The last visit was probably our most relaxed yet. We ate dinner as we usually do and then I played mancala with the oldest girl for probably about an hour. It was really fun and she won every time. The great things about the game was that she came out of her shell a little bit. Her English isn’t very good, but every time we were counting our pieces at the end of the game she would count in English.
Overall, it was just more relaxed. The mom did her own thing and left us to play with the kids, sometimes I think she feels like she has to entertain us and it can be stressful for her when we are there. There were people in and out and doors slamming and kids everywhere, it was just normal and that was great to see.
The mom has a job now and you can tell she is more tired, she works until midnight six days a week. Its just so impressive to see how strong she is. She is a single parent of four and is gone for most of the day. However, she has a strong family and friend base around her and I know that helps. Their whole community really gives merit to the saying “it takes a village”. I am going to bring a new game next week so we will see how that goes. I am sure they will pick it up immediately and I will lose every time. Can’t wait!
The holiday feast is still going on and we got A LOT more food today. Whole roasted chicken and beef over rice and vegetables. Fruit, coffee, and cookies covered the coffee table in which we ate in the living room, with our hands. The mother kept shoveling food on our plates- I felt like she was my own mother..I kind of miss that!! It was a privilege to enjoy their holiday with them. The main dish the mother made is called Barrini (sp?). It is a very traditional Arabic dish. As we ate, we finally got to talk to our family about stuff other than homework! The family was much more relaxed, and everyone was enjoying each others’ company. The boys showed us pictures of Cairo, where they lived for 5 years before they came to Chicago. They originally moved from Iraq, but had to again move out of Egypt to get away for the same conflict. The father was really into the conversation this time. He spoke of the danger in Iraq and the whole living situation there. He says it is not safe; everyone has a gun and can shoot anyone at any time. They do not plan on going back, ever! All of his family is there still. I’m glad our sweet family got out of there safe, but it makes me sad to think of the many others as deserving as them, still stuck there. One of the boys has a hole in is heart, and that I think is what gave them the opportunity to come here.
I feel so lucky for being born in this country. But guilt comes with that feeling of luck.
One of the boys is not doing so well in geometry so on Sunday we went over for a couple hours to help him get prepared for his exam on Monday. During our visit, the boys told us that they were celebrating an Iraqi holiday similar to Christmas, where they feast for 4 days. The mother brought us a plate full of fresh fruit, cookies, coffee, and nut mix. She then brought out salad and kebabs. They were not kebabs that we grill in the U.S., they were much more delicious! They had ground beef mixed with onion and spices, served with potatoes- sooo good!! I was surprised by the generosity of my family. I felt bad eating their food when I knew that their financial aid will run out in a few months, but knew it would be impolite to not accept it, and I tried to show I was ever so grateful.
I love going over to see my family because their smiles are contagious. I too easily get stressed out, and to be able to take some time out of the day to spend with this sweet family is wonderful. They think we are helping them out a lot but they don’t know what they do for me. They are so kind, optimistic, and loving. I can’t help but feel at peace when I am in their home, which stays with me long after I leave.
Another day of homework with the boys! We helped them with geography, piano, geometry, and english. They reported that they both did well on their last exams, yay! I mostly work with the younger boy, while my partner works with the older boy. I can tell that their english improves with every week we meet-in just that short amount of time!! When we first met, the younger boy hardly spoke any english. He would just talk in arabic to his brother, who would translate for him. But now he mostly talks in english, so working with him has become a lot easier.
We didn’t see the father today. He is having a lot of back pain from a herniated disk. He went to the doctor and now he will be starting physical therapy. I really hope it works because he is the only one who can work, and the family’s funds are going to be cut in a few months. I’m worried.