Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Pierre Ngog, March 2, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:07 - Family, education, and growing up

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Partial Transcript: I'm Jack Wilson interviewing Pierre Ngog who was born in the nation of Cameroon...

Segment Synopsis: Pierre Ngog was born in 1963 in Sodibanga in central Cameroon, one of eight children. His father was a poor farmer and his mother a housewife. He started school in a church in his bush village and then went to school in Sodibanga until 9th grade when he went to live with his uncle in Yaounde, the capital. He finished secondary school (called college in Cameroon) in 1987. His father farmed for family and for sale: pineapples, green bananas. Pierre sold animals he trapped and used them to pay his school fees and uniform.

Keywords: Baccalaureate; Family; Sodibanga (Cameroon); Sodibanga, Cameroon; Yaounde (Cameroon); Yaounde, Cameroon

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Families.

GPS: Sodibanga, Cameroon
Map Coordinates: 3.7, 10.4
GPS: Yaounde, Cameroon
Map Coordinates: 3.866667, 11.516667
00:12:38 - University in Cameroon and East Germany

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Partial Transcript: So you finished your secondary school in Yaounde.

Segment Synopsis: Ngog studied economics at the University of Yaounde for two years, 1989-1991. Then he got a UNESCO scholarship to study in the Soviet Union but because of what was happening there he was sent to study printing techniques in East Germany instead. He was one of 150 to be chosen. Languages he already spoke: Basse and French, and had just learned a little German in school in Cameroon. (Cameroon was a German colony until after World War I.) He describes learning German in the morning and making books in afternoon. But because he had gone to university in Cameroon, he moved to Leipzig in 1990 and started university and got a degree in engineering, finishing in 1996.

Keywords: East Germany; Languages; Leipzig, Germany; Printing; Soviet Union; UNESCO

Subjects: Education; University

GPS: University of Yaounde
Map Coordinates: 3.8575644, 11.5007314
GPS: East Germany
Map Coordinates: 52.518611, 13.404444
GPS: Leipzig, Germany
Map Coordinates: 51.333333, 12.383333
00:26:01 - Jobs in Germany

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Partial Transcript: So after my graduation I said I wanted to go back to Cameroon.

Segment Synopsis: Ngog went back to Cameroon to look for a job but the job he was offered had no salary, so he went back to Germany to University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt. He wanted to change to study IT but the German government didn't agree and said he had to have a job in order to stay. He got a job in the stock market with a French stockbroker because he could speak both French and German (2000-2001). After a year and a half he got a similar job with a German company where he worked from 2001 to 2004.

Keywords: IT (Information Technology); Immigration issues; Jobs; Stockbrokers

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Immigrants

GPS: University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt
Map Coordinates: 50.1303, 8.6925
GPS: Germany
Map Coordinates: 51, 9
00:33:40 - Moving to France

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Partial Transcript: Then because I met Henriette in 2000 in France.

Segment Synopsis: Because his wife was in France and he was spending every week going to Paris, Ngog decided to leave his job in Germany and move to France to take care of his family. He describes the importance of his job in Germany and being paid very well to train his replacement. However, he had trouble getting the same type of job in Paris. While staying at home taking care of his two sons, he decided he would have to move.

Keywords: Children; Family; Frankfurt (Germany); Looking for jobs; Paris (France); Wife

Subjects: Employment; Families.; Marriage

GPS: Frankfurt (Germany)
Map Coordinates: 50.116667, 8.683333
GPS: Paris (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.8567, 2.3508
00:39:16 - Applying for a diversity visa

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Partial Transcript: I was surfing internet, I was surfing internet...

Segment Synopsis: Ngog describes surfing the internet and finding the website of a company helping people get their green card lottery/diversity visa. After talking to a marketing person at the company he was convinced in 2005 to send 75 euros for three years of help applying for a diversity visa. In March 2007 he got an email to call and then an envelope with the application forms in English for the whole family. But he didn't speak English so he had to pay $3000 to an attorney in New York to assist him in filling out the forms correctly. He then went to Cameroon to take his two older sons who were there for interviews at the U.S. Embassy while his wife and other children went to the Embassy in Paris.

Keywords: Cameroon; Diversity visa lottery; English; France; Green card; Process of getting a diversity visa; USSA FIS; Visa interview

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

GPS: Cameroon
Map Coordinates: 6, 12
GPS: Paris (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.8567, 2.3508
00:53:53 - Coming to Kentucky / First jobs in the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: But you came then--you came to the United States though first, right?

