As always, we met around 6:45 at Mather Circle to Uber to the Syrian family’s house. The day before, Peter had kindly left booklets with Chaplain Read for us to use and I had picked them up earlier. I called the eldest son and he met us downstairs to let us in the apartment. We started out talking about what he and his mother did during the day; His mother said that she went to her ESL class, came back, called her family, cleaned the house and cooked for her children. Later his younger brother came out of his room and when we asked him what he was doing, he said he was watching X-Men: First Class. I couldn’t believe it; it was one of my favorite movies! We talked about the X-men series for a while, and started to work when he went back to his room. Tenzin and I worked with the mom, and Chris worked with the older son.
The booklet that Peter had given us had four parts to it; reading, true/false, yes/no, and short answer. We read along with the mother and described the words that she didn’t quite get by breaking down into easier words and using our phones. The format was really helpful, but on our car ride back to Trinity, we agreed that the material might be slightly advanced for the mom. Nevertheless, we worked on two sections.
The second section was a story of a girl who needed to choose between a vacation to Hawaii or tuition for college. The mom told me that the girl should choose college because education is very important. The story emphasized the concept of making a difficult decision, and the short answer portion asked about a difficult decision that the reader had to make. When we asked her, she thought about the question for a while, then told us that she needed to make a difficult decision when she was choosing to leave for Egypt or to stay in Syria. I knew, just because of the fact that they’re a refugee family, that they have been through so much already. However, when the mom said this, I realized that they’ve been through more than I could imagine and was reminded of the sacrifices and difficulties they had to face coming to the United States.
This time was especially amazing for numerous reasons. When we were talking about what food she made for her children, she ran to the fridge and brought us a delicious Syrian dish called tabouleh (it was kind of like salsa) and brought each of us a plate to try it. Later, when Chris mentioned that he didn’t have a chance to eat dinner yet because he was busy, the mom again ran to the fridge, grabbed and heated up food for him. When Chris said that she didn’t have to do that because he would eat once he goes back to campus, she insisted saying that Chris was her son now. And she called us her daughters and that whenever we’re hungry we should tell her. Not that I think this experience was amazing because she offered us food, but it was very a very touching moment for all of us for her to describe us as her children. I can feel that we are now much closer and have a special bond. I am very thankful for them and their hospitality.
On our ride back, Chris explained what we had just done to the Uber driver. He listened but didn’t say much, but later asked Chris where to go if he wants to do the same. He told us that he speaks four languages including Punjabi but is not good at speaking English, and that he wants to learn too. Chris said that he would speak to Professor Bauer and gave him his number.
It’s amazing how since I started this semester I’m beginning to meet people who have started a new life in America. As they share their stories, they share their resilience, bravery and love with me. I am truly grateful for this opportunity. Susie R.