My name is Salifou Dao.
INTERVIEWED BY Miasmin Andre and Aidan Walker

Ivory Coast, Cote D'Ivoire

New York, New York


Seattle, Washington



My first name is Salifou, last name Dao. And I’m from Ivory Coast, which is a small country in West Africa.

I came here in October 2009 when I took a plane from my country we came first in New York. I was a traffic manager in my country, I worked at a railroad company. It was a kind of dream, I never forgot I’m gonna come in America. One day I was checking on the newspaper, and I saw that there was a lottery, visa lottery, and I saw that when I was in high school. So I was trying to figure out how I can play it and I heard that you can take a paper and write down your name, the address, and tape a photo, a picture on it and send it to the address that they had put on the newspaper. In 2000 they set it up on computer, and in 2008 I get my name on it- 8 years later. So this is how I get here, win the visa lottery.

When we came from a country in which you speak French, you think about the language. After the language, you think about the food. The first thing I did when I come here is to find a food, so the first store I was in was a Safeway. This is one thing I like in America; when you try to speak to someone, they try to understand what you are saying. They try to help you to understand what you are saying and sometimes when I tried to talk to them, they gave me some words to let me talk to them. I was very very happy to see that. They don’t reject you like “oh you don’t speak English? Oh I don’t want to talk to you”. No no I never met someone telling me that. I have a secret, before I go somewhere, to Safeway for example, what I try to do is to have a paper, and write down what I’m gonna buy in English. So when I go there, I don’t find what I need I show the paper to the guy because I know that when you are looking for something you can say “hey I’m looking for this or I’m looking for that”. I show him the paper, and he says “oh you’re looking for rice?” and I say “yeah” . Then he shows me where the rice is. I keep that in my pocket and I go to the shop. This is how I do, and I think it is the best way to learn, and I’m ok with that.