About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Lia hiding her face with her hand wearing painted gloves


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Lia (pseud, 31), dreams of being able to speak German – “to get my certificate from the language.” An asylum seeker from Nicaragua, Lia currently lives in Germany. She is an Economics and Finance graduate, but this hasn’t helped her get work. She finds it “confusing” and “frustrating.” She says, of those who’ve denied her work, “I’m not from here, or someone else deserves the job, or you just don’t want me to work, I don’t know.” Lia says she fled Nicaragua when she saw the dangers to those who protested against the government who, she says, were “shooting people.” She says that the police “instead of protecting us, they become the murderers.” These experiences followed her to Germany. She was “having a nightmare… I was already in my country and me, so scared trying to run away again.” Lia is trying to “keep herself together,” she says. “I’m a strong girl.” And now she just wants to work and “have the same chances, the same opportunities – so we can also contribute to the country.”

Trigger Warning: Violence/Murder

full interview

So um what kind of housing do you live in at the moment?
I live in what we call a Heim (camp). Um, pretty much is the first stage when you are applying for an asylum. And this point – at this point, I share with two other rooms, we are three rooms, we are six peoples in the same floor, but we are divided into bathrooms per person, one – uh, two persons per bathroom. We are single ladies pretty much. We have two bathrooms that we share and a kitchen, pretty much.

Okay, and um do you know the people that you live with?
My neighbor, yes. Uh she’s from my country. She is also going through the same situation. Um, it’s interesting that in her case, pretty much, she came before me. And at this point, her process is already done. So, it’s a little bit stressful because for in her case, we have heard that there are people that there were already sent back to our country. And I know that she’s not that okay with that situation, she thinks that she might be sent home soon and this is stressful, of course, for her and for us, that I know her.I met her here, but she’s from my country, so she know that at the end you share the floor and you become like family. Umm, the lady that I’m sharing a room with, it, she’s from Venezuela, is a country that is going like almost the same situation as we’re going through. In this case, there are more stories to share of course, her – she’s an 83 years old lady, that she got married with a German guy. She live more than 40 years with him. She got married and all of that. She, they live in Venezuela. Then he died, all of her like childrens and grandchildrens they live here, but in her case, since she never did, I don’t know, which paperwork here, she has to go through this situation to. And she’s eighty three years old and she could be living with me right now. But the good thing is that she has family here, so she spend time with them. I have heard that in those stories, in those cases, people that come from Venezuela, they don’t stay here in Hamburg, they send them to Berlin. I have heard that or something like that, I’m not so sure. But she was kept here because she, her family members are here. But it’s so stressful to think about that, you know, someone who has all the family members here that she could marry, but she wasn’t born here and she’s for another country, umm guess what? She still doesn’t have the right to just live the last thing that she has of her life here. So, of course, once again, you just don’t have your life and your story, you share other people’s stories and it’s really, kind of, you don’t feel like maybe you can make it, you know?Umm, and then you have another, in the other room, I have, we have a lady from Asia, she’s alone. She’s from Nepal, but she’s all the time on her world. But I understand that she has pretty much also she lived here actually. She live here like in the same camp, like for two or three years, then she had to leave the country. I don’t know how she was able to come back, but she is going again through the process. She has like a year here, too, uh but she’s also living with us. And it comes to the point that you ask her, like, if you already speak the language, if you already have a job, uh why you haven’t found a place that you can pay for yourself? And it gives you again, you hit the wall once again like, oh, well, I’m not a German. I’m also an Auslaender (immigrant), and it’s not that easy for me to get a Wohnung (living space). It’s hard because here it’s packed of course, it’s not that hard to find, but they’re not going to give me more the chance like to give it to someone else that maybe is from here or has already like a big job or making a lot of money. So those are the stories that you share here.

Okay, umm back to you. How do you spend your time in general?
Okay, so at this point I was going through a very stressful year due to the Corona. Um, the normal path that everybody follows is you go through the integration course where you learn German, um, it’s supposed to last like eight or seven months. Um, mine took pretty much a year.I started on February of last year and I just finally had my test on February the 19. During this time, I just been like studying, pretty much, you share with people that you know, I’ve been – I was, because then through Corona, you just cannot do pretty much anything. I was sharing with some friends, like they were hiring a shop where you, they get bikes for people who has like, for example, like us, that we don’t have access to a lot of money, we’re going through the help from the government. I still help them sometimes. I also was looking for a job. Then on pretty much on September, I was able to find a good job, or was in August, a good job. It was on its called, it’s a hotel, pretty much, and they were going to hire me. Then I had to wait for four weeks, pretty much, that they say yes, it’s like they tell you, you know what? You are, you can stay here in the country, you can learn the language, we’re going to help you and I’m very thankful for that.But they also tell you, guess what? You have permission to look for a job, then great, you look for the job because you don’t want to be, like, all the time, just not doing anything like everybody should know, we used to have a previous life. We used to work the same as everybody, we used to study the same as everybody, we have goals like everybody. And then you’re here and you’re not coming here just to say, okay, now take care of me, no. We are coming from countries that we work, I don’t know if it’s proper to say our ass off, and of course, we’re not coming with that mindset here to say I’m not going to work.

