Guest Post from Lisa Fisher about our Refugees:
As I drove to visit Makandja and Bobasha yesterday, I had a plan mapped out in my head. I
would walk with them to the library, in hopes of sharing not only a place to retreat in insufferably hot summer days, but a place to get books, music, DVD’s once they have their documents in place. I envisioned picking up where Marcie left off, working on “W” words, “Who, What, Why and Where” Once I arrived I immediately sensed that although appearing settled in, perhaps Bobasha was feeling alone. I practiced one of the “W” words… “ Where is Makandja?” Bobasha responded, “Makandja.”
Makandja was most likely with his friends in Rogers Park. My so called plan would have to wait for another day. I had stopped at the Jewel and bought a bucket of fried chicken, corn tortillas, salsa, eggs ,butter ,cherries, mango juice, lactaid milk, and few soft drinks. As I unpacked the groceries, Bobasha was glued to his smartphone ( actually his friend Ruti’s phone), watching a soccer match streamed live. I so wish we could have translator for our visits, because once he put down his phone, we were passing my phone back and forth trying to communicate.
I now understand why people say,” Google Translate? it’s not always reliable…” At one point I asked, Bobasha, “what do you want to study?” Bobasha’s translated message came back, “ I give you a shale and I am Bozena”. After talking about Ruti working at O’hare, his response to my question about what kind of job he hopes to find, “Any popular world promises promise.” I can only imagine what was going on at his end from my English to Swahili…As I explained fried chicken being an American favorite, I was also explaining the mix of ethnic foods we as Americans love. Salsa for example, and tortilla’s, being Mexican food. I don’t know how much he was able to take in from that little lesson on American food, but I do know he was hungry, considering how quickly he wolfed down two pieces of chicken, ( which he dipped in Salsa ), followed by four soft pan friend corn tortillas dipped in more salsa.
Every time I asked, “ where is Makandja?” Bobasha repeated, “Makandja”. I had also purchased a few cans of both ginger ale and coke. Bobasha had no interest in the Mango Juice. He requested, “Coka” We walked to Hollywood park at the end of the block. There was a group playing basket ball. In a different section were families with small kids on swings. Bobasha motioned that he wanted to sit in the park, which we did, still passing the phone back and forth relying on Google translate as our only way, “ I miss my brother and my baby” came through clearly. One can only imagine how shocking it is to suddenly be transported to such a different strange new place, where you’ve always heard there is opportunity and hope and yet everything and everyone is an alien. He looked toward the structure that housed two bathrooms and asked what they were. I explained and he said, “ I go”. Unfortunately they were locked. Lucky for us, across the street from the park stands a Mc Donalds. After using the facilities,
|First time having soft serve from McDonald's|
Bobasha was intrigued by the strange white whipped turrets served in cones. I asked if he’d like to try one. He did and I don’t know if Lumba lumba means it tastes good or that that’s the name for a soft serve ice-cream cone. He finished it with a smile. As we walked back I said, “lets see if you can find your way back, and then you will always know how to get here if you like.” He did it with ease, and asked to sit in the park again, which we did. After realizing that he was probably lonely not knowing what to do by himself, for the rest of the day, I decided to show him Chicago by way of Lake Shore Drive. Obviously I couldn’t use Google translate while driving and so there was just a lot of pointing and naming of landmarks: Lake Michigan, Lake Shore Drive, Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, Hancock Building, Oak Street Beach. He pointed and repeated “boat”.
We made it back by 4:45 and I was relieved to find that Makandja was not only home, but standing over the stove stirring food in a pot. You might all remember there had been no gas, and no refrigerator until two days ago. In closing I just want to say that despite the hits and misses with Google Translate, even when there were long stretches of silence while sharing a park bench, we are laying down a foundation of trust and sense of safety in this new adventure for our new friends.