Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thoo Myel Paw

Hello friend,

I have been thinking about you often since we moved to this island. Maybe you don't know, but I think you do, I loved you the moment we first met. Loved that we were the same age, loved your quiet strength, the nervousness that showed in your face, the grace in which you handled difficult and overwhelming circumstances. And as our friendship grew, my love and respect for you grew with it.

You were the one I first tried to teach English to. I was a horrible teacher! But you were a quick learner, a hard worker. I could see you practiced in between my visits. You always tried, even when things came out all wrong and silly. You just laughed and tried again.

Maung Way learned quicker, but every once in awhile he and I would get stuck while trying to communicate, and you would know, would put together all I was trying to say, and you'd help him out, help me out.

Remember the time I came to your apartment, uninvited and unexpected, to invite you to the Rockies game? Maung Way was gone and we were reduced to drawing pictures and acting things out, and I know you had no idea what my plan was when you piled your kids in the car with me, but I know you trusted me. We just...bonded.

Remember when Saw A K was born, and how you totally ratted me out to your husband that I almost fainted in the delivery room! Somehow I thought I had snuck that by you....but I should have known better, you catch a lot of things.

I think it was later that same week that I was supposed to help you register for his birth certificate or some such thing. Though I spoke the English and it was to me the lady at the desk spoke to, I didn't have a clue what she was talking about! You knew, though. I have always loved that.

We have shared many smiles, you and I. About your kids, whom I love with all my heart. About mark, about me, about Maung way, about America and Burma, cultural differences, food differences. We've shared many smiles, but so few words.

Like I said, I've been thinking about you a lot lately. My love and respect for you has grown tenfold during this little, self-chosen journey.

I so often feel overlooked. I so often feel unknown. I so often feel viewed as a child. I so often feel that people here think I'm unintelligent and without personality, all of this because I cannot communicate in their language! Oh, how I wish I could tell a story, share a feeling, join in on the gossip, on the laughing. I wish they knew I was sassy and spunky and funny and smart. I wish they knew I was passionate and sweet and compassionate and witty. Personality is so hard to convey, to translate, into another setting, another culture. Even when I have all the words I need in Tongan, the delivery is all wrong.

All that to say,

I'm sorry. For all the times I ignored you, that I chose your children to invest in because it was a little bit easier. Oh, I'm ashamed! It hurts to be overlooked, and I often overlooked you. But know, now, that I realize just how much more is hiding behind those shared smiles. And one day, in Karen or English, we will share many words.


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