And guess what? Well, I found this job then I have the permission to work, then I was like, okay, I just have to get the paper from Agentur fuer Arbeit (Agency for Work) so they can say yes, here is the print of your permission. Well, it happened that it passed four weeks and then I got the answer. The employee who was waiting for my response just read the paper, pretty much, their regular one, the normal. And then I got a letter stating that I was denied. That I could not work there. And it was pretty much because they were not paying me enough of what they should pay me. And it was, I was going to, it was, it was called the position of Staff Assistant. It was more for the buffet side. It was side, side, but they say that they were not paying me enough, so I had to just let the job leave, like leave. I couldn’t take the job, and then it’s like, it’s not that easy sometimes, the industry overall is not doing good. It was the hotel they’re not doing good either. And then finding a job is not that easy. And then once you want to do things right and you find the job, they’re like, no. And I know I’m not the first one that they get like, no they’re not paying you enough or they just like, no, they’re not, we’re not going to let you work there. So it’s like a confusing thing. Like it’s because at the end, I’m not from here or someone else deserves the job or you just don’t want me to work, I don’t know. So it’s kind of frustrating.

Umm, overall too, I’m trying to keep myself together. So right now I do a lot of uh biking with one of my friends.We go up pretty much from Monday to Fridays overall, like 17 or 18 kilometers per day, trying to be good, share a lot. For example, since I live here in this camp that is close to the airport and he lives in Central, sometimes I spend almost a month like just over there with him because it’s you run crazy, you know where you are just too alone. It’s not good, it’s not healthy.Umm, I do, I bake sometimes, but since I’m trying to lose weight, I don’t do that right now. (Laughing) But it’s like trying to go the day by day, but it’s not getting easier. Especially that now, the good thing is I just did my test. Hopefully I’m going to be okay, because I also had a tutor that it was a lady from here, it’s from here, and she used to call me also besides my classes two times per week. You found really cool people to, like very people that really want to help you. And she was calling me two times or three times per week, and we used to just speak Deutsch and all that and prepare for the test. I had the test, like I said, on the 19. They already told me, like in five or six weeks I could get the response. Um, but I’m waiting, right? I feel good. But we will see.

And what else am I doing on my free time? Trying to see what is the next step once I hopefully get my certificate from my language, because I, I, I’m not just saying like, I just came, like, waiting for everything to happen, right? But I do have also a degree in Economics and Finance, I studied on my country. I have a background of ten years of working in, in this thing and oh, guess what? I cannot use my title unless it gets translated and I still have to do. And I was feeling that’s awesome, those chances are there, but guess what? Here, is about paperwork, here is about steps. And when you realize I came in 2019, and I just think about I have eighteen months learning the language, not working yet, and hopefully thinking that something else I will be able to do and I’m not going to get another stop on the process telling me that I have more paperwork or more time to wait. But that’s how it is.

And, umm, how has life been since you arrived in Europe? Like difficulties or positive stuff?
Like I was mention to you before, that’s most of the things that you realize like you think that number one, I have to say it and admit it, it’s great the fact that you’re told that you’re getting the help and the support, and it’s true, I do have a place where I can live. I do have, I have a bed, of course, I know there’s people that are outside maybe don’t have that chance.I have access to food because you can have access to that. And believe it or not, I have I, we make it with 340 euros per month that for a friend of mine that is German, he’s like what? And yes, from there it’s not only that I to get all the money, it’s not like that, is that I have to cover my personal things, of course, and I also have to pay for transportation that, you know, that it’s almost a hundred bucks just for the rings A and B and the good thing’s that we get a discount so I don’t pay them much. It’s like, pretty much, 70 bucks that are taken away, so it’s not like I’m getting 350, I’m getting more like 260, and those 260 are pretty much for the whole month. For my food, for my personal things and pretty much that’s how it works.

And we do have access to other stuff like Tafel (German charity movement that collects and distributes surplus foods to those in need), but also it’s like sometimes you don’t go that often because sometimes the food expires, so you have to be careful with that. But it’s good for you to have access to the veggies and all that. In myself, in my case, I go more like to Penny (supermarket chain) , to supermarkets, to regular ones, I make a budget and I take care of that. But here, a lot of people that I know that what they do, they go through to Tafel, it’s very safe, it’s okay, they follow the rules and all that, but sometimes you get a lot of expired food. I’m not saying that they might not be working, I know that sometimes here they put less dates than what it really takes. But it’s not that cool as people think that, oh, my God, you’re in Germany, right?

