This Sunday went really well. Since we last hung out our family has gotten a lot more settled. There were new decorations, kitchen ware, and a portable DVD player. Using their new steaming gadget, Bishnu and Mira made mirrolos (I know I spelled that wrong) by mixing cabbage, onion, turmeric, and cumin, and wrapping the mixture into wonton papers. There was about 60 of them for the 6 of us. Mira also made this tomato stew with habanero peppers and thick slices of jalapeno. I get the feeling they enjoy our pathetic tolerance for spice, it gives us something to laugh about. So overall they seemed to be very comfortable in thier apartment and just in life in general. We watched this adorable home movie from their wedding -which was only a year ago! It gave us a sense of what their life was like back in Nepal, what the landscape was like, life in the refugee camp. It’s amazing how videos can do that.
Bishnu also showed us the orientation book he received prior to coming here that had a big photo of our flag on the cover. I tried to understand it through the photos because the words were in Hindi, and then I got to a page with a graph on it and I knew immediately what it was. And Bishnu was excited for me to see it too. He obviously knew what it was but asked me to explain it to him, to see if I knew too. I pointed at the top of the graph and said, here is when you arrive and you’re happy. Then pointed to another point and said, this is when you are sad. Then to a different line, things are getting better, and then the end of the line, then you’re like him, pointing at his friend standing next to us. His friend had arrived 2 years ago and said it took him about a year to feel comfortable. Just when I thought Bishnu and Mira were all settled and content, I realized they are still at that newcomer honeymoon stage. Everything is going well until one day… Is that how it happens? All just goes from bliss to dismay? Or is every case different and maybe these refugees have extremely good karma ? I was glad that Bishnu didn’t seem too bothered by the fact that, according to this book, things are probably going to get a lot worse.
Rather than discussing the weather- or complaining about it- I refuse to start off this blog, as I do all blogs, talking about the weather. Instead, I am silencing my weather complaints/comments until the inevitable becomes nicer- sunny and warm.
Terry and I visited our family the Friday before spring break began. As usual, Mr. Smith was the only adult home, but strangely he was the only one home- as George and Robert were at an employment program at the ECAC and school, respectively. I am glad to hear that George is taking advantage of the programs the ECAC is offering and am eager to find out about his job search the next time I speak with him. I was also excited to see the map that we were unsuccessfully able to put on the wall the last time we visited was hanging up. Mr. Smith explained that the concrete did not consist of the whole wall and he was able to place it just a foot to the right from where we attempted to hang it last time.
We began our visit, as we do most visits, with Mr. Smith offering to brew us a cup of Ethiopian coffee. After several weeks of now seeing Mr. Smith disappear into the kitchen to make this marvelous beverage my curiosity needed to be extinguished- how did my Ethiopian friend make such a good cup of joe? Immediately, after I questioned how the coffee was brewed, Mr. Smith eagerly illustrated the process, assuring both Terry and I the coffee we were about to consume was not of American origin, but of Ethiopian. I felt- as Terry has stressed- extremely fortunate to be offered something my family personally took with them from Ethiopia. I am still grappling with the idea of how I can partake in comfortably consuming this substance knowing I am sipping away the little the Smith’s have left of Ethiopia. Nonetheless, the excellent coffee only required a few steps and I vowed (in my caffeinated state) that I would attempt to make next visit’s coffee (when offered of course).
After settling down with coffee, we discussed Ethiopian politics. In the African history class I am currently taking we just finished discussing Haile Selassie’s autobiography and I was interested to hear what Mr. Smith had to say in regards to this influential Ethiopian figure. Mr. Smith stated that he was very young when Selassie reigned (1930-1974), but he explained how Selassie was eventually overthrown and discussed the later political situation with much emphasis on the vastly different ideas the ruling political class and the populace came to understand the realities of daily life for the average Ethiopian. Needless to say, the ruling political class became delusional of the harsh lifestyle many Ethiopians coped with each day (please refer to Terry’s blog from March 4th for a brief overview of Ethiopian politics post-Selassie).
Towards the end of our visit and after an interesting conversation about politics, the weather, Dr. Oz (as he was on in the background), and the concept of daylight savings time, George briefly stopped by and Robert returned home from school. Both were happy to see us and I was glad Terry and I were able to see both of them before we left. I am keeping my fingers crossed that next time we meet with our family dates can be set for outings in the city!
Since I had been out of town the previous Sunday, Erin and I were very excited to see our friends after almost two weeks apart. It seemed that S and K felt the same, even though we surprised them by showing up at what they thought was 11am instead of 12pm. Erin and I assumed that they wouldn’t remember daylight savings (and I can’t say I always do either!), but thought it was a good idea to show up at the same time anyway, to explain the whole American idea of time thing. K was very talkative, catching us up on their lives and asking questions (what kind of cough syrup should they buy? how expensive are cats? can we get internet on our phones?).
S told us that she was having back pains, and then showed us the three different medications she is on. One of them was codeine, so I explained that sometimes it is best to try and take over-the-counter medication instead, because even though codeine works, it makes you sleepy and is very addictive. K instantly nodded when I said the word “sleepy,” then asked if we could show him what to buy. After Erin helped S with her English homework, she put on “Mahabharata,” a television show based on Hindu scriptures, and K, Erin, and I drove to CVS. We walked through the medicine aisles, pointing out the generic medicines and explaining that they’re just as good and less expensive (adding that we buy the same ones seemed to make him feel better). K told us that he had a bad cough as a side effect of his TB medication, so Erin told him that he should always speak to the pharmacist before mixing OTC drugs with prescriptions. We ended up buying the G’s vitamins, a warming back pad for S, carmax for K (another side effect is dry lips), a weekly planner, and cough drops to help with K’s cough (the pharmacist said no on the cough syrup). K was especially excited about the planner, as he often has trouble remembering his appointments – apparently baby J had ripped up his old calendar.
We went back to the apartment and gave S her back pad, then watched “Mahabharata” and just hung out. K made us an incredible noodle dish that made Erin and I sweat, and an hour or so later we left.
My last 3 visits with the Sanchez family has been a refugee services reality check for me. The family recieved their last cash handout from the agency and April will be the last month that their rent will be taken care of-they need jobs ASAP. The language barrier is hindering them from so many job opportunities; but I can say that I’ve never met a more resilient, positive and appreciative set of people. Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez are putting it into full gear- Mr. S is working with his wife’s cousin on “on call” construction and carpentry projects. Mrs S. has applied to many places but the fact that she only knows a few frases is cutting down on her call backs.
We finally made it back to the library and got her a card! The first thing she said was” now I can go apply for jobs on the computer.”
I experienced my first incident of discipline at their house yesterday. Lately their son has been rowdier than usual and his sisters were playing a little rough and being loud and this set him off. I guess they disturbed his TV watching time, he got up any pushed the older sister and hit her and told her to stop. She went and told her mom and nothing came of it. Then Mrs. S came into the living room to eat and he got angry at her and got in her face, it seemed like for no apparent reason and she slapped his legs and yelled at him to leave the room.
It scared me a bit but he has been really unruly lately, I think it is because he’s frustrated at school and with his progression with learning English. I talk to them in English and they don’t really know what I’m saying, I guess I had the misconception that they would be picking up English much faster because of their classmates and their age, but in the type of school they are in, I don’t think their classmates know much English either. They watch TV in mostly English now which is a definite change. Hopefully they are picking up on what they are listening to.
I want to start practicing more with the kids-but it’s harder because their attention span lasts about as long as a squirrel.