After Guru and I leave Rajesh’s townhouse, we drive over to Southern Place, the apartment complex where LSG houses many of its refugee clients. The townhouse of the family we are visiting next is similar to the one in which Rajesh lives, except that this one is made of brick.
We walk into the complex and knock at the door of the family’s apartment. After some audible fumbling with the lock, a Bhutanese man opens the door and welcomes us. Half-expecting to see another solitary person in his apartment, I am surprised to see a large family waiting inside the living room. The father invites me to sit on a couch, and Guru settles into a spot beside me. No one in this family speaks English, and while Guru can translate easily for me, I find myself unsure of what to say or whom to address.
But soon our conversation gets going, and before long, with Guru’s help, we are talking about Bhutan, farming, and modern technology. Damber Gurung was a farmer in Bhutan before he and his family had to flee to a refugee camp in Nepal in 1992. The eldest daughter, now 20, was two-months old when the family left Bhutan for Nepal. Damber’s other two daughters were born in the refugee camp, so none of the children remembers Bhutan. The family arrived in America in early September, not quite two weeks ago. Because they have come to Atlanta so recently, they are just beginning to adjust to the new conditions and way of life in the U.S. During an awkward pause in our conversation, unable to think of anything interesting to say, I resort to the easiest escape from silence: I ask what they think of Atlanta’s tall buildings. Damber says that they are unlike anything he has ever seen, and tells me that while his wife was afraid on the elevator ride to the 18th floor of the Woodruff Volunteer Center, where LSG’s office is located, he assures me that he rode without any fear. Soon we are wrapping up our discussion, with Guru telling Damber about food stamps and orientation at LSG. After a round of goodbyes, during which I try to pronounce “dhanyawad,” a way of saying “thank you” in Hindi that I learned from Guru, we walk out to the minivan.
Check out the blog next Thursday for the fourth and final installment of A Day in the Life.
Jeff Banks is the communications coordinator for LSG. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.