Meet my students. They are eight adults from Congo who had lived in Houston all of two weeks when our class started. My friend Sarah has been teaching ESL classes on the side since June and had spoken of not much else since then. On the first day of my class I had a stack of books and posters. I put the posters up and made a few of my own. I passed out notebooks and textbooks and they all looked at me like I was insane. They had basic vocabulary and some had a little sentence structure, only one guy was capable of having a conversation with me. The one guy who could converse often translated for his classmates and they would all go, “OH!”
The first few weeks were a struggle. I was shocked at all they had come from and how they wound up in southwest Houston. I was surprised at how their children were put in regular education classes with the rest of the English speakers. I couldn’t believe that they would be getting food stamps, but hadn’t gotten them yet and didn’t have any money. The more I learned about these eight Congolese transplanted in Houston, the more blessed I felt. I felt overwhelmingly fortunate to live in a country that I would never be forced to leave and never be scared for my family’s safety. I have never worried about where my next meal would come from. I’ve never seen a refugee camp, let alone lived in one. They have overcome so much and they are so happy and grateful to be here and to be given the opportunity to raise their children in America. There were days where I felt immense pressure, if they were going to learn to make it here; I had to give them a foundation to our language and life they could build off of. I was ready to talk about nouns, verbs, and directionally how to explain to get somewhere. I was not prepared for questions like, “How much should I expect to make at an American job?” “Will that be enough to support my family?” “How much money do you need a month?” I never expected to have people bring me their children’s homework, so I could explain it to them, so they could explain it to their child.
My last class was the week before Christmas and we had a party. We presented their completion certificates, which should help them in their job searches. We ate pizza and cake and exchanged handmade Christmas cards. Sarah came, her class was next door, and one of my students got a hold of my camera and they dressed me up and brought me presents. Overall, it was very rewarding and great closure for me.
Some people brought music from home. Some people danced. Some of us laughed hysterically.
The wrap around my waist was a gift and the one on my head was for the sake of pictures according to my favorite gal. Some people laughed hysterically.
My favorite gal. She gave me a plant. And an unexpected friendship. She often laughs hysterically.
I was given a fertility statue hand carved from a refugee camp, it says so on the back. I love these women. The one on the left is a single lady with three kids, we danced to Beyonce’s Single Ladies together. The one on the right is the mother of four. She was always very concerned with getting her kiddos homework right. She has high hopes for them.
This is Sarah and some wonderful women. I can’t thank Sarah enough for welcoming me into her world and for the phenomenal experience.