A Refugee’s Story: On the Bus

on the bus

“On the bus” are the three words on my mind this morning. 

At ESL class, the topic is emotions.
The exercise is this:
I feel ________ when ______.

I feel happy when ______.
I feel sad when ______.
I feel proud when ______.
Etc.

When I ask a refugee, “When do you feel angry?”
and she starts to respond, “On the bus…,”
I interrupt,
reminding her of the sentence we are practicing.
“I feel angry when….”

She nods, starts over,
but goes a different way.
“I feel angry when…(pause)…my brother poke me.”

Her new response surprises me, but I go with it.

“Oh?” I say,
“Your brother is here in the United States, too?”

“No, no, teacher. I make example.
From when I am girl,
in Congo, and my brother
all the time, poke my arm.
I say ‘don’t do that’
but he doesn’t listen.”

Ah, yes. I had two brothers myself. And sisters.

We are about to move on,
but it comes back to me,
what she started to say.

“What about on the bus?” I ask.

“Bus?”

“Yes. You started to say ‘On the bus. . .’
Did something happen
on the bus
that made you angry?”

“Ah, okay,” she says,
and stops to gather her words.
“Man…white skin…touch me.”
She rubs the top of her knee.
“Like this.
I tell him ‘don’t touch me,’
but what can I do?
My English not good.”

But I think “Don’t touch me” is plenty good English, don’t you?

She is 23, traveling
to and from class
with her little girl, who,
the white-skinned man says,
is “beautiful like her mother.”

And now we are having a different conversation.

How often I leave the house in the morning, thinking I know what my day will be about, only to discover I’m wrong.

Postscript: I reported this exchange in the proper place. “They are so vulnerable,” the head teacher says. Yes, that is the word alright.

bus

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
This entry was posted in anger, fear, listening, refugees, summer 2016 challenge. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Refugee’s Story: On the Bus

  1. pastordt says:

    Oh, yuck. I’m glad you pursued this and report it, too. I am so sorry that these things happen. And YOU ARE SO GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO. I love reading about it!

    Like

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s