Like I said, difficulties like I do have the passion and I want to do something. They think that we are here just to say, hey, take care of me. And like I said, we used to have light before. We are people that like I, like myself, we have, we, I study four years to get a career. I went to the same thing, like going through a practical I made a thesis, I know about math, I know about ethics, I know about all of those things that you guys know. And it doesn’t mean that because now you put me the title that I come from somewhere else, that because I’m an Auslaender (immigrant), then all of my education, it’s now delete from my, from my head.And it’s really interesting now that I bring that to the table that when I meet people, they’re like, okay, like courteous, right? Politically correct, like, they say ‘Hi’, but until they ask me if I ever had an education background and I said yes and they were like, okay, so, do you have a, like a degree like? And I was like, yes, I study Economics and Finance, they’re like more ‘Oh, okay’, they’re more showing respect to you. And I’m like, wow, why? And then they’re like, ‘but what did you finish?’ I’m like, yes. ‘And how long?’ Four years. ‘OK, but did you work on it? Like did you have any background?’ So it’s interesting that first you get all the respect that you could get delete just because you’re not from the country and then once they know that you might have some education background, you’re judged by that.And then maybe somehow you are accepted, but still then goes to the, to the next question: ‘but you’re working right now, right?’ ‘Oh, okay, okay. Oh, what are you doing right now?’ And I get it right? But it’s it’s not as simple as a ‘Hi’ and just meeting someone, you get a lot of, um you get questioned a lot, in those cases.

And what has been good about being here?
It’s like I said, that there are, you realize that when people want to help you, they’re generally doing it. That’s something that I have to admit it, like, I know that when someone says no is going to be a real no, that’s all. There is no like maybe, a no here is a no. And, and it’s a straight up like I don’t want to it’s a no and I like that. I am okay with that, I’m a tough girl. But also when I hear a say a yes or I, I want to help you, people keep their word. And also, like this lady, they’re something else that, there are a lot of NGOs or groups of people that they truly want to help you and they actually do it. It was really great to hear, for example, when I was getting ready to learn Deutsch and German and we were going through the Corona and then the schools were closed and all that, I found this great lady, Miss Bernd. And she was there calling me – oh, I don’t know if I mentioned, but where I live somehow, I don’t know why, in this building, I don’t have phone signal. The only way that I can get phone signal is if I put it on the window. So it was a little bit awkward for her but we used to have classes, but like just regular phone calls because we cannot make a WhatsApp call or something like that. And it’s not like I’m going to be outside or somewhere else, that it could be like public because, you know, through the Corona you can not expose yourself so much and you’re studying so you can have noise. So we used to have regular phone calls, me putting my phone on the window and wearing like a headphones and that’s the way that I have been studying.

I also, something super cool is that sometimes you get more help from people that are not from here than are actually from people that are from here. I have this friend from the United States, I have this friend from Italy, and those are the people that actually help me to do small things when I couldn’t speak Deutsch at all. About learning, about integrating, about getting a membership on the gym, you know, that’s part of what you used to have in your life previously. Pretty much like when I had this first answer from the Government saying, like, ‘No, we’re not going to give you the asylum, but you can actually make a rebuttal to that’, my Italian friend is the one she was with me all over the place, keeping the papers that I had to do. Oh, I also found this awesome lawyer that is a German guy that even though we went through lockdown and all of that, he gave me his email and he was following everything that it was going on.

Right now I’m in the process of waiting and that’s how it works. But when things, when the court comes or when the Government says something, you have to act really quick because they take their time, but when it’s about your time, you have to be quick. That’s how it is here, too. They are about paperworks, you have to fill a lot of things, but it’s like at their pace, they take their time. But you cannot take your time.Um, but its great to, to say, and I can say it, like I have found really great people. Also the places that I live at, it’s, it’s interesting, but it’s easier when you’re quiet and you’re just doing your thing. When it’s, there are more people that are not like that quiet or a lot of them are noisy or they’re not, they don’t do too well in the places and I get it. But that’s all I can say.

And how does being away from the rest of your family, from your home country makes you feel?
Well, it was a process. First the, I don’t know, I know that there are backgrounds from many countries from everybody, from where I come from, we’re very, very into family. And, I don’t know, in my case, you can be, you can be already like 26, but since you’re not married, you’re still living with your mom and your little brother and they’re all there and everybody’s working and everybody’s doing whatever they got to do, you ready bought this as the house, the car, everything, but you’re living together with your family. That’s how it is normally. In my case, I had in, back in my country, I spend like two or three years living alone by myself. It was a really interesting situation. But at the end, I knew that if I was having like a rough week and I want to go and talk to my mom and just have a hug for her, something so simple, like having a hug, I could be okay. If I had a headache, I could be like, Mom, I don’t feel good. And she will pamper me, you know, she’ll give me a pill, I’ll be okay, and then I will just go back to my place. Now that I’m here, you realize like, oh, my God, my head hurts. I want to talk to my mom. I can not do it like the same way that it is.

