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Kim White

Dr. Pease-Hernandez
COMM 217/TR 9:30-10:45
When It Comes, It Comes
My mother is a very generous woman who just retired from the Army. When my mother
still worked at her job, she met a fellow soldier who came from the Congo. Since his family lives
far away from here, she would invite him to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and welcomed
him into our lives. I chose to interview this very man because Ive always been interested in
knowing more about his culture and because he is a friend that I respect. I felt excitement and
gratitude when he agreed to do the interview with me.
Patrick Dilutala Kibaniakina was born in Kinshasa the capital city of the Democratic
Republic of Congo or the DROC. He comes from an urban area where there are cars, houses, and
people have jobs just like the U.S. He explained to me the rural areas are very different; some
villages do not have water, electricity, and live in mud huts. Patrick is part of the large ethnic
group referred to as Bantu, which simply means a person living in Central, Eastern, and Southern
Africa. Within the Bantu, there are around 74 different ethnic peoples. Patrick belongs to the
MuCongo people and comes from an area that speaks Lingala. Regional identity is largely
important in the DROC, it dictates what dialect you speak and your way of life.
Patrick explained that when growing up a main value that was taught was the importance
of family. Patrick was taught to respect your elders, never questioning their word and that the
children belonged to the mother. This meant that the mothers brothers and sisters were the
ones who looked out for you and taught you about life. Patricks father was responsible for his
nieces and nephews and acted as a father to them. The father was there in the house to oversee

and manage it, much like a boss in the workplace. This high-power distance can be seen in all
of the Congos society; it demonstrated itself as almost an unintentional hierarchy. There are not
class systems in the Congo; however, a person can tell what kind of class you are from just by
looking at you. People who look important are treated as important and are called boss by
anyone who sees them. Also, men who are older than you are to be called dad and women
elders are to be called mom.
Furthermore, within the family structure there were strict roles of masculinity/feminity.
Patrick grew up knowing what his responsibilities as a man were to be; he was to make the
money, house his family, and make sure his children and wife were taken care of. Patricks sisters
grew up learning to run a household; they learned to clean, cook, and take care of children
because that was where their value as a woman was. When they are of marrying age, a man
will want a woman who knows how to take care of a house, so it becomes highly important that
she can do certain things.
Patricks father got a job in Senegal when he was sixteen years old. After Patrick
graduated from High School in Senegal, he went to University in Belgium. Patrick had always
planned to move back to the Congo; however, around the time he was graduating college a civil
war broke out in the DROC. Patrick and many others did not want to go back to their country so
they found other routes. Patrick came to the U.S. around 1998 and became part of the U.S. Army
to build his resume and learn English. Patrick shared with me that he no longer plans to move
back to the Congo. He gave up his Congolese citizenship and became a U.S. citizen.
Patrick visits the Congo and was laughing when he explained to me the worldview of the
Congolese people. Firstly, the Congolese people see America as a country they do not see

Americans as individuals. When Patrick visits the Congo he is treated with importance and
respect, some people even call him boss. Furthermore, the people of the Congo do not see
individuals but families. For example, when a boy wants to marry a girl he is not marrying just
that girl but her entire family. Sometimes marriages do not happen because one family does not
want to be associated with another familys reputation. This broad worldview of whole entity vs.
individual affects the way they treat others and view other countries.
One of my favorite parts of the interview was when Patrick explained the communication
styles of the DROC. He explained to me that things like sexuality are not spoken about in public.
He said that some things are just not really talked about; Patrick described the Congolese society
as indirect and a high-context society. He told me a funny story of himself when he was
standing at a bus stop. A man came up to him and started talking to him about how he was in
prison for a long time and went on and on. Patrick laughed and told me in his Congolese accent,
Man, I dont even know you! He said that occurrences like that never happen in the Congo,
people just dont start talking about themselves to people theyve never met.
Lastly, Patrick explained the differences of our society and the Congos society. He said
here in the U.S. and in Europe everyone is so stressed about everything. He said time is very
fixed and things must be done on a schedule in the West. However, Patrick described the way of
life in the Congo as laid back and relaxed. The DROC has a low uncertainty kind of society. For
example, Patrick said that someone could tell you that theyll be there tomorrow, but it could be
days or a week before you see them. He explained that transportation is not something you can
rely on. Patrick laughed and said, When it(the bus) comes, it comes and Ill be there, is the
kind of attitude the people have.

I learned a lot about myself by doing this project. I found some concepts Patrick
described to be familiar such as regional identity and having respect for my elders. However,
some things I could never have imagined, like not being able to return to your home because of
civil war. There were certain things Patrick said that really stuck out to me.
One of these things was when Patrick talked about the people of the Congo. He said that
people are always smiling; they do not have a lot of things but theyve learned to be content. His
attitude was that worrying cannot change the situation, so why worry? He said that when he
returns home people will come over with food for him because they heard he was returning. He
told me, This touches me because I have been in the U.S. for a long time and I forgot this kind
of generosity. I was glad that Patrick opened up and shared that with me because it really
touched me too. I feel sad that he cannot go back to his home and I think that it probably makes
him sad too. I loved imagining the Congolese people with their smiles and their relaxed attitude
of time. Also, I feel gratitude at being able to grow up in the U.S. after hearing some of his
stories. He explained that the companies simply do not have the resources to supply the houses
with water and electricity all day long, so the water and electricity will only work for a few hours
out of the day.
There were a few things Patrick said very nonchalantly that I was surprised about because
they do not happen in the U.S. One of the things that surprised me was when he spoke about the
President of the Congo that was in office when he was a boy. When a person of the Congo
disagreed with the government, the President would send his police and the person would
disappear and be killed. This behavior was not hidden from the people, this violence happened
often. I am glad to have freedom of speech and glad that I do not need to fear for my familys
life. Also, Patrick spoke about militants coming into the villages and kidnapping the boys to be

soldiers, especially around 1998 when the civil war broke out. I asked Patrick what their families
do in these situations and he replied, What can you do? It surprised me that this still happens
and that there is nothing being done to stop it. I was filled with relief that I live in a country
where militants do not trespass on my property and take my brothers.
I enjoyed talking with Patrick and learning about his ways of life. The Democratic
Republic of the Congo is transitioning from traditional to modern and Patrick is somewhere in
the middle; this placement gave me a unique perspective in which to view the Congolese people
and society. I feel a new respect for the Congolese people and Patrick; they must be an inner
strength that allows you to persevere through life, accept the things that you cannot change, and
make a better tomorrow for yourself and your family. Sometimes I feel as though my life is hard,
but now I feel like there is beauty in realizing that no ones life is easy and that having the
Congolese attitude on life can help you be content with what you have and the encouragement to
keep on keeping on.

Worrying will not change anything, so why worry? -Dilutala Kibaniakina

Interview Questions
1. I was researching and noticed there was more than one Congo, which Congo do you come
2. Were you from a rural or urban area, and how does the lifestyle differ from rural to urban
3. 80% of the people are considered to be a part of the Bantu ethnic group, which makes up 74
different ethnic groups, which do you identify with?
4. What were some family values that were considered important and were taught to you as a
5. How styles of communication do the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo
communicate with?
6. I read about a civil war in 1997, did this have an effect on you and your family?
7. How would you describe the political climate in the DROC? Did politics effect your life?
8. Were there certain ways to address the people who were above you-President, boss, elders?
9. How were you treated growing up compared to your sisters?
10. How is life different here in the U.S. than in the Congo?