Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Luteke Lu Mbuyi Kalombo

Kalombo, Luteke Mbuyi
Bailey, Kim
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Cultural Identification; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers; Tolerance and Respect
Lu Kalombo talks about his life in the Congo (Zaire) and gives words of encouragement to young people of foreign decent.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Kim Bailey interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
KB (Kim Bailey): OK Lu. You ready? Can you say your whole name please?
LK (Luteke Kalombo): Luteke Mbuyi Kalombo.
KB: [Laugh] And where are you from?
LK: The Democratic Republic of Congo, used to be named Zaire.
KB: OK, and how long have you been in the United States?
LK: I've been here since 1979, I'm tw-, I'm 28 so that makes it 22 years, right? [Laugh]
KB: 23, \\ somewhere around there. \\
LK: \\ 23, 22. \\
KB: Can't add. Nah [laugh] so, did you want to tell us any stories about you or your family?
LK: Well my family, of course everybody was, um, grew up in Zaire. I still, I still call it Zaire because I'm used to the Zaire name. Um, [pause] we migrated to, my father was a diplomat-.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: So he went to school in the United States AND the reason we came to the United States was for educational purposes and we, um, migrated to Belgium first. A lot of people that live in Zaire if they want to leave, 'cause, the reason for Belgium 'cause, is it used to be a Belgium colony, so a lot of people migrate to Belgium, so we went there first for like two weeks then we came to Washington. So the whole transition of your environment, just changing from one country to another, uh, and then to the United States and then, not forgetting the, um, language barrier, even though my parents knew how to speak English, but as far as me, I, I, my first language was French, so I had to gradually learn English and I was really quiet when I first came to the United States because just getting used to the environment, used to the different people, the variety of people, and then, you know, just changing the environment, that was the biggest change right there.
KB: Do you remember anything that was difficult like a particular situation that was difficult for you when you first came?
LK: [Pause] As far as school, 'cause I came, I came when I was really beginning school.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: So I started, I skipped kindergarten, I started first grade.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And really just [pause] understanding, uh, the children, the, uh, United States, you know, children.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: Um, some are cruel, some, you know, just, just the English, just language barrier.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: I was real quiet, I really listened a lot and just, I had to concentrate a lot more on just learning the English language and just, you know, the biggest, um, the hardest thing was, um, getting used to the environment.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: That was it.
KB: OK, environment as far as the climate? Or \\ as far as the people. \\
LK: \\ Environment, \\ well climate, well you have different seasons.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: The people, you have a wide variety of people because I went to Washington, DC, Washington, DC is a melting pot, so you get a wide variety of people. And then, um, [pause] just the classroom situation, the different housing, different neighborhood, just the landscape of, you know, United States.
KB: OK. And how long have you been in the Charlotte area?
LK: [Pause] A year and a half. Almost a year and a half.
KB: OK. And what do you do here?
LK: I'm a personal trainer. At Kalombo Fitness. [Laugh]
KB: [Laugh] A little plug there.
LK: [Laugh] Of course [laugh].
KB: \\ Um-hmm, \\ so what are some things that have happened since you've been here in Charlotte?
LK: Since, as far as what?
KB: Um, your life, any interesting stories that have happened since you've been here. Funny things that have happened.
LK: It's funny?
KB: It doesn't have to be funny.
LK: Everyday I go through funny situations but that's a lot to remember. But um, really from, I guess when we moved from the Washington area when we moved to Charlotte, uh, I feel Charlotte is a growing city-.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: Ah, as far as finding it's identity, and me coming from the North, I felt there wasn't as much things to do here in Charlotte. But I've found there's a lot of Africans here in Charlotte. That's what I've noticed too.
KB: Yeah.
LK: So.
KB: The Liberian community \\ is starting to get large. \\
LK: \\ Yeah. \\ Liberia, um, even Nigerians, there's a lot of them here. And even people from my country, from \\ Congo. \\
KB: \\ Where do you \\ come into contact with them?
LK: Um.
KB: Or where have you come into contact with them?
LK: Just generally, sometimes, just generally meeting people at different functions or just in general. Then you start talking it's like, "OK, I'm from such and such."
KB: Oh, OK. And what functions do you go to?
LK: Uh, I go out [laugh].
