This time when we visited our family, they started to open up to us and speak freely for the first time. Every other time we went, they would try to learn English or ask us about things they need, but this time was different. The mom started to teach us how to say a few words in Eritrean. She taught us simple words like how to say coffee and tea. It was nice to see them share some culture with us. They then started telling us that they liked the US. They said in Africa there is too much fighting and even just going down the street could be a hazardous experience. They said that they like that there is no fighting here. While I am glad that they feel safer here, I was also slightly concerned because I do not want them thinking that there is no crime here either. I think many families come here thinking the US is a perfect utopian society where nothing goes wrong. The problem with this thought is that the US is nowhere near perfect. I’ll admit their circumstance is definitely better than before because this is no constant fighting, but now I’m scared of what will happen to them when their perfect vision is shattered when they find out the grass is not greener on the other side.
This week, Kelsey and I learned a lot more about our family. We already knew that the family had been in Malaysia for two years, but I assumed that their troubles started long before that and that coming to America presented more stability than the kids could remember in their own lifetimes. However, this week, the girl told us that she misses Burma and doesn’t have any friends here. Kelsey and I told her that we’re her friends and her brother can be her friend, but she said that Kelsey and I are “too big” and her brother “is boy.” She brought out pictures of their life in Burma to show us. I realized that it wasn’t very long ago at all that they were in a familiar place surrounded by friends, family members, and traditions that felt much more like home. The mother also talked to us about Burma, describing the weather. Now that she has been taking ESL classes at the Howard Center, she has been interested not only in having us help her with her work but also in teaching us words and phrases of Burmese. They clearly miss their home in Burma very much and want to keep it alive and connected to them as much as possible.
I started wondering what school is like for the kids. I thought that they had friends in their ELL classes, but now I can imagine that they feel like outsiders sometimes in a school of American adolescents who have been raised in our materialistic culture.
Meeting with my family last week was a lot of fun. As I have done every week I help the children with homework. The mother has always been the most talkative and the father has always been quit, but this past Thursday the mother left for work and it was just the kids and the father. Suprisingly the father started to open up to me. He showed me on a map where he was from and played music from his country. It was really great to see him open up and show me some of his culture. I stayed there for a long time just talking with the father and watching differnt music videos. Also I am going to the zoo with the kids next week, I am excited.
Our family has continued to open up to us more and more. We spend most of our time with the kids, helping them with their homework. Their mom has been around more lately, showing us her ELL homework and practicing her English. The daughter of our family, who is 10 years old, told us Wednesday that she misses Burma and doesn’t feel like she has any friends here. We told her we are her friends, and she told us that we were too big to be her friends. Moving is rough on everybody, especially middle-school aged kids, and not being able to speak much English is clearly making the transition that much harder. I think that once the kids become more comfortable with conversational English, they’ll be able to make friends more easily. I wish there were some way to help them with this issue, but it seems to be one area that will just have to develop on its own.
The daughter of our family brought home a math question about pieces of candy given out on Halloween. I tried to explain the concept of Halloween, but I wasn’t able to do a very good job- I left them fairly confused. Their parents aren’t comfortable with us taking them out anywhere, so I don’t know if we’ll get the opportunity to show them any fall traditions. They insist that they are prepared for the cold because Burma has a cold season, but from what I can tell from Google, it doesn’t drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit often in Burma. Luckily, they have hats and coats (I think). And their mom has been busy knitting sweaters for everyone in the family.
We got to see some photos of their home in Burma. The mother had a picture of herself on a motorcycle. She told us she misses having it- I don’t blame her, transportation seems to be quite the nuisance for this family. However, I have to say I am constantly impressed by how on top of things they are- they took their son to the hospital to get vaccinations, and will take their daughter next week; they have a church they attend regularly; and their kids have nice bikes to use to get to school- I know they struggle in many ways, but their conscientious parenting really shows in the way they’ve handled their family in the first few months of their time in the U.S.