Today I finished cultural orientation for about 30 Bhutanese people who have come in the past few weeks. I had never done it before, but was placed in a situation where I had to do it. I pretty much knew what was to be done, and the trickiest part of the whole thing was making sure the people got to the office! The logistics of getting that many people without cars to one location is a nightmare. I had some wonderful volunteers that helped out.
I really enjoyed doing cultural orientation. It was fun watching my coworkers interpret for me. It was interesting that if I focused, I could pretty much tell what they were saying based on tone of voice and hand motions. One of my coworkers tended to directly translate everything I said. Another one tended to elaborate on every word I said. It was fun to work together with them to make sure the refugees got as much information as we could cram into their heads.
I really liked teaching the Bhutanese about American culture; about how we don't have caste systems based on our name and families, but we have something similar to that. Our caste system is based on money. You are of the highest American caste if you make a lot of money, and the lowest caste if you don't make much. It was fun to talk to them about how they can rise up and improve their status in life, like President Obama who started his life on food stamps. I tried to give them encouragement, saying that if they work hard and have patience, they will make a wonderful life of opportunity for their children. I tried to encourage them so they would know that immigrants are the reason this great country exists. They are already American, even if they don't know it yet. I loved that part of my job today, having the opportunity to teach these things about my country. I'm proud of my country, even though it seems to be a huge mess of anger and bitterness and intolerance these days. I must believe that it's a better place for the sake of the refugees. I must cling to this fact about my country: that we accept people who want to be free and want to work hard and be proud of who they are and where they come from.
It was nice to have happy times at work. Yes, my brain is fried and I just want to curl up in a ball and watch TV. And yes, the morning was stressful and painful, but the afternoon was awesome and rewarding and fun.