Sometimes I find myself just watching the family interact, which I hope they don’t find offensive or strange. Today, just two of the four children were home–the 11 year old boy and 4 year old girl. There were many times the little girl was nagging her older brother. He would of course get annoyed very quickly. I couldn’t help but smile and think abut my older brother and all the times we pushed each other’s buttons. It makes me think about how Mary Pipher talked about the paradox in coming to know people more deeply. The more we come to know others they become more individualized and unique while at the same time we discover more of ourselves, of humanity, in the process. I love that. Something about that discovery is very liberating.
Like the previous two weeks, my partner and I did not have a chance to visit our refugee familyv(we tried), but we should have that fixed this week. Instead, my week was filled with donations for refugee families.
Everyday last week, my partner and I, as well as other girls from the material needs group, were picking up donations from somewhere, whether from the box in Simpson, someone’s house, unloading a car, or elsewhere. It’s awesome to see how the community has been involved.
Sunday afternoon was spent organizing “the basement” which is where all of the donations are currently being held. The room was getting full and chaotic, so a few of us spent around 3 hours down there getting it semi-organized, or at least starting to. It’s also been good to go through things that we have, and things that probably shouldn’t have been donated in the first place. We’re hoping to have a free market soon, but we have to finish organizing and separating all of the items we currently have.
It’s a bit of a task, but it’s an amazing thing to see everything that has been donated, and know that there is still a lot coming. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re doing something that can tangibly help refugees.
This week we watched a movie with the wife of our family. I had set up French subtitles ahead of time, but for some reason it came out English with their DVD player. It wasn’t much of a problem for the wife because she understood the whole movie and only asked a couple of questions. Her English is really improving; she showed us her final test for level 2 English, which she got 100% on! I know she’s still frustrated, though, since she’s at home alone most of the time and still has about nine more levels of English to complete. She really wants to get a good job, but even her husband, who’s English is good, doesn’t have a job that he really wants. Maybe she could find a journalism job with a French publication once her English gets really good. I’m not sure if she could ever find a job with an English publication since she’s not a native speaker, but maybe a French one would be an option.
I’m really excited for the upcoming week with our family. I brought back two small pumpkins from home to decorate their apartment with. I’d like to find some recipes that involve pumpkin so they can get a taste of more American food. Also, we’re going with them to a church that Jessica found. They seem pretty hesitant about it, but agreed to go and check it out with us. They didn’t specifically say why they don’t seem too eager, but I think it might have something to do with it being yet another unfamiliar thing they have to face.
Visiting our family last Wednesday and Saturday was similar to most of Renee’s and my previous visits- a couple hours spent helping the kids with their homework, and then visiting with the family members who are present. The son (who is 12 and in 7th grade) seems to be doing better in school. Our communication is also improving- he seems to understand more and more of what I say, and it has become much easier to explain his homework to him. He loves listening to stories. However, he continues to be quiet, not often offering up much English. I think he is shy to try and speak English in front of us- this is aggravated by his sister, who sometimes laughs when he mispronounces words (a typical sibling interaction, I think, but a bit unfortunate in this situation).
The family has assured us that they are prepared for winter, that in Burma there is a cold season and they know what to expect. I have seen them wearing coats and hats, which is of course great. But now that temperatures are dropping lower and lower, they have mentioned their cold hands. Despite their best efforts at being well-prepared, they seem not to have gotten any mittens or gloves (this could definitely just be a miscommunication- we will see!). I wondered whether they have snow boots, scarves, etc….. Hopefully we can get them some more winter gear before the weather gets too harsh.
Visiting out family again this week we spent a lot of time just talking about our weeks. Luckily Karan got a job as a cashier in a local store. Thankfully, some members of the store speak Hindi so it makes the whole process of learning and interviewing easier. He was really happy that he got a job, and Avjit and I seemed as excited as he was. We brought some Diwali presents for the family, and that only added to the festive mood in the apartment.
Later, over some hot tea and biscuits we read on in “a grain of rice’. We started to notice a pattern that while Karan could read the story alright, he wasn’t understanding what he was reading, even after we translated sentences and words. Next week we are going to try and use a different technique with Karan. Kareena, on the other hand, when not busy chasing her little son seems to understand and read at a good level, at times even defining words into Nepali for Karan. I feel that this partnership really works, the only problem that they tell us is that their two kids make them so busy that it’s hard to sit and study for too long. The kids seem to always be sleepy when we come over, often dozing off on the sofa, so this week we are also going to try and include them, even though they are still very shy and don’t interact with us. We’ll see what changes we can implement this time to include everyone, even random visitors.
This past week was interesting because Karrah and I had to do something we hadn’t tried before, we made two separate visits to our family. Ineveitably Karrah and I found ourselves in a position last week when we couldn’t find any common time to make a visit. Instead of missing a week we decided we were comfortable enough with our family to visit them on our own. I think I can speak for Karrah as well when I say it went well. Of course I think we both prefer to be together when we make visits but it’s nice to know we’ve gotten comfortable enough with our family to go alone.
Other than that little blurp I had an excellent time carving a pumpkin with my family on Friday! They were interested in finding out exactly what Halloween was so I took it upon myself to expose them to the most obvious Halloween activity. It was definitely a pumpkin carving experience I will never forget. When I first arrived with the pumpkin they were shocked at how large the pumpkin was (it was a very large pumpkin). I proceeded to open the top and take out the insides. I was trying to get the family involved but they would take a little bit out and then immediately go and wash their hands. I’m pretty sure they thought I was kind of crazy at first. We then drew a face on the pumpkin and began to carve it out. They didn’t realize that we were making a face in the pumpkin. When we finally finished the face and put the candle in, they absolutely loved it. It was just a simple smiling pumpkin but they were getting the biggest kick out of it. We sat laughing for a good fifteen or twenty minutes while they all took pictures holding the jack-o-lantern. I was also very happy when the family wanted to take pictures of all of us (including myself) with the pumpkin. It was definitely the best time I’ve had over there yet. I wasn’t over there as a teacher/broker/student/etc, I was over there as a friend having a great time with other friends. That was the experience and feeling I’ve been waiting for this entire course.