I know we have technology, I know you can make a video phone call, but you cannot tell me that the, the contact with your people, the contact of feeling, I don’t know, it might sound too romantic, but the warm of the of the other person, it will never be the same as it is in a phone call. And I know that through all the pandemic and all that, people can know that it’s not that easy.Um, it’s hard when you, for example, my friend from the United States or my friend from Italy, the girlfriend in Italy and also him, they’re very into family, too. And she’s like, when she already has like six or seven months without visiting her family, she’s like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to go to Italy, Italy, I missed them.’ And I was like, ‘Oh’ – that was the first time – ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Yeah, I’m so stressed. I haven’t seen my family. It’s been a long time.’ And I was like, ‘Oh’, I was like, ‘I understand, how long you haven’t visited your family?’ ‘Six months.’ And I was like, ‘Woah, I have eighteen months already, a year and a half.’ And I was like, but I understand. And I get like it’s, it’s really sometimes it’s hard. Knowing that you don’t know when you might see them again.And if I start picturing like, let’s says that, somehow I get the chance and I can stay here and I get everything done, I will not be able to visit my country. So it will be more like uh they coming, hopefully, if they’re allowed or me going to the next country that is close to them. And, it’s not that easy sometimes.

I, like everybody people, I do have a dog too, and he’s like my little boy, his name is Luka and I was with him since he was two months old and now he’s two years and a half, he’s still my baby. But I know that the last time I saw him, it was the last time I was going to see him. And it really breaks my heart because he’s my baby.But that’s the way it is. And you know what? Like I said, we had a life before and it’s not that easy. Sometimes you just realize, like they are living their life too, you have to live your life, too. You’re going through a lot of things here. Things get stressful. I know everybody goes through stress, but trust me, for us, it’s not that easy. Not that easy. And it’s not only about me finding, uh, meaning in my life. No, it is not, is not only about that but also trying to have a normal life doing certain things like just having a joband then going through very, very paperwork is stressful and no’s through the process. And, but then you get a phone call from your family, you get used to that, like it might help you, but sometimes you even avoid having phone calls because instead of making you feel better, sometimes they make things harder.So it’s a 50/50 thing going on.

And how does the feeling of discrimination, stigmatism here impact you?
It’s like I said that the, the thing that impacted me the most, it was that, that the only way that sometimes I could get respect is just me having to say that I have a background in something or that I study. But still, I’m questioned. And it happened one time that I was with this friend from my country and it’s really, is more even surprising because first of all, there were not looking to us like, you know, we were in a group. We were, I remember, we were in Stadtpark (city park) and then we met some people from one of our friends that he was from here, for Germany. And then this person, you could tell that he was like not that interested in having a conversation with us, especially when they asked, like, ‘Oh, where are you guys from?’ and ‘Why you’re here?’ – that’s the first question. And oh, my friend, he’s very straight up, ‘Oh, I’m an asylum seeker.’ He’s straight up. ‘I’m Asylum-seeker.’ So from there you can tell the person they’re like, ‘Oh, okay. But why? Oh, okay.’ And then she start more speaking about what we have done before and then my friend, he never had an, he doesn’t have a degree from the university. And then when she asked me and I didn’t want to ask to answer that, but I was like, ‘Okay, this,’ I saw how her was, she was more talking to me, than to him. And is like, why would you do that?

Or sometimes it was more – I remember this time – my friend from my country, he has his friend that is from here, from Germany. He wanted to show me to him like so we can become friends or we, we met each other. And then he was like, oh, being very cool, let’s know this concentration camp, we went there, so he could talk to me about his, his history. But the whole, the whole trip, going to that place, it was him understanding why I was in his country, like why I left. ‘But what happened? What did you do?’ And there were straight up question because here they’re very straight up. But they were like more questioning. ‘Why, why, why, why, why?’ Okay, I get it. He was very like interested, he felt that he could ask me. But then it become, it started with a question, ‘Okay, but what you’re doing? What have you study? Do you have a background? Oh, okay.’ So then he could start calming down because they might think that you’re not that dumb. So something that I have felt, that the fact that they think you’re from another country, they don’t only think that you might be dangerous or that you might be trouble, but also they, like, maybe you’re not smart. And that bothers me a lot because they believe that you might not know how to do things.

For example, I, like, a month ago, I met this cool family, they wanted me to just, like just one day per week to clean their house. It was really good. It’s a German lady, a guy from England and they have their kids. And I was just like cleaning, and I remembered that the, the, the, the guy from, from England, he was like, ‘Oh, so you can have coffee, you can have tea, there are the machines and all that, you can do it’, super cool. And then the little kid, the girl, the little girl and the little boy, he was like, ‘Oh, but, you know, she’s not from here. She might not even know how to use those things. She’s going to break them.’ And I was like, ‘Woah’, because I know she’s a little girl, but that’s maybe the mindset that she is already growing with.So I was like, then, then he was very, very – he is a gentleman – he was very straight up and was like, ‘Of course she knows, and if she doesn’t, she could ask.’ And then I heard when he took her to another room and then he had a conversation. But it once again makes me think like that’s the mindset that the little kids are growing with. The girl she’s five and the other boys, six, and it’s like that’s the mindset that people are growing with, and that’s something that at this point and also at this age that I have – and I have talked with people, they’re also my age, they’re still having the same mindset. So it’s it’s really like very interesting that.

