This is my rule
By Premisa Muca Kerthi
Around unknown people
I try to say “hello”
And I get back a big smile
But Just one “Hi”.
I look at one corner on the room
It seems the same as always
A lot of people moving around
But nobody can see me again.
I hear laughing
My thoughts are coming brutally
Sure, they are friends
They don’t have an accent
They just feel easiness.
I turn my eyes inward
And stay in my position
Talking to my self
Why am I in a foreign land ?
Maybe I will let them take their time to understand me
I need time to translate their words
I need time to understand their accent, too
But they don’t need me at all.
Again I return to my thoughts
First, I must love myself,
Second, I must respect myself,
Third, I must motivate myself,
In the end I must be brave.
Nothing will happen
Just I will learn another side of people
I don’t need to accept everything as personal
What I need IS : to show myself as an example.
I will hear again ,
“What Happen to you “
“Nothing, nothing “ my answer
Just that I am getting bored ,whispering to myself
The same , same ignorance about foreign people.
Now its my time
My being totally different is what brings you pain
Discount your pain and use your brain
This is my rule
“Respect for all “.
For this story and other stories by Caroline O’Halloran about navigating suburban Philadelphia visit Savvymainline.com
MARCH 8, 2017
A Main Line teenager wore these booties during a border crossing 16 years ago.
They live among us, hiding but in plain sight.
They mow our lawns, mind our kids, cook our food, clean our homes.
They are Mexicans, living and working on the Main Line.
Some, of course, work under the table.
Others receive paychecks, have payroll taxes withheld, and file yearly U.S. tax returns.
Just like us.
But in many ways, not like us at all.
Because they are here without papers and have little reason to believe they’ll ever get them.
One such family – living in a rented, single-family home on the western Main Line – asked us to share their story.
They wanted us to put a human face on the immigration crisis.
But, of course, we cannot.
At least, not literally.
Instead of their faces, the couple had us photograph two sombreros and two flags – symbols of a family caught between countries.
Half of the family – the couple and their oldest child, born in Mexico 17 years ago – are here illegally; the other half – three children born here – are American citizens.
They want us to know that they came to America only out of desperation. And they’d love nothing more than to become legal, to step onto that fast-fading path to citizenship.
Twice, they saved enough to consult an immigration attorney.
Twice, they were told no, they would not qualify for green cards.
After living here 16 years as husband and wife, they’re used to dashed hopes, they say.
Once, a while back, the father marched buoyantly in Philly with Latino friends, convinced that amnesty was at hand. But 9/11 happened. And with it, the family’s door to citizenship, cracked open in the late 90s, slammed shut.
So for now, they wait, living quietly, cautiously, the rising panic of recent weeks hidden behind smiles dropped only in the dark of night, after the kids are asleep.
Their precautions are simple, scrupulous and necessary.
Before heading out to work each day, each checks the other’s car for broken headlights and taillights. With more than 200,000 miles on their engines, keeping their cars running is challenge enough. But a busted brake light, a fender bender, a traffic ticket, a breakdown – anything that brings the cops – could be the beginning of the end of their lives here. Inspection and insurance papers, they could produce. But a driver’s license?
Careful for years, the two these days are on high alert.
Their kids feel the change, too. The two teenagers, who attend public school in one of the Main Line’s well-regarded districts, bring home stories of classmates belittling them, insulting their Mexican heritage. Only their names give them away. Unlike their parents, all four speak English without hint of an accent.
“My kids just ignore it, but I know they’re hurting,” the father confides. “My wife and I know we don’t belong here, but how about them? This is the only country they know.”
When the family shops at Walmart, security guards and clerks follow them, they say. “We see other shoppers grab their pocketbooks when we’re near them,” the dad says.
Times are tougher at work, too.
In recent weeks, clients – people they work for at their respective jobs – have demanded to know how they voted, mocked their accents and suggested that they learn better English. They explain that they’re improving their English as quickly as they can. Each has engaged a volunteer tutor from a local literacy group [Volunteer English Program].
They want us to know, too, that they “try hard to be good citizens” even if they don’t have and likely will never get the documents that say so. “We pay our bills on time. We pay our taxes,” the man says. “We’re trying to speak the language. I got my GED. We are decent people.”
Regulars at Sunday Mass, they profess gratitude to God for what they have. But, pressed, they admit “many obstacles.”
Their eldest has a 3.5 GPA and is a student athlete.
“But we can’t go to the bank and ask for money to send our child to college. We can’t go to a car dealership to buy a new car because we don’t have valid licenses and social security numbers.
We can’t go to a regular doctor or get health insurance.”
The undocumented half of the family relies on a free clinic for health and dental care. Even one hospital stay would bankrupt them, they say. The three younger children qualify for Medicaid.
