I am unemployed, broke, in debt and dependent on my parents. I can’t to receive unemployment benefits for another six months. I have the flu, asthma, possibly a hernia – and no Medicaid. I ’m not speaking to my brother, and don’t want to speak to my mother. Right now I am hiding in my parent’s basement hoping to get some time to myself. Man I could cry you a river all night if you wanted me to.
But instead I will tell you that this was the best Thanksgiving since my Josh was born!
What happened was that I started volunteering to teach English to Burmese refugees this year.
Soi (pronounced Soy) Min, his wife Sui (pronounced Swee), and their daughter May O Wee are Burmese refugees from Delhi. They’ve been in Battle Creek only months. They live on refugee status and cannot work until they have their green cards. They have no transportation, and only a few Burmese friends. So they’re isolated, confused and depressed.
I tell Soi Min I am also confused and depressed, and why, because America seems to me in shambles, because we are celebrating a nation that celebrates Genocide on Thanksgiving.
Soi Min smiles so that his whole face lights up, eyes twinkling. He says he knows about Columbus, and about Pocohantos and Squanto.
Then he says that he wants to tell me some of his stories about Burma, and I want to hear them…
Soi Min had been living in India since the eighties because right now a well-armed band of soulless thugs rule Burma.
Soi Min became a Student Leader, which means he spoke for democracy and education, which means he just about marked himself for murder.
He escaped to the jungles between India, China, Bangladesh and Burma and became a guerrilla freedom fighter.
He showed me a photo of him at a camp. He had the shaggy head of a professor, a fuzzy face, a Fu Manchu and the same mischievous, gentle smile. He was reed-thin, set against a background of ancient old-growth tree trunks, and I thought to myself,
“Wow! My Burmese student just made Walt Kowalski look like a pussy faggot Pollock!”