I would like to apologize for how drastically late this blog post is. The good news is that I have quite a bit to talk about!
This is a blog in dedication to my ANTH:301 class, otherwise known as refugee resettlement. This is part of my civic engagement requirement, and our outside assignment from class is to visit our assigned refugee family once a week.
To make things easier, I’m going to assign names for our family that aren’t real… Since they are Bhutanese I just picked a different Bhutanese surname instead. We’ve asked to keep our family’s name withheld, so here are some replacements!
Ms. Lohani: Mother
Mr. Lohani: Father
Oldest Son: Tashi (in his early 20s)
Oldest Daughter: Mindy (early 20s, with a baby girl!)
Youngest Son: Mahi, his nickname is Naruto (I think he said he was in the 4th grade)
Youngest Daughter: Meala (high-schooler)
I’ll probably be introducing some people later on as i’ll be meeting people through my time spent there.
We had already started later than everyone else on our family visits, so both Dimitri (my refugee partner) and I had a little downtime to get to know each other, and think of what to do for our first visit. We didn’t get to meet our family until week 5 of the class, so we only don’t have as many visits clocked in as everyone else. The reason for this was because we were originally assigned with a family from Iraq. For reasons unkown they decided not to move forward with the program, so we were assigned with the Lohanis instead.
Visit #1: February 19th, 2011
Me and Dimitri were pretty nervous when we had first met up. We took a pre-stop at Dominicks to get a small present. We picked a few different kinds of apples, some oranges, and a really cool bottle of strawberry Italian soda. As we rang the bell, we were welcomed by Tashi and he led us inside. Tied with his brother, Tashi has the best English in the household. He was able to speak pretty well and we only had a few problems understanding each other. He was happy to see our gift, so we were able to break the ice on that one, haha. We were then welcomed by Ms. Lohani, Mr. Lohani, Mahi, and Meala. We didn’t meet Mindy until our second visit.
The reason Dimitri and I were both nervous of our first visit was because we weren’t sure if we would be able to effectively communicate with the family. I was also worried about making interesting conversation and making them feel comfortable with us. It didn’t take too long for us to be friendly with each other. The entire family was very open and accepting of us!
Tashi explains that they have been living in Rogers Park for 3 years already, but had recently discovered the program and wanted an American friend. They’re a bit more adjusted to the American culture and lifestyle than most of the other families in our class, so it was a bit easier to understand each other. Before coming to Rogers Park, The Lohani family lived in a Bhutanese refugee camp for 18 years. They still have family there, including a cousin that they are trying to get into the states.
A lot of the time that we had spent on the first day was just to get to know each other. Mahi and I instantly found common ground through comic books! He’s really into Japanese animation and comics, which is a big passion of mine. We started watching a few anime videos on Youtube and talked about different characters as well as Pokemon, WWE, and other things that totally took me down memory lane.
Towards the end of the visit, Ms. Lohani served everyone the fruit that we brought over, as well a noodle dish. Tashi had to leave at this point because he had work in Skokie. All in all, it felt like a good first visit!
Visit #2: Februrary 26th
I brought the first three books of the comic series ‘Naruto’ for Mahi. I thought it would be a good idea to bring him books in English for him to read. He seemed really interested in the comics we talked about before, so I was excited to see him so happy when he saw what I brought. He was very polite and thankful too!
Ms. Lohani made some AMAZING dumplings for us, called momos! They definitely reminded me a lot of gyoza, which are Japanese dumplings. The Bhutanese version comes with a spicy sauce instead of soy sauce. I usually don’t like spicy food but I sucked it up and ate it anyway, which turned out to be for the best because they were delicious!
We were going to watch Kung Fu Panda today with Mahi but Dimitri forgot the DVD, so we instead discussed some future plans for the coming weeks ahead. I can’t WAIT for it to get warmer so I can take the family to the beach. Considering how cold it is outside, we’ve just been hanging out at home with them. I want to plan some sort of picnic when the weather gets better.
