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Public eye: Elhadj Diallo, 23

New York street interviews: Stories from the sidewalk as told by real New Yorkers about their lives in the city that never sleeps.

Photograph: Alex Strada

Washington Square Park

What are you up to? Oh, just relaxing. Things are stressful, a little bit. So I bought some pizza, came to the park and said, Let me just sit here and relax, you know?

And here we are interrupting. [Laughs] It's okay.

What are you relaxing from? Well, life. I just want to succeed in life, that's all. I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't hang out that much. I just want to go to school and see if I can have a good life.

What does a good life look like? To me, it's if I achieve each goal. I'm from Africa—West Guinea. I want to see if I can get my GED and go to college. And then, you know, get married. When I was in Africa, my career was to be a doctor. But I'd like to be a model too—that's my passion.

A fashion model? Yes. Sport clothes, jeans—stuff like that.

I think you might need a few more inches on you to be a model. No no, I'm tall enough. It's been a long time since I measured myself, but people say I'm tall.

Be honest: You totally want to model so you can meet girls on the job. [Laughs] No no no, it's the fashion.

Is New York everything you expected it to be? Before I came, I was thinking: It's beautiful, the people are nice, friendly. And then I came and it's still the same. It's just that it's kind of hard, too. At the moment I'm studying to get my GED.

Guinea's got some political upheaval going on, huh? Yes. People are killing each other. It's kind of miserable. They let people starve, they take people in jail without giving them food. It's kind of hard, to be honest.

Did you feel unsafe there? Very unsafe, yeah, because I know that they kill a lot of people. Even my family, even my friends—they kill so many people. If you are for another political party and they find out, they say, "Okay no problem," and they take you far away and kill you.

That's terrifying. Do you think the people of Guinea might pull an Arab spring? Exactly. I think that could happen there. We don't have a president right now. We're trying to find a good one, but not yet. It's so hard right now; people are so afraid. But you never give up in life, right?

More from Elhadj

"I have my family back home; I'm worried about them."

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