Six months ago, we started hanging out with a refugee family from Karen State, Burma. Prior to coming to the US a year and a half ago, they had spent nine years in a refugee camp. Now they are trying to make a new life here by working, going to school, and learning English.
Not knowing what to expect, we invited them to play soccer and volleyball with us. (We figured they would be great at soccer, but their awesome skills at volleyball were a surprise!) We ate ice cream. We had three good meetings together.
And then we ran into all sorts of language barriers.
After two late summer get-togethers that felt awkward and weird, my kids were a little skittish about continuing. Honestly I was, too. Maybe the family didn’t actually like us. Maybe that was why we were having so much trouble scheduling a time to get together. Maybe this was just a bridge too far.
But the refugee organization we work with is kind and persistent and patient, and they organized a Christmas get together for all the refugee families and their US partners. So we tried again, and we are so glad we did.
We ate Burmese food (yum!) and sang carols (see the choir up front?)
The structure of the party gave my kids a role, which they embraced.
When I walked in their apartment, their smoke alarm was chirping. I asked one of the kids how long it had been chirping. “A month?” he said. In other words, so long he has forgotten when it started. Teaching them how to change the battery may have been my biggest contribution toward their happiness here. But they continue to welcome us into their lives, and we are grateful.