was my teacher’s son. I couldn’t believe it! It took me 38 minutes, and I was done. Other people took an hour and a half, an hour and 45 minutes. The next person who came after me took an hour and 25 minutes. But there was a problem. The FedEx job paid a lot of money, so they wanted to give it to someone Danish. They had a meeting to pick the best candidate. They were worried because I got the best time but I wasn’t Danish. But luckily, Anna Fox was there in the meeting. She told them that they needed to give me the job. It was fair because I did the best. She said they were discriminating against me, and she told them if they didn’t take me it would be discrimination, and I would know that. So after that they said yes, they would give me the job. So I worked with FedEx for four years.

Life in Denmark, to start, was so difficult, but I got through it.

“Once you leave your home, it’s a one-way out. You can’t go back. You can’t go left or right, just forward. Your old life ends, and you start a new life.”

During my time in Denmark, however, I got a big piece of my old life back.

 

Finding Hope in Continued Liminality