Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas cookies, Stockings and Black Henna, Part 2

Day two of our refugee extravaganza was similar to the night before--we started out late that morning for a different apartment complex and handed out Christmas stockings full of toys and school supplies to children we knew in the complex.  And, like last night, we spent a lot of our time lingering in the homes of the families we knew well.

Some people claim that immigrants are "stealing American jobs."  I'm a little confused by this, as my experience around immigrants is that they're all in the same boat as the rest of us--waiting at home, sending out resume after resume, applying for job after job, and hearing nothing in return.  I should point out that refugees are legal to work as soon as they step off the plane, and it is actually illegal to discriminate against potential employees on the basis of (legal) immigration status.  You can't pick one guy over another because he (or she) is a natural-born citizen, and the other guy just has a green card.  It still happens, of course.

There is a Bhutanese church that was holding a Christmas party and service later that day.  Incidentally, it was also a national Bhutanese cultural holiday, so attendance was going to be high, and everyone was dressed in their best suits and saris.  We visited a family in the next apartment, and their daughter was dressed in a gorgeous turquoise-blue sari that her mother had made for her the day before.  We sat with her mother and father for a while, and heard the same story--no work, and where there is work, no hours.  It's depressing.  This man had worked in Nepal for twenty years building furniture.  I thought of all of this untapped talent laying around, and got an idea:

First, wouldn't it be nice to have an online directory of refugee-owned businesses and skilled workers, so those who care about their new neighbors could help them by giving them business or hiring them for contract work?  Secondly, wouldn't it also be nice if those who are not working had some opportunity to create and sell their handicrafts and funnel some money toward the community in that way?  I know nothing about the Farmer's Market circuit or how that works, but the Hmong have had success selling their embroidery and folk art, and this might be a way for the community to use their ample down time in productive, empowering ways until the economy improves.  It's an idea, anyway.  Time to do some research...

We went to the Christmas service, where there were traditional and not-so-traditional Bhutanese dances and songs, and a short sermon in both English and Nepali.  We were invited for dinner afterward, and it all smelled so good (Bhutanese food is amazing).  Unfortunately, we had our own church service to get to that night so we couldn't linger any longer.  It was too bad; the Bhutanese will beat any American hands-down for hospitality, and it was really, really hard to leave :-(.

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