This was without a doubt the best visit ever. The food was incredible. I forgot what was the name of the dish but it was a dish with rice, potatoes, onions, some sort of sweet spice, shredded beef, and half a chicken on top. IT was insane how great the food was and how simple it was to make. I then brought some deserts for them to try and it was a croissant filled with nutella and marshmallows with powdered sugar on top. At first they looked at it and took a small bite but once that bite was taken they devoured my whole plate, and asked if we could bring some more next time. Again the mother face when we ate our plate clean, we just awesome. She was so happy and we just laughed at every single thing.
The conversations then lead to their family back in Iraq and how they came to be here in the US. They first left Iraq because it was unsafe and had horrible doctor care for the youngest son, and moved to Cairo. They showed us pictures and it blew my mind away and how modern the city was, and how beautiful the landscapes were. They showed us pictures of them in a mall that was 5 miles long and had a parking structure of 2 miles. I could not believe it when they told me that. They showed us pictures of their family and how most of them have left for England, and how some have actually lived there for 25 years. WE then started to go through the pictures of the kids and how they would put insane poses in their pictures. The amount of jokes we made was crazy and I personally laughed until my abs hurt.
Lastly was that we talked about politics. I learned a lot from this conversation that I would not have learned elsewhere. In the media we are somewhat told in the simplest terms that the Sunni and the Shiite are against one another, but we were told by them that it did not matter because most are Muslim. WE also learned that they hated Bin Laden and Hussein just as much as Americans do, and also that they believe that those men and other politicians under that rule are not real Muslims. They told us that they give Muslims such a bad name and that a real Muslim would never do those things to its people. They told us how Iraq use to be a modern place and a peaceful area, but now with its corrupt it has backtracked 2 thousands years. They had such a sad look on their faces when talking about this, and I asked them would they ever consider going back to live there. I was surprise when they told me that they would never return there, and I asked why. They said that they love how in America one has options to become anyone, how things are organized here., and how it is much safer here compared to Iraq. I then asked if Iraq ever becomes a peaceful place would they ever consider going back, but the still said no, and that America was their new home.
It was a short day and an emergency call because the mother was worried because the youngest son had a test the following day. We helped him with his study guide and made sure that he knew everything he needed to know. We then learned that the father was going to be okay and was taking physical therapy three times a week. The best thing was that the mother instead of offering candy, nuts, and coffee like she always does, made us kebab instead. It was very good and I ate every piece of it. It was the fist time they cooked a meal for us and told us that on Tuesday there was going to be a feast for us. They told us that it would be something that we have never had before and that it was going to be delicious.
The thing that made the biggest impression to me was the way the mother looked at us while we were eating her food. She was so thrilled that we ate everything, and how we complimented her cooking. It is always the simplest gestures that make the difference in ones day.
We walked in and same as always we helped the kids with their homework and found out that they are doing quite well in school. They are pulling off all A’s and B’s and are very proud of their work. The biggest concern was that now the father cannot even walk and is on the floor resting. He saw us and gave us a big smile and actually tried to speak with us in English. His vocabulary is increasing dramatically and we can understand most of what he is saying.
The same thing happened as before that once the homework was done, the discussions opened up to what they most feared at the moment, and that was the father. The issue is that the best speaking people in the family is the oldest son and the mother, but the son cant work because he is at school and the mother does not want to work for a number of reasons. One is that she does not feel comfortable working and leaving the family by themselves, two is that the father takes medications that put him to sleep and so he is always tired and needs to be taken care by the wife, and lastly she is afraid that she would be taken advantage of because of her lack of English. She is a very intelligent woman with a college degree, but again it’s the language barrier that is stopping her. We again talked about finding a translator for them and told them that we did indeed find one, and the look of relief on their face was amazing. The mother looked as if 100 pounds was removed from her shoulders.
Its amazing how grateful one is when someone helps them in the simplest way. I have never been with people that have said thank you as much as they have and have wanted to know my opinion for every little thing. They ask questions for everything and ask if something is worth buying or where one can get the cheapest item. I love it how sometimes they know more about things that are on sale or in the market than I do. I swear sometimes I learn more from them then they will ever learn from me.
