Reine Désirée (Yaoundé)
“Hören Sie auf den Text” – Listen to the text! – says the teacher, cupping her ear with her hand. Reine Désirée is confused: “I thought the teacher had earache!” At 37, Reine Désirée is the oldest in the class but has the least experience of formal education. Whenever she tries to concentrate, she gets a headache. That’s why she never progressed beyond primary school and has never learned a foreign language. But her teacher is keeping her focused: she constantly invents new gestures and links them to the German words so that her students can remember them more easily. Even so, when the day of the examination arrives, Reine Désirée is beside herself with nerves. It’s only when her teaches gives her a smile and a thumbs up to encourage her that Reine finally starts to gain confidence. And she passes! “If I’d known before the wedding that I would have to learn German, I wouldn’t have got married”, she claims. The last three months have not been easy. In order to attend the course, Reine Désirée had to leave her home town of Douala – and that meant leaving her two children, 18-year-old Claude and 12-year-old Prince. In Yaoundé, she was able to stay with a friend for a while, but the friend’s mother didn’t want her in the house. In exchange for her lodgings, Reine had to work in the family’s fields. She had to do her homework while it was still daylight because she was supposed to save electricity. She wasn’t given anything to eat, so she went to a restaurant every day. Finally, a month before the examination, she was told to leave. After that, a member of a local church let her sleep on his sofa.
At home in Douala, Reine Désirée runs a fried fish stall in front of her house. Most of her customers are motorcyclists and other passing trade. She got to know her present husband through a mutual acquaintance. Her husband is an architect from Cameroon, who has lived in Germany for 30 years. Before the two met in person for the first time, they spoke regularly on the telephone. That situation lasted for a whole five years. “He gave me back my smile”, says Reine Désirée. They got married the second time they met.
Is there anything about life in Germany that she is particularly looking forward to? “To being a married woman at last! And not having to fry any more fish!”