Lending a helping hand in the journey from isolation to connection
Laxman Adhikari was only two and a half years old when civil war spread in Bhutan and he was torn from his home. Bhutan’s government declared Buddhism the official religion; Laxman and many others from the Hindu community were forced to leave the country. Many years spent in a Nepal refugee camp gave Laxman an emotional understanding of the distressing journey that many New American’s have faced. “They feel so lonely, like I feel before when I first come to the United States. I feel so lonely and miss so many friends, it’s so difficult to get adapted to a new community.”
Laxman is motivated through his experiences to help others adapt to their new communities. He passionately calls to others to help him in his quest. “Come and join me and help our community in the rainy days.”
Each member of Laxman’s family was uniquely affected by the Civil war in Bhutan, leaving their way of life behind. His grandfather was a senator of the country at the time. One of his uncles worked in the health field and another uncle was a college professor. His mother and father owned a large, simple farm in Bhutan. When they were forced to leave they had to give up their animals, their house, and their property. Laxman’s memory of the exile is limited, but he recalls the agony of his family members as they fled their homes. “It’s kind of pretty difficult for them to tolerate all this big pain because they got to sacrifice everything… and carry the little kids in their arms and leave the country with their eyes full of tears.”
After leaving Bhutan, Laxman and his family traveled west to Nepal. Laxman talks of the difficulty they faced upon arriving in Nepal. “When they first come to Nepal, they don’t get enough to eat, actually they get a palm full of rice and they got to live their life with a palm full of rice”
“Leave the country with their eyes full of tears”
Laxman spent 19 years in a Nepal refugee camp, receiving an education from Caritas Nepal, an organization close to his heart. Despite the restrictions of the camp, Laxman received two years of a bachelor’s degree while in Nepal. Life was not easy, their community was built out of tents. “Plastic and bamboo sticks and the flooring is mud. Sometimes when the wind comes it blows everything and we got to re-establish the same kind of camp, need to help our community members too. It’s kind of difficult. If I start remembering all of these things it makes me cry.”
Before coming to the United States, many New Americans have an image in their mind of what it will be like. Laxman’s own image of the United States was that of a “crazy California” and a “cold North Dakota”. The transition to California proved to be a hectic one for Laxman. The resettlement services he was provided were limited; he was left to complete paperwork and applications on his own. It took him almost 6 months to find a job. “It’s pretty difficult to find a job in California actually. I used to have an old bike that time and I used to ride the bike all day and carrying my resume in the back just going to every single store and saying ‘do you guys have job?’”
Eventually, Laxman found a job as a cashier at a small gas station. Slowly, he began going to college and received an Associate’s Degree of Massage Therapy. Laxman continued his journey, moving from California to North Dakota.
North Dakota is surely cold, as Laxman has stated, but it still offers the warm comforts of home. The streets of Fargo consist of a variety of culturally specific markets. Finding their culture in Fargo allows New Americans to reform their image of what it’s like to live in the United States. “Their culture is still alive, so there’s nothing bad about moving to the United States,” Laxman says.
Laxman’s own culture is still prominent in his life, while also being involved in the Fargo community holding two full time jobs. As a patient representative for the Family HealthCare Center, Laxman connected with his now wife. They were able to have a traditional wedding, making them man and wife by their cultural standards. Although still needing to fill out the legal marriage documents, Laxman happily states that while in Fargo “he got his girl”. “Fargo gave me a lot, I got to be more thankful for Fargo than I did to California… I find my girl. I like her when I first saw her. Love at first sight.” Laxman hopes to see others realize that the community can help them find the comforts of home.
Due to this passion, he became involved in the WE Center. Laxman is able to see the challenges presented to New Americans in their transition, having faced many difficulties in California. He recognizes the importance of communication; tutoring and simple conversation can make a big difference. Laxman is familiar with the isolation that language barriers can cause. The WE Center supports this by assisting in job applications, citizenship tutoring, and everyday tasks such as grocery shopping.
“Got to live their life with a palm full of rice”
Frustration with the struggles faced in common tasks can lead to a feeling of isolation in New Americans. Connecting in our solitude bridges the divide between cultures. The WE Center allows New Americans to interact with people in their community, creating friendships that establish networks. It also enables Fargo community members to help New Americans regain control of their lives and uplift their spirits. Laxman believes that everyone can relate to the feeling of loneliness. New Americans in the community face troubles similar to Americans everywhere. Emotion is universal; solitude in sorrow is not exclusive. “Yeah we have the same kind of issues. We have the same problems.” Fargo community members can help New Americans navigate our unfamiliar city.
Unfamiliarity can be frightening. Laxman would like to see a social movement to end isolation and hopelessness in many New Americans of the Fargo community. Images of the hardship that have brought these New Americans to tears in the past come back to them daily. Laxman calls to volunteers to spend time with them. Share the pain, share the tears, and give them hope to create a new image. As a refugee who has made the journey from Nepal to the United States and has felt isolation and found connection, Laxman calls to the community to come together and stand palm-in-palm. “Motivate them, give some kind of inspiration, and [tell them], ‘you’re going to be all right tomorrow.’”
Written by North Dakota State University English students Ashley McCoy, Samantha Hamernick, and Nicholas Breault
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