Moussa & Katy (Hamburg)
It’s a wonder Moussa ever noticed Katy. She was always right at the back in Moussa’s classes at the gym in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Whether it was aerobics, bums, tums and thighs or Body Pump, Katy tried in vain to follow the rhythm. “She wasn’t one of my most talented clients at first” says Moussa. “But I worked my way to the front!” retorts Katy. After a month or two, she was at the top of the class and was working out with confidence. And Mousse had certainly noticed her by then.
Katy was a development advisor and had lived in Mali for two years. Before that, she had spent seven years in Burkina Faso and Tunisia. She had been offered a job in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – but her relationship with Moussa came first. “The real adventure was starting a new life with Moussa in Germany, not going to Kinshasa “ says Katy, looking back on the odyssey that was about to begin.
Their plans to get married in Germany didn’t work out. The German Embassy in Mali was not allowed to certify the various documents that were required. So they got married in Denmark instead, more or less on the spur of the moment. After a bureaucratic marathon in Mali, Moussa was issued with a temporary visa for Germany.
Moussa began to learn German at the Goethe-Institut in Hamburg. He had already learned Bambara, the national language of Mali, and French, but only by listening and speaking. Nouns, adjectives, verbs and punctuation were all new to him. He would write down sentences and practise them aloud for hours, every day, until well past midnight. On the way to the Goethe-Institut, he would try out what he had learned, asking bewildered passengers on the subway what their names were and what they had to eat the day before. Exam day dawned, and Moussa passed the oral test with flying colours – but failed the written paper. Uncertain what to do, he had written all the answers down on the question sheet instead of the answer sheet. Moussa passed at the second attempt. Now all he had to do was apply for a visa. Nothing could go wrong, surely?
Due to a change in the law, spouses who marry in Denmark are no longer permitted to apply for a residence permit from Germany. They have to apply from their home country. Moussa flew back to Mali. Katy was able to visit him every now and again. The greatest adventure in their lives together was about to begin.
First, the German Embassy would not accept the copy of Moussa’s birth certificate. Because the original had been destroyed in the civil war, the copy was no longer valid because its authenticity could not be established. At the last moment, Katy remembered a document – old, faded and almost illegible – which they had left in Germany. In Hamburg, Katy’s family searched feverishly through Moussa’s belongings and finally found the document.
The application process was resumed. But Moussa now needed his father’s birth and death certificates – which meant delving into the family history. The couple’s journey into a shared future became a journey into the past. Moussa was his mother’s only child – but to his astonishment, he now discovered that his father had numerous children by several different women. He recalls visiting countless relatives, who would pull documents out of dusty drawers and suitcases. With their help and his own painstaking detective work, Moussa was able to reconstruct the life and death of his father, who died in Equatorial Guinea in 2001.
Then the waiting and hoping began. Katy was the first to learn from the immigration authorities that a decision had been taken – but she wasn’t told what it was. The good news then reached Moussa a few hours later, when he heard from the Embassy in Bamako.
Their odyssey is at an end – but Moussa and Katy still have their adventure to look forward to!