If you’ve been following this story, you already know that Lucy (a wife and mother of 2 with a part-time job) and her family are hosting Maria and her son, Juan – and hopefully soon – her daughter, Julia, who are all seeking asylum in the United States.
Maria and Juan have been at our house for a week and a day. There are issues but they are not the issues that I thought we would have.
My Spanish only works for simple concrete interactions. What time is the appointment? What do you want to eat? Do you need a better coat? It does not work for complex ideas… I see that you are homesick. How can I help? Juan accidentally purchased a game on the kindle. It is only $0.99, but I don’t want him to order a Nintendo Switch.
Maria has been cleaning my house (main floor) and I love it. I want to explain the nuance of, “Thank you so much, but I don’t want you to feel like you have to do it.”
Also, Juan has been calling me Mama Lucy and has been giving me giant hugs when I come home. He doesn’t give his mom giant hugs when he sees her after school. I am buying the things that they need but I want to get out of this “parent/child” optic. Maybe I need to give Maria some money and just let her buy what she wants/needs. It just feels a little bit weird and like I am walking right into the “White Savior” trap that I have heard so much about. It is really cold outside so either way, Maria is dependent on me for transportation to the stores.
Julia (Maria’s daughter) is currently stuck in a child detention facility in a different state, where she has been held for the past year. Reunification is proving to be very difficult.
Julia is still not here, and no one knows exactly how long it will be before she can be reunited. Apparently my husband and I need to complete fingerprint cards, submit them, and have a home visit before she can be reunited. I have a fear that perhaps we can’t go to San Diego for Christmas as we had planned months ago because maybe Julia has to be in our custody. No one has explained this to us. Or maybe she just needs to be in Maria’s custody, and we need to be fingerprinted because we live in the same house.
Lucy and her family had planned a trip to California for the holidays before Maria and Juan had been placed with them. It was a snag that they had to work around by making accommodations for them while they were away.
Maria and Juan really don’t speak any English at all. I started them today on Pimsleur ESL # 1 for the ride to Mass. (I took them to a Catholic service about 20 minutes away.) The vocabulary includes basics like “I speak, You speak, I understand, You understand, Excuse me, English, Spanish, Yes, No, Sir, and Miss.” It was all new…OK, I think they understood “yes” and “no” already.
Juan started school on Wednesday and ran away from school on Thursday. The vice principal speaks Spanish and we agreed that he is overwhelmed and will only go half days until after Thanksgiving. Juan was so shut down at the meeting with the vice principal that he was justified in wondering if Juan could speak in either language. On Friday, Juan was given a backpack full of school supplies and he came home very happy. He doesn’t like the cafeteria food and much prefers his mom’s quesadillas. We live across the street from the school but I was still glad that when Juan ran away, he knew how to get to our house.
I have some very generous friends who have sent me money without even an official “ask.” A friend from California gave me $1000. My cousin gave me $600, and a friend from Utah gave me $200.
Juan could really use some therapy but he doesn’t have insurance. Therapy is $100/hour for a Spanish speaking therapist. I could eat through all of the money in just 18 hours of therapy (18 weeks). I’ve been asking myself….does he REALLY need it? I want to be as careful with the money as possible, and I only want to spend it on a therapist if I think that it will significantly benefit him. Right now, I think that finding a 9 year old Spanish speaking friend would benefit him more than a therapist.
I need to help Maria find some Spanish speaking friends. After mass, everyone just went home. It was nothing like the churches that I attend where folks have coffee hour and stay for a long time chatting. Mass was in Spanish so I think that Maria got something out of it even if she didn’t meet anyone. There is a woman in our neighborhood who is from Mexico and we are trying to arrange a meeting at a coffee shop on Wednesday. Apparently she is very friendly. I know another woman in the area who is a fluent Spanish speaker from Spain, but I get the vibe that she is of a very different class, and I don’t think that they would be a good match. The other woman is vvvvery wealthy.
This is very satisfying work but there are just so many little things to take care of. I am so thankful for my circle of friends for helping me both emotionally and financially.