Learning a new language and culture can lead to mixed emotions. It can be scary, fun and exciting sometimes all rolled into one but for Aye Myint, Sa Be Be, Doh Moo, Paw Law Eh, Hsrmoo, Zaw Win, and Eh Wah, the American culture and language is something they want to learn.
The religious refugees are Karen, one of many ethnic groups in the country of Burma or Myanmar and were transferred to refugee camps in Thailand before coming to the United States just a couple of years ago. Since coming to the U.S., many of the Karen people have started learning English at the Cultural Learning Center with Lynne Kiesel.
The learners meet once a week to study the language and culture of our country in hopes of one day becoming a U.S. citizen. In fact, just last month, Aye Myint copied her papers to become a citizen. She should find out when she will be sworn in later this month.
Kiesel said the number of learners attending class varies from week to week but those who come are enthusiastic and ready to learn. “They want to learn how to be an American,” said Kiesel said. “They want to learn to cook American food and do other things American’s do.”
Kiesel added it is ironic that the students want to learn how to cook American food since their food is healthier.
“They use a lot of spices in their food and with many of the fruits and vegetables, they eat the entire thing including the leaves and stem,” said Kiesel.
Ayn Myint, Sa Be Be and many of the others enjoy cooking but were unsure of how to prepare American dishes so Kiesel enlisted the help of Jennifer Stefancik to teach food safety and how to prepare pizza.