And, um, how do you overcome it, survive it? This discrimination, this stigmatism, whatever do you have, like a mechanism against it? How do you cope with it?
Oh, first of all, I just don’t pay attention to it, because it’s not like I don’t pay attention to it,like, ‘Oh, I don’t care,’. It’s more like I don’t try to give more chance to feel like – how can I put it? For example, when you have an argument, you need, the wider picture is like this, this is how it goes in my head. When you have an argument, you need two people arguing, if one start arguing, but the other one just don’t answer back, then there will be no argument anymore. So when I already see someone with an attitude and all of and all of it, but they’re more like passive aggressive discrimination.Nobody’s going to yell at you ‘Hey, go back to your country!’ Well, I haven’t seen that, or no one is going to tell you ‘Hey, you are a Auslaender’ No, they’re more into little things like I said, the way that they treat you, they were like, nice, but they’re not that nice. I just don’t give pause or chance to keep conversation that they can feel powerful about or if they start talking about something– I’m a girl that she likes to read, I like to check my things online, I check the news, I know what I’m talking about. So if you start talking to me about something, I will just break down. I do that. It’s really fun. And I start making them the questions then.

So when someone, the more that I have seen discrimination, like I said, it’s more like when they think that they’re you’re not that smart or they mean like, oh, they have to explain you things like little kids. And I’m like, no, I know how to do things and I do it. Then I just start questioning them back. And that’s when I see people, they start calming down and like with this guy that we were going through this camp and he was all the way questioning me about why I was here and all of that. Then he was starting to speak about some topics like showing off and then I started doing my best to start thinking about all the things that I knew, answering him back. And I was, I was sometimes when the people get surprised and I tell it, I just do a joke. I just tell them, ‘Oh, and you have, you should hear me on, in my language. I’m more smart when I’m speaking on my language,’ and they would be like ‘Oo, shit.’ Something also, is like, you get challenge that, here in Germany, everything, you should do it more speaking on German and I’m thankful for that because you know what? It’s good for me, so I don’t do that anymore when I go to somewhere I speak English or I ask for English, I just go speak German. And I just sometimes I have to play humble, too, and that’s not, that’s not play, I have to be humble. But, I just, you just have to not be, not show weakness pretty much, I think. Because when I was like, ‘Oh, hello, hi,’ it’s like people are just going to treat you very bad. What I do, like I said, is that I just don’t put myself into the violent side. I don’t put myself into the screaming side, arguing. I’m more into the okay, I’m going to show you that you’re not going to treat me like this or I’m going to be the smart girl, and then I want you to show me how smart you are.

And did you always have this coping mechanism?

Or did you develop it here?
No, I always had it, and it was because the previous job that, job that I had, I started, I stayed on that company, like for eight years. So right now I’m 31. By the time that I was there was like 21, or – no, I was 23. And before that I had a job when I was 21 and it was the first one, it was more like an auditing company, so it was me being 21 questioning people like of 45 years old about how they were managing a company. And then when I was already in this other company that was for seven years I was, I became a team leader or coach or team leader in one year and I had a team of, I was 14 persons, that they were either 17, 18, 21, and I have these guys that there were like 42 or 43, or they have even lets say that they have like just three years on the company and then I have people that they had like almost six or seven years in the company, so I’m used to having people to question how capable you are. So it was interesting that when I came here I was like, okay, I can do that, I had that before, I can do that here. But it wasn’t that easy at the beginning because of course, I didn’t have the language. I have to learn more things. I have to learn that when a no is a no, that’s common sense, it’s not common sense here. It doesn’t, it doesn’t. (Both laugh). It’s not like if they say A, B and C, you cannot come with a D, it’s A, B and C and period. So, yes, that’s how it is here. So it’s like, oh, it’s, it’s a thing. But that’s pretty much how I’ve been managing things.

Um, could you ever imagine that you could, um, handle the situation, what you are going through in Germany right now? Like if you had, would have been asked before, before coming to Germany? Now you’re in Germany and you’re going through these difficulties and, um,could you have ever imagined that you could have gone through it?
Yes, yes because I think it’s, you know, that when you’re making big, big changes in our, in – for example, in our case – and I say in our cases because I’m telling, I’m talking about the people from my country, is we are many here, at this point. Families, single girls, single boys, people that have different perspective, people that have supported Governments or people that have not supported the Government. People that they lost people in the process, family members, people, it’s been a lot. We knew that not only leaving the country, but also crossing the continent and the sea to come over here, it was not going to be that easy. And you are so much in the comfort side of – comfort zone – I’m sorry that you’re in your country, you know the rules, you’re there, you belong there. And then you come to somewhere else and the first thing I was coming, thinking about, ‘Oh, well, you know what? I’m going to Germany.’ That’s one thing that it really hit, it hitted me and I wasn’t that expecting, I was, I have to say that. Is that, I have a lot of friends that from my country where they study too, they had the chance to get a master degree here in Germany. Many of them they study and in the south or here in the centre too. And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to Germany.’ Um, it’s cool the fact that I know it might not be that easy, but probably I have the chance that something that I pass in my country, like, for example, to getting a master’s degree, I could be able to do it here and that sounds, like, very good, I’m going to learn the language and then I’ll try to do that.

