Unedited: Just Eat

Saturday night found me sprawled across the futon, sobbing on the phone to my mother about having “inhaled pink mold from a tub of months old sour cream.”

The week before at the shelter had been filled with my plunging toilets, dealing with unexpected poop in the kitchen, meditations and heightened emotions from residents. I dealt with it all myself, but then here I am after the work week, unable to handle a tub of old sour cream.

I may never like pink mold or plunging toilets, and I may cry sometimes while other times I stoically carry on, and that’s all okay. The fact is that I am showing up where I want to be, and I am doing what I believe in. And I should be able to handle a good amount of things I don’t like. And I should be empowered through learning that I can do these things. And it’s okay to break down and cry every once in awhile when you are facing your fears. As long as you don’t turn away, as long as you keep facing them.

Thursday night found me eating pretzels with a fork and googling potato sprouts.

Ate the potato with heaps butter.

Ben’s googling Bronchitis?

Listen.

Little bit of love.

Love over fear? Love over fear? Is anything worth facing your fear? Do you have to face your fears to keep what you love?

I need to go for another roadtrip.

I’m sitting in my office. My first office. And I’m working, and there’s lots to do. There has been lots to do for the past year. Except today I’m not making a list for myself- I’m making it for my replacement. She’s a really cool person- mother of 5 who came over to America as a refugee from Somalia at age 9. I like to think that she’s the Somali- America version of me. I want to be friends with her and hang out more once I make the clean break from JVS.

I start thinking about all the people I’ve met this year, and all the people I want to stay in contact with. All the people I get to stay in contact with. And, now that I am no longer working at JVS, I can invite all my refugee friends to hang out, since they will no longer “clients,” but merely international friends.  

I don’t get sentimental until I begin to clean out my file cabinet. All the manila folders I had meticulously labeled, all the information I had tried to compile in the best way I knew how- with little guidance, and instead a push for me to trust my intuition.

This job did wonders for my confidence, and my ability to lead. It forced me to make my own choices every day at work. I had little supervision, and I had to learn how to work in an office all by myself. I had to learn how to create a place for myself, I had to learn what was useful and what was not.

I had to learn how to keep smiling, even when I didn’t feel supported. And I had to learn when to stop smiling, and call someone out on bullshit.

I remember when I first started at the refugee resettlement agency, my boss gave me so much freedom, and asked me to create my position instead of telling me how to do it. He empowered me to trust myself and to go with what I felt was right. It was really hard in the beginning, but it soon became a way of life.

He gave me one clear instruction when I began work though, and it’s something I will take with me to every job and social situation for the rest of my life. He told me to smile at every refugee and immigrant that I saw, and to shake their hand (of course, remembering not to shake Muslim men’s hand’s unless they extended their’s first), and to ask them how their day was, regardless of their ability to speak English.

When I first started, I couldn’t understand why the refugee families were self conscious about their English. They didn’t want to speak much, even if they knew a lot of English. It was because they didn’t think they knew enough English. And so, instead of just prodding people to speak in English, I started to learn their languages. I learned some Somali, Swahili, Karen, Nepali, Tigrinya, Arabic, Dari and Persian over time. And I used words I knew when I could, and I used broken sentences with poor grammar in a variety of languages, using smiles to smooth the gaps. It opened up the floor for my refugee friends to be more comfortable trying out English, because they realized that they didn’t have to be perfect. We all just had to give communication a try. And daily, we got better and more comfortable navigating language barriers. 

I think the focus from my boss to connect with the refugee and immigrant population is one of the most radical and beautiful directions I have ever received from a supervisor in my life. Can you imagine if everyone in the world had someone who stressed to them that they most important thing for them to do daily was to be welcoming to all the faces of humanity that walked through their life? I feel so lucky to have learned from him, and the refugee community this year. I have grown so much, and feel so much more confident in the direction I’ve always been trying to aim for. Creating a little more community and a little less loneliness in the world. I think this has always been my life philosophy- but having someone reinforce this into my daily job was irreplaceable.