We walked in and they just greeted us with smiles and handshakes. We then sat down and helped Jake and tom with their homework, but something was very different this time around because the parents sat down with us and did their own homework with us. They would constantly ask us questions on how to spell words and how to know the difference between sale and sell. However the thing that was the most important thing of the day was that they finally opened up to us.
At the beginning, Capri and I thought that their life was pretty much peachy with everything falling into place. However what we learned changed our opinion greatly. WE learned that tom has a very serious heart condition that may affect whether he lives or dies, and the reason why they came to the US was to have better doctors for him. WE also learned that the father has serious back problems to the point where moving is very difficult for him and needs to take prescriptions and have physical therapy. The biggest issue was that they could not find a translator for the doctor appointments for both the son and the father because the hospital did not have anyone who can speak Arabic. I was just blown away with all the issues they have but never once mentioned them to us or let them affect their happiness and schoolwork in front of us. Capri and I agreed that we would do our best in finding a translator for them so that they can know everything there is to know about the conditions of both the father and the son.
My partner and I have been visiting our family some more. Its not as awkward anymore and the family seem to have warmed up to us alot more. We’ve helped out with a few things like reading confusing bill statements and applications forms. They jokingly say that we’re their case workers now because we help them out so much. The family all have jobs now and are busy with work and don’t seem to have as much time to work on ESL studies so they seem to really appreciate us practicing English with them. We are emphasizing the different tenses right now as that seems to be a weakness.
Next week we will try to watch a movie together so that should be interesting I’m looking forward to that.
Liz and I just got back from visiting our family again, we have started to see the children’s personalities and to share jokes with the parents. We both really enjoy going to visit them!
The last time we visited they wanted to know how to get a state ID, so, Liz called up the ECAC in order to figure out how to do that. After much communication with the father, he found their I-94′s, their employment IDs, and their social security cards. Unfortunately getting mail pieces confirming their address was a little more difficult, but we’ll work on that next time we visit.
The father then handed us a police report of a car accident, we had a little trouble understanding what the father meant, but apparently the youngest boy had recently been hit by a car. The hospital papers that went along with this said that he had suffered a concussion and blunt trauma to his chest. We had no idea that his had happened to them! I felt terrible for the little boy who was probably just trying to cross the street when the car hit him! We learned that they now have to go to a court hearing, but we do not know what time, only the day. Liz called the ECAC and hopefully, they can help them. They seemed to have a good outlook on this, and we’ll do our best to help them through with the court, but I am worried that they will not be understood when they go.
The little boy is doing fine now, though he just recently got burned by a cigarette near his eye by a family friend. The little boy isn’t having much luck this year but he’s always happy and cheerful whenever we visit.
One day during a typical visit, which includes the youngest son complaining that he wants to play with my iphone because he has no homework, the youngest daughter pulling on my arm to grasp my attention, the mother looking exhausted, the two oldest girls running away and chai which they confuse with “coffee,” one of the “brothers” tells me about his job. He is sixteen years old, and is actually a cousin to the family. He informs me that he works at Jamba Juice at Ohare. My immediate thought is ” O My god that is so far away!” Appropriately enough, he talks about the commute, but there is barely any sign of complaint in his tone. I think that there is probably a hiring network for immigrants and refugees for the airport. I wondered if I could help him get a position at a closer Jamba Juice. I then started thinking about all of those rude and obnoxious people that would come into the Lincoln Park or Michigan Ave locations. It would save him probably an hour and a half of commute time, which he could use towards something more valuable. The same day, my roommate came to give me a ride back home. She called when she was outside the home. I answered the phone, and part of hte conversation included ” When are you coming to pick me up?” After I got off the phone the sixteen year old looked at me and said “Pick me Up,” I responded with “O yes, my roommate is coming to pick me up to bring me home.” He replied with “at my work there is podmfdoe pick me up,” and I had no idea what he was talking about. I was totally confused. He said the same phrase again, but this time with a little more pronunciation and made out the words “pomegranate pick me up.” Immediately, I knew exactly what he was talking about. At Jamba Juice there is a smoothie flavor called, “Pomegrante Pick Me Up.” I am sure he has no clue what all of those confusing word combination meant except, one part raspberry sherbet, one part strawberries, and one part orange juice, blend for 3o seconds. After I realized that he was making the connection between his work lingo, which follows no logical english explanation to someone learning english, and my casual conversation, I began to explain to him the denotation of picking someone up. Since our first encounter, I have never seen him again. The weirdest part of it all, is that the ONLY thing I EVER order from Jamba Juice, since its opening is the Pomegranate Pick Me Up flavor. Very strange.