Both parents often work six days a week – they can’t afford to turn down extra hours. In sixteen years here, they have never taken a vacation. Not one.
No, life isn’t easy here. But life was darn near impossible in Mexico, they say.
The man was the first to cross over.
He finished high school in Mexico City, drove a cab and sold tacos in the street to support himself and help his parents.
He had no plan to leave his country until a cousin told him about the chance to work for a living wage and live among family in suburban Philadelphia.
Excited, he sold his cab and hired a human smuggler (“coyote”) to guide him across the border in Tijuana. He slipped under a border fence, walked for four hours, then shared a ride to LA in the trunk of a car. He brought nothing. The only thing in his pocket: his cousin’s phone number in PA.
“It’s scary; you don’t know who you’re dealing with,” he remembers. “The coyotes are like the Mafia: they pass you from one person to the next.”
Because airline security was much looser 20 years ago, he flew from LA to Philly, where his cousin and a landscaping job were waiting. His future wife would cross a few years later.
She was born, one of seven, in a rural village in one of Mexico’s poorest states. Her father was a subsistence farmer. Home had no electricity, no running water, no beds. Her wardrobe: two dresses. After her education ended in sixth grade – the village school went no higher – she helped her father in the fields and her mother in the kitchen. At 14, she moved to a nearby city to become a nanny to twins. When she was 20, her aunt invited her to join her in the U.S. “I saw how hard my parents were working to survive,” the woman says. “I thought if I made more money in America, I could send them more.”
Eager to help, her boss paid the coyotes.
She crossed at Tijuana in the trunk of a car.
For three months, she trimmed grapevines in a California vineyard, then flew east to join relatives in Philly’s western suburbs. Like other migrants, she gave a false social security number to a factory and received her first American paycheck. After she met her future husband, the two returned to marry in Mexico near their parents and siblings. They stayed on in Mexico City; the man resumed driving a cab. A year later, they had a baby.
One day, the man stopped home for lunch. “My wife asked me for money for diapers and milk for the baby and I looked in my pocket. There wasn’t enough money to feed the baby.”
That night they decided to return to the U.S. Crossing this time – with a 14-month-old and a five months-pregnant wife – would be much riskier. The baby went first.
“We had to hand our baby to strangers and cross through the desert. They told us it would be a better place,” the man recalls. Again, they journeyed penniless, carrying a gallon of water between them for what they were told would be a three-day walk. But, after a night long trek, their guide inexplicably abandoned their group of eight. They jumped a six-foot fence at the Arizona border and flagged down a minivan. “Help us, please,” the man beseeched. “I need to get my wife to Phoenix because my baby is there.”
The driver agreed to take only the four women. “First, I gave my daughter to a stranger, then I gave my wife to a stranger. I lost contact with her for three days.” With the women on their way, the four men turned themselves in to U.S. authorities. They were handcuffed in the back of a pickup truck, driven to Tucson and put on a plane to El Paso, where they were escorted back over the border (to Cuidad Juarez, Mexico). Officials intentionally drop you at distant, unfamiliar crossing points so you’ll be less likely to attempt another crossing, the man explains. Desperate by now to find his wife and baby, he was undeterred. He took a long bus ride back to the original crossing point in Arizona and tried again. This time, he walked across, at one point ducking into bushes to avoid a guard. He eventually reunited with his wife and baby in Phoenix. Because airlines now required IDs, the family crossed the U.S. in a minivan, rejoining their cousins in Philly’s western suburbs.
Sixteen years and three more children later, they’re still here.
Forever grounded, each missed a parent’s funeral in Mexico a few years ago. “We’re caught in a cage,” says the father. “Here, we are able to feed our kids and send them to school. But we can never give a hug to our parents or see how they’re doing day by day,”
Would a wall have kept them out?
Not likely, the couple says. “People in my country are hungry. When you’re hungry, you go where the food is – even if you have to jump higher or go under. There’s a lot of corruption in Mexico and I don’t see when it’s going to be better. If it were, we wouldn’t have risked our lives to get here.”
Tighter border security is already “pushing people to cross in dangerous areas now, where there are narcos and criminals,” he says.
After the November election, the couple began preparing for the worst.
They arranged for an American friend to raise their three American children should they and their oldest be deported. If only the father is sent back, he fears whatever job he finds in Mexico wouldn’t pay enough to support his family back here. And if DACA is repealed, their eldest “dreamer” child would have “no chance at all” to go to college, they say.
“We’re afraid at any moment that something is going to happen, but we can’t tell our kids,” the father says. “We have to live like nothing is happening. They are happy kids.”
More tentative than her husband, his wife adds softly: “At the end of the day, we say, ‘Thank you, God, and please take care of us. Please keep us together.’”
