Neighbors of MN
Rebekah and Rueben

 

We met this family of three at the airport at the end of summer. Cecilia and Koe Loe had just flown overnight from a refugee camp in Thailand with their 4-year-old son, in the middle of a pandemic. It’s been cool to walk alongside a family who is in a similar life stage as our family, since we have one toddler.


They were so surprised when I greeted them at the airport with “Hello, how are you?” in their native language.


I know a few phrases of Karen after having previously worked at the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM). That was really helpful to help us bond at the beginning. They were so surprised when I greeted them at the airport with “Hello, how are you?” in their native language. Even though only tired eyes peaked out from beneath their face shields, we could tell they were excited to be in Minnesota, and were warmly greeted by Cecilia’s mother and younger sister.

We typically try to do activities with the family on Saturdays due to all of our work schedules. But we realized that Saturdays are when they love to do things with their large extended family as Cecilia’s parents and siblings also live in Minnesota. Often times we’ll go over to their apartment and hang out with all of them.


Our church has a big passenger van, so we’ve been able to drive that… to fit everyone.


If we go on an activity, like the apple orchard in the fall, everyone in the extended family wanted to go with us. Our church has a big passenger van, so we’ve been able to drive that a couple of times to fit everyone.

In December we invited them over to our small apartment for a couple types of venison dishes; Rueben tried to season the venison to their liking and we ate it with rice. Then we baked chocolate chip cookies together, and that was a completely new experience for them since they don’t bake anything. We had a Christmas tree up in our apartment and they had so many questions about why we had a tree in our house.

For a New Year’s celebration we went to their apartment and did Hot Pot, which is a simmering pot of broth that you add meat and vegetables to. We also cooked assorted meats on a portable grill. Everyone gathered on the floor and ate together.


It’s been a lesson in having grace in cross-cultural friendships. Sometimes we just have to be extra patient, flexible and adaptive in this relationship.


They are so hospitable to us, inviting us to come and stay the night at their apartment since they have a “spare” bedroom. Since it is traditional for their children to sleep in the same bedroom as their parents, Cecilia and Koe Loe believe their 2-bedroom apartment is much too big for them.

They generously give us their extra food from the St. Paul Public Schools food delivery boxes since tortillas, black beans, milk and other items aren’t in their diets.

The language barrier is a challenge. Thankfully I can talk to Cecilia’s younger sister. But there have been instances of miscommunication where we will show up and no one will be home. It’s been a lesson in having grace in cross-cultural friendships. Sometimes we just have to be extra patient, flexible and adaptive in this relationship.

They have taught us a lot about living simply with the basics, and how having family and friends is the most important thing. Cecilia and Koe Loe recently gave birth to a baby girl named Blessing, and I have two bags of baby girl clothes that I passed on to them.