“What is you favorite thing about living in America?”
How many of you would seriously count swimming as the favorite thing about your country? No, that has to come straight from the mouth of someone who’d never had the luxury before moving here. From someone who is grateful just to be in America and to have more freedom and comfort than they had before. From a Karenni Burmese refugee I met at my home church a week ago.
Since coming back from Thailand, I -see- more Asian cultures here and notice their influence. What’s more, I understand them better. I’ve become more familiar with Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Burmese, Khmer, Persian, Malaysian, and Thai cultures since spending time in Asia. And it makes me realize that my adventure is not over just because I flew back to America. In fact, it was just the beginning. It opened my eyes to people I took for granted before.
The group of Burmese students I’ve gotten to know in Austin meet once a week to eat, sing, and study the Word. They have been in the US for three years (or less). They came from camps in both Thailand and Malaysia and are from a variety of tribes: Karen, Karenni, and Kachin. Their English is good and they are learning more every day.
The problem is, Americans don’t stop for them. They go largely unnoticed at church and school because people don’t understand their roots or their culture or their language. Isn’t it much easier to ignore them and move on if we feel uncomfortable making the effort? But I can testify that the foreign friendships I’ve made have by far been the most rewarding. (My best friend is Venezuelan and it’s awesome.) This is because they value the friendships they make like precious jewels; the joy that it brings them is tangible, I swear.
And it doesn’t do me any good to come home from the earth-shaking, mind-blowing adventure only to go back to school in West Texas with college drama and everyone just striving to date and blah blah blah because it’s not important! It’s trivial stuff. There are opportunities around you if you stop to see them. If I pull myself out of a closed-minded routine, I would have way more opportunity to be useful, build friendships, and actually love what I’m doing for once. Like I did in Thailand. Because it isn’t over. The end is not the end. And there’s still so much I can do here.