Professional bio: A journalist, editor and freelance writer, Caroline O’Halloran’s articles have appeared in regional newspapers, national magazines and collegiate publications. Currently the owner of Caroline & Co. Media, she writes and edits websites, blogs, news releases, and other communications for small businesses and non-profits.
Before forming Caroline & Co., Caroline was the associate editor of the Main Line Times, Main Line Suburban Life and MainLineMediaNews.com and the founding editor of Flair, a women’s fashion, beauty, fitness and well-being publication. Previously, she served as editor of the Lifestyles, Education and Society sections of Main Line Life.
Caroline began her career as a radio news producer, reporter and anchor in Providence, RI. She is a proud graduate of Merion Mercy Academy and Brown University where she majored in Health and Society. She has two grown children and lives in Malvern, PA with her husband, Rich, and their beagle mutt, Lucy.
From VEP Intern to Global Citizen
I was accepted to serve with the U.S. Peace Corps from March 30 2017 until July 1 2019 through their agriculture program. As such, I will be living with a Nepali family in the Western Hill Region at the base of the Himalaya in a rural farming community. When there, I will be working to advance agricultural practices to increase productivity and nutritional content of local produce as well as employ farming practices that improve soil and decrease need for soil and water amendments. The aim is to increase the food security and the quality of land within this rural community.
I will be stationed in a very remote village, up to several hours on foot away from the nearest dirt road. This will be an opportunity for me to employ much I have learned from working on organic farms, as well as an opportunity to learn more about tradition central Asian crops and growing practices to help create community-focused projects wherein Nepali farmers increase food
security and promote clean water and soil conservation. My plan after this first two year commitment is to remain in Nepal, either working with local agriculture initiatives, constructing my own demonstration farm, or to reenlist in Peace Corps in Nepal.
Ultimately, I would like to work in setting up multiple organic and biodynamic demonstrations farms in the India-Nepal-Bangladesh-Bhutan region which can become self-sustained, with local farmers teaching other farmers these practices. To prepare, I am currently working on learning Nepali (which will be further strengthened in the first 3 months of Peace Corps service, when I will be working on small projects in Kathmandu and learning Nepali with fellow volunteers) and acquiring as much information as I can find about soil conservation and improvement, as well as biodynamic husbandry practices. I look eagerly to the future and what it may hold, as I know my plans will change and adjust as I learn more about Nepali culture, history, and social issues relating to agriculture.
Andrew Phillips, WCU 2016
Free to be me!
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “literacy is traditionally understood as the ability to read, write, and use arithmetic. The modern term’s meaning has been expanded to include the ability to use language, numbers, images, computers, and other basic means to understand, communicate, gain useful knowledge and use the dominant symbol systems of a culture.” This definition of literacy applies to native speakers of language who are lack literacy but they can still participate in their communities. The native speaker can participate in their society orally. But immigrants who don’t learn the language, it is very different situation. To me, literacy gives me freedom, especially in my American life. Literacy in English helped me to understand communication between people and their cultures. And it has changed my personality, relationship with other people,
and opportunities of education. I had a feeling that I lived in a very small cage before I made myself understood in English.
My first steps into American culture were a stunning experience. For the many years I lived in America, only knowing simple words, such as “yes” or “no”, I felt I had no choice but to stay in my house. The outside world just seemed like a strange place. However, my world was suddenly transformed when I started to learn English, bit by bit. I started to pick up the American culture, and I began to understand how Americans think. I also started to realize the importance and the power of language. As I freely moved around America from place to place, I began to adapt to my new surroundings, and I started to understand the society by listening to the national news. This was how I opened the door to a different culture, a way of life different from mine.
I have become more active and positive since I met my English teacher. I started to understand American people with visual literacy. My teacher and I went to an art museum, a restaurant, and a park to understand the culture and the community with my eyes. When we went the art museum, she explained about artist and a story in paint. One day, she and my family went to Morris arboretum to watch a family concert. It helped me to understand American culture more. Learning literacy is not with word. To me, all that kinds of activity is also learning literacy. My improvement of literacy made me feel comfortable to adjust American life. I am able to meet my children’s teachers, to do school volunteer work, to take college courses, and to get a lot of local information from newspapers, and internet. Furthermore, I can travel where I want to go without any anxiety, and I can discuss my children’s progress with their teachers by e-mail. I feel that I have been let out of a cage.
The simple definition of literacy is just the ability to read and write. My definition of literacy is freedom to participate. Now, I can understand people who cannot explain their feelings, ideas, and opinions. In other words, I realized how important literacy is to be a part of a society. It can change our quality of life. In my opinion, literacy is more important anything else.
ENG 100, Journal #4
13 October 2016
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