Edgewalkers

When I read this article on race and identity and the “changing face of America”, I was completely riveted.  I sometimes talk here about my experience of being married to someone from another culture.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s an adventure that I truly love.  I also work with refugees and have two brothers from Uganda, so I spend a lot of time pondering diversity, cultural/racial heritage, the acculturation process, etc.  Each of us has a complex and multifaceted cultural identity.  My future kids will have two distinct cultures they can claim.  We want them to know both and be able to weave them together in a way that makes sense for them.   In the article, Michele Norris goes into the statistics on interracial marriage and discusses her findings on the experiences and struggles of people who identify with more than one ethnic group.  I highly recommend reading it in it’s entirety (the pictures are stunning!!), but here is an excerpt:

Edgewalkers are like happy ambassadors who “move between cultural traditions and cultural communities with some level of ease, comfort and enjoyment.” Edgewalkers welcome questions, even when the query is boneheaded or uncomfortable (“Ooooh, is that your father?”). They are calm when people stare or ask about their suntans or light eyes. They enjoy confounding people. Humor is always in their toolbox. Patience too. They see these encounters as a chance to chip away at a tortured history.

Isn’t this what we want for all multiethnic children?  Oh, that we could all be comfortable in our skin and well-adjusted enough to laugh ourselves when the occasion calls for it.   (i.e. http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/)  It’s a work in progress for many of us.  We live in a fallen world, but, at our best, we are able to see the beauty in each other’s unique features AND our own and to laugh at the humanity that makes us assume things about each other, trusting that our assumptions don’t come from a place of malice.  I will say that since changing my last name to Rodriguez, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some less-than-subtle surprised reactions when people who have seen my name meet me (with my blonde hair and blue eyes and pinkish skin) in person for the first time.  It’s occurred to me that it would be really great to obtain a PhD and have a guest speaking gig where I was just introduced as Dr. Rodriguez.  How many people do you think would be expecting a middle-aged Latino man to walk out onto the stage?  Note to self:  This is probably not a legitimate reason to pursue a PhD.  

I am thankful for the diversity in the US.  In my job, we talk about our mission to “welcome the stranger”.  The US resettled almost 60,000 refugees in 2012.  (from the ORR official website)  People from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and other regions who have been persecuted and endangered are brought here each year to begin new lives full of hope.  They start businesses and pursue degrees and live out the American dream.   I am inspired and privileged to watch this happening for my clients.  Their children can grow up free to pursue their dreams and fall in love with anyone they choose.

Some of you may have heard about the Tumblr called “We Are the 15 Percent” that was started in response to the sweet Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family.  The 2008 US census reports that 15% of new marriages in the U.S. are interracial.  My friend, Julie, and her husband were featured there, and I loved scrolling through and seeing the beautiful families.  I submitted a photo of me and Bryan on our wedding day, and they published it on our anniversary.  Here it is.  I know I have a lot to learn, so here’s a shout out to the Edgewalkers among us.  🙂

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My Costa Rican siblings 🙂

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Aliens and Strangers

Buenas tardes, amigos!  So, here we are at the beginning of March.  February 22nd was a much anticipated day for the residents of Casa Rodriguez (which include me, Husband, and most recently–my hydrangea plant whom I affectionately call Cici because the word for hydrangea in Spanish is hortensia).  Can plants anticipate something?  No?  Well then, moving on…

Bryan and I got married at the tail end of 2011. Once we were married, we were eligible to start the process of obtaining permanent residency for my husband–a document commonly referred to as the Green Card.  We know several couples who have been through this process, and we heard that it could take several months.  While you are “in process” with the government you cannot leave the country.  Therefore, we decided to wait until last fall to start the paperwork.   I get a month off in the summers, and we wanted to spend last July in Costa Rica with Bryan’s family.  We saved our pennies and filed the (very expensive) applications jointly in October.  Several appointments and several months later, we made it to final step at last–our interview with the immigration office–this past Friday.  It was an interesting experience and not entirely like I expected.

Immigrants face many challenges today when trying to achieve legal permanent residency.  I don’t know what the process for getting a green card was like before 9/11, but I’m guessing that it’s gotten more complicated.  Getting a green card through marriage is one of the least complicated ways to stay in the U.S., so the government screens couples very carefully.  Having worked in refugee resettlement, I am not a novice in dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office.  I think I was able to be more patient than normal because I knew what to expect.  Bryan, bless his heart, is always patient.  We knew about our final interview for more than a month.  I had time to think about what it might be like, and I was actually a bit excited about it.  I was curious to see what kinds of quesions they might ask to prove whether or not our marriage is legit.  Any process that brings together government offices and love stories has to be fascinating, right?  It wasn’t like this…The_Proposal Green Cardor this.

But it was interesting.  As we sat there in the lobby area, I looked around at the clusters of people waiting with us.  Some had attorneys.  Most had large files of documentation with them.  We had a book bag full of photo albums, wedding announcements, shower invitations, the guestbook from our reception, our lease, bills, evidence of the massive undertaking it was for me to take his name (I wanted to take only his primary last name so our future children won’t be the weird kids in class whose full names have 75 syllables.  Latin Americans have two last names.  My local social security office and DPS seemed baffled by that.), etc.  A general feeling of nervous excitement silently filled the room as people filtered in, and I thought dreamily about how we were not alone.  This day was much anticipated by all of these hopeful immigrants.  The promise of the future hung in the air.  We were the first appointments of the day.  No one dwelled on the possibility of devastating disappointment.  We might all be separated from the crushing of our dreams by mere minutes, but there we sat with our carefully gathered documents, waiting to prove our worth.  Waiting to show the powers that be that we deserved to make a life here.

It’s overwhelming to consider the thousands of people who wait and hope and work so hard to make it to this point.  How often to we as citizens of this great country take our blessings for granted?  Safety and prosperity are our norm.  It’s too easy to focus on our issues with government policies and the material things we don’t have.  That room was a jarring reminder that it is an honor and a gift to have been born here.  And I’m thankful for that.  We have a responsibility to use our status to serve those around the world who don’t have what we have.  No matter our spiritual beliefs, we should be motivated to make the world better simply because we were born here where we have more, and it’s not fair.  What can each of us do to promote justice?  Please, please find a cause that speaks to your heart and get involved.  As Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  There are a million ways to give to populations around the world that are suffering from hunger, disease, poverty, civil war, human trafficking and other terrible issues.  Here are a few of my favorites:

http://www.compassion.com/

http://www.ijm.org/

http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/

http://www.rescue.org/

http://www.redcross.org/

So, back to last Friday.  When our Olive Garden-like buzzer went off, we were finally called into an office for our interview.  We told the very polite government official (an immigrant herself) the story of us.  We told her how we met and fell in love and got Bryan a student visa against all odds.  We told her how he moved here and how our relationship grew stronger.  We told her about the proposal and the wedding and our first year of marriage.  She examined all of our evidence and even requested to keep a few pictures for our file.  We could tell that it went well, but it was such a relief to find out officially on Monday.  Knowing that Bryan can live and work here legally is like clearing the final hurdle in a long-distance race.  Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.  It’s been quite a journey.  God has opened doors for us every step of the way, and we couldn’t be more grateful.  A verse from Ephesians has been bouncing around in my head the past few weeks as I considered that Bryan’s status will be changing from “Non-resident Alien” to “Legal Permanent Resident”.  The first version of this verse that I became familiar with had the word “aliens” in it, but I like this version from The Message.  Living in the U.S. is great, but ultimately, this world is not our home.

You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.  Ephesians 2:19