Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A New Baby for a Refugee Family!

When Isaac and I found out Tee Reh and Soh Meh (a Karenni refugee family that we teach English to) were expecting a baby, we were overjoyed for them and tickled at how reserved they were about discussing it, and totally sobered about the cost of a new baby on their tight budget.

Our church community group wanted to help them afford baby stuff,  so we planned a baby shower. First life stages and American ceremonies were conveniently a topic in our ESL curriculum, so we introduced them to the concept of a baby shower. Since our one trip outside of their apartment together was a trip to Steak & Shake, we invited them over to our place for dinner in the hopes that it would be a comfortable place. They actually came and didn't eat anything - I'm not sure if they were afraid of our American food or didn't think it would be polite, but they were surprised to see our rice and chicken. "You eat rice?"

When we finally told them our friends from Church wanted to throw them a baby shower, Tee Reh was confused. "I don't have a baby yet," he said. We reassured him that in the US, you throw the baby a party before the birth so that you're well-prepared for the baby's arrival. We told them it would be a casual party with some snacks and gift giving, in honor of the baby's upcoming birth. They accepted

On the day of the baby shower Tee Reh and Soh Meh arrived with her teen brother in tow. He's in the Dallas public schools and still barely speaks a lick of English. He'd been told they were going to a party and probably had the complete wrong idea... he looked bored stiff the whole time! On the other hand, Tee Reh was in his element, practicing his English all around and charming the crowd. 

We made introductions, offered around drinks, Tee Reh and Soh Meh opened gifts and then about four of us attempted to figure out how to put together the Pac-n-play. There were definite awkward moments, which was completely what I expected. After the main action was over Tee Reh stood up and cleared his throat and made a speech about how thankful he was to all of us for teaching him about American baby showers. Speech making is an integral part of any southeast Asian party! He also clearly wanted to tell the story of the Karenni people and how they came to be refugees. He iss an ambassador of sorts - if he tells their story, maybe more people will help the people back in Myanmar and in the refugee camps in Thailand.

In any case, it was a short and awkward and funny and sweet time. Here's most of us:

And then, a week after her due date, little Maria Soh (Soh is the second name of all females in their people group) was born.

Isn't she adorable? She already looks like her mom. Tee Reh terrified all of us when he told me he drove them all to the hospital and was going to be driving them home. We'd clearly asked him several times if he'd ever driven before and he said no.... so I imagine he was given a crash course by a friend right before the baby was due? I asked him if he was scared to drive and he said not on the side roads, but yes on the highway. SCARY! *shakes head*...

Welcome to the world, Maria Soh!


Jaimie said...

Finally, a situation where a lavish baby shower is actually appropriate. (Bitter "poor" American.)

Good for you guys. Like... awesome, awesome.

Kacie said...

And it certainly wasn't lavish... we're talking craigslist and Once Upon a Child gifts. Because.... that's probably what all of us will do for ourselves and each other! :)

Alice said...

Awww, this is such a sweet post. What a cute couple (and the bored-looking teen brother: hilarious!) And what a dear little baby!

Rae said...

I love both your approach to this situation and the way you told the story. I can only imagine how stressful this is for them.