Interview With Refugee From Myanmar | Teen Ink

Interview With Refugee From Myanmar

August 8, 2022
By artistX SILVER, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
artistX SILVER, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
5 articles 17 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
“This is what love does. In the stories, love healed your wounds, fixed what was broken, allowed you to go on. But love wasn’t a spell, some kind of benediction to be whispered, a balm or a cure-all. It was a single, fragile thread, which grew stronger through connection, through shared hardship and trust.”
― Leigh Bardugo, Rule of Wolves

Where were you born and what led you to America?
I was born in Burma in the Karen region. The reason I came to the United States is due to the war that is currently raging in Burma. I knew I needed to find a better opportunity for growth for myself and my kids and needed to move to the United States

Do you wish to return to Myanmar one day?
Yes, I do. Right now, with the war, I do not feel comfortable going back home. I just hope that Burma is able to find peace. Then I would be able to return again to my home.

What was the toughest part about leaving?
The toughest part about leaving was leaving my family and friends behind. Everything! knew and loved now became an ocean away. I feel that while I may be helping myself and my family find a better life; I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I was to have this opportunity when I still have friends and family who are still waiting.


What was your journey to America like?
The toughest part about arriving in a new country was the language and cultural differences. When my children and I first traveled here on the airplane, we had no prior English. During our flight, my children, who were only 3 and 6 and, were extremely thirsty. Not being able to speak or understand English, we were unable to receive any water the whole flight. The food was also extremely different in my country. We did not have fast-food chains or processed food. Our food was made by us, from the materials we found in the jungle or surrounding area. Another aspect that was difficult to adjust to was all the appointments and phone calls that one has to make on a daily basis. Without knowing a lot of English, it can be difficult and scary to call places or to fill out personal information forms.

What was it like when you first arrived?
When I first arrived, I felt like a newborn baby. I had to relearn everything that I once knew to accommodate this new world I will be living in. When I first arrived, I knew that I needed to learn English and I did all I could to accomplish it. In order to improve my English, I would speak to as many English speakers as I could despite feeling embarrassed at times. Everywhere I would go I would just listen, on the bus, shopping, on the radio. I would constantly listen and try to comprehend what they were saying and then practice my English with my children, who were also learning English for the first time. The food was also a cultural shock. Our first food experience was a hot dog that we took 1 bite off and that was the end of that. Another experience was the fast food. Our first experience with fast food was McDonald's, something that we had never seen before. When we ate there, the kids did not like the food. However, after 12 years of living in the United States, they have become more accepting of the food choices offered here. As I look back, another big impact of when we first arrived was how we lived in our house. In Burma, we did not sleep on beds, and when we first arrived in the United States, we slept on the ground because it was more comfortable than being on our bed. We also did not leave the house at first because we were scared of the outdoors. We did not know what the outside had in store for us. It was not until our case manager came and helped us feel more comfortable that we stepped outside.

Prior to learning about currency in the United States was also a learning curve that I needed to conquer. When we first went shopping I did not know that loose change (quarters, dimes, etc) was still usable currency. It was not until my sponsor came over and saw our pile of change that we learned of the different types of money. It was particularly difficult to do laundry without knowing how change works. When I had to do laundry, I did not know I had to insert quarters. So for the first month, I was handwashing all of our clothes in our bathtub and letting them try in the bathroom.

I remember walking to the library with my sponsor and literally being hand-held to cross the street. We knew that green lights meant cars were allowed to drive, but the crosswalks, cars making turns, and other foot traffic was something we had to learn about.


What were your dreams of coming here? How did those dreams compare with reality?
When I first arrived, my dream was to live free from fear. My whole life I Was always on the run from the enemy and for once I was not scared. When I arrived here, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and could finally breathe for a moment. Another dream of mine was for my kids to live successful and better life. I wanted them to receive an education and be able to use that to live a prosperous life. I completely believe that my dreams did become reality. I am a United States citizen with 3 children enrolled in school, one who has just graduated from high school. She is the first individual in my whole family that has completed and graduated high school, leading the way for future generations to follow.

How would things be different for you if they hadn’t migrated?
Things would be completely different if I had not migrated. If I had not migrated, my life would be extremely tough. Living in the camp, we may not have enough food, but we must make it work. If you do not have money in the camp or an outside source to help, life is difficult within the camps. With a lack of proper schooling, job opportunities, or even the ability to leave the camp, my life would be nothing as it is now. I did not get to choose our food, clothes, or anything. Everything was given to us (because we have no resources), but it was never enough for proper survival. My children would also not be able to receive the education they have, nor would they have the opportunities to join different clubs and sports groups.

Do you think Americans and people, in general, understand the refugee experience?
No, I do not believe they understand. No one will be able to understand what a refugee has gone through, except for that specific individual. Every individual has a completely different story and background. Not only do they not understand the refugee journey, but also the hardships that we must overcome to become better integrated into American society. Getting to America was only the beginning of a never-ending journey that we are still working on today.

The author's comments:

No one tells the refugee storyNo one tells of the boy with a gun 
Bigger than himself 
Nobody would choose this 
No body left un-turned 
No one tells the tale of the women 
walking away from home 
With a key in hand 
Hoping for return 
To her home land

This is the refugee story 
The story of the deported people 
And night mascaras 
With only the darkness to keep you safe 
Nobody would choose this 
No one would leave unless 
Sailing on a rack in the turbulent seas 
Is safer than land 
Only if that's the only option. 
It was not planned

This is the refugee story

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