In the spring of 1994, I was a writer in residence for Consortium of Associated Colleges in the Twin Cities. This meant that participating campuses would house me for seven days, and during this time I would do individual and group writing critiques, a workshop, and a formal reading for the entire campuses at St. Thomas University, Macalester College, Augsburg College, Hamline University, and College of St. Catherine.Print This Post
When I arrived at the airport my sister and her family came to the airport to pick up my family, and when I saw them, they said “Welcome to Saint Paul.” My first surprise was the snow. Before I came to the United States, I heard people talk about snowfall. I thought, if I go to America, I will eat snow and I don’t need to do anything—just put it in a cup and mix it with sugar and milk, and then we can eat it, because in my country we eat ice a lot in the summer. But in the U.S., no one eats snow.Print This Post
I search the concourse for the family,
a family whose people
were swept away by a river red with blood.
Swept when a secret war ended.
Swept from the mountains of Laos,
Swept in one day from the steamy jungle
to Minnesota’s pre-dawn dark.
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays—there are a lot of differences between Christmas in America and in my country, Sierra Leone. In America, all they do is exchange gifts and go to work, but in Sierra Leone people will start celebrating a week before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, people will do lots of grocery shopping and buy lots of meats and chicken because they like to cook fresh food in the morning. On the day of Christmas, all you can smell is the good smell of different aromas—yum, yum.Print This Post
Not everyone in my family made it to Saint Paul. My parents were village people, until the villages were burnt down. Hiding in the jungle, their food was stolen; their friends and relatives starved. Our people, the Karen, were attacked because we have a different culture, language, and religion. My father was shot through his hand. It took a long time to heal. Let me explain. My name is November Paw. My parents fled Burma (Myanmar), over mountains and a great river, before I was born in 1992.Print This Post
I learned a few sparse details about the tragedy of September 11 at Lutsen’s Bar on Lake Superior. I waited in the lounge for my turn to use the pay phone and watched as the television silently showed strangers holding hands and jumping from the burning towers. I felt like I was returning to a changed world. My friend Jane Sevald was also entering a whole new world. At age forty-five, she was taking on her high school classroom teaching English and writing at Como High School to students from Ethiopia, Somalia, Laos and Iraq.Print This Post
I will never forget the first time I entered a Mexican store as an eight-year-old and tried to buy something. It was after I had emigrated from the United States to Mexico. I had trouble with ordinary words, like asking to use the bathroom. I had to tell one of my older sisters to do it for me, because they knew more Spanish than I did. One day, my dad sent me to the store to buy leche (milk). I had a very puzzled expression, so my sister slapped me across the head and said, “It’s milk, you retard.” “Well, sorry, miss know-it-all!” I answered her back while rubbing my head. As it turned out, my sister went for the milk.Print This Post
Each year, a small group of immigrants makes its way into Saint Paul from a foreign and misunderstood land. They may come for love, jobs, the promise of more house for the money. Willing to face great adversity, they pack their belongings and take a giant leap of faith across the mighty Mississippi. These brave souls move their lives from Minneapolis to Saint Paul. I am one of them; this is my story.Print This Post
I am a mother of three who moved to Saint Paul about a year ago from one of the meanest cities in the world, I think: Chicago. When I arrived at Saint Paul’s Greyhound bus station, I was terrified. I did not know a soul and had nowhere to go, but I was determined to start a new life for me and my children. I walked out of the station to flag down a cab, and this woman said hello. I looked at her like she was crazy. She didn’t know me, and I kept moving.Print This Post