Tuesday, April 7, 2015

# 176 What? No Wife?

Our house was brimming over with family this weekend and the youngest, David, who has worked with refugees in Denver, volunteered (okay, a little arm twisting) to write this blog. Enjoy!

"Mr. David, why don't you have a wife?  You a very strong, handsome man and you deserve a woman in your life".  Who is saying that you might ask?  Is it my mother or one of my mother's friends or perhaps a random person on the street who has taken pity on a poor soul like myself?  It's actually a combination of the three who have taken a liking to finding me a wife.  These people who are so worried about the fact that I am a single, 27 year old man, are the refugees in which I am their English Teacher twice a week.  On average there are around 15 students who attend my twice weekly classes--the majority of them are females.  They have vastly different backgrounds, ages, education, and time spent here in America but they all have one thing in common.  They have all arrived in America as people displaced from their homeland and now consider America home.

When one thinks of refugees, one sees the Lost Boys of Sudan, or maybe a starving African child in a desolate camp.  I have had the privilege and honor of working with these people on several different levels, from teaching English, to working with them on their resumes, to helping their children find scholarships and understand the importance of school.  It all means that I spend a lot of time miming what a proper handshake is in America while laughing at the little older woman from Burma repeat over and over again "Thank you, good morning," the English phrase that she had learned that morning.  Or my favorite, having them sing Happy Birthday to me in about 20 different languages.

I somewhat stumbled into this line of work as my experience in Peace Corps has afforded me both soft and hard skills that work hand in hand with refugees.  I often tell them that I have been where they are right now, not knowing the language, culture, the people and being overwhelmed.  Because the majority of people come from Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq and Algeria, they get a kick when I can throw out a couple Arabic phrases that I learned from my Peace Corps experience, which causes massive fits of laughter on their side.  With the folks from the Democratic Republic of Congo, I joke with them my love for FuFu, and "public transport" in Africa, which causes mass hysterics from all those involved.  It is the ultimate inside joke and luckily for me, I'm on the in with it.

Some people may feel pity or sorry for these families that have been uprooted and dropped on a different planet.  At first, I had a feeling of sorrow especially for the kids because as one girl told me she didn't have a home because she was born in Burma, raised in a refugee camp in Malysia yet spent her final years in Thailand before arriving in America.  No permanent place to call home, no identity because the country that her parents were from didn't want her.  Yet that pity I had at first was replaced by awe and pride.  She had arrived here in 2013 with no English and with limited education  yet she studied, learned English, succeeded and now has a scholarship to the University of Colorado, Boulder for medicine.

This all comes back to that question, my endless search for a wife and the humor that goes with it.  We feel like our world is in chaos with Putin on our doorsteps, ISIS, ebola and God knows what else.  Yet here I am, working with people from vastly different background, ethnicity, education, language and religion, and yet our laughing fits will take over a class.  So next time you see someone of a different color with a strange accent or perhaps with Muslim garb or maybe colorful clothing, stop and ask where they are from and their story.  One never knows what they might say in English, Arabic, Swahili or French.

Thank you for reading #176 of 7777.

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