As told by C. Jean Hayen
In 1995, I was born in Majuro, Marshall Island. My Mom, brother, and I came to Texas to join my Dad who was in the Army and stationed there – though overseas at the time of our arrival. I was four years old and my brother was five. We lived in an apartment at the army base.
When Dad was out of the army, we moved as a family to Cedar Rapids, IA. We lived there where my brother and I went to a public grade school. We loved the school and the city. We had two teachers who taught us ESL (English as a Second Language) and they were very nice. Mom and Dad worked at a candy factory, which they loved. We lived in a very nice apartment. At the time, there were very few Marshallese people living in Cedar Rapids.
After two or three years, we moved to Dubuque, IA where Mom and Dad had relatives and Marshallese friends. My brother, 10, and I, 9, loved our new city. We lived with relatives before we found an apartment to live in. We went to Lincoln School, which was good. Washington Junior High was our next school, followed by Senior High School. Because of our very fine ESL classes in Cedar Rapids, English was not a problem for us. My favorite class was social studies because I liked doing projects with others.
After high school graduation, I continued living with my family for a year. In the autumn of 2015, I began as a nurse aide at Mt. Carmel with the Sisters of Charity, BVM caring for Sisters on the skilled care floors. I love the Sisters and enjoy helping them in any way I can. I can’t say “no” to any of their needs or requests.
In 2015, my brother moved with friends to Seattle and still lives there.
December 2015, I moved to a downtown apartment living by myself. My apartment is near my folks’ apartment so I see them often. I enjoy my place, friends, family, and going to the New Hope Church on Jackson Street. All church members are Marshallese persons. Our songs are sung in Marshallese and we enjoy Marshallese dances. I treasure worshipping God among my people.
Being of low-income, I would appreciate any assistance in applying for medical insurance or aid of any type. (I had to be off work for two months and delayed paying my rent. My renters have now called for a court hearing regarding the back payments, even though I can now pay them.)
The Dubuque community is welcoming and I love the people here in the city, as well as the Sisters and my being with other Marshallese. I enjoy the pond and flowers in Marshall Park. My plan is to live life here to the fullest!!!
This story originally appeared in Facing Diversity: Marshallese Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by the Inclusive Dubuque Network in Dubuque, Iowa.