This week Erin and I were shocked to discover that sometime between our last visit and the current one the mom in our family had her baby! We had no idea she was that close to being due! When she walked out of the bedroom with the little newborn in her arms we just stared in disbelief! The mother chuckled at our shock and we had to laugh at ourselves for being so surprised. “Baby!” we said happily and she replied “baby” holding up the baby in her arms and smiling at us.
We were glad we had taught her some baby related words last week and so we reviewed them for a bit this week. There was an older Burmese woman there helping her with the baby and she also sat down with us and repeated the alphabet and words with us. Erin and I had SO many questions about the baby but really know way to ask them so we did our best with what we had. We pointed out a “boy” and “girl” in the ESL books and learned those words and then pointed to the new baby asking if it was a “boy or girl”. “Girl” the mother replied happily. It was exciting to know we could communicate in little ways. It was a short visit because we did not want to overwork the mom or keep up the baby but I felt there was a lot of bonding over the child being born. Everyone in the room was excited and happy to have the baby in their lives regardless of what language they spoke everyone shared the joy.
I knew from the first time I met the mother in my family that she was pregnant. However, I thought that she was maybe 6-7 months along. I’m pretty sure that was incorrect.
This week when Evan and I went to visit, a lady that we dd not know answered the door. This was different because the previous two weeks one of the parents and their son would come outside and get us, but we were early so we walked in ourselves. Eventually the mother came out of another room, walked back in, then walked out again with a baby!
It took me a second to realize how skinny she was, and then another to connect that it was her baby. But I was so excited once I did. The baby and mother both look really health, if a bit tired. We didn’t stay for long, assuming the mother had to rest, but it was a good visit either way. We were able to figure out the sex of the baby, even.
After we left, all I could think about was how scary and frustrating it would probably be to have to go to the hospital all the time and not speak the language. I hope and assume there was some sort of translator with them, but I do not know. The birth was so sudden, it seems. Last week, when we visited I would have never guess that she would give birth within a week. I hope they didn’t have trouble, either with the language, or the terminology or anything really.
I’m excited to see the growth of the child over the next few weeks. I’d like to bring over some clothes and maybe toys. It’s great to see something so exciting happen for this family.
For the past several weeks I have been unable to find the Iraqi family I had been visiting since their arrival in January. We met weekly and sometimes more often during the first three months of their arrival but a series of illnesses and overwhelming work load caused me to reduce the visits to about once a month and sometime less often. Despite our diminishing contact, there was always mutual joy and friendship that was shared when we managed to get together. Then I was suddenly unable to find them – no answer when calling, no response when I rang the apartment buzzer, finally an automated message from the phone company that the number had changed, but still no answer for week after week. My mind raced with the range of possible explanations for their disappearance.
My only solid contact for them was through their resettlement sponsor, and I let them know I was eager to find this family again but the sponsor was still unaware of their change of address. In the typical fashion of weird and sometimes wonderful unfolding of events, I received word that just hours after I had visited the sponsor and inquired again about the whereabouts of this family, the husband had come in and left his forwarding address and phone. I tried calling again but still no answer. At the very least, I was concerned about their welfare and sought to reestablish contact.
After calling everyday last week, I finally got an answer much to the delight of both parties. We set up a convenient time to visit and I was able to find their new apartment and learn about the circumstances of their move and the other changes in their lives. As usual, there was a long evening of mutual kindness and conversation in broken English, repeated presentations of American and Middle Eastern food for me as guest and for the two pre-school boys, discussion of ESL classes and help with homework, inquiring about the health of each other’s family members, getting updated on their move and the husband’s employment experiences.
Things continue to change for them since their arrival as they continue moving toward adjustment — family losses, medical concerns, changes in neighborhood and lifestyle, and a new child on the way! I was truly relieved to see how they continue to show resilience in the face of the enormous challenges of resettlement.
When we stopped by to visit our family, the son of the family looked pretty miserable as he informed us that he’s had a head cold this week. As the time went on and as we engaged in more and more conversation, he seemed less and less gloomy from when we initially arrived. He hasn’t been able to find a job yet, so I’m sure just sitting around the house with little to doesn’t help. I know how therapeutic it is for me to have friends distract me from feeling sick and engage back into life, and I was glad that we were able to do that for him.
I’ve realized it is best to visit my family hungry, as every time we visit, they are so eager to feed us. If Vince and I turn down the offering, the mother of the grandmother of the family will make a comment in Nepali, and the younger adults will translate to us – the question always being “mother/grandmother wants to know why you won’t take food?” And if you respond with, “I already ate,” the more questions are then asked regarding what it was you ate and when, and when you will be willing to eat. I realize how much it means to them; while we offer to help, they offer us food as they are not in the same position of privilege to return the same types of favors. Their cooking is DELICIOUS, so I am happy to eat.
This week, I was thinking a lot about the importance of language and education. As usual, Kelsey and I have been helping the kids with their homework, and it is always difficult to explain concepts in a language that the kids aren’t fluent in. It is already a task in translation to explain material to kids, trying to use metaphors and concrete examples that they might understand, but the need for translation is doubled with the language barrier. Another difficulty is that teaching should be a sort of dialogue so that one person explains and the other asks questions or attempts to demonstrate an understanding so that there can be a process of clarification. However, the kids either say “yes” to an explanation, or they look perplexed, so that I can only try to find new words for the same explanation. Very often, the younger girl , who understands more English than her brother, will speak to him in Burmese to translate an explanation and he seems to understand, but I always wonder how the explanation has translated and if it changed with the different connotations that words in Burmese may have. I also think about how much personality and identity is conveyed by language. Writing my midterm reflection, I realized that I know so much more about the younger girl because she speaks the most English. I’m always so curious when she talks to her brother in Burmese because I wish I could understand his experience better.