Friday, February 27, 2009

The Bad Days and the Good Bad Days…

Yesterday was a bad day. Work was busy and things were crazy but not a good crazy. This was more the crazy where things are not found, things are found in the wrong file, double booked appointments and cancellations that ended up coming to their cancelled appointment asking to be helped. Plus, I have the added problem that volunteers can’t read my mind with regards to what I want done and how I want it done. It is perhaps however, good that they can’t read my mind regarding anything else. The day was going along at a rapid pace when I got a phone call from a family member.

It was that phone call that was the clincher in the bad day. They were upset, something was wrong and I couldn’t be there for them in the way I wanted to. The repeated phrase “I don’t want this to be a big deal” really only indicated one thing- that this was in fact a big deal. The voice hovering on the verge of tears also indicated the distress and complexity of the situation.

After two emails, one to friends asking for prayer and another to the bf just expressing my concern, sorrow and frustration with not being there for this family member, I then had to work for a few more hours then teach a class later that evening. By the time I arrived home after 9pm last night I found that a beautiful bouquet of flowers and my favorite candy had been dropped off for me by my bf – the dear.

Today so far has been a good bad day. A turn of events with a volunteer has ended up to be a bit of a mixed blessing resulting in this person no longer working with me. The other event was an interesting encounter I had with a Vietnamese woman who came in with her husband. She had questions about her Green Card interview appointment notice. She was very scared and worried about the interview and struggled to communicate to me her questions and concerns. Once I thought I had sufficiently answered her questions she grabbed my arm, brought me over to a chair and had me sit next to her while she brought out her phone bill. The ‘c/o’ had her concerned. After I assured her it was not a problem and need not be changed she then started telling me she used to teach students the method of teaching. She explained to me in her broken English heavily accented that she loved her husband, how he had a big heart and that she was very happy. She then mentioned she was very poor with only $500 a month for the two of them to live off of and that they ate nothing but rice. I then called over to my friend in Health and Food Securities to let her know we’d be dropping by. Two minutes later her husband carried away an 18 lb. box filled with fresh fruit, canned vegetables and some stables.

As her husband walked down the hall she stopped to thank me. She then said she was sick. She said doctors in Vietnam did not help her but that American doctors were very nice. She began to lift her shirt to show me something. I thought she was going to show me a scar on her abdomen or something. I was more than a little surprised to be shown her breast right there in the empty but very public hallway. It was clear that a bad infection had set in that looked as though she had had little to no medical care. She assured me that she was happy and ok. I asked if she had seen a doctor to which either she never really directly answered or our language barrier came up and interfered. So it was a good bad day. I was able to get an older Vietnamese couple some fresh food but I also learned that through the happiness and love there is also physical pain.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What I see, what I hear….

Last Thursday the IRC had its usual staff meeting where all the staff, from all the different departments get together to make announcements, get updates and generally check-in with one another; usually a time for quick announcements and general merriment. Last Thursday a discussion was started by our Director announcing that the state of Texas program to find refugees jobs was no done, funds were exhausted and jobs were scarce. The question was posed should we still be sending refugees to Texas for resettlement. After the initial joke that no one should be sent to Texas period, the real discussion began. It was like being back in my International Relations classes at Calvin. Should we, shouldn’t we debate then ensued with interesting and thoughtful points. The room, full of non-profit workers, many of whom themselves came to this country as a refugee, all basically agreed that living in safety without a job was still better than living in war torn Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Burma or any other country around the globe in turmoil.

On the way to work I pass by a few churches, food banks and general non-profits. A couple of times a week there will be anywhere from dozens to hundreds of people lined up outside a few of these buildings. Food distribution brings out the hungry and the humble. Monday I stood outside in pouring rain, cold temperatures and a strong blistering wind did not stop people from lining up to receive free food. San Diego County has one of the lowest rates of food stamp applicants. As a result we have lots of hungry people. People who are willing and more than wanting enough to stand outside on a miserable morning to collect a weeks worth of fresh produce and groceries.