“I will go to China and speak English,”
I told my elementary classmates. I remember that only the Chinese spoke English because they had been present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since that time, in 1997 if I remember correctly. As for me, I liked the language, as my first new foreign language, taught by Mr. Lwaka, as a new and first English teacher, since the 3rd year of primary school (3rd grade in US), at the Massamba school in Kinshasa. This is how I thought that only Chinese spoke English in the world.
I will go to China, and I’ll speak English
The Massamba school was one of the best in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From that moment, the owner whose school bears his name, M Massamba, built the Massamba school, in three different locations: Kasa Vubu, Limete and Yolo. These are the municipalities of Kinshasa Capital. This school had a great reputation in education, programs, activities.
The middle students were well educated and others came from decent families and places. However, the location had an impact on the development of children outside of school. Kasa Vubu was known as a dangerous place to live due to less educated people, low standard of living, presence of thieves, bandits and located far from the city center and some places of interest. The reason why it was called « the city: a little more like a suburb ».
I lived in Kasa Vubu for 15 years. I couldn’t speak French perfectly, because the suburban were kin to “Lingala”, known as a vernacular language. We were separated most of the time from other children who came from decent families that have set “French” as the unique spoken language at their home. My mother had an average knowledge experience in school education and French, instead my father had been graduate from “UQAM”, strange, this didn’t gave him the duty to speak to us in French. Every morning we spoke Lingala until we go to bed.
The school in Massamba was amazing to an extent that the ‘English program’ was introduced at the start of our 3rd year (an 8 year old child), in 1998 we had a fantastic teacher, Mr. Lwaka. Even though we did not know this beautiful language « English », we were mesmerized by the turn of its language, the tone, the accent, the gesture. Haha! All of this amused us every day and we missed him all the time.
Finally graduation for primary school, I scored 70%, not bad right? We had a book present from the principal, the firsts tens who graduated with 70 percents and up. The book is “Précis de Grammaire” the newest version, that we received in 2001.
On July 2, we got our certificates, known as DRC graduation day for all elementary and high school students (US is college). After that day, the other amazing gift was « me », flying to Massachusetts. Haha, well I couldn’t say the less, I didn’t know where I was going until I arrived in Lynn, MA, Central Square # 103, ZIP. code 01901; my mind was confused like having a lost memory. I looked at everything and everyone as if they lived on another planet.
I have been looking for my teachers: Mrs Shandbag (ESL teacher), M Mastracola a Spanish man (Reading teacher), M Castleman (Geography teacher), M Healy who one day drop me home after the ophthalmology exam at school (Computer science teacher), Mrs Camilla a. Cambodian teacher of social science, Mrs Sawyer (Math teacher)… the Arts and Gym teacher that i don’t remember their names.
Its tooks me several days and weeks to get used to it. I didn’t know how to speak english very well at all. “Hello, Good Morning, Good evening, I dont speak English, My name is …, I live in…, Thank you, i am sorry, person…” these are the word and brief sentences that i could remember from my Congolese english Teacher M Lwaka. Can you imagine? Going everyday to school without getting the complete idea of what teachers are saying, i was lost in my mind and time was passing so fast that i felt like i was coming to contemplate and observe.
OMG. Are these lockers? Okay, these things held me back for over 10 minutes before going to my class after the Homeroom. I did not learn to use the lock and the locker with the code. Oh Lord, I was there everyday wrestling with it and then I wondered how I had it locked. One day a student helped, another day it was the head teacher. It took me so many days to be able to lock and unlock my locker. What a stressful morning for me at 11. after the stress of the hymn and then this. I stopped locking it for a while until a Congolese friend came over to help me get used to the locker myself. And thanks to her, Hortense and Christina Paris (an incredible Haitian and Congolese students who has become my best friends).
This is how my dream came true. Leave my Congolese English teacher and meet thousands of English speakers in an English speaking country. United States of America. Arriving, if I remember correctly through Washington International Airport, then by car, we went to Arizona to say hello to family members and then to New York where I had to eat an American burger for the first time.
Finally we arrived in 7 central square 01902, Lynn Massachusetts #103 on the first floor