Audio Recording of Interview
Kar Bu and an unnamed female interviewee, both Karen refugees from Burma, talk about being in a refugee camp for ten years as well as their family's transition to the US. Although they found the transition from living in Thailand to living in upstate New York difficult, the two express gratitude for the relative ease of American life and for the growing Karen community.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Kar Bu
Location: Utica, NY
Content Warning: Mentions of violence, killing, and the burying of bodies.
Summary: Kar Bu and an unnamed female interviewee, both Karen refugees from Burma, talk about being in a refugee camp for ten years as well as their family's transition to the US. Although they found the transition from living in Thailand to living in upstate New York difficult, the two express gratitude for the relative ease of American life and for the growing Karen community.
Topics: Conditions back home, violence, conflict journey, family, food, employment, education, immigration process, cultural adjustment, resettlement support, community, culture, religion, faith, places of worship, message for others, future hopes
Section 1: (00:00-11:24)
Conditions back home, violence- From Burma and talked about how there was a lot of violence there, doesn't have good memories.
Conflict journey, family- Left to go to the refugee camp with a group of people, lost people along the way due to lack of water and basic necessities. Had to burn the bodies or bury them. He lost his nephew on the way. Traveling took 2 weeks.
Conflict journey, food, employment, family - Refugee camp was also very difficult for him, had nothing to feed his children. At one point, sold a gold necklace, but the money was stolen on his way back by policemen. He spoke more about the kind of food they ate in the camp and made his living working on a fishing boat.
Family, education- Had four children at the time and stayed in the camp for 10 years. Two of the children went to school, and female interviewee mentions it was very difficult to buy the things they needed for school.
Section 2: (11:25-21:01)
Immigration process - UN resettlement agency was accepting people, and when he applied, there were interviews as well as medical examinations. The medical examinations were a painful experience for him because of the pain his children felt during the examinations.
Cultural adjustment, language, education, food, family - Was happy to come to the US and provide more opportunity for his children. Didn't like Utica at first, didn't speak English, hard to navigate, not used to snow and had no car-- made for a very difficult experience. But she was happy about the ability for children to get education and that food was accessible. These basic needs were being met.
Conditions back home, education, food - She talks about how education was different back home. Had to walk miles to get to school and had no Tupperware to pack lunches in, used the shell of a nut wrapped in tree leaves to bring lunch to school.
Section 3: (21:02- 31:42)
Resettlement support- Female interviewee and Kar Bu said they had help from case worker and their sponsors. Their sponsor was another Karen family who helped them learn things like using food stamps and buying from stores like Walmart. Case worker helped more with forms and enrolling children in school.
Community - Not many Karen people there when they first got there in 2006-- ten families max according to the two. Not many people to get help from back then, but now a bigger community.
Culture, religion - When asked about the Karen culture, Kar Bu says that they're Christian, celebrate the New Year, and Martyr's Day-- a holiday which commemorates those who died in the struggle for independence. Also a holiday which celebrates unity. Also explains that there are different Karen groups; some are Buddhists.
Faith, places of worship - Kar Bu has a deep faith in God and believes in his help, citing medical miracles within his family. The unnamed female interviewee talks about how people join different churches based on their beliefs (many Karens are Christians, but they belong to different types of churches such as Jehovah's Witness or Baptist).
Section 4: (31:43- 41:24)
Message for others- Kar Bu wants people to know about the hardships that refugees living in camps face-- the restrictions, etc. The female unnamed interviewee wants them to know how hard it is to live in the camps-- without basic necessities, access to education, access to freedom (the policing of camps by Thai police).
Family - Female interviewee still has a brother there and other younger siblings. She keeps in contact with them. Kar Bu went back once in 2016.
Future hopes - They want to be able to have access to higher education, pursue a career that gives them better lives, and also hope that those jobs allow them to help people back home.