photo from Feb 25, 2008.
It has really only been a short time here in the states for our neighbors, but already they have experienced so much with us.
Law Law and Ta Blu Moo (more of a phonetic spelling of their names) came here in Jan 2008 from Thailand where they had lived as refugees for 20 years or so in the camp Mae La.
Their homeland of Karen, Mynanmar (formerly known as Burma), has been in a state of civil war for over 50 years. These gentile folk are people without a country and over the last number of years are being brought to other countries around the world to start a new life.
Here in Western Massachusetts we are seeing quite a few families moving in around us. I guess that it depends on your perspective; but, good or bad, Massachusetts offers some of the best social services for people in their plight in the US and we are seeing some families, already established in other states, coming here to enjoy them. In fact one of our neighbors has a friend coming today from California to relocate here.
My heart goes out to these people; overall they are some of the sweetest folks I have met and very appreciative of the help Sue, myself, and the sponsoring entities are providing them.
Law Law and his family were brought here by the Lutheran Family Services, Sugar Moon from Jewish Family services, and a couple others I have met recently by some arm of the UN.
I think that the biggest obstacle they face presently is language. Ta Blu can speak a little english, and we are getting better at understanding each other. Law Law really has to work on it though. Hopefully he will now be able to; he has befriended a young man, Min Win Aung, who only arrived four days ago. He speaks very good english though. Until now the only person I met who was as good was Sugar Moon.
I have encouraged him to make use of this advantage; one thing we really need here now is people who can speak in both Karen and english.
We have in this area a large, for lack of a better word, ‘Russian’ community. These are people who have immigrated here themselves within the last 5 -10 years from the former soviet satellite states like the Ukraine, Romania, Kazakhstan and such. Many whom I spoke with during this period when they were arriving were sponsored by churches, and some of them, now working with these churches, are helping the Karen refugees get settled, and doing a wonderful job. If you can imagine how difficult it is for some of the Karen people to communicate in english, add on the difficulty of trying to do so with people who themselves may have some issues with the language and have a heavy dialect on top of that.
If Min Win Aung can also learn some of the russian language he could corner the market on being a interpreter!
The point I wanted him to understand though was this: it will be very difficult to get a decent job if you can not easily communicate. Law Law, and some of the others, are having this trouble right now. Though the market is a bit tight, there is work out there. However an employer is less likely to give the position to someone they can not easily communicate with. Min understands this and has promised to come by our house to improve his english.
This past weekend we took Law Law, his wife, son and another young man, Sher Boe Dow (pronounced Sha Boo Doe), to see the ocean. Regrettably their daughter Eh Law Soo, was away visiting family and could not join us.
Eh Law Soo
In one of their first visits at our home, while we were looking on a map online going over the different legs of their trip coming here, Ta Blu mentioned that they had never seen the ocean before, and would love to not only see it but swim in it as well. Sue assured her then that she would get the opportunity.
Saturday, June 21st 2008 was that day. We rented a van and headed down to Rhode Island.
We first went to Brenton Park where we had lunch and Seth (again a phonetic pronunciation, the best I can make right now) got to fly his first kite!
Brenton has a spot right next to the coast where the hobbyists display some really exotic kites
Seth’s kite, featuring the fish Nemo, was a dollar store special but it worked well and he had a blast.
We enjoyed a nice lunch of chicken wrap sandwiches with chips and water,
Afterwards Seth and I went to walk on the rocks, followed shortly by Law Law and Sher Boe Dow.
Seth had a grand time climbing and exploring….
I showed them some of the ocean wildlife I found in the area, including Hermit crabs and Starfish, which they were all amazed with.
After our little bit of exploring came time for our next big adventure and we left Brenton to head for Easton’s Beach.
After we settled our belongings Sue took Seth’s hand and led him down and around a bit as he took his first steps in ocean water, you could tell that he was really enjoying it.
At one point he looked up at Sue as he bent down towards the water, seeking permission to play in the surf. Sue said Sure! Well that was all it took – he let go of her hand and plopped down and splashed around. When he stood up his shirt, now wet, was bothering him and he looked to Sue to help him remove it, which she did, then he decided that pants were too much of a burden as well, quickly wrestled out of them, and plopped back into the water!
