“Immigrants”, Wood Relief, 1930, painted by Peter Wedin, 1894-1980. (Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

My name is Paw Ree Say. I was born in Burma in Bo Ka Lay City, and I have two brothers and four sisters. I have been in Saint Paul since January 30, 2008.

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.

I grew up in a poor family. I remember when I was ten years old, I liked to climb trees like coconut and mango trees. Usually people in my country grow rice and plant vegetables and fruit to eat. In my country, we have three seasons. We have summer time, raining time, and winter time. We don’t have snow in winter, just a little bit of cold.

We don’t have enough clothes, especially families who have a lot of children, because they have no money to buy clothes for their children. But we have enough food and we eat fresh food everyday. Usually our villages and houses are near the river. One thing that I liked is everybody takes a bath in the river—no one takes a bath at home. I liked the river, and I liked swimming. There is no electricity or refrigerator and everybody uses candles or lamps at nighttime.

Now I live in Minnesota—just my older sister and me. I am married and have two kids, and my sister has four kids. We are lucky that we had the opportunity to come to the United States. My parents and my two brothers and two sisters stayed at the Thailand-Burma border.

My life in the United States is much better. I have learned a lot of good things. Even though I couldn’t speak English or understand when I came, now I can do it. I can drive, I have a car, and I can use the computer too. The government in the U.S. and the governments in Asia are different because I saw a lot of people in Thailand and Burma where the education for kids is so poor. There is no public assistance, and no opportunities for poor people. But here in the United States, it is different. Everybody, every kid can go to school without money, and our kids can get public transportation for school. People who have low incomes can get benefits from the government like food support and health insurance. That is why I would like to say “Thanks, America.”


Paw Ree Say has been living in Saint Paul for three years and three months. She is from Burma, and grew up in a large, very poor family. She has two brothers and four sisters. She also has two children: a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. She enjoys going to the park with her family when she has free time. Someday she hopes to earn her GED and attend college. She likes Saint Paul because this is the place where she rebuilt her new life.

Tagged: immigration