Well, it doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t work like that. And I’m not telling you that everything has to be easy and you can have everything granted and you don’t have to believe that you are that good, smart girl that is going to get everything that she wants, it doesn’t work like that. I have support my family for many years, I have been the one who has been taking care of everything, I went through this whole situation in our country that made me come here. I had a life, like I said, I had a house. I had a dog, um, but it wasn’t, it’s not that easy, as they said.Is not that easy as me coming here and saying I want to work and I’m going to find a job and you’re going to give me the chance. They said you have the job, but you don’t actually have it because you cannot work until they said yes. Then I was thinking about, yeah, maybe I want to go for the part of getting my master degree, but also getting your title translated is not that easy either. Even though I have the originals, even though I did everything that they asked and all that, it’s not that easy. These days of course, you need the money and you don’t have the money, they control how much money do you bring, since you come here and then I’m here and I realize there are more paper – there are more paperwork that I need to bring that I didn’t know and it’s no one’s fault but it’s like, oh, well. It wasn’t going to be that easy either.

Also, you come thinking, did I speak English? I guess I feel like I can, I can fluently communicate, but it’s not enough either. So you just realize that, ‘Okay, girl is not like that also, you have to study German’ and I’m not complaining about it, I’m not complaining. That’s something real good. It’s good to know and see and say that I now speak three languages and I’m going to get better with German, right? But, there are many things that I hitting the wall, it’s like me hitting the wall it’s like, it’s there’s nothing bad but I have never got paid to clean someone’s house and I did it here. When I was in my country, I was already working in an office, taking care of people and all of that and there’s nothing bad with this type of work but I have never done that before. I never expected that I was going to do it.I had like a hobby baking, for example, and then I came here and I have to, and I realize that maybe I needed to sell some cakes so I can make some extra money, because like I mentioned, we don’t get that much money. So there are many things that they’re not bad, they’re not bad. But I’m saying like there were things that you realize that you have to start making Plan B’s and C’s to make it because is not going to be like you expect there at all.But I think it’s we can make it. It’s just about working hard and hopefully it will happen.

And now I will ask a couple of questions about your past. As I said, you can just say I don’t want to answer this question, we can skip. Um, why did you leave your country? Is there anything that particularly happened, something special happened?
Yeah, in my country, it’s something that it could be also check online and if you put Nicaragua, we have a President that his name is Daniel Ortega. His family, pretty much, it’s – he’s a dictator – actually, today is a very special day. Today’s April the 18. In April the 18 of 2019 – 18, I’m sorry – it was the day that, pretty much, my country, started to making riots against the Government. There was a lot of things going on, it became more a political thing. It was the first time also that there were more movements and people got hurt, people got murdered. And it was just the start of a big disaster problem. Even for me, I was still, like I said, I was living my, not my bubble life, but I was like, like any person that they might think that is normal, like working, taking care of my family, bringing food to the table and just working out to see what is going to be the next day. I saw the news, things were not going okay, and then you just go two or three days after and you start seeing how it start affecting you, too.

Then there were more movements. There were people that there was trying to get into people’s house and then stole things, like making noise, part of the riot and all of that. And then the Government using the police, shooting people, not just shooting like to calm them down, with actual guns, killing people. And then you start hearing like someone that you knew die. And then everything started becoming like more real. It’s not that it’s not real, we get terrible news and all around the country, but it gets more personal.Then I got to a point where I realized that one of my family members, she had to leave the country, to another country that we had in Costa Rica because they wanted to murder her. And then, I – this is from the side of my dad – and then I found another family member from the side of my mom, that the police went to his house, took him, actually kidnapped him, punch him, and we didn’t even know where he was. And then we found out where he was and so it was like everything started coming together into a very terrible, horrible situation. I used to live just with my mom, my brother, he has autism and my sister and I was the oldest. I am the older sister there and I am the one who was supporting everything.

Um, it was affecting my job. I was starting, the we started having some, um, riots, but more specific ones, like about ‘No more fight, No more war,’not just having the flag for my country, like no guns, nothing. And I remember that I went there, I was like two or three hours and then I left and then like two or three hours after I saw the news that the same place there was the police was there, people got shot, people die.And then I was like, oh my God, I was able – I could be one of those person, I was, I didn’t even have anything to protect myself and then you start realizing that you’re not safe anymore. It become more personal. It go to a point that I have to actually leave the country. I left the country not even by airplane. Uh, one of my friends, she took me on her, truck to another country and there I took – legally – a train, a train, I’m sorry, an airplane to come over here. But I have to leave the country and I’m not the only one with this story. I, my, I went through certain things, but I know there even people that went through a lot of more things, very, very hard things. I didn’t have a family member killed. I’m very, I will say, I’m not happy because there were people that were killed, but I will say I’m not one of those.

