The amazing stories of Simon Ateba, editor-in-chief of Today News Africa, Washington D.C., August 18, 2018.are rarely told in the United States where most people in the news are often white. Kids who grow up watching television or browsing news sites often end up believing that the world ends in California and starts in New York. They may also end up believing that success, peace, care, love and intelligence are all white while failure, chaos, terror, ignorance, anger and violence are all black. TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA knows that’s false. Our popular segment “My American Story” highlights the perseverance, tenacity, intelligence, sophistication, struggles and successes of Africans in the United States and Canada –
Charles Gueboguo or simply Charles, as he prefers to be called, was born in the French speaking part of Cameroon, a country in Central Africa. But he identifies also with Ivory Coast where his friends gave him the nickname Yoro which means “sun”, and Nigeria, where friends nicknamed him Chukwuemeka or “God has done something great” in Igbo language.
In the end, Charles says, he is a citizen of the world, as he also identifies with Michigan where he studied Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.
“A week ago, I moved to DC metro area coming from Wisconsin. I am originally from Cameroon, yet a world citizen. Everywhere I go (not like M.T.N! Laughter) I find myself at ease,” Charles told Today News Africa during an interview.
He is in Washington DC to teach French Literature at the Washington International School, just months after releasing his first novel: Cacophonies des voix d’Ici.
On what he loves the most about living in the United States since 2009, Charles says: “Everything!”
“There is always room for you to become a better person, to grow, to learn, to share. A true land of opportunities if you do not mind working hard. Americans would not mind where you come from, as long as you have the needed skills, you will barely be jobless. That is not the case in some other countries”.
Mr. Gueboguo granted an interview to Today News Africa and gave us a peep into his extraordinary life in the United States.
What’s your name now? What was your name before? What do people call you and what do you prefer to be called?
Charles Gueboguo. Or just Charles to make it easier for some, though I find it always amazing that we can pronounce “Tchaïkovsky” (I loves his music), “Swarovski” (I like their jewelry designs and qualities) or Schwarzenegger (which meaning, by the way, is very interesting for those who can speak German), yet it becomes harder to say GUEBOGUO. Funny, isn’t it? But, I don’t mind being addressed as “Charles.”
What African country do you identify with and what part of that country do you associate with? What state do you live in the United States? What’s your citizenship?
Without hesitation, I identify with Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) and Nigeria. I like to say, I am Bete, as my friends in Côte d’Ivoire gave me this beautiful nickname Yoro that means “Sun.” In Nigeria, I am an Igbo man. Call me “Chukwuemeka,” literally: “God has done something great.” A week ago, I moved to DC metro area coming from Wisconsin. I am originally from Cameroon, yet a world citizen. Everywhere I go (not like M.T.N! Laughter) I find myself at ease.
Where and what did you study?
Hmm! Were should I start? Hmm! Okay, in Cameroon I studied Political Sociology before moving to the U.S. And here, I studied Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. So you can add as well that I am a Michigander, or to be specific I am a Wolverine! Go Blue! Hahahahaha
Where do you work or what type of job do you do?
While at the university of Michigan I was teaching at the college level: French and World Literatures for the Department of CompLit. I am in DC to teach French Literature at the Washington International School. I am definitely excited to start this journey after a long break which I took to focus on writing my first novel: Cacophonies des voix d’Ici. During the summer I was between book signing and promotion: I just came back from Paris a couple of months ago. I also work as a freelance translator (English-French ONLY… Hahahaha) and editor. I love communication in general, so I also write critical book reviews/analyses for an African webzine based in Germany, Afrolivresque. I am a passionate mentor for young adults willing to become stronger. I just love new challenges in order to give back to the community in general.
How long have you been in the United States?
Not that along! I have been in the United States since 2009.
What has been your most memorable moment in the United States?
Awe! I would not know where to start every day I spend here is rich and enables me to grow to become a better person.
What has surprised you the most in the United States?
Diversity when you live in big cities, and less of it when you visit remote places.
What do you like the most about living in the United States?
Everything! There is always room for you to become a better person, to grow, to learn, to share. A true land of opportunities if you do not mind working hard. Americans would not mind where you come from, as long as you have the needed skills, you will barely be jobless. That is not the case in some other countries”
What do you miss the most about not living in Africa?
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about being in the United States?
Being a hardworker would always get you out of trouble and on top of that, there are good rewards. Try it, and you would not look back!