I’m crying on my way back from JVS for the last time. They made me a surprise cake, and gave me a poster that they all signed, which is now on my kitchen wall.

I’m volunteering with AFS (an international high school exchange program), and I’m going to be their volunteer coordinator if I can find time to situate myself. I’m also planning on becoming a CASA volunteer in soon, and I’m going to volunteer at a correctional facility and for Human Rights Campaign as well. These are my new challenges for myself. Once my new job becomes routine.

My friend Deb visited from Chicago recently, and we drank a beer and I learned about her new job and new life while we played with the cat on the floor. My friend Diana just moved to Kansas City from Chicago as well- and her dog Bingo and her are a more regular part of my life again, which is great.

I’m not able to go to New York with Ben for Christmas, but I’m happy he will get to spend time with his family by himself. I’m planning on going to New York with him this Spring, when I get vacation time from my work.

We got a cat. BC got him when I was in Baltimore, the last time I blogged. He turned out to be the most friendly, and beautiful cat I’ve ever seen. He sleeps on your lap all day, and snuggles up next to you at night. He also chases his toy rat around the apartment mercilessly. 

A year in the world, a year with the world, and heading out into a new job, a new population, a new direction.

But– I’m staying close to home rallying for immigrant rights with my new coworkers.

What I’ve learned this year in the homes of refugee families: acceptance. Somalia to DRC to Burma to Bhutan to Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria to Eritrea to Ethiopia. They all accepted me. And I will never forget that. x

We just returned from “Black Friday Dump Trump Anti- Fascist” political action on the Plaza.

When we arrived at the meeting point, we knew we were in for a different kind of protest when we saw that everyone else there was using bandannas to cover their faces. We ended up borrowing a bandanna just in time for the police to arrive. They asked us to let them know what we were planning to do, and who was the leader here? Everyone looked down at the ground, and mumbled that we were all the leader. There were a also a few shouts of “Get away, PIG!”

That’s when we realized what type of protest we were participating in. But Trump’s president elect so, fuck it. We pulled our bandannas over our faces a little more, and marched onto the plaza. 

There were 5 police on ATVs, 5 police on horseback, many police cars as well as two drones buzzing overhead us (their black buzzing bodies and red eyes staring down on us, doxxing us for future reference.

We began the protest march, and stepped onto the plaza, where all of Kansas City was shopping for Black Friday at the posh stores. We stopped in front of stores that had supported Trump (Apple, Starbucks, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, etc.). We linked arms and formed a horseshoe in front of the doors, not letting anyone in or out while we chanted anti-racist, anti- capitalist, anti-establishment, pro refugee, pro lgbt, pro women, pro love.

But to be honest, there was a lot more of the blame being shouted than the love being spread. But people LOVED it. At least a lot of them. There were definitely Trump supporters out shopping who got in our faces and screamed and argued. And I was so happy for the bandanna- in case I were ever to see any of them again in the future. We got cheers and dancing from predominantly black and brown people, and some people even joined in our march.

 

At one point, a black man and a police man were getting heated, and a girl asked me to link arms with the black man, and I did.

At another point, the police rushed the five horses onto the sidewalk to block our path. We were about and hour and a half into our protest, so we just turned around and ended it, rather than risking jail. They had their zip ties ready for our wrists.

BC and I ended the day with beer and pizza downtown.

My new job is pushing me just where I need to be pushed, but also capitalizing on my strengths. X

We had a beautiful Lebanese dinner at my friend’s home the other night, before she took off to visit her family in the middle east.  We talked about the authentic self. Revolution. No compromise. The opiates. And the causes they keep us passive about.

Thanksgiving thoughts 2016- Let it drop twice that we were going to a rally on the plaza tomorrow.

 

Do you want to see our fuck trump sign?

My last two mentor matches- I was visiting a man from Afghanistan, and a Syrian family. Lots of tea, lots of Middle Eastern sweets. No opting out- just eat. 

 

 

 

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