He ran around a bit till he looked like a human goose bump and Sue took him in to dry off.
It wasn’t too long though before he was back again
Eventually he did come in to stay and Sue helped him dry and warm up.
During all this Ta Blu, Law Law and Sher Boe Dow were wading a bit in the water. Law Law and Sher Boe Dow never made it past that, claiming to be “too cold” and eventually wandered off. Ta Blu though, after a little bit of hesitation, perhaps because of the enormity of the body of water before her, slowly made her way further in, till, standing in waist high water, she plopped down, and just had a ball after that; it was for her a dream come true.
After a half hour or so she came back to shore & excitedly did her best to express the fun she had, I think that it is rather obvious.
Her boy was now dressed again in dry clothes Sue had the foresight to bring with us, and started on his next ‘first’: building a sandcastle!
After Ta Blu changed into something dry and found that her husband and Sher Boe Dow had returned from where ever they had wandered to after leaving the water. She not only told them about the fun she had had but, I think, was chiding them for chickening out of going in the water…that is just my impression though.
We spent a couple hours at the beach then went looking for something to call dinner. Flo’s Clam Shack had been suggested to us by a co-worker of Sue, it was just a stones throw up the beach, but trying to find parking was so frustrating that we sought out something else. Betty, our GPS, had a listing for a place in town, which, after we arrived, we found was now no longer there. A local suggested The Gas Lamp Grille just a few minutes walk away from where we were so we made our way there. Sue was worried that we would have a long wait because we were a party of 6, but it only took a couple minutes for them to get a pair of tables together. Everyone was pleasant to deal with and I would not mind going there again some time.
Sue started us off by ordering a plate of nachos with chili, kind of a taco salad, we also ordered hamburgers all around, although Sue’s was a turkey burger, I had a cup of their clam chowder as well.
Seth dreaming about his first hamburger?
The taco salad arrived and every one had some.
We all enjoyed it quite a bit. and it didn’t last too long.
Then came the burgers.
This was their first hamburger and they looked at it, and me, a bit puzzled about how to proceed eating them. The burgers arrived in a open faced fashion and I demonstrated with mine how to close the sandwich and eat it. While Sue was showing Seth he kept flipping the top of the bun off; he would eat a piece of bacon, Sue would put the top back on, he would flip it of again and eat another piece of bacon. After doing this repeatedly till he had picked off and ate all the bacon on his he spared no time and dug right in!
He has a fascinating way of eating: first stuff in everything you can, then worry about chewing….
I finished mine, Seth much of his, Ta Blu polished off hers, Sue didn’t finish the turkey burger only because she didn’t care for it, I tasted it and it was not anything great; the meat was bland and they seemed to try and make up for it with a sauce that was a bit much for her. We frequently have turkey burgers at home, special flavor blends that she either buys or I make, so she has a high standard for them. The regular Angus beef burgers were tasty though as was the chowder.
But, again, the two other guys just could not keep up, a bit of a disappointment from a macho standpoint, if you ask me<g>.
They, with the excuse of having stuffed themselves with the taco salad, only put a dent in their meal and participated in another ‘first’: the great American custom called The Doggy Bag.
After dinner we started back to the car to go home. However, while passing her booth, a woman convinced us to take a little harbor cruise on a boat called “The Amazing Grace”. It was a pleasant little trip talking about the buildings, boats, and history around the Nantucket harbor. They had never been on any boat like this so we thought that they would have fun, which they did.
Sher Boe Dow
The ride was about a hour, but it wasn’t too long before his heavy eyelids won the battle and Seth drifted off into dreamland…..
It had been a big day for him full of great adventures that I hope he always will remember… I know that I will.
After the harbor cruise we continued back to the van to began the trek home.
Their minds still full of all they had experienced, there was a little chatter between Law Law, Ta Blu and Sher Boe Dow at first, but little by little they drifted off to sleep. Seth, who woke up while we were fastening him to the car seat held out the longest of the four of them, but soon they had all, including Sue, drifted off. Dreaming, I imagine, of magical kites & the great big ocean, tamed at last.
I shall forever be grateful that I could be there with them, and hope to help more of their dreams come true.
More photos of our neighbors can be found HERE