Our Congolese doormen – meet Lefills.

Like I told about some months ago, I started chatting with the doormen of our building soon after moving in to our flat in Green point. To my surprise all of them are from Congo. Over the last months Ive become found of this guy, and today I took his pictures and asked him if I could share his story on my blog.

Meet Lefills (33).

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One morning in January, the door bell rang and it was Lefills from the doorway. He asked if he could come up to talk to me. At the time I hardly knew his name, so I got a little worried. His voice sounded disturbed, and I asked what it was. He said that he was hungry, and asked if I had some food for him. He hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday, and still had many hours to work.

My heart fell to my stomach.

Of course, I said. But don’t you have to stand there in the doorway?

He confirmed. If you would be so kind to bring me something? I’m so sorry to ask about this.

Its not a problem at all. Hold on, Ill make you something right now.

I ran down with a glass of juice, two sandwiches with avocado, tomatoes and an apple. He received it very timidly, and I understood he felt embarrassed over the situation. I convinced him it’s not a problem at all, and since that day we’ve become friends.

Interestingly he told me that he had waited to see my boyfriend leave the building in the morning before he dared to ring the doorbell. I told him that V is not dangerous and that he could ask us anytime he’d like to for food. Later V and I spoke about it, the fact that these men probably see more women being nice to them, than men.. We agreed that women probably come across as more caring in general.. Perhaps it is a simple and global fact that most people (girls and boys) have grown up with more caring mums than dads?

I asked Lefills about it too when he felt more confident with me, and he laughed and said “women just tend to be nicer”. Especially in your country, I thought to my self, well aware of the tragic situation of physical and sexual abuse on women and children in war zones in Congo.

Throughout the coming weeks we had many quite long conversations. As his shifts are from 6 am to 6 pm, Lefills is more awake while working than Costa – the other doorman I told about – thus we’ve been able to talk more. Like Costa, Lefills also says he doesn’t think doormen are treated overly fairly in the area. And like Costa, he’d never complain about the salary or working hours because he knows people can get fired over it.

Besides, Lefills told me that the salary he gets is better than many others’, and that he is proud of having worked hard over the least 3 years to achieve a reputation as an honest man among employers. An honesty that made him admit through our conversations that it’s very tiring to just stand like this for 12 hours and watch people passing by…

Lefills says that he sketches when he feels inspired to make the days shorter and keep his mind focused. It is clear to me that he deliberately chooses to see the positive in things and believes that this period too will pass. As the situation is very bad in Congo at the moment, he feels he just have to wait and see.

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Moreover we’ve spoken a little about Norway VS South Africa. As he didn’t know anything about the country part from it being modern and cold, he asked me about many things. And I admit that I’ve had to bite my lip more than once. How do you explain a poor guy from Congo about Norway, if he hasn’t heard anything about it?

Once I asked him how life was for him in Congo, if he had had to go to war etc. He smiled and said:

No, no, no. I’ve been lucky, Ive studied and have a healthy family. My life in Congo is okay, but there is no job. And the conflicts are stressful. I can’t plan a future there. But I know I’m fortunate as my family is safe and not starving or anything.

With little knowledge about Congo, part from it being a mess, I’m curious about the place and have asked many questions. Lefills told me that he preferred the food and the women of Congo. But he thought that it had to better for a country to be an English colony as opposed to French.

How so, I asked.

Because the French heritage we have is so chaotic. People love discussing, debating and making a mess of politics. Nobody ever agree on anything, and partly the conflicts today are to blame for that, he said.

I would of course like to stay with my family in Congo, but the situation is very gloomy. And no African cities can compare to Cape Town. It’s safe and modern here, he says.

Interestingly Lefills isn’t obsessed with the imagination of moving to Europe the way so many seem to be. He says he loves it in Cape Town, that he particularly loves the liberality and possibilities.

Cape Town is Africa’s New York and Id love to create a good life for myself here, he said. Though it’s also very difficult to find a proper job for us here.

Not at difficult as in Congo apparently, because Lefills – like so many others – bussed a long way to get to the more prosper country South Africa. He quickly got a job as security personnel, with the position as a doorman in our building being the last. Although he still hasn’t got a proper residency, he has a temporary working permit.

Which in practice means that while he is waiting for a residency and the right to have the same labour rights as South Africans, he is being exploited as cheap labour, just like other Congolese doormen I’ve got to know. And like Costa, Lefills is aware of this status too.

Another thing the two gentlemen have in common is being proud of their education. Lefills holds a Bachelor degree in Marketing from the university of Kinshasa and means that the French based education system in Congo is much better than the currently offered in South Africa. Although he laughed at the irony that the good education system in Congo is useless as nobody gets a job. And here in South Africa they don’t have the language nor enough permits to actually get a job that is relevant to their education.

When we’ve talked about these topics, I’ve tried my best to inspire him to hold on to his dreams, motivations and to believe in himself and feel confident that hard work will pay off. We have for instance agreed that the most important thing he can do is to study English and continue applying for a residency and better jobs from here.

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Overall Lefills is more interested in talking about other things than the challenges he meets in life. He loves to speak about topics like movies, music, Europe vs Africa, racism, my impression of him after he got that sandwich, how we meet a partner or marry each other in Europe..

Not that this was meant to be a Man-seking-woman-add, but you never know what it can serve to. Hah!

(Lefills has agreed to have this text posted about him).

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