I miss my friends
Well, the good news is, almost everybody got a job. I’m trying to focus on that. The woman in her early 40s with the big smile, and the shy younger woman (who swears she’s 18 but looks 15) she’d taken under her wing, giving advice on things a caseworker might not understand, they both got jobs. Maybe they’re on the same housekeeping crew.
The Afghani father found work and the kids are in school. Undoubtedly doing well, as long as we give them a chance. Those kids had a wonderful brightness to them. Energy and attention, sincerity and kindness.
And the tall man got a job. An electrical engineer in Kabul, I think he’s changing sheets too. Nearly all of my students do. If you stay in a hotel in the Bay Area, there’s a good chance a refugee made the bed for you. Be kind to them. They were kind to me.
The shy man was one of the last two students, at first he didn’t know how to answer “hello” but last week he taught me Arabic numbers after we breezed through an hour and a half of everything I could throw at him. He got perhaps the best job. He’ll wash windows from now on.
Everyone but the grandma got jobs. She was so proud of her son! And she tried so hard to learn English, or at least stay in her faltering Spanish, knowing that the Mayan language of her village is completely unknown in her world now. How hard it must be for someone who never got to go to school in their native language, much less their second, to now be surrounded by a country in a third? But she showed up to every class, learning the shapes of letters with hands that have raised children and crops.
I could go through the whole class. But I won’t. The deep gratitude and happiness of meeting them is still inside me, will last longer, but right now, the sadness of seeing them go is standing closer. But that’s not quite right. It’s not seeing them go.
Because my students were always short relationships. They would come to class for a few weeks before getting some job the native born don’t want to do, then they’d disappear. I’m used to that. What’s sad today is not that they left, but that no others have come.
I am out of students. Because America is being (mis)led by a morally bankrupt man who apparently feels it when he sees dead children on TV, but lacks the vision or moral capacity to care about anyone the rest of the time.
So last week I stood in an empty classroom. At the end of a quiet hallway that normally bustles with activity. The heroes of the International Rescue Committee helping the innocents who were forced from their homes. Showing the soul and moral fiber of America, the goodness in us, to people so brutalized by the international order that preyed on whatever weaknesses it could find in their homelands.
The window washer? His country is bleeding for oil. The electrical engineer? His is hosting a proxy war for external powers who jockey for position through bombs that tear apart the people below.
I’m sorry. It’s Travel Tuesday. I should be talking about that eco-preserve in Ecuador. I WANT to be talking about it. But I can’t. Not today. Because today I’m sad, and today I’m angry. Angry that those controlling my country have forgotten that our flag is more than a brand of bombs. That it’s for wrapping around those in need, not for covering the eyes of the American people, blinding the American soul.
And today I’m sad. Today I miss my friends, the refugees I met, the friends I made. America is still a good country. Humans still a good species. But today, I see the ways we’re failing to show it.
Fantastic post. I feel empathy with the people you wrote about.
“deep gratitude and happiness of meeting them is still inside me.”
Thank you, and I’m glad to hear you feel that empathy too. I think if more people felt that, and less people felt unjustified fear, we could really get somewhere good.
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I know it hurts and I don’t knwo when it will get better. That’s the worst part.
Absolutely. I was telling someone here the other day that I think large portions of America have been in a sort of depression since Trump was elected. They were skeptical until I specified the weight of feeling like your country is being all-out BAD. Not a disagreement over some policy, but genuine bad moral behavior. As long as our backs are turned on those in need, I fear we’ll feel that way.
Well that just sucks. The wonderful tapestry of this country is slowly being unraveled, thread by thread. It’s going to look like the moths have been at it. America First, you know.
Every time I walk down a street and see people of different backgrounds, colors, cultures, I am reminded of how beautiful a thing it is to live in an age of (relative) tolerance and peace. We’re still better than much of history, but it’s painful to see the US backsliding into the Dark Ages. (To the economic benefit of China and Russia, and to the moral benefit of no one.) The tide will turn eventually. And we’ll be ready to help it.
Whenever I read one of your stories, my first thought is to simply say “thank you” which explains why this is only one of two responses I’ve posted on your blog – it would be one “thank you” after another without being able to offer anything in return. As short as most of your stories are, there is such a generosity to your writing that I am left feeling full – sometimes with despair or hope, wonderment or frustration, but always with gratitude. I was really moved by this, so thank you.
I’m flattered, that’s so nice of you to say. Thank you for reading, and I hope I can keep putting up something worth the time. Happy travels!
Thank you for telling us about your students. They want to study to learn the language, but at the same time they need money to survive. What a world! But you are doing a great job. Keep it up! Smile! your students will return.
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I think you’re absolutely right. They will be back, and in the meantime, it’s important to keep our smiles, our joy, our optimism. The people who want to turn their backs on our fellow humans are not happy, themselves. Trump is a miserable man. I feel compassion for him as an individual, but (with your help!) I refuse to let his ethical bankruptcy drag me down into negativity with him. Thank you!
(And good news, I heard that I will indeed have students when I get back in August!)
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ooh never mind Trump, politicians have always messed us up. But we show ourselves that we can live without them, don’t we? Good to learn that your students will return, bless you and them together! Will check your blog after your tour, must be having some good posts. let me get there now haha. Good evening to you!