Saturday, March 8, 2014

Monday in Chicago

Monday started out a little behind. There is a school near the housing site, plus it snowed. That equaled us being late by forty-five minutes to our first site. That site was the Ethiopian Community Association where we taught ESL to adults from not only Ethiopia but also Nepal, Myanmar and several other countries. The volunteer coordinator explained the process of bring refugees into the U.S. It is quite a process and I had no idea that is how it worked.

In a nutshell, the U.S. allows the most refugees of any country, all of whom are placed on a waiting list once they have moved to the country of refuge and have asked to be relocated. The U.S. allows 70,000 refugees per year to move here. I don't know if he told us how many refugees are waiting at any given point, I feel as though he did give us that number, but it is many times more than that 70,000.

Clarence and I sat at a table with two gentlemen. The man I was working with didn't even have id yet. That was his first day. ESL is not an easy thing to teach. Our language is complicated. The students were given a form with the instructions to, "Fill out the form". It was a typical form with spots for name, address, birthdate, etc. After the students filled out the form, we were to check it against their id.

Shortly after we began, another man joined our table. The first man that I was helping, Ali, could spell. And that was it. He kept spelling every word over and over. The second man, Ibrihim, got much further until we got to the zip code.

He wrote down too many numbers. He wrote down six numbers. The problem with that was that his zip code had sixes in it. It was 60660 and he wrote 606660. How does one explain that there were too many numbers? Then how does one explain that it's only five numbers. I would say five and he would say six. I pointed at the numbers individually at his id and then at his form. It took several times through the zip code before I think he finally caught on. At that point I crossed out the last six. And then class was finished.

Everyone else had a little more success. Their students understood English and they had full conversations. But I had remained patient, and that was good.

From there we went back to the housing site where we could not find any parking. We drove through all of the lots associated with our parking pass. We finally gave up and parked at McDonald's. Sami stayed with the van (and drank coffee while reading a book). At 2:30pm she drove over and met us. We headed out to an area of town known as Devon. It's a mix of middle-eastern and Pakistani. We broke up into different groups and set about with a different set of instructions and money to purchase something that represented the area. I was with Shawn, Tim and Stephanie.

We stopped in a restaurant and questioned the owner. He had been there about twenty years (I think, the facts are starting to slip my mind). He told us that it used to be a Jewish neighborhood but the Indian population slowly took over. We asked how to say hello in his native language, which was Hindi. I couldn't tell you what he said.

From there we walked further down the street. We kept passing dress shops and restaurants. Finally, Stephanie said that she wanted to go in one of the dress shops, she had questions. The one we stopped in was actually known for wedding "dress". I use quotes because they had clothes for men and women.

The man there talked with us for at least twenty minutes. He was kind and full of information. He let us feel how heavy the dresses are (check out all the bead work). He even let Shawn try on the head piece for a man (see below).
 One of the heavier beaded dresses.
 The couple's outfits will match. The groom and his family come in and shop, then the bride comes with the groom's family to pick out her dress. The groom's family is very involved.
 Here, the man wraps the tail (?) around Shawn's arm explaining that it's wrapped around the bride's arm too, binding them together.
 Shawn poses (a very rare opportunity).

From there we crossed the street to go in a large grocery store. We bought cookies, after asking patrons for recommendations. This store had everything from Mexican, to Middle-eastern and everything in between. 
 Check out the "American Style Cream and Onion" chips! Ha.
 We had to find taro root and another root, and I can't remember which was which!
We also had to find out what a sari was. We found out it's the shawl, but not a scarf, that women wear. They wear them all the time in their home country, but for here, it's more for special occasions. Some will wear them all the time.

From there, we went to A Just Harvest. A soup kitchen. We worked alongside members from a church and helped serve a few dozen people. They weren't very busy because it was the beginning of the month. Social Security, Disability, Food Stamps, etc. were just renewed/paid out. The people we served were all kind and appreciative. We were actually surprised that there weren't more people because of the cold weather. Eating at a soup kitchen doesn't mean you're homeless. 

From there we went to a Peruvian restaurant. The best kept secret in Chicago, according to their sign. No kidding. It was amazing. The best dish was Papa a la Huancaina. Boiled potatoes served with a cream cheese type sauce. I googled it when I got home and found a recipe. After I make it, I'll let you know how close it was and I'll share it. Sarah also prepared us for the rice served with french fries. I'm not sure that's a legit Peruvian dish, or if it's americanized, but it was also amazing. Especially when you spooned the leftover cheese sauce over it. We had a beef dish and a chicken dish too.

We did not want for food on this trip. 

After that, we headed back to the house to debrief and go to sleep.

On Monday, I was especially thankful for my patience teaching ESL and definitely for the Peruvian dinner.

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