We did some tutoring for Ms. Lohani today, and taught her some basic vocabulary. She seemed a little frustrated during teaching, but I can completely understand how she feels, so I did my best to explain different vocabulary concepts (and using Mahi as a translator from time to time!). It’s crazy when you realize how hard it is to explain your own language.. People want to know why certain verbs conjugate in certain ways, but how can you explain something you’ve known all your life? Regardless though, I think she understood a good chunk of the stuff we had talked about that day.
Until next time~!
Visit #3: March 19th
Spring break was upon us, so we skipped a week and met up with our family the week after. I brought a new comic for Mahi, called One Piece, and we exchanged the books he had already read. Naruto is a comic based on ninjas, so I thought it would be great if I bring him some pirate comic books like One Piece. Ninjas vs. Pirates GO!! Hahaha. Mahi had heard of One Piece before but never watched the show or read any of the comics, so I hope he enjoys them!
We had the pleasure of meeting Mindy and her daughter for the first time! The little one is so adorable, but every time I try to get her attention and wave to her she INSTANTLY starts crying. I thought it was hilarious and started giggling. So shy, but oh so cute! They joined us for a little while in watching Kung Fu Panda together! I don’t know what it is with me and asian-themed movies but I especially love Kung Fu Panda. Such amazing animation!
Tutoring was a little difficult with Ms. Lohani. She provided us with some packets that she has to complete for the English classes that she attends during the week, but at her rate of communication it seems that the packets were at a higher level than she’s currently at. I used the packets as a guide and tried to teach her as much of it as I could, but it’s hard to explain the more complicated grammar concepts to her when she’s still trying to acquire enough vocabulary. It’s starting to make me think if I should get some sort of supplemental help through other books. I’m not sure where to purchase ESL books but I’ll have to do some research on Amazon tonight and see what I can find. We DID accomplish a bit though! Taught her some of the different genres of music that Americans have and supplemented it using my iPod!
This got us into a discussion about what kind of music they used to listen to in Nepal. Their mainstream music has more traditional instruments tied to it, but it remind me of mainstream Greek music as well. Mahi showed me a few of his mom’s favorite songs online, and it was nice to hear about what Ms. Lohani enjoys!
We also talked a bit about their past life in Nepal. Mahi explained that the family home was partly converted into a restaurant! They would cook hot meals for the people who would come to their restaurant area in their home. I asked Mahi what games they played when they were younger, and he explained to me of a circular wooden board game that originated from India but is really popular in Nepal. I wish I remembered the name of the game, and it made me wonder how much they could cost. It would be nice if I could google-fu my way into finding a gently used one online somewhere. I’ll have to dig around and see what I can find online. Mahi tried to teach us the game with such enthusiasm, it would be nice to try and find it so he could teach Dimitri and I!
All in all, it was a productive and informative visit. I feel like the family is getting more and more comfortable every time we come by!
Visit #5: Saturday, April 9th
Why no Visit 4, you ask? I had a very serious family emergency to tend to on our fourth visit, so I had to call and let Dimitri know that I wasn’t going to make it. My apologies, but everything is okay for the most part.
Ms. Lohani spoke to us a few days before because she wanted us to come hungry for a huge Bhutanese meal! We definitely came hungry, but we were surprised when we only saw Meala home! It turned out that momma was running late with all of the preparation for the food, so we just hung out until they came back. She prepared such a wonderful meal for us! I felt bad that I wasn’t able to finish everything though.. I swear I eat like a bird. It made me feel really bad but I hope she didn’t think that I didn’t like the food..
Brought Naruto numbers 4, 5 and 6 for Mahi since he requested them from me. He’s really getting into these comics, but those are the last of the Naruto books I have. I wonder what I can bring next time.. I wonder if he likes any Marvel or DC comics? It would be cool to introduce him to more Americanized comics since those are what I grew up on when I was younger. Nothing beats the classics of Batman and Superman, I’ll say!
It’s getting close to the end of the semester.. We only have maybe one or two more visits left.