Around the World in 60 Minutes

Working with a group of women from all over the globe has expanded one mom blogger's world view.

Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Every time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America
Got a dream to take them there
They're coming to America
Got a dream they've come to share
They're coming to America

When we visited colleges for The Teen, most of them touted their diversity. I pooh-poohed that: You can go around the world without ever leaving Upper Darby.

In my day job, I may assist a family from Bangladesh with sponsoring their brothers and sisters; spend my lunch with a women from Vietnam reviewing the questions from her citizenship application; end my day by assisting a resident from Haiti with a mock job interview so they are well coached to meet a human resource representative.

After employment, English as a Second Language (ESL) is the most sought-after service. I advertised an ESL/Civics class, and 20 people showed up. Out of that 20 I now see seven of them, mainly women, daily. They come prepared to practice English, armed with questions about making phone calls; questions about phrases such as "nickname"; questions about my Philly accent.

They sing the praises of America but also grieve for their home countries.

Some days we choke back tears as we talk about the children they left behind; their parents that they will not see for a few years; and the familiarity that comes from being in a place where they understand what their neighbors are talking about.

They laugh as they work out the proper English by mumbling in French, Spanish or Arabic; they frown their faces in concentration as they answer (IN ENGLISH) questions about how long they have been in the States; they take careful notes when I mention places they can go for entertainment in Philadelphia.

When I started hosting the conversational English group, I thought we would read from some worksheets I found online and be done. These ladies want, no demand, more than that. They want to talk about the variety of clothing available in America; Macy's and TJ Maxx are big favorites. They want to wax poetic about the homes they left and have me correct their interchangeable pronouns when they discuss their spouses. They strive to have the perfect American accent, although I find the cadence of THEIR accents enviable.

The core group have become friends, fussing over each other, worrying when one of them doesn't show up.

They bring me food that is traditional in their countries and explain the reasons they wear henna. I've learned about Galapagos Island, how women from Sudan use coffee and egg as a facial mask and how to dance as if I was in Guinea. Some days others drop in and practice, and they leave feeling a bit overwhelmed at the camaraderie, but they return to learn and laugh.

Even when I speak slow, I still speak too rapidly. My patience has gone way up and I've gotten over the feeling that I'm speaking down to the group when I enunciate each word and use gestures to get my point across. I've researched more grammar than I have in 20 years and eliminated colloquial sayings because seven people looking at you with confused looks makes you conscious of the next thing that comes out of your mouth.

Even though I'm wiped out when they leave, I look forward to the next time I'll see them. I have invited others to come and marvel at my group because I am fascinated with these women.

Despite our language barriers we are still the same. We want to be better people, we all want to learn.

We all love the USA.

Raya Fagg is a mom of two from Upper Darby, PA. This post is adapted from her blog, And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ.

Categories: MomSpeak