I’m in the States now for a month-long stint of speaking, conferences, catching up with old friends and of course making new ones. This trip, however, has been particularly nostalgic. As a medical student in 1997 I delivered a baby girl to Shirley and Moses, a Karen family living on the Thai-Burma border seeking refuge there from the atrocities in their homeland. This family has been living in my hometown of Fort Wayne, IN for nearly three years, having been sponsored by my home church as refugees. That is such a cool story! But wait! There’s more!
This may come as a surprise to many of you but Fort Wayne, IN is home to the most refugees from Burma (ethnic groups Karen, Chin, Mon, etc) in the United States. I met a couple of people at the gathering who moved to Ft. Wayne, just to be a part of the larger community. I have heard about many people from the area of Thailand where I used to work now living in Fort Wayne. When I came back this year, I asked Shirley if she would like to host a gathering for me to visit with people I knew from Thailand, now living in Ft. Wayne. The conversation was a mix of Thai, English, and Karen. A young man confirmed, “Doctor, this is really your hometown?!” It is a surreal thought for all of us.
We had a good time discussing the old days, what happened to so-and-so, culture-clashes, language difficulties, dreams, and goals. Overall, they were very happy to be in Fort Wayne, although I know their life is not an easy one. But we share an understanding about what is truly difficult and what are inconveniences to immigrating and living as an expatriate.
Shirley and Moses both work full time and they work very hard. Their eldest daughter November is married with a two-year-old daughter, their son Junior (a high school junior) is a math whiz and wants to study engineering, and their youngest, Rosie, whom I delivered back in the bush hospital on the border, is a high school sophomore and has wanted to be a physician all her life. It is a joy and a privilege to have them in my home town, while I continue to work in Thailand.
Another nostalgic moment was the reunion celebration of Steve Barber, and his 25 years of excellence as the band director of the Homestead High School Spartan Alliance Marching Band. It was even more special to celebrate 25 straight years of State Finals appearances with a 2011 State Championship! I continue to say “WE” because it has always been “WE” with the band. I was Barber’s first Drum Major and we went to State for the first time in 1987, but we built this legacy with a foundation of hard work, team work, excellence, dedication, and pride. These values learned for success on the field are integral to life-long success off of it. Thank you Steve Barber for all that you have poured into each student, making us truly a class act.