Waiting. Waiting for the U.N to make its decision. Waiting for the war to end. Waiting for my husband to get a passport. Waiting for immigration to remember us. Waiting for the police to discover us or to flee before they can. Waiting.

Many people throw this word in the air to describe how they waited 20 minutes in gnawing hunger for their meal until the incompetent waitress brought it. Or they waited at the bus stop in the blustering cold before it finally skidded to a stop before them. Or they waited for the guy or girl they liked to call for hours until he or she remembered their existence.

“Waiting” is an occurrence that comes and goes and soon becomes something someone whines about to her friends over lunch. Yet, for a refugee, this word describes their entire existence. They have entered a waiting room and have been there so long they have become a part of the decor.

decor1“They have entered a waiting room and have been there so long they have become a part of the decor.”

I get a glimpse of this waiting room when I volunteer at the Bangkok Refugee Center. On most Tuesdays, my friend and I will spend an hour and a half playing games, pronouncing words in American English, smiling and trying to love kids from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, Congo, and any other conflict torn country.

We never feel like we do much. We always feel unprepared. Every week we wonder if we are really doing anything to help the kids learn how to pronounce English properly. Are we just wasting their time by being there?

But then I was reminded, how can you waste a refugees time? That is the one thing they have to spare.

Written by Sherri Jane Phengchard.

Sherri Phengchard is a teacher in Thailand who volunteers regularly at the BRC. She was recently married and has lived in Thailand for a year and a half. She is proud to call Thailand home. Her second home is in Waxhaw, North Carolina.

See Waiting: A Glimpse of Refugees (Part 2)