Refugees have been in the news a lot lately. Many of the stories I read about sound similar to what I grew up overhearing the adults tell when their friends came to visit, or when we visited. Lives lost on the seas on puttering fishing boats, pirates stealing, killing, taking girls for sexual slavery, bullets being shot at you as you’re running away from being captured by new regime officials. People whose lives were promising and optimistic suddenly interrupted in order to escape the political unrest that induced a stifling atmosphere that rewarded neighbors to gestapo on each other, knowing well that doing so would send their neighbor to be brainwashed in re-education camps.

It’s been more than 40 years since the Vietnam War, the last time the world saw a big surge of refugees, and thanks to the Internet, people are more informed of the cruelty that takes place and more connected to help in today’s Syrian refugee crisis.

The fact that many Vietnamese-Americans have been successful and have contributed to the success of America should be a testament to the rest of the world that wants to emulate it, but potential host countries seem too afraid of the small percentage of the bad that comes with the good.

And self-proclaimed homogenous countries give the excuse that they have to take care of themselves first before they can help others. In some ways, I agree with this, but corruption is rampant in places where there are no outsiders to blow the whistle. The worst crimes, the deepest pain, are committed by your own.

Being around people different from myself has allowed me to be more compassionate with myself and the people I hold close to me. I found myself being very tough on people whom I expect to understand me, to have gone through what I went through. This probably says more about how I treat myself,  while being very congenial and trying to impress those outside my closest circles. By leaving my comfort zone, I learn to judge less and let things be because I know how it feels to be judged and have expectations be put upon me.

Volleyball manager

During my first year, I tried to remember as many names as I could. It really helped build rapport with the students, and they loved it when I remembered their names. One chipper student, though, had a name I’d never heard before, but she had such positive energy that I couldn’t forget her face, or her voice.

“Give me a hint!”



“No! Moegi! Don’t forget it!”

“Okay! I won’t!”

And everytime I saw her, I would say, “Hi MOEGI” so that I wouldn’t forget.

In her second year, I asked what she wanted to do in the future after stopping her to chat during our lunchtime English Cafe’s. She excitedly answered, “Social Media!” I was totally into that. How do you use social media? I ask. Twitter! LINE! I tell her she would be great a social media because she’s so out-going.

Now she’s a 3rd year, and one day called me over where she and a friend were studying. I hadn’t seen her for a while.

“Cat-sensei, cat-sensei!”

“Moegi, Moegi!”

“I have something to tell you!”

“What, what!”

“I passed!”

“Wow! YAY! You’re going to Yokohama, right!”

“Yeah! Kanagawa! I’m going to learn about magazines and stuff!”

“Congratulations! I’m very proud of you!”

“Thank youuuuu <3”