I am really upset because it just deleted my last post I had typed, but oh well…
There was some confusion, but my partner Julissa and I finally got to meet our refugee family last week. They are two women, A middle aged mother and her 12 (or so) year old daughter. Accompanied by Alex we made our way over to their apartment, located right next to some very loud el tracks. All the same, the mother had been taking a nap and couldn’t hear us when we shouted at the window to come in. Thankfully, a nice Bhutanese woman let us into the building; it seems to be home to several different refugee families of various nationalities.
Upon entering the apartment we were (and apparently Alex also was) surprised at the amount of furniture the family had acquired. Apparently someone from the ECAC came and gave them two small couches and a coffee table since the last time Alex had been in the apartment. They have not been in Chicago very long, and Alex saw them less than two weeks prior to our visit. They are truly very resourceful!
The first thing that happened (which was amazing) was a traditional coffee ceremony that the mother preformed for us. She and the daughter gave us snacks, too, of popcorn and fresh oranges, and the mother continually reminded us to eat. Julissa brought them brownies, but they were hesitant to eat them; finally we convinced the daughter to eat one, provided we did at the same time.
The daughter is very energetic and bright; her English skills are strong because she is in school, and we did all of our communication through her. The mother’s English skills are poor, but I think that she knows more than she lets on. For example, when her daughter left the room while we were helping her with her homework, the mother came and read one of her math problems aloud to us. She said she can read and write, but not speak. I have yet to see her write anything, but I really want to try to get her to the literacy center so I will have materials to work with and further assess what levels she may be at. This should be a challenge, however, because when I explained the literacy center to her daughter, she told me that her mom cannot go because she doesn’t know how to go ANYWHERE. She doesn’t leave their apartment all day long; she would be lost trying to get down the street. I explained what a map was (she wasn’t sure) and told her I would bring it next week so her mother would know where to go. When her mother heard she could learn some English, she seemed intrigued and promptly gave us her telephone number.
We helped her daughter with homework and I asked her to save some History or English work for next time (she gave us math problems, and as students with liberal degrees, we were lost ourselves at some points…ha). I want to have her read and write something for me so I can get a better feel for her skills. She said very confidently that she can read and write, no problem, and that speaking was her weakest point. It is important to see her English skills in action, however, so I can know what I need to do to help her. I will be bringing a map over and some materials to work with the mother. But even still, it is a bit daunting, as I don’t know who would watch her daughter even if she knew how to get there. I will keep you posted!
Until next week,