When I read the prompt for this week’s photo challenge, to post something “foreign”, this picture immediately came to mind. A relative of my husband took this picture when various members of the family were staying in a refugee camp in Thailand in the early 1980’s. They had fled from Laos, and were hoping to get to America as some other relatives already had.
Some of the structures in the picture look particularly ravaged because a fire had gone through the camp. My husband has shared his miraculous story about coming to the States as a toddler, but the entire experience is utterly foreign. I was born in an affluent part of New England to a middle-class family. When my husband, his parents, and some other family members were crossing the Mekong River to reach Thailand, I was moving from a townhouse to a ranch-style home in the suburbs of Connecticut.
Another thing that makes this image foreign to my husband and me, is the way the image is in storage on our computer: scrolling through hundreds of pictures of our children, happy and healthy and possessing so many things, and having so many exciting opportunities. Our little ones have never feared for their lives, they have never wanted for anything, even when our dollars were stretched most thinly. There are pictures of our current house, at the end of a cul-de-sac in a suburban community. Keep scrolling, and all those hundreds of pictures that speak to our blessings in life are punctuated abruptly by this one. It always makes us pause.
Since coming to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, my husband has certainly assimilated, in ways that probably made him seem foreign to his parents and those of their generation. How foreign I, as an American woman, must have seemed as my husband announced our desire to marry 11 years ago. (For those of you who don’t know, Laos and America have a shaky past.) Becoming a part of my husband’s family when we married introduced me to many foreign things: foods, customs, ideas. Marriage has made us one, so “foreign” to either one of us, over time became “familiar”. I count it a great blessing to have been written in to my husband’s amazing story.