One day, I was flying through O’hare and decided to stop at the Jamba Juice. He was not there, but five other very Nepali-esk faces were there to greet me. It makes sense that the airport hires so many immigrants. It is a very international place to begin with, and fluent English is not a requirement. Of course, the workers are required to be knowledge about the material they are working with, like the names associated with each flavor
The most memorable image is me sitting in the chair with three Nepali adults surrounding me, while I hold an ESL worksheet. We all went over each exercise, word for word. I would say the word and then each adult would repeat. One of the adults wrote down the phonetic comparison in the Nepali language. It was so difficult to try to explain the English grammar. I also wrote down about twenty five words that I could identify around the household. The grandparents sat on the couch on the other side of the room, watching us. I would smile occasionally, to try and reduce the awkwardness.
After working with the adults, I switched my attention the children. The youngest son never has homework. I told him I was going to call his teacher. He told me how a kid at school called “gay”, because his older sisters painted his fingernails. I was appalled. Here is this child adapting to a new culture, and some mean kid calls him a name to be cruel. I learned that he is in the first grade. I cant remember if I even had homework when I was eight. On the positive side, he has the best english in the family. He is amazing on computers. The moment he saw my iphone, his eyes glistened.
The youngest sister craves attention. She wants the attention of both my partner and I, and when our attention drifts she says “excuse me, excuse me miss, i have a question!.” Every single time we are not giving our undivided attention she quickly pulls us back. She loves reading love stories about princesses.
The two oldest sisters, hardly ever talk to me. I may get the occasional, “hi”, and then they both run off.
Another family activity involves going over Spanish words. They figured out I know some spanish, so to make things more enjoyable for both sides I like to pop in a few spanish words. Or sometimes we will all say, in unison one through twenty in spanish. They always laugh when we do this, I think Spanish is funny for them. One day I was asking them about the neighborhood and school. I asked if the kids at school were nice and if they feel safe at school and in the neighborhood. One of the children said that spanish people are not nice and bad, because they are bad in school. Startled by such stereotypical judgments, I looked at them all and said ” I am Spanish, am I a bad person? ” It was a very “aha” moment. I am pretty sure they made the connection between what I was saying. Right then and there stereotypes broken.
I come to see the family for the second visit. I still don’t know anyone’s names, except the youngest son. I try not to show favoritism but i cant help it. Routinely, I was greeted with chai. We went over the youngest daughter’s homework. She is a third grader in the CPS system. The youngest son never has homework. I went over names again. After assisting the daughter, I focused some attention to the mother. I learned she was taking classes at a local university. We worked on ESL worksheets, which included household tasks and everyday conversation. I asked her about her job. I learned she worked with elderly people. I asked her how she talks to the coworkers and she informed me that the other women at her job speak Hindi. I think this both hinders and helps her assimilation into the American society. The fact that the women speak Hindi, allowed her to get the job, but it also prevents her from learning English because she is not forced to learn English outside of the home. The children asked about going to lake and playing. We told them next week we could go.
I have been doing my journal with pen and paper. I will now begin to document my experiences over the past two months. I have been working with a family from Nepal. They have been in the U.S. for two years. From what I have gathered, the immediate family includes: a mother, three older daughters, and a youngest son. When the mother was explaining the family dynamics, the expression to her husband was the swipe of the hand under the neck. I asked no questions. I believe the father’s, mother and father live with the mother. The grandparents only communication with me is “Namaste”, coupled with hands clasped together and a nod down. It is very difficult to figure out who is in the immediate extended family. Everyone is called an uncle or a brother or an aunt. At first, I was rushed up stairs to help out with homework. I was then brought a huge plate of rice pudding. I mean, it was three pounds of food. I ate it all, and I felt like there was a rock in my stomach. I was then brought a plate of heaping rice and curry. I started eating the food, and stopped for a moment to try and breath, and the mother asked “you don’t like it?” I quickly ate the rest. Mostly, the first day we spent going over names and eating. The final communal act, we all shared a cup of hot chai, which was delicious. We set up a schedule of meeting every Sunday at 3pm to hold our gatherings.