YUHUA: Are Americans different than you thought they would be?
HATEEYAT: It’s always different from what you expect. People are always different. You always have ideas, and then there’s reality. I’m hesitant to say. I do not want to offend anyone.
YUHUA: It’s okay. You can be honest with me. I won’t tell anyone.
HATEEYAT: Some Americans are very courteous and polite and kind, and some aren’t. Sometimes people are unreasonably unkind and you wonder why. There doesn’t seem to be a reason. But in general, the people are good. And the immigration system is good. We came through the green card lottery. When you allow people to come from a hard life to settle here, inside them, you are going to nd a better person.
YUHUA: How do you think the US culture is different from the Congo?
HATEEYAT: Many different cultures exist side by side in the Congo, so we are already used to cultural differences—different cultural values, religious diversities, different dress, different music, different styles of dancing. All of that. There are 450 dialects. So, Americans seem less diverse. They seem more like—all the same because here everyone is speaking one language, and everyone is dressing the same. But one main difference with Africa is we don’t have good infrastructure. Here, you can drive almost anywhere. I was unable to work around Congo because there was just no road to get to so many places. Only plane. Africa, I can say, stays as God created it.
This scene originally appeared in Congolese Immigrant Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.