Monday, November 8, 2010


Last Saturday I walked into the large apartment with my Bhutanese "nephew", Bijay, who is 18, and I met his grandparents.

They are 85 years old. "Grandpa" is a bit taller and burlier than other refugees I have met. "Grandma" has limited hearing and is very short and very, very thin. They arrived in Omaha around midnight October 31st. A couple days earlier they left the refugee camp and made it to Kathmandu. They flew from Kathmandu to New Delhi to Brussels to Newark to Chicago to Omaha. They hadn't seen TVs before and don't understand what a computer is. [Yes, the young folks over there have that info, but not all the older ones... it's just beyond them.] They, like the others, lived with very basic housing, no internal appliances, no running water, limited, if any, electric power, outhouses, of course... and on and on. And NOW? An old "mansion-style" home reformed into apartments --with ceilings at least 10 feet high, water [hot and cold and baths and showers], a gas stove, a refrigerator, nice furnishings donated to their family,
a TV, and a computer -- a total of 9 family members living in this large 2-story place with 4 nice-sized bedrooms, something they could never have imagined -- and on and on. Leaving a camp they'd lived in for 18 years after being kicked out of Bhutan and placed in Nepal, in a very hot and tropical area -- and now here while we are headed for a normal Great Plains winter; ain't warm.

When I left the apartment and started towards home, the title is what came through my head. Can you imagine? Can I imagine it? What it would be like to be at that elderly age, never having gone anywhere -- ever, ever -- except as absolutely necessary, no trains, few roads. Now traveling all the way across the world... in a plane, over oceans, passing through enormous, over-flowing airports, given food they've never seen before, weather they could hardly imagine -- a whole different life.

What a blessing to be able to contribute in small ways to help them adjust... warm clothing, toiletries, familiar foods [a lot of theirs is similar to the Hispanic choices and we have large grocery stores with those products], and simply being welcoming and friendly. [Of course, churches, immigrant organizations, and other groups are providing 99.9999% of their needs -- but Dave and I are able to pop some small bits into the mix -- Saturday, Dave gave them the computer; yesterday, I, the anti-bug person took some BUG KILLER products-- yes!]

And MY blessings? Every time I'm in one of the several apartments I'm connected to, "my" Bhutanese bless me with juice or sweet Nepali spiced tea, and sweet rolls. And the biggest blessing? They laugh and laugh "at" me while I'm trying to explain English words and phrases to them in an animated manner -- my usual hand-active way -- or taking a shoe off and chasing down a roach to kill it. I'm so welcome around them. For the first time since I lived in Uganda I really feel "at home" -- welcome, loved for my facial expressions, appreciated for the smallest possible contributions to their lives.

However, even I, a fairly adventurous lady, when I'm 85, IF I'm ever 85, I sure don't think I could take the amazingly brave and challenging steps that were forced on "Grandma" and "Grandpa".

I can hardly imagine.


Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the peek into this man's story...Blessings!

S. Etole said...

They must be a very resilient people ... who appreciate the gift of life.

caryjo said...

And of course, they don't understand any English ... only Bijay, at this point, is the one who can communicate with me -- and even that's a struggle at times as he's only been here for about 2 months. He and his mom and dad came to the Lord 2 weeks after their arrival, leaving Buddhism. So much of what I shared is b/c Bijay has helped me know this family's stories.