Audio Recording of Interview
Dah shares her story of resettling to the U.S. from Thailand at the age of two, and of finding her identity as a Karen refugee in America. She speaks of her experience with her mother’s Christianity and her father’s family’s Buddhism as well as her aspirations to become a lawyer, potentially helping refugees like herself.
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Narrator: Dah Eh
Summary: Dah shares her story of resettling to the U.S. from Thailand at the age of two, and of finding her identity as a Karen refugee in America. She speaks of her experience with her mother’s Christianity and her father’s family’s Buddhism as well as her aspirations to become a lawyer, potentially helping refugees like herself.
Topics: Cultural Adjustment, Education, Employment, Family, Future, Gender, Generational differences, Historical Context, Immigration Process, Language, Religion, Religious Conflicts, Religious Practice
Section 1: (00:01 - 11:42)
Immigration Process - In 2004, Ms. Eh moved to the United States at the age of two.
Family - Ms. Eh was born in Thailand to a Burmese mother and Thai father. Comparing Burma and Thailand, she illuminates that the former seemed more impoverished than the latter.
Family - Before moving to the United States, Ms. Eh’s parents struggled to provide for her and her two older siblings.
Employment - Ms. Eh’s parents are factory workers. Seeing how hard they work inspires her to also work hard such that she can relieve them of some responsibilities.
Family - Ms. Eh only has no extended family in America.
Education - Ms. Eh’s parents resettled in America so that her and her siblings could have better education and opportunities. Their extended family members stayed behind because they feared how big a change it would be.
Immigration Process - Through job shadowing an immigration attorney, Ms. Eh learned that certain situations can delay one’s immigration application to America; for example, being married and being over twenty years old.
Family - Ms. Eh believes that she would have adjusted better to America if her family was complete – relatives included.
Section 2: (11:42 - 23:33)
Cultural adjustment/ Gender - Ms. Eh’s parents had a difficult time acclimating to the United States because not only did they have children to support but also lacked English speaking skills. Ms. Eh characterizes her parents as “traditional”; for example, they are still warming up to the sight of seeing her and her sister in revealing clothes.
Family - Ms. Eh’s older sister faced more restrictions while growing up than Ms. Eh and her older brother did. Though, Ms. Eh is not shy to admit that she is a rebel, which also enables her to do more.
Language - No one is Ms. Eh’s family was well-equipped in English when they immigrated to America. Ms. Eh shares that her older siblings had a tougher time in school because they were much older than she was; they were even, unlike Ms. Eh, bullied because of the way they spoke English.
Cultural adjustment - Ms. Eh reflects that by spending all her time with Caucausian peers and none with students who were also Karen – a tribe in Burma – led her to subconsciously and sometimes consciously reject certain parts of her identity. She eventually resolved this tension.
Section 3: (23:33 - 34:11)
Historical Context - Ms. Eh explains why there are numerous Karen refugees across America and the world: after British colonial rule ended in present-day Myanmar, the Burmese were given full control over the territory. The result was a war that lasted several decades between the Burmese and the other tribes, among which is Karen, that are collectively known as “Kachin.”
Cultural Adjustment - Every year, there is a celebration of Karen New Year in January and soccer tournament in the summer, which Ms. Eh says brings many Karens from different states in America.
Post-war/ conflict journey - Ms. Eh illuminates how divided the Karen community is not only because of what happened during the civil war but even over issues like religion.
Generational differences - Ms. Eh reveals that the older Karen generation in America is more adamant about changing their perspective of Burmese people.
Section 4: (34:11 - 41:58 )
Religious Practice - In Burma, which is referred to as “Myanmar” today, the main religion is Buddhism. However, there are also Muslims and Christians. Ms. Eh and her family are Christian.
Religious Conflicts - Within the Karen population, there is a lot of conflict over whose religion is better. Moreover, some people like those who are Christians are sometimes so affected that they leave their churches and seek membership in others; Ms. Eh is concerned with how this further breaks up the community.
Religion - Ms. Eh does not strictly follow Christianity like her mother. She believes that one’s religion does not minimize them, but rather amplifies them.
Religious Conflicts - Ms. Eh’s mother is explicitly disdainful of religions other than Christianity; she even expresses her contempt for Buddhism, which Ms. Eh’s father grew up practicing.