One time in refugee camp…

One time in refugee camp… my father built a statue.

Mother was several months pregnant, but no one believed her. She hadn’t gained a pound and there was no obvious “bump.”  Father helped build a Buddha statue in the camp, which some people say is taboo for a man whose wife is expecting.

When I was born (quietly, without much fuss, in something resembling a building), I reportedly bore an uncanny resemblance to the statue. That’s the explanation my parents gave when asked why I don’t resemble anyone in the family.  I often wonder, Where is that statue now?


Voices in the Fray
(original poem)

Different but not special
is how I would describe myself and
our lives after the Exodus.
As a child I thought: No one wants to hear this voice
telling sad stories that make them pity me
and guilt them into helping me.
It became a mantra:
don’t let them see, don’t let them see.
And so I hid,
swallowing words and trudging through,
imagining a past I only knew
from the very stories I refused to tell.

People without a Home only know one thing;
Those who are lost know it too:
It is better to claim and be claimed –
to have roots running deep and fingers that reach
to the corners of the Universe.

We have within us a voice that is not sad but proud,
poignant and strong;
we are the tongues of our parents and the hands
that will pull their narratives into the light.
We are the First and the Last,
Second Daughter and Eldest Son;
a bridge that became the backbone of our people
the minute we dared to dream.

All the love in me embraces the past and present.
In my heart, I see your faces
and marvel at your courage.
I see you.  I see you.
I hear your muted voices.

I will speak loudly for you,
as others have done for me.
Today we remember the struggle;
We are united in the fray.


Thanks to Little Laos on the Prairie for recognizing
World Refugee Day on social media.

#WorldRefugeeDay #StayLaod #LaodRefugee #Diaspora

15 thoughts on “One time in refugee camp…”

      1. I worked for about 8 years as an ESL teacher in a high school. We had a lot of refugees from around the world depending on where the wars and problems were around the world from year to year. The school that I work in now is in an area where many refugees are sent when they first arrive in Canada. We have so many right now again, from all around the world – lots from the various war-torn African countries. These kids amaze me- they have been through so much and they are so motivated.

      2. How wonderful. I was a substitute teacher for a year, while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I filled in for an ESL teacher once…6th grade, I think? It really put into perspective the challenges that immigrant kids face. I guess it’s harder to see the situation clearly while you are going through it. When I look back now…I think, wow, I understand why I felt the things I felt.

      3. Oh, that’s great that you got to do that. I imagine it would really have put into perspective, your own experience. What I really learned is that each immigrant experience is so very different and also what a privilege it was to be one of their first teachers in this country. I really loved that job and may go back and do some part-time work in that area when I “retire” from the job I have now.

      4. I’d like to get more involved with refugee health. Still trying to figure out how to find that perfect job that combines all of my passions. I guess I will be looking until I retire. 🙂

      5. Well, I don’t know exactly where you live, but here we have all sorts of Immigrant Services run by the gov. and in schools we have multicultural workers for each of the ethnicities. Mind you, I think that their services are spread really thin. I wonder if there are any NGO’s that you could work for. For awhile there I was looking into getting a diploma in International Development and I’m sure that would open some doors too.

      6. We have refugee services in my state but not close to where I live now. I would probably have to relocate for a job like that. Which I can’t exactly do right now. I need to do more research and see if I actually do have more options. Thanks, Julianna. 🙂

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