Des Moines Oral Histories

A Collaborative Project Between Community Members and Drake University Students

Finding Hope in Continued Liminality

In 2004 I got the first information that my wife was alive. A friend, who was from anther ethnic group, gave me this news. He said she might be in Tanzania, or maybe Congo, but she never died. When they killed all those people in the church, she was in with the dead people, along with four other women. She had to sleep with the dead people to hide and stay alive. But when it was over, people knew she didn’t die because they didn’t see her die and didn’t find her body after. They said they didn’t find any of those five women, and those five women are all still alive today.

I wanted to see the person who told me this story, so I got a ticket from Denmark to Burundi and from Burundi to Congo. When I was there, I met with many people and they all told me my wife was not dead. They didn’t know where she was, but she was alive. It gave me hope. I went back from the village to Denmark again, because I went for information on where she was but didn’t get anything. In 2005, though, more information came. They told me my wife was in Kenya. She was alive with my two kids. When we were separated she had four, and by then she only had two. That was hard for me to learn.

The first day reunited with my family in Kenya after 10 years.

The first day reunited with my family in Kenya after 10 years.

In April of 2006 I flew to Kenya. From 1996-2006, I had been separated with my wife. It was 10 long years, and I was finally reunited with my family. When I arrived there it was a Friday and they told me they had a flight to the U.S. the next Tuesday. They were being relocated, so I only had the weekend to make a plan. I didn’t want to go to the U.S. because I had been in Denmark for ten years. I had an I.D. in Denmark, I could speak Danish, I had a job. I knew if I went to the U.S. I would start again with a new life. I said no. I told me wife to go to the U.S. because it was important to me that she did not live this life in Africa anymore. Instead, we tried to get her to Denmark. I went back to Denmark to see how she could be moved there, and started the process. After two years, the request was denied. They said I had a girlfriend in Denmark so I had to stay with her there, because I couldn’t have two wives. But I told them that Odette was my wife, and I wanted to be with her.

She started the processes again to go to the United States, and it took another year before she was approved. Her first day in the United States was June 12th, 2008. They were first placed in Lexington, Kentucky. Ten days after they arrived there I was able to visit them. I had to go back to Denmark because I had a contract with FedEx for four years. I told them I couldn’t renew my contract and I ended my contract in April 2012. But from 2008 to 2012, I visited every year. I came in 2009, in 2010 I came two times, I came in 2011, and 2012 was my last trip here. Even with the complicated processes and the time apart, my heart and my head said I would be in the United States with my wife. I came here to stay on June 25th, 2012. When I came to visit, it was normal, but when I came to stay, it was different.

 

Life in the U.S.A.: Adjusting and Integrating in American Culture

1 Comment

  1. Jacqueline Heymann

    2015-12-14 at 02:09

    Strengths: I love it! You beautifully piece together his life while giving a mini history lesson. Also, I loved how you pulled out important quotes to highlight.

    Suggestions for improvement: Minor things–over all it looked fantastic!

    Clarify this sentence in the timeline: “Was arrested and put jail in 1999 for 61 days because opposed government actions and wanted change and justice, but couldn’t attain it”

    Growing up in Congo section–change to first person: “But it was so difficult because you needed to learn the culture of the tribe. You were far from home and you didn’t have anyone you knew. You couldn’t speak the language. And you needed to go to school. My life wasn’t easy.”

    Include a transitional piece when you move from talking about being in jail to “you see, when I was in politics…”. At first it was a bit confusing why you were bringing up the fact that he knew people in Europe.

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