Segment Synopsis: Ngog came May 17, 2008, first to Maryland. He called a friend at the University of Kentucky who suggested he come to Lexington because it would be cheaper to live with his family. He talks about the frustrations of early jobs. His first job was a cleaning job which he quit after four and a half days. His second job was working on an assembly line for 8 or 9 days. After trying another job, he found a job at Armco Paper Packaging. He said "This is not the America I was dreaming for. If this is what I have to do, I will go back to Cameroon." He decided he should go back to school.and was encouraged by a woman he had met at church to take her English class. He then got an accounting degree at National College.

Keywords: American National University; English; Jobs; National College

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment--Kentucky; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Maryland
Map Coordinates: 39, -76.7
GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
GPS: National College (now American National University)
Map Coordinates: 38.026943, -84.4232882
01:02:31 - Education in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: I went to National College in 2009.

Segment Synopsis: Ngog graduated from National College in 2011 with an associate degree in accounting. He sees that everything he has done before is "obsolete." He talks about language issues.

Keywords: Accents; Accounting; Degree in Kentucky; English; National College

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: National College (now American National University)
Map Coordinates: 38.026943, -84.4232882
01:05:21 - Adjusting to the United States

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Partial Transcript: Well let me ask you a couple other questions.

Segment Synopsis: Ngog found the United States different from what he expected, though he knew it was the recession and he could not speak English. He talks about when he first came and he had no transportation. He talks about finding an apartment and then finding Second Presbyterian Church. He talks about a baby shower the church gave for them and paying rent for six months, offering gift cards, giving them beds. In 2011 he was going to school, working at Walmart, and doing 160 hours sweat equity on their Habitat House. He then worked at Amazon but quit and started his own business selling international pre-paid phone cards. In 2014 he had a stroke and since then has had physical therapy.

Keywords: Amazon, Inc.; Baptist Health; Church assistance; Habitat for Humanity; Jobs; Medicaid; Phone cards; Physical therapy; Second Presbyterian Church; Stroke; Walmart

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment--Kentucky; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
01:15:06 - Children

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you have mentioned your, uh, your children as we have talked.

Segment Synopsis: Ngog talks about his children. The oldest went on soccer scholarship to Earlham College, but dropped out and now lives in Cleveland. The second graduated in computer science in December 2016 from Berea College and is still working there. The third and fourth sons are in eighth and sixth grades at Carter Woodson Academy.

Keywords: Berea College; Carter Woodson Academy; Family; Sons

Subjects: Education; Families.

01:18:11 - Communication with Cameroon

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Partial Transcript: Do you still have, uh, contact with people in, in Cameroon and how do you do that?

Segment Synopsis: He talks about family in Cameroon, including his elder brother and mother. They keep in touch through text, email. He went to Cameroon in 2015 and 2016.

Keywords: Communication; Contact; Family; Traveling

Subjects: Families.; Travel.

GPS: Cameroon
Map Coordinates: 6, 12
01:19:32 - Citizenship and dreams

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, you are--are you now a, a citizen?

Segment Synopsis: Ngog became a citizen in 2013. He has done substitute teaching in Fayette County since 2010. It is hard now because some schools accept him as disabled and some don't. He talks about changing a lot since his stroke and accepting whatever happens. He describes how the substitute teaching works and his experiences with it. He explains to students that America is a melting pot, that people come from everywhere, that people have different accents. He talks about the diversity visa program and how the United States is special, but Americans don't all understand that.

Keywords: Citizens; Disability; Diversity Visa; Fayette County (Ky.); Green card; Substitute teaching

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Teachers; Teaching

GPS: Fayette County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.04, -84.46
01:31:23 - Questions people ask

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Partial Transcript: What, what kinds of questions do, uh, people ask you when you meet them?

Segment Synopsis: Ngog lists questions Americans ask him, beginning with "Where are you from?" "From Africa?" "Why did you come?" "I tell them I come for better life." He remembers questions he was asked in Germany. Example: "How did you get here?" and he answered, "I swam."

Keywords: Germany; Questions

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Germany
Map Coordinates: 51, 9
01:33:54 - Discrimination

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Partial Transcript: So have, have you had questions like that or do you feel that you have been discriminated against at all?

Segment Synopsis: Ngog felt he had experience -- he could speak French and German -- but he could not get a job teaching. He sees discrimination against non-English speakers. He thought Amazon, as a worldwide company, could use him, but his language skills are not valued.

Keywords: English; French; German; Language discrimination

Subjects: Discrimination.; Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky

01:38:17 - Contributions to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Sort of going back to the beginning, uh, I think I was telling you at one point sort of why we got into this project...

Segment Synopsis: Africans living in Kentucky have changed Kentucky. They have educated Kentuckians about African countries. "We are all God's people." Americans don't lose anything by sharing, give them a chance.

Keywords: Contributions

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85