The Thalys fast train from Amsterdam to Paris takes about 4 hours. I was overbooked on the train (considering my last minute booking) and was pleased that the conductor let me stay on the train and even more pleased that I was sitting across this very amazing french girl.
We got talking soon after and I was very surprised that Yohana actually had an amazing story about herself. She is currently doing her PhD in economics as well as working with the World Bank but her background was what captivated me about her.
She grew up in Africa spending most of her growing up time in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Haiti and Gabon. She eventually moved back to France for her education but has been back to a few developing countries to work in her field.
One of my favorite topics is the mix of western and eastern culture and the study of environments where races and religions mix.
When you talk to white south Africans/Zimbabweans they always consider themselves Afrikaans first.
However its not quite the same when the mix is between a colonizing country and the colony. Most of northern Africa was a french colony till recently and the scars still run deep – something which came out during the Paris riots a couple of years ago. People who immigrated to France from the former colonies still don’t have the same rights and opportunities as the locals (a prevailing theme across most of Europe) and when you travel through their localities, it feels like the economic boom has completely skipped that part of town.
A person’s identity is strongly tied to their roots which gets more confusing the longer you stay away from home. Hers would be the opposite story to an immigrant to a western country and I can imagine the confusions she might be facing growing up in a different continent during her growing up years. These would be now heightened now that she is out of the environment, however her thoughts might still be connected to Africa.
Considering this, its really amazing coming across a person who hasn’t yet forgotten her roots and trying to make an impact. Its not easy making a difference in this world but every little effort goes a long way. Wishing her the very best in life