Thursday, June 28, 2012
As I sit here in this room, the window open, a cool Denver breeze blowing through the window, my mind is racing with thoughts, and a variety of emotions. Joy, sorrow, hope, want. This is blog post is my therapy.
When I told people I was going to Denver for the summer to work with refugees, their reaction was, "Really? Denver? That seems like a strange place for refugees to be." Yet, I've found that refugees often seem to end up in the most random places. The truth is that I often forget that there are white people that actually live in Denver. The neighborhood I live in boasts a sign which says, "Welcome to Aurora, The All American City". Every time I see it I want to laugh because at least 80% of the population of this town must be here on a green card. There are people from all over the world in this neighborhood. It is common to drive down a single street and see business from Korea, Iraq, the Mediterranean, Burma, Napal, India, Vietnam, Africa, etc. It is extremely diverse.
It has been just about a week since I've arrived, but I have already jumped in headfirst. I've been going from neighborhood to neighborhood meeting families, connecting with youth, and praying about girls who I can mentor over this summer. My Burmese language skills are getting plenty of exercise, and even though I left my dictionary in California, so many words have come back to me.
Last night I went to a home of a Karen family and ended up trying on ethnic Karen skirts and pants. A fashion show of sorts. After the laughter had ended, I sat in the bedroom with the mother and we talked. The Karen people are extremely kind, generous, devoted, and loving, but they are also very shy. They do not talk openly with people they do not know, yet here I was, just having met this woman and she was opening up to me about her past. Speaking a mix of English and Burmese she confided in me. I heard about her childhood, the struggles she had when her mother was murdered by the Burmese soldiers, her marriage and flight to a refugee camp in Thailand, her fear of moving to America, and her feelings about living in Denver. Her two daughters were also in the room with us, and they listened to their mother, never having heard her speak this way before. I looked into her eyes and saw sadness. She looked so alone. I knew that she would very likely never be able to return to Burma.
"The citizens test is so difficult, and I have no time to study. I work almost everyday, and when I get home to need to take care of my children and husband. I cannot study for this test. I cannot even study English."
My heart was breaking with hers. The family members she would never see again, the mountains and rice fields, the neighbors who spoke the same language as her. They live on in her memory alone.
I love this place, I love these people, yet I hate the situations and events which brought them here. I pray for a day when they are free to return home, to be at peace, and be free.