TESOL Lessons

Soi Min Part 3

The Karen clans, Soi Min tells me, fare the worst of all the clans in Burma. Some of Battle Creek’s refugees are Karen. Typically they have almost no education, and they’ve seen unspeakable atrocities. Yet they’re kind, polite and hungry for education.

Having so much experience with well-adjusted Korean ESL students, I tend to approach my Burmese students with the same level of animation that Koreans have. So I’ve walked towards new Karen students ready to shake their hands and pat them on the shoulder.

But when a Karen sees you approach in this way, he has this look about him, this posture that says that maybe you’d better slow down and back up a foot or two. Keep in mind most of these refugees are about five-foot tall. It doesn’t matter. You can sense that it’s best to tread lightly.


Soi Min from Mizoram Part 1

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 Benjamin 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.


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