KB: [Laugh] Where do you go out, Lu? [Laugh]
LK: No, I usually just I go to, I usually go to night clubs, um, [pause] little dinner, little dinner functions and stuff like that.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: But I tend to live at the nightclubs, I'm trying to taper down, huh [laugh] as I'm maturing [laugh].
KB: Yeah we see, we see. Ah, were there any stories that your parents told you when you were growing up? Like little-.
LK: With me or just in-.
KB: Like, um, fairytales or even stories about the family or something like that.
LK: Oh my fam-, my bro-, my father is one out of nine, he has, um, nine brothers and sisters.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: And, uh, um [sniff] basically, well I'll tell you one story.
LK: It's kind of scary, we used to, in Zaire, we lived near a army.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And it's, it's very political. If you, say in African countries, if you talk about the government or anything-.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And then they kind of hear you talking about the government they will come, they will come and take you and ask you questions.
KB: Oh OK.
LK: So one night, um, they came and took my sister. \\ And then-. \\
KB: \\ How old was she? \\
LK: She was, she was like 15. And then, um, my father ( ) he had to go to the army base and go get her and stuff like that, and I remember that. And, uh, the, there's villages all around.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: In the villages, basically there's no electricity.
KB: Oh.
LK: So, and then like the shower system, that's what little things you take for granted.
KB: Umm-hmm.
LK: Like if you go to the village you pretty much, if it's dark, it's time for you to, you know, kind of start ending your day so.
KB: Yeah. I understand that. So did you live in a village or did you live \\ somewhere else? \\
LK: \\ I lived in the city. \\ Kinshasa that's the, um, capital. But my father used to tell me stories, and my mother, about their village living, how you have to walking and get your food \\ yeah so.\\
KB: \\ Yeah.\\ Yeah I experienced a little of that in Ghana.
LK: Oh.
KB: And you do take it for granted. Um [pause], so here, who all lives here in Charlotte?
LK: Me and my older brother. And then my, um, I have a, uh, three sisters.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And three other brothers that live outside of Washington.
KB: You have a twin sister right?
LK: Yes. She, she lives in she was actually here in Charlotte like [pause] six years ago and then she went back to Washington. And ma, um, really 80 percent of my family lives in Zaire and Belgium.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And then my uncles and cousins, I have a couple that live in the Washington area.
KB: OK. Do you like have those little sensory things that they say twins have? Like if she gets hurt do you feel it?
LK: Not one bit. [Laugh]
KB: [Laugh]
LK: We're fraternal twins, so I don't.
KB: Even so!
LK: No, not one bit, uh? [Laugh]
KB: You know nothing?
LK: Nothing, not one thing.
KB: And she doesn't feel anything from you?
LK: No.
KB: Aw man, y'all aren't close though, are you?
LK: No, we're different. We're just, we're two totally different people.
KB: I see. How, you said, um, your sister took after your father.
LK: Yes.
KB: And you took after your mother?
LK: Um, my mother's, um, six feet my father is five-nine.
KB: Wow.
LK: And I have my mother's features and my twin has my father's. Even in personalities we're just different.
KB: Really different.
LK: Yeah because, um, for example, we came to the United States at the same time.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: But I have different friends and she had different friends, so kind of being around different friends that grooms you-.
KB: Yeah.
LK: To the kind of the person you are. So we had different activities too.
KB: I bet being male and female. What school did you go to?
LK: Um, I ended up at Herndon High School.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And I, I grew up I mean I started in Washington DC , and then I migrated to Bethesda, Maryland, then went out to northern Virginia.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: So-.
KB: And for university?
LK: I went to LaSalle University first, in Philadelphia, then I transferred to Niagara University in Niagara Falls, New York, so-.
KB: And you did sports?
LK: Yeah, I played, I played basketball at high school.
KB: OK, tell us about that.
LK: Um, basically I played, um, high school basketball.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And then I was recruited out of high school and I had to choose what college to go to.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: And, uh, I chose Philadelphia, Philadelphia first 'cause I liked the city but, um [pause]-.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: Then didn't, um, I didn't get along with the coach that much, but it was a maturing process for me then, and I transferred and it was a lot of fun, a lot of travel, but basically you have to get your school work done.
KB: Yeah.
LK: And I did graduate [laugh].
KB: [Laugh] So many don't, so many don't [laugh]. OK, we're going to stop right here, pause for a second.
KB: OK we're back. [Pause] So was there, is there anything else you wanted to say?
