Teressa and I decided to visit on a Monday because it was Halloween. Our family had never been Trick-or-Treating before, so we thought it would be a good idea to show them how fun Halloween night can be.
I brought a pair of cat ears, a superman cape, a flapper dress, and some homemade masks. The children danced in excitement as they pulled the costumes out of the bag I brought. It was funny to see the combinations they created: the youngest boy put on a monster mask and the superman cape and called himself “Super Monster.” The youngest girl put on one of her own dresses and the cat ears and called herself “Cat Princess.” The middle girl sheepishly put on the flapper dress over her clothes, seeming unsure about the trick-or-treat experience. We told the children to say “Trick or Treat” or “Happy Halloween” as they approached the doors, and always to ring the bell only once and leave if no one answers.
Samir, the youngest boy, could hardly contain his excitement as he ran from house to house. One house was handing out bags of chips, which excited Samir. When he got the first bag of chips, he shouted “More! More!” and the man gave him another bag. Teressa and I laughed as we explained that he is not allowed to ask for more and should always say “Thank you” and leave.
While we were walking along, the middle girl seemed very unsure. I asked if everything was ok, but she struggled to explain it in English. “I don’t want to go over there” she said, pointing down the street. When we tried to ask why, she didn’t seem to know how to explain. I wondered why she didn’t want to go down that side of the street, as the houses seemed safe and friendly with Halloween decorations.
Though it was a tiring experience, we all enjoyed it very much.
My partner and I were greeted with the warm aroma of rice noodles and sauces when we reached the apartment on Halloween. A feast was prepared for us to all enjoy! We had to carefully disperse the spicy pepper sauce because as we discovered, failing to mix it well was a bad idea.
After sharing the delicious dinner we set out for round two of trick-or-treating. I silently reprimanded myself for not preparing better in advance for this outing. I had assumed that we would venture through their apartment building but as that had already been tackled before our arrival (which we didn’t realize until we got there) we were left with very few options. We “trick-or-treated” a sparsely populated apartment building directly across the street where the family used to live, but it was spooky to say the least. Not many families were home and the ones who were didn’t seem prepared for the American holiday. I am glad that they had the experience at Loyola because my partner and I were grasping at straws trying to think on our feet of any last minute options. I couldn’t help but notice how different the evening might have played out had we been in one of the suburbs. I’ve only lived in Chicago for a few years and since I am single I never view the city through the lens of family-friendly activities. It was definitely a wake up call. Fortunately it seemed as though they enjoyed the evening anyways and once again they were more than eager to share their candy once we got back home.
When my partner and I arrived at the apartment a very anxious little girl and one bouncing “superman” were waiting for us at the gate. They were practically beaming as we made our way over to the Loyola Refugee Outreach Halloween party. We wasted no time at all and started on arts and crafts, which was soon followed by picking out costumes. Once a poodle skirt was uncovered it was determined that we were armed and ready for trick or treating!
There was a bit of a mix-up with the schedule so we all played games for a bit and my partner and I smiled as a giggling 50’s girl decked out in a sparkling hoodie and pink poodle skirt constantly grabbed our hands and shuffled us along to play jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern, GHOST, a Halloween rendition of freeze tag, and naturally to collect falling leaves.
As we took them trick-or-treating through Dumbach I couldn’t help but remember and compare the experience to my childhood. I vividly remember my sister and I spending hours trading and bartering for candy pieces that we wanted from each other. We guarded that chocolate with our lives. Which made me all the more touched as the kids instantly offered to share their Halloween candy with us on the walk home.
Visits three and four consisted of both homework lessons for the kids as well as a little language lesson for me! I thought that it would be nice to try and learn a few phrases in their native language. I have been in situations where English was not widely spoken and it really meant a lot to me in those moments when people made an effort to try and meet me halfway. Thus the lessons began. We started first with numbers. Slowly but surely I learned 1-5 and then 6-10. Soon I made the connection between the words and the pattern and I could go up to 99! After numbers we moved on to basic words and phrases. It was perhaps more exciting to observe their reactions than it was to actually learn the language (which is saying a lot because I like languages). All of the family members started contributing to the process and even the father who I have yet to interact with was smiling and watching the scene.
I am making a conscious effort to review the notes I took in my spare time and I am going to try to start memorizing some simple phrases. I know that I can’t bring any tangible comforts from their old home, but if this can provide a sense of happiness I am honored to do my best.
Since this my first blog of the semester I should give a quick summation of Marissa (my partner) and mine’s family that we are helping out.
They are a Nepali family who have been in the US for about 6 months. The mother is a sweet woman who works hard to keep her children happy. She recently started a job and works long hours on top taking care of 4 children and dealing with the every day things that go along with having younger children.
There are 2 boys, ages 16 and 14 both of whom are in school, taking esl and seem to have a lot of friends in the neighborhood. The 16 year old does most of the translatiing for his mother and although quiet has the best grasp of english. His brother speaks less, but is getting better at his ESL homework as time goes on, and gradually becoming more talkative.
The girls are 12 and 4, the older girl does not say much but she loves to color and consistantly beats Marissa and I at Mancala. It’s fun to to play with her and it gets her a bit out of her shell, as she appears to count and speak more english when we play games with her.
The youngest is a just a riot. She’s out going, active, and mimics a lot of what Marissa and I say. We’ve tried a few things with her like reading to her and flash cards, but she has a short attention span and has quickly learned to pull one book away and hand me another one when she gets bored.
On a whole they seem to have a lot of support both in the local community and from outreach groups. They are partnered with another girl from an outside organisation who comes during the week and spends time with them when the mother is at work. Also they are members of a local Nepali chruch, we’ve met the pastor and his daughter. He actually helped us out a lot on the frist day, introducing us to the family and giving us some background. Very nice man and he seems to genuinely care about the families in his church.
It has been an interesting experience getting to know to Man Rasile family. The mother is always cook Nepali food for us and the kids always have something interesting to say or ask. Especially the little girl who never ceases to make everyone in the room smile.