But I do know a lot of people who actually went through the very, very hard situation, we even had the situation of a family that it was burned in their own house. So, it’s a situation still going on in my country, like I said, I know for a fact that I will not be able to go back to my country, but I, like, I cannot use that as my presentation card. And I don’t want people to feel sorry about me because of what’s going onor because I’m not want to go back. And that’s why, like I said, it’s really hard for all of us that we’re coming from our countries that, me having to justify myself or trying, or having to use that as a presentation card so you can treat me with some respect. Or that you don’t, or that you need to think that like I said, and I’m going to still mentioning that, you might not think that because I’m coming for another country, that maybe is from a poor country, if you want to say it like that, or you might think that I don’t have an education, that you might think that I didn’t have a life, that I might not know how to work or I do know how to work. And guess what? I know how to do many jobs, not just the one that you want to think that I am the only capable to do.

I have a lot of people that I know that they can do a lot of jobs. I, I know people that – I have this friend that she’s here and she’s an accountant, and she used to manage a lot of projects from other NGOs and for a university, she has her own company and now she has anything and she’s here and she’s really smart. And I know that there are a lot of people here Auslaender as we are, or people from another country that we do have a story. But we don’t want to take that as the reason why you want to feel sorry for us. We just want to have the same chances, the same opportunities, so we can also contribute to the country.We’re not here just to be like doing nothing like everybody can tell if you just add your room, you can be one day, two days top – three days, you’re going to run crazy. No one can be just not doing anything, I get it, there are, there are people that there might be different,they just want to have too much fun, they want to party, that’s okay – yes, there might be trouble. But stop thinking that that represents that ninety or eighty percent of people that they know how to have fun, work, doing their thing, manage their money, having a future. Not everybody is like that. So it’s, it’s really hard.

Do you think about those events often in your country?
When I came, it was really hard,especially on the first two centers that I was living at, I must admit I had a lot of dreams where I was waking up, like having a nightmare and me thinking that – and it was so real – that I was already in my country and me so scared trying to run away again. Within the time the nightmares became a little less.But actually last month I had that dream again. And it’s like when it’s getting closer to these dates, like I said, today is a very important day for my country, for Nicaragua, April the 18, people can look for that, I think is really important. There actually, there’s going to be in, I don’t know which part here of Hamburg, there are people today from my country also sharing, pretty much, our situation in Hamburg and other countries also here in Europe. But yes, it was something that it was really hard for me, that it was affecting me, that in my country you don’t trust the police, you’re worried about the police, because like I said, instead of protecting us, they become the murderers.

So when I was, when I am here and I see the police, not any more, but at the beginning, it used to cost me a lot of anxietyand not anxiety in a way that oh my god, he’s going to ask me, where am I from now? I was more like, he’s a bad guy, he’s going to harm me, he’s going to hurt me, he’s going to do something. Then I realize that they’re more into supporting, like more like they’re, they’re, they’re big guns here is like, oh, you’re going to have to pay for this because you are doing something bad, like your, you have to give. Like they’re more into tickets, like hey, this more, like it’s interesting – and that’s something positive that I have to say – is interesting that I can see here that they, they, they can have a normal conversation sometimes with people, they can become not that nice too. I have seen that at, all a lot. But within my country, I can tell you those people, they’re not going to even talk to you.

Yeah, I mean, here, um, the conversations within police and Auslaender is different. If they are talking to a German person, yes, it’s a normal conversation, but, uh, when they are talking to an Auslaender it’s completely different – that, I have to say.
Yes, and I have seen now that you mention that, that when I, when they see, like, a German guy that is drunk, they’re going to be like almost like taking them to the ambulance and, and like take them like babies. But I have actually I have this friend that is from my country that he was just walking down the street and they’re check like they had guns or like they have drugs. Or like they’re not, let’s says that they’re not going to hurt him or like in my country straight up, but yes, they’re treated like they just stole something or they are selling something. And I have heard, and I have heard this more from the guys. I think that it’s not so much in our side for girls. I have noticed that in my case. Well, is that this friend, he said, yeah, I found the police and they actually did check me, they helped me, they made me took my clothes. I didn’t know that they could do that sometimes because they were checking him like he didn’t have anything. It’s not nice at all.

And, um, could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle that situation? Now that you are here, you have survived it, the situation in your country?
No, no. And actually, like I said, one month ago, I had the dream again, and it was the same feeling. That I’m not going to be okay if I go back. Like we all know, we all know that going back is not an option and we’re not might be okay.

And how you, um, surviving it back there? and did you have any kind of coping mechanism, a strategy to survive it?
Everything became so quick. When I realized I move, I move from the house that we were living at for many years. Then I had to quit my job, then I have to save as much as I can the money. Then I had to get help from family members that I never thought I was going to ask them for help. Then it just everything went so fast. Then I was like just in my house, my room, just trying to stay quiet, like trying to not make any noise because you just don’t want to be like visible to anyone. Just waiting for the day that I was able to leave the country. Like I said, one of my friends, she took me on her car with her family. So there’s one thing like when you are crossing, you’re crossing from one country to another country is like it’s not like here in Europe. It’s like you have to you need to have all your paperwork, your passport. It doesn’t work like here. And the thing is that when you are with a family and they’re in the regular car, they’re not going to check like when you are going in regular transportation or something like that, like your passport and all that, if your family just gave all the passports and they’re just like okay, okay, okay, okay. So we took advantage of that. But it was not that good. It was, I can tell you that feeling when I was already crossing from my country to another country, feeling that I was right there, the other side, I felt such a relief.So I don’t think that there was something else that I could do. And I’m so thankful for my friend because she’s the one who helped me and after that, I was just, just here.

