Ok, so I was pretty excited to see my family again after spring break. I had been promising them we would watch Kung Fu Panda, and I finally brought it so yeah for me. Being our third visit, I think Gina and I are pretty comfortable hanging out with them, especially with their younger son. Usually people are coming and going at their house, but this time it seemed different. We did see one of their relative’s young daughter. She is pretty adorable because she’s extremely shy around strangers and cries if you so much as look at her. Mom was able to put her to sleep. I think the fact that we were watching Kung Fu Panda kind of relaxed her, too. As well, mom made us some of her delicious noodle and egg dish (kind of ironic we were eating noodles while watching Po eat and serve noodles on screen). Mom even promised us she would cook a traditional Bhutanese dish next time!
Gina brought some more comics, “One Piece”, for their son to read because he read all three of the other books she gave him. He was telling us that he’s beginning some type of ESL program at school after taking his ISATs. It seems like he really wants to learn English. Comics seem to be a great way for him to do just that.
For mom, we’re considering getting her something to make studying easier. Her English homework is relatively difficult for her level; Gina and I were trying to explain to her the differences in genres of movies, books, and music. We had to have their younger son intercede at times to translate for us, which really helped. In fact, we were able to find out that mom’s favorite type of music is the older, traditional variety of “mainstream/pop” music, called “lok geet” in Bhutan. Afterwards, their son explained to us how they used to own a restaurant back in Bhutan. In fact, they worked directly from their home. People could buy groceries as well as have a hot meal in the “restaurant” section of their home. (He drew us a blueprint of their home. He told us he used to sleep with different members of his family every night because he was the youngest.) Another aspect of life their son misses is one of the popular board games they play back home. Unfortunately, I forget what it was called. Gina and I are considering perhaps helping him find a way to buy one. We’ll see. I’m super excited to keep visiting them the more I learn about their culture and the microculture of their family.
This week definitely held the most active experience we’ve had thus far with our family. My partner and I arrived with copies of her photos from the zoo and the family went rabid for them. They LOVE taking and looking at pictures; arms were darting every which way to claim them. Since the sun has finally decided to thaw us Chicagoans we went to the park down the street and played soccer. Apparently neither Laura nor I have the foot-eye coordination to present any real threat to who turned out to be pretty skilled little kids. It turned out to be a really beneficial experience because we previously hadn’t interacted in such a rugged way before that, mostly sitting composed in their home, helping with homework. The kids have called me teacher a couple times and when I tried to explain to them that I’m “friend” more than “teacher” the message was lost in translation. That’s why I enjoyed this week so much; I could see through having so much fun without the American-refugee dynamic that we do share a friendship, no title necessary. It also made me realize the beauty of sports. I’m not an athlete, but I think that sharing a game of soccer is a movement that’s generated by a universal sense of drive and enjoyment.
Our recent visits have felt as if they flew by. I think the reason for that is because we have been talking a lot about life in america, the differences you have to adjust to, the school system (since they have two younger children), and of course english. although the mom is educated and she took an english class in syria, she admitted to us that her and all the others in her class cheated to pass that class. the stories on how the accomplished that were hysterical and actually quite clever. The mother does know basic phrases and she is quick to catch on to ideas in general. The father’s english is very limited. Have noticed that the kids’ english is slowly starting to expand as they absorb the things they see and hear on the tv. We were in mid-conversation when police sirens went on outside and both kids just started yelling “Police Police!”. That was very funny and caught us off guard. Our first lesson on english was simply them asking us what something was in arabic and we would tell them it in english and they would repeat it until they memorized it. we intend on actually making these lessons a bit more formal by using workbooks and other materials. I also advised them to start writing down any questions that might come up between visits. As far as the kids go, they are like sponges. They can pick up anything very quickly. We bought them coloring books earlier in the semester so we spent some time telling them what the pictures they colored were called in english. This is a young and clever family, so i am confident that they will eventually become very comfortable with the english language.