In three days, 30-year-old Indra Gurung and her seven-year-old son Suyok have traveled from a refugee camp in Nepal to Kathmandu, Qatar, New York, Chicago and finally, here. It’s around 11 PM when she turns the corner at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield airport: exhausted but beaming—delirious with relief. Her mother, two sisters, and brother are waiting to greet her. It’s the first time they have seen her in five years. “Namaste,” her mother whispers, cupping her daughter’s cheeks. “Namaste,” Indra says back.
Near Gurung, a sign reads “Welcome to Nebraska” in white cursive lettering. Her new home.
In recent years, Nebraska has led the country in refugee resettlement—taking in
than any other state. As one of the state’s largest cities, Omaha is the most common area for resettlement. In some ways, this makes sense. Douglas County (which contains Omaha) swung to Hillary Clinton by ; it offers affordable housing, availability of jobs, and a robust refugee community.
But against the larger backdrop of Nebraska it
is a surprising sanctuary. Fifty-eight percent of the state voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election; in the months following it, the state’s Republican Governor the president’s travel ban. This political landscape, fueled by a leader determined to fortify America’s borders, makes it a uniquely difficult time—and place—to be acclimating to America as a refugee.
So what is it like trying to start over here? I sat down with a number of women in the Omaha refugee community to discuss just that. Hailing from Bhutan, Sudan, and Afghanistan the women (who I found through an intake agency called the
) are immersing themselves in local life. They’re going to college, working with conservatives at their jobs, and sending their kids to schools. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment but as one refugee told me, it’s “freedom”—and that’s where every story begins. I Came to Nebraska to Be Reunited With My Whole Family, and I’m Very Happy Here > Pinterest
Indra Gurung in the Omaha, Nebraska, apartment she shares with her mother. Indra is Bhutanese but arrived from to the United States in July from Nepal.
Indra Gurung never really knew her native Bhutan: Her family fled when she was only four years old, due to political repression and ethnic cleansing. She lived in refugee camps in Nepal for nearly 25 years. Over five years ago, her family began the process of resettling. Her family—grandmother, mother, two sisters, brother, and a niece and nephew—were placed in Omaha, Nebraska, where there’s a robust community of Bhutanese refugees. Last year, after many tries, Gurung and her seven-year-old son Suyok got approved to join them. In July, they reunited in Omaha. Today, Gurung, 30, is a factory worker at a beauty product company. Here’s her story.
My family came to Nebraska about five years ago. I was married to a Nepali man so for me it was more complicated. I couldn’t come right away.
I met my husband, who is a teacher from Nepal, when I was tutoring outside of the refugee camp. We fell in love and got married. We had a son together. We lived in a nearby village for a while, but then my husband’s health was not good, and I needed help, so my son and I moved back to the camp with my family. They helped me raise him. It was very difficult to say goodbye to them.
After they left, my son and I were left in the refugee camp alone. We lived in a bamboo hut, and when it stormed, the rain would come pouring in. I worked as a teacher to make enough money to buy food—the rations we got weren’t enough. I was caring for my son by myself. Everyone in my family had gone to Nebraska—and I was alone. I could not live without my family’s support.
Indra Gurung and her mother Krishna.
In the end, I decided to divorce my husband to be able to come here (because he is Nepali, he does not qualify as a refugee). It was difficult to say goodbye to my husband, I don’t know when I will see him again. But the night I arrived in Nebraska was the happiest night of my life. I finally got to see my family, after those long years apart.
Now that I’m here in Nebraska with them, I’m feeling better. When I first arrived in the summer, my brother and sister and I would go to many different parks with the family. We would have meals together. We talk; we joke. We all live together in two-bedroom apartment. I work at a factory that makes beauty products. I get back from work at 3 AM five days a week. My grandmother and mom help care for my son, and so do my sisters. But it’s hard not to see him very often.
I like that there’s equal opportunity in America. In Nepal and Bhutan, we cannot get opportunities, although we are interested to work. Here, I understand, if I work hard, I can do anything, and that goes for my brothers and sisters too. We can have every opportunity in Nebraska, as long as we keep hope and work hard.
Donald Trump did add some difficulties to our life. My process was delayed six months. That was frustrating. Donald Trump hasn’t been a refugee; I want him to know it was very difficult to live like that. Let’s have him try being a refugee. I believe, if this country gives refugees opportunity, they will sustain their lives very nicely. I also want to convey this message to Donald Trump: Please try to understand the kind heart of the refugee people.
The one difficulty here in Nebraska is that I miss my husband. My son asks about his father every day. I want to be reunited with him—and my baby wants his father. But overall, I am feeling happy. I am living a better life here in Nebraska than I was living in Nepal. I’ve made new friends, new neighbors. I especially like the people of Nebraska; they are very happy and helpful. I will continue to work hard to give my son a good life.
At First, I Was Scared of People at Work, but Now, I’m Doing Better
Mahasin Adam at her home in Omaha, Nebraska.