And, um, did you have dreams before you left your country?
Yes, and like, like one of them, it was more like I said, on the, me going to the next step of my education and like I was mentioning before, is like one of the things that I was like, oh, this thing that I had in, like in the past, maybe this is the time that I will be able to do it.But like I mentioned to do before, it’s like you hit the wall, like it’s not just like that. Like I said, I don’t want anything easy. I don’t want anything to be given.But like I said too, people need to understand, like, yes, education is oh, it’s for free and all that but it doesn’t work, pretty much, for us like that. And I get it, I wasn’t born here, I’m in your country. But it doesn’t, is not like you think as it is. I think that they’re living too much in a bubble, that they believe that the way the life is here is everywhere and it doesn’t work like that. It’s not even the same here.

And, um, I have wrap up questions, we’re almost done. Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strengths?

And have you maintained them?
One of my main strengths that I had, it was about my confidence and how strong I think I am.Umm, something that it definitely changed and that I had to rebuild, it was my confidence because you’re not only in a country, of course, you’re out of your comfort zone,but those things that you think that you were good at or not that you are awesome, but that you were strong enough to face, you realize that you’re not that strong. For example, you’re not going to see me, you were not going to see me at my country crying for little stuff, like feeling alone. And I have cry here for feeling alone. And you start thinking later on, like, why am I crying? Like, I’m not like this, I’m a strong girl. But you’re realizing sometimes you’re not that strong, you’re not that confident and it’s been like a refining yourself process too.

Um, do you think out of this whole experience, have you grown?
Definitely like I said, oh, I used to think that I was very many very, very good managing confrontation. I thought that I was that girl that if you come over, I will be like ‘Hey, stop!’ or stuff like that. And finding new people here, seeing how they’re straight up here, I realized that I wasn’t that direct or that I wasn’t that strong or that I, things that I thought that I was good at, I wasn’t that good. So it’s been, with the mindset that you need to take from bad things, that learning and yeah, I might sound like a cliche, but actually you can learn for those stuff and they have helped me a lot I will say it and I have rebuilt a lot, my personality, my strengths. Also, I have leave behind why it could affect me. It doesn’t affect me anymore. I’m more like, oh, you become, you get into a point like you’re like, I don’t care anymore about these things. You start forgetting about things that you used to care before because you realized that they were not that important anymore. At this point is more about surviving, studying, finding a job, things that you were granted before. It’s like you’re going back from zero, but you realize that you can do it and it feels hard, but good,I don’t know how to say it.

And what are your hopes and dreams for future now?
At this point, I’m very hoping to get my certificate from the language, ‘m in this point that I don’t like – based on what I get and with the support of work and integration for refugees, WIA, and my lawyer – so it’s like no longer a decision made just by myself, it’s more like with all the support, if I’m going to go, I’m going to go more for, Ausbildung (education program) or maybe doing my best to chase for the master’s degree. But of course, in the middle, it’s going to define more where I’m going to chase again to work on, um, this point that I have a background in Economy and Finance, but I might go for the Altenpflege (eldercare) side. So it’s like a big change, I know.

Um, and the last question, um, do you have anything else to say to help people in Europe to understand, um, better the life of, um, refugees, asylum seekers, people with immigration backgrounds here?
Yes. Um, I think, like I said. The life that you think that exists here is not like that actually here and not even in the whole world.People that comes from other country, they just don’t get the title to come for another country. We come not only with dreams and goals, but also we come from, with backgrounds. We come with education, we come with strengths,we come with expertize in many things, we come with a lot of knowledge too. So, stop assuming that, like I said, because you put that title on us, all the things that we already have before in our lives, it’s the leader, like I said, many of us, had people – maybe they didn’t study – but they had a huge, good background of working, or people that had a good background of studying, or had a big background of a lot of knowledge. Trust me, you can have a very political, economic conversation, a strong conversation with someone from another country. And we’re not just here to get your jobs. We’re not here to get your money. We’re not here to create, to cause problems. Trust me, we can – well, there might be crazy people out there – but we’re not that 80 percent, that is here to live in the vida loca, or to live life crazy and just get to a point where we’re going to die like drunks and all that. It’s not about that. Like we’re here, we have goals, we have backgrounds. And even people that they don’t have like a big background, they want to make things right.So stop thinking and living in that little bubble. If you’re not living in that little bubble, that’s awesome. Because probably also you are, you’re already part of the change. But if you’re not right now, well start opening your eyes, I will say that.

Great, thank you.

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.