The thin line between anticipation and panic

October 28, 2020 at 9:28 am (Uncategorized)

In four hours, I meet our first refugee family. I’m so excited I can’t concentrate on anything and I’m a teensy bit concerned I’ll crash the car on the way over.

Three of the seven core sponsor group members will be there, which is plenty, because I’m sure the family we’re meeting is more scared of us than we are of them. By a long way.

The more I think about all the complexities of the sponsor-sponsee relationship the more overwhelmed I become. A lot of the training was about trying to dismantle our expectations and open our minds to all the infinite differences there are between cultures. All the most offensive stuff feels self-evident. So we tend not to know what our unconscious biases are, since they’re—well, unconscious. “Normal” to us. Obvious.

Is it rude not to shake hands, or is it rude to shake hands? How long should a visitor stay at a host’s house? What gestures are casual in one culture and highly offensive in another?

All you can really do is your best, and to forgive and apologise and learn.

All I can really do is take things one step at a time.

Today is a big step. I have two pages of questions written down because we’ll have a translator (and Red Cross person) present, and we know very little. Names, ages, and little more.

So excitement and terror are intermingled today. I hope the family has at least a little bit of excitement in their own emotional cocktail.

Edited to add: Through no fault of anyone at all, the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. The Red Cross will reschedule to next week.

This is so immensely frustrating, but I know in a month or two it won’t matter. And that it’s even more stressful for the family.

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