What’s your biggest challenge in the United States?
In the beginning it was to get the American culture. But once you get at least the basics, you can go through and easily find your way.
What’s the biggest misconception about life in the United States that people in Africa have?
I do not know. May be it would be up to them to answer that question? Hahahaha… But for real, my guess would be all the misconceptions that many may have when you live outside Africa: you are always making big money therefore you owe them, or something in that line. But I may be wrong. I do not know.
They say that everyone has a book in them. What would your book be about?
My daily journey in learning how to fear God and obey His commands.
What do you spend the most time thinking about?
God’s way of life, which is giving, caring, serving, obeying. God’s creations as well. I am amazed when I look at the nature surrounding me, human beings, all the creatures, I am always in awe!
What is something you will NEVER do again?
Hum… They say never say never. Yet I know what I would never do again or I wish never do again. Let us keep it as my secret! Hahahahaha
What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
My parents and all the values they have inculcated in me, plus the fear of God.
What is the strangest thing you have come across?
When people think they may not need to learn anymore, they know it all and you cannot tell them anything.
What are you addicted to?
I have a very balance life. No addiction. Discipline or temperance is everything or should be in our life experiences, so I think.
As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
Not being led on a daily basis by the values I identify with. So I am working harder, on a daily basis as well, to keep them like the apple of my eye.
What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?
I do like opera in general, my favorite is Bizet’s Carmen. But hush! And then Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). I like also La Musique Baroque, it is so sweet to say it in French… La Musique Baroque, especially when it is performed by William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants. You should try to listen King Arthur by Henry Purcell! It is just amazing, the strings, the music, the lyrics, the voices and all the decorum added in the music’s sheet if well performed by a trained voice it is awesome… really, like something out of space. I have never been in outer space though, I am just imagining that it may be the same sensation.
Now, one of my favorite opera singers is Barbara Hendricks. I would love to perform with her the duet “Bei Männer,” in The Magic Flute, you know when Papageno and Tamina are singing in the midst of their, say, journey! That’s the first time I admit it in public… (laughter)… And I know I am day dreaming, and not ready yet to apologize about it (Laughter)! I do like also Jessye Norman and the richness of her voice the smartness of her singing and the high quality of her enunciation especially when she sings in German or in French. I heard her say in a TV interview that she would never sing in a language that she does not speak. And I came to grasp why her singing is so powerful. I also do like Jamie Barton… I mean, I can go on and on and on. Yet I should remember to practice being balanced (laughter)!
If life is a game, like some people say, what are some of the rules?
Fear God is my number one rule and this is not a game. Then, I am commanded to obey the Law, honor who I have to honor, meaning all human beings; being balanced in everything and pursuing peace with every human being as long as it depends on me. Quite a lifetime process, I know! So I would spend the time that I am left with to pursue, among others, those goals.
What’s the most surprising self-realization you’ve had?
Writing my first novel! It is very humbling for I did not know I could do it.
What do you regret not doing?
Caring more and more for people, as I should and as I wish. I am convinced there is always room for improvement in what we are already doing, or it is never too late to start doing what we are not doing yet and we know we are supposed to. I wish I had more wisdom and knowledge to know how to serve people.
What gives your life meaning?
The God that I serve!
What are you most insecure about?
I do not know… Usually, when I cannot perform a given task, I would not be afraid to seek help if I tried several times without success.
How do you get in the way of your own success?
Not working hard, not doing my part and not seeking good advice to better myself.
What are you afraid people see when they look at you?
I always am wondering when some people do not see me as a normal human being with his ups and downs. Sometimes if I crack a joke for instance, some acquaintances will be like: wow, I would never imagine you have that sense of humor or something like that. Maybe that’s why they are my acquaintances and not my friends, otherwise they would know that I can joke. I can be weak and it is through my weakness that I grow stronger
What’s one thing you did that you really wish you could go back and undo?
The past belongs to the past. There is nothing you can do to undo it. However, I do believe you can work to better your present with good deeds with great communication skills, in the sense of good behavior. In so doing, without the need to necessarily dig into your past, you are improving both your present and your future and of the people around you. Yet, the past may also be very important to help you not to repeat your past mistakes, as long as it does not operate to haunt your present.
When do you feel truly “alive”?
When I do the right thing according to my values and principles.
What do you like most about your family?
Everything. Family is a great starting point thay helps you find your way in the society and teaches you how to respect and obey its values and principles.
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