Hiking in New York (Diaspora)

Published on Nov 02 2008 // Main News

Syracuse (NY), November 02:
“Hi, Linda, We are ready.”
“Ok. I shall be there shortly.”

Heman Adhikari, Data Karki and Sagar Subba woke up early morning as per their plan to go hiking with few other friends. Linda Zotter, one of the case managers at Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) which has been resettling the refugees Bhutanese at Syracuse (New York) sweats a lot to make these refugees provided with everything that they need. She has been running the youth program for months, and taking the youths for hiking every weekend has been a part of it. Hiking through Tinker Falls last June till they climbed Big Slide, the 27th highest peak in the Adirondacks –New York (NY), they have travelled over 800 miles in the central NY. As the hikers have been enjoying the beauty of this new land, they virtually remember of the natural beauty of their country.

On the other hand, Bhutanese meet every Saturday at Rose Hill Cemetery Park at 11 to discuss their plans, talk about English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, explore the ways to search jobs, and relax for a while.

It’s been 157 days that I have got resettled here. The way people present themselves while talking about the new places makes me read the situation in two ways: one group has been enjoying their lives abroad and the other has some reservations. Every one’s basic requirements are fulfilled. Some people already own computer, even Lap Top, digital camera and beautiful car. Their closet is full with winter clothes. There is a big flow of people almost every week. Nonetheless, there is no worry as they shall be assisted for the initial set up by the receiving agency. What follows is really hard to believe. Some volunteers provide the exiled Bhutanese with the necessary items like food stuff, clothes, phone set, kitchen items, furniture, computer, VCD and VCR, and so on.

Every Sunday people wake up early as this is a special day for them. Most of them–even Hindus–visit churches this day. People have different reasons behind going to the church. Some of them are Christians, so they want to attend the Christ’s service. Some enjoy listening to music, some like to hear about Jesus Christ. Interestingly, some attend the Sunday service in order to get the material assistance. On top, people want to build up a network to help get better jobs.

However, there is a separate story of the other group that consists mostly of older folks. They appear lost and wonder what they shall do in this new and different environment. Some of them feel difficult to learn the American culture, lifestyle. Among many problems, the barrier of English language has hit their life. They attend Refugee Assistance Program (RAP) run ESL classes. They are kept in six different grades according to their ability to read and write English. Most of the young folks beat others–even the refugees from other countries like Iraq, Russia Bosnia, Burma and Somalia– and get admitted in the sixth–the highest grade.

There is no doubt that people are provided with good houses to stay in. They should not worry about paying for the house rent and utilities, as the receiving agencies fix everything for them. However, whatever assistance the refugees are provided with lasts only for a short period of time. It is a temporary assistance and people are expected to be self-sufficient as soon as possible. At the time when the US economy has been declining and the job market worsening, one cannot expect to get a decent job within a short period of time. Also, the immigrants with limited English and little or no knowledge of computer are the worst sufferers. Anyone who wishes to come US has a big dream in mind. They hope to get a good job and a heavy pay check. But there is a long way to go before these dreams are fulfilled.

There is something worth mentioning. The American never inquires about the type of work one does. He shall definitely ask if or not one works. Specifically, it is important to have the job in the US–big or small matters not. Ironically, most of the immigrants are found to be expecting only good jobs.

A big number of exiled Bhutanese resettled in different states have still been struggling to get jobs. Few select are lucky enough to get employed early. A small number of them have been working in hospitals, restaurants, and airport, and as refugee interpreters. Hari Bangaley, former camp secretary of Beldangi II camp, D. B. Adhikari, former employ at Caritas, Damak and Kaji Sunwar from Khudunabari camp work as Case Managers of the exiled Bhutanese in three different places.

October 9 was important day for the resettled ones as well because they came together to celebrate their greatest festival, Dasain. Interestingly, even some Americans were enjoying Bhutanese-Nepali dishes, their forehead full of tika and twisting and turning in Nepali folk songs. Tihar began outright from Kaag Tihar and ended playing Bhaili and Deusi followed by Bhai-Tika. Bhutan News Service/Kazi Gautam