Immigrant learning curves

Jeb is the youngest and most recent addition to our asylum-seeker household. Though he’s been in the city since February, he’s been with us just two weeks. All recent immigrants face steep learning curves as they find their way in a new place. It can be revealing to walk through some of these processes with them.

In addition to working part time at an Amazon warehouse, Jeb has been attending classes at a local training center. He rides with a friend to work but has been biking to classes. Yesterday he said the weather was now too cold to ride his bike so he would take the bus to school.

“I will go early so I can get there in time,” he assures me.

I know that Jeb has never taken a bus before. As a matter of fact, neither have I, not in this city. But I have done a bit of research on what is involved.

“Do you know which bus to take and where to get it?” I ask.

“No, Mom.”

“Go to the Transpo website and see if you can figure it out,” I say. “Look at the bus map, look at where your school is and find the number of the bus that goes there. See whether it stops close to our house or whether you will have to take more than one bus. When you have an idea of what you have to do, come and tell me what you’ve learned. We’ll see how it will work.”

Jeb comes down hours later with his computer and shows me that … he has found the Transpo website.

I coach him on finding the bus map. I ask the name of his school and its address. He knows the name but not the address. He looks it up on his phone, which shows a map of how to get there from here. Comparing that map to the Transpo map we see that the school is a prominent stop on the No. 4 route, which runs very close to our house.

But dinner is ready and Jeb is hungry (goat is on the menu!) so we don’t figure out all the details. Before he sits down to eat with his housemates I ask him to print out the map and schedule of the Number 4 bus. (No, actually, I do this from my computer because his computer is on its last legs and he hasn’t connected to our printer.)

While he is eating dinner I see that 1) about half of the Number 4 buses stop at his training school and 2) if he wants to get there by 9, as he told me, he should take the bus that stops near our house at 8:25. I show him the schedule and he promises to be ready to do that in the morning.

This morning he is not down at 8, or 8:30 for that matter. He comes down at 10.

“Good morning, Jeb. Aren’t you going to school?”

“Yes, Mom, but my teacher said he wasn’t going to be there before 10.”

“Are you taking the bus?”

“No, Mom, I can’t because the bus left at 8:25.”

“No, no, there are many buses after 8:25! Get that schedule I printed out for you.”

He runs upstairs and finds the schedule. I show him again how to read the schedule for departure times. We see that a bus is due in 10 minutes. I quickly explain how to take the same bus line to get home (it travels in a loop) and where to get off. He dashes out.

“Good luck!” I say, and I truly believe he will need it.

I am not terribly concerned because he has two strong legs and a phone, but in early afternoon, just as I start to wonder how it worked out, he comes home, beaming.

He caught the bus. He got to school. He got on the bus to return home and watched carefully to know where to get off. It was not difficult. It will be even easier from now on. It is a miracle, a small but important step in independence.

“Thank you so much, Mom. Thank you!”

I beam, too.

All three are also learning to drive. Anybody interested in helping with that?

3 thoughts on “Immigrant learning curves

  1. Oh, my goodness! Good and Patient Teacher/Mom. All power and presence to you and your growing household. All growing up at once in a new land and far, far from home. I agree: “It was a miracle.” Every day is, really.

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