Dr. Brian Murphy

I have been pacing around this morning wanting to write and wondering how to start a post on “life in DC”. It has been an amazing month. I have met so many influential people and have already, a remarkable friend to add to the list of “people I met on my wild journey.” I am incredibly thankful because the month has had its gains and losses.

We said goodbye to my uncle Jerry about two weeks ago. I made a quick, unexpected trip back to buffalo for five days and experienced a whole new level of sadness. And then just less than one week later, I discovered that a professor from my years at Niagara had passed. I had been in contact with him recently after reconnecting just before I came to DC. We had a four hour long conversation at the Orange Cat in Lewiston. He asked that I be a part of a conference in San Fransisco in November and I gladly accepted. We talked about my work with refugees in Buffalo, and once again as my program came to a close-it was him who I looked to for direction. “What do you think? Should I change anything?” He had few words for me and said I was doing so well, expressed how proud he was that I was out there, reporting on the “under-reported.” He was an author, an investigative journalist who spent years in Africa during a civil war. He was an amazing professor and always found a way to tell stories from the field. He was the guy who said “Sure, skip my class to go to a conference, but bring something back with you.” Which resulted in my first publication. He shared my story in class to demonstrate how well a subjective piece was written and encouraged me to keep writing. He pulled me out of research methods so I could be in his investigative reporting for the media course which led to my presentation at the conference and my desire to continue a career in social justice after school. I truly believe that he guided me to the path that I am on now and that our final conversations weren’t by chance.

The last e-mail I sent to him was on June 2nd after reporting on a foreign affairs committee meeting on “The Growing Crisis in the Sahel region.” A topic of his last chapter of his last book he would ever write, I was able to assist with. I told him in my e-mail… “Next year, after I finish grad school, I am applying to be a refugee officer. I want to do circuit rides in the camps and interview refugees who want to come to the US. I think I can do it.”

June 3rd he responded “Just amazing.” That was the last time I heard from him. And it sums up everything he was. A mentor, a teacher, and a friend. I hope my life is as real and adventurous as his.

Image

Thank-you.

Maryland

So sorry little blog. I haven’t pressed in a while. The weeks leading up to today were quite busy. Yet, here I am…my tenth day in Maryland with absolutely no obligations until Tuesday morning. I have enjoyed myself so far. Besides missing the freedom of having a car, being twenty minutes from my favorite smile and my favorite person to share tea with..

I miss my dogs. I miss Kato greeting me every morning with that same anxious cry and head butt. “Wake-up, let’s go for a walk.” I miss walking them through the woods. ALREADY! Ah. Well, I should be glad for this. It will soften the decisions to be made in just a year. I can’t be without them. I can’t be without the trees.

One of Sam’s good friends passed through DC last night so we took him out for a beer at this great brewery at the corner. We drove him back to his hotel afterwards which was about a half an hour away. We got caught in a beautiful thunderstorm which left Sam reminding me of how bad the storms get out here. I was a little tipsy so I reclined a bit and watched the sky. The lightning was incredible. The clouds were like a painting.

I thought to explore the city today but it is raining now. I’m afraid that my mind has forgotten how to relax.

Burmese Project: Day One

I wore my biggest smile, hoping to make them feel more comfortable as they walked in. They were nervous, I could tell. In that moment, all language barriers ceased. The human body can do more than we think..

While it’s important to be sensitive to their culture and their literacy levels, you must keep in mind that you are working with humans.

Solomon None sat down in front of a computer for the first time ever. I showed him how to turn it on and off and he insisted on practicing it a few times before we could even get into a lesson. His English was poor but he was able to understand “BBC.” He wanted to read the world news so we went to the website and found the Asia-Pacific section and images of Burma displayed. My translator MaDee said he was most excited to be able to read the news but I had a hard time telling them that Burmese/Karen was a difficult language to tell the computer to translate. While we have google translator and actually have the option to change almost any website into another language, we can’t in theirs.

This mad me sad. But, I also saw opportunity. If they know how to get to the BBC- they can see images and then read in English to try and understand which lessens the dependency on their language so they can learn English better. In a non-imperialistic way I should add. I think it’s crucial that they maintain their culture, but to get by in America, in Buffalo’s America…English is key.

8p approached quickly and the taxi was outside waiting while they were busy reading and typing. We all stood in a circle for a moment to talk about the next time we would meet when Zaw’s sister walked in the door with her daughter. Zaw grabbed his niece and quickly came up to me to introduce us. She is 18 months old. He was kissing her and showing her the computer and I thought-we’re not so different.

They all set up e-mail addresses and I was their first recipient! I opened the e-mails this morning and they were simple thank-you’s and see you tomorrow’s. 

What a beautiful human experience. What a beautiful life I have.

Image