LK: No as, as far as, um, a child coming from one country to say the United States-.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: The, it's just an adjustment period. The adjustment period is getting accustomed to, um, United States living.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: Which pretty much has everything, as far as opportunity, as far as things you are able to get-.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: Or do. Everybody's pretty much equal and, um, that's the best, um, that's the best adjustment. The hardest adjustment is the people you're around.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: A wide variety as far as say you gain ( ) even though you are going into a school system.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: Outside of just learning like the subject learning [pause] pretty much subject to subject.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: You still have to learn how the American way of living and doing things. Sometimes, you came in as a, say, different person, doing different things, but your peers might not understand and kind of get on you, so that's the biggest adjustment, is being around your peers. If that's, if that's easier your transition's easier. But a lot of times you might see someone that's kind of shy, they're not really shy, it's just they're adapting to the environment that they're in.
KB: Yeah and sometimes little children don't understand-.
LK: \\ Yeah.\\
KB: How to deal with that.
LK: And you're coming in different.
KB: Yeah \\ already.\\
LK: \\ So.\\ And say, for me, prime example, I was, I was quiet in elementary school and middle school-.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: 'Cause I'm a quiet person anyways [laugh].
KB: I believe that [laugh].
LK: [Laugh] No, but just that adjustment period. I was getting more and more comfortable as I went, and pretty much my uncles and stuff make fun of me all the time \\ because they say-. \\
KB: \\ Now? \\
LK: Yes.
KB: [Laugh]
LK: Because they say I'm Americanized person.
KB: Oh.
LK: And the hard part with me was because my first language is out of my system now. I can understand a little bit but I was just, pressure from myself and my parents to learn English, English, English because, um, here English is the main language.
KB: Yeah.
LK: Really the only language but English, English, English is very important just for communications, so-.
KB: Yeah, your first language, was your \\ first-. \\
LK: \\ French. \\
LK: And then we have different, um, African dialects.
KB: And what African dialect do you-?
LK: Tshiluba. It's, uh, Tshiluba and Lingala is the two main ones.
KB: Oh OK.
LK: The reason a lot, say a lot of Africans, they know say three, four \\ languages-.\\
KB: \\ Um-hmm\\
LK: Because you're neighboring a lot of different \\ villages-.\\
KB: \\ Yeah\\
LK: So by, um, communicating with people from different parts or villages you have to communicate, so you have to learn the neighboring villages', you know, language.
KB: Oh OK. Did you know any other, like the neighboring places?
LK: I understand right now?
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: I understand, right now I understand very little Tshiluba and I understand a little bit of French.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: But English is my main thing. That's why my uncles and aunts make fun of me.
KB: You are Americanized-.
LK: Yeah.
KB: [Laugh] If you forgot all of that.
LK: 'Cause I adjusted into the American lifestyle.
KB: Yeah, yeah. And it's kind of hard to, um, go back to, keep, retain all of those \\ things that\\ you had from before.
LK: \\ Yeah \\. But what I, what I, what I keep, though, is my values.
KB: Uh-huh.
LK: As far as, that's 'cause I had good parents.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: Because I, because my, African parents are very strict on their children.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: Coming from a different country and coming to the United States the main thing is do not forget why you came over here.
KB: Um-hmm.
LK: For education and for opportunity. And if you start to slip and become too far [pause] into doing \\ other things\\ I think that's from culture to culture the same thing.
KB: \\ Another culture.\\ Yeah.
LK: Even here in the United States, Africa, anywhere. Bottom line is you do what you have to do to, you know, progress as a person in what you're doing.
KB: Yeah.
LK: And education is very key. That's the main purpose of my family coming here.
KB: Did you slip a little bit?
LK: I slipped \\ and my father got on me hard. \\ [Laugh]
KB: \\ [Laugh]\\
LK: If I got a C he was like, "What is this? This is not acceptable," so he's very strict. His main, his main thing that he pushed for was education. \\ Because education \\ takes you a long way.
KB: \\ And that's\\ that's good. So is there anything else you want to tell us?
LK: I wanted to, no nothing else [laugh].
KB: [Laugh] Uh-huh, Mr. 'Shy' loves to talk, huh? Well thank you very much for your time and the interview. It's been enjoyable.
LK: Thank you for, thank you for interviewing me.
KB: You're welcome.
LK: All right.