At the age of 24, Mahasin Adam fled to Egypt to escape a dangerous civil war in her homeland of Sudan. She brought her two brothers, who she had been raising since their mother died when the boys were just two and four months. Adam lived in Egypt for over a decade, where she studied nursing, technology, and cooking. While there, she met a man, married him, and had two daughters of her own. But as they started to enter school, she worried that they wouldn’t be able to get the education she wanted in Egypt. So, after divorcing her husband, Adam applied for resettlement in America. In 2016, she moved to Nebraska with her two brothers (now in their 20s) and two daughters, Maha, 10, and Mahad, 8. Today, Edam, 38, is a housekeeper at a nursing home. Here is her story, which she told me with help from a translator.
I came to Nebraska with my two daughters and two brothers in 2016. I was placed here, I think because there’s a strong Sudanese community. But I didn’t pick this place, and I didn’t know anyone in Omaha. I thought America would be beautiful like on the TV—New York, California, Miami—and on my first day in Nebraska, I said:
This is not America! [ Laughs.] I thought maybe they were going to put us here for a little bit, then they would take us to America. But then I realized, this is America!
I want people to know that, when refugees come to America to start a new life, they start from zero. I studied nursing in Egypt, but the language barrier makes it impossible to use what I learned here. I studied computers in Arabic, but now I can't even use a computer, because it's in English. Sometimes I could cry, because I feel like my hands are tied. But I don’t want to go back to Egypt.
In Omaha, I am a housekeeper at an old people’s home. For a long time, I was scared when I woke up for work in the morning. I wondered:
How am I going to get to work and do this job? When I would walk into a resident’s room, I would say a few greetings that I knew in English, “Good morning! You doing good? Yes, I’m fine.” Then, I would hurry up and clean, because I was scared that they would realize that I don’t speak English well and yell “Get out!” I was scared I might get fired. I didn’t want to lose this job. On breaks, I would hide in the bathroom; I was scared to try to talk to people in the break room.
Mahasin Adam with her two daughters, Maha, 10, and Mahad, 8.
I’m doing better now. I actually eat in the break room. I can speak to residents better than before, “Tomorrow, you're working?” they ask. “Yes, I'm working,” I say. “You have family?” they ask. “Yes, I have family,” I say. One resident gives me one candy every day. She calls me her daughter. When other people try to take it she doesn’t let them. “This is my daughter's candy,” she says. She loves me a lot. [
I am working hard for my daughters. I'm going to send them to the right schools, so they can decide their future. I want to go to school too, because I see my girls learning so fast, and I want to be on their same level. They are talking to their friends in English on Snapchat—I want to know what they're doing! I want my kids to be friends with me, so I need to learn English. I want to go back to school so I can start my life—maybe open a salon or a daycare—but there are very few English classes in Omaha at night. I want them to be proud of me, and to do that I need to know English.
People from Nebraska are nice to us, and wherever you go, people say hi and smile at you. In Sudan, you don't just walk around the street smiling. So at first it was like,
Why are you smiling to me? Now, I smile back. I still don’t know why! But I do.
The Sudanese people here, in particular, have been so welcoming. Our first day in Nebraska, Sudanese people showed up at my home with food. Now, I have dinner parties with Sudanese women at least once a month; we cook, we talk. I got divorced when my children were too young, and we talk about how I want to meet someone else here. But first I have to go to the gym! [
I am glad to be in America, but it’s important to me to keep my Sudanese culture, even though we’re in Nebraska. I have another brother and sister who I’m hoping can get here soon. They were accepted to come to America, but with Trump’s rule for refugees*, they are waiting for him to let them come. My brother says, “Every day, I’m praying.” I feel so powerless; I hope the President will let them come. I am happy here in Omaha. It feels like home.
Some Kids Ignored Me in High School, but I’m Making Friends in College
Kalpana Biswa, hanging out on campus at the the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she’s a sophomore.
In a matter of a month, Kalpana Biswa went from living in a refugee camp in Nepal to attending high school in Omaha, Nebraska. Though she is Bhutanese, Biswa was born and raised in a refugee camp in Nepal. For money, her mom would take a bus to India and bring back secondhand clothes to sell them in the camp. As the oldest child, Biswa cared for her two sisters. Biswa’s mom applied for refugee status in 2012, and, after a year-long application and interview process, they moved to Omaha in 2013 to reunite with her grandfather and aunt, who settled there before her. It’s this type of family migration (among immigrants) that President Trump is working to end. Today, Biswa, 22, is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
My mom, my two sisters, and me all came to Omaha in September 2013. We came to Omaha because my mom’s dad is here. We stayed with him for one month, and then, we got our own apartment. My mom got a job working at Tyson Foods.
I started Benson High School in Omaha in October. I started as a junior, because at the time, I was almost 18-years-old. I felt so nervous on my first day. I had never seen a school like that. Our school in Nepal was a bamboo house and there were a lot of Nepali people. This Omaha school was modern, it had so many classrooms. I had to ask someone for help in order to find mine. It was scary at first because I didn’t know English, so I took ESL class. In ESL, I made friends with other refugees. We were all learning English, so, it was easy for us to talk. ESL became my favorite class. The teachers made us feel like we belonged. Outside of ESL, some of the American kids were nice and helpful, but others were rude. They didn't understand me, because of the language barrier, so they would ignore me. I felt disappointed when people ignored me, I felt like this is not my country.
Source : https://www.glamour.com/story/what-life-is-like-when-youre-a-refugee-in-trump-america