The Immigrant Experience

Danielle from Congo

 Posted by David

I’ve figured out how to drive on the left side of the road while shifting with my left hand and trying to navigate a round-a-bout all the time hearing GPS Lady recalculating my route because she has failed to give me enough notice about the last turn.  Thankfully we had the car for a week with zero run-ins with the British authorities.  This may be because most of the week we were in the English Countryside where the police were likely busy at their day-jobs driving huge combine tractors down the tiny bicycle path sized roads while I was white knuckling the steering wheel and veering off into various sheep pastures.

I didn’t expect London to be as diverse as it is.  We have met so many people who have come to London to work, save money, and study.  It wasn’t surprising to find folks from the EU countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Romania, and Turkey but we also found people from Australia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hungary, Cameroon, Martinique, and Angola, none of them tourists.

Yesterday, when returning our rental car, an extremely nice woman named Danielle helped us.  She was from The Republic of Congo, not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo from which they split off during a bloody civil war.  Her family sent her to England just before the civil war when she was 17 (she is now 37).  She arrived in London without knowing English or having any immediate relatives.  Shortly after arriving here, civil war broke out in the Congo and she lost contact with her family (who had previously been sending her money) for THREE YEARS!  She had no idea if her family was alive or dead and she no longer had any source of money.  So, she continued to study English and progressively got better jobs moving from cleaning to retail clerk and cashier.  She only recently returned to see her family and they she said that they were in awe of how she has managed to survive and thrive.

In the sweetest most positive way, she told us about her hardships but also about how determined she was to succeed.  She very pointedly told the kids that they should work hard, study, and not take their parents for granted.  She was a modern-day version of what our ancestors did to get to America from their shtetls.

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