Today at JRS, I spent a long time chatting with one of our long-time friends who comes to see us each week.
We both share French as our second language which comes in very handy for helping to translate complicated letters from the hospital or other official correspondence from English into the essential information she needs. It also means that we can talk together about family problems and exchange perspectives on how we deal with issues in our respective cultures.
Sometimes, it can feel like my patience is running out as I struggle with vocabulary or look at a letter for the fifth time as she takes it out from her filing system of envelopes and plastic bags. I am mindful that I am not attentive enough or that my mind strays back to the paperwork that feels more urgent. And yet, I love chatting with this lady.
She feels to me like a grandma that I miss, an auntie or wiser woman whose wisdom I only have a taste for. She has lived more challenges than I know and counts friends here in the UK a small compensation for her family who is spread out in different places, all far from her country. She has a great faith and loves to sing and the best smile with a twinkle in her eye that you can catch on a day when the sorrows of life here as an asylum seeker don’t overwhelm her.
It turns out that in the midst of her travails, she loves planting vegetables and before we ended our conversation for the day, she gave me carrots and courgettes to take home for my tea. I shared them with another refugee colleague and took one home to cook with friends this evening.
I felt very proud to tell my friends that this courgette I had brought to our pot-luck supper was grown by my refugee friend. A very special courgette indeed.