As told by Marian Klostermann
I came here to the U.S. in November 2006. My sister was already here. I came here to bring my kids to go to school. I bring three kids and two stayed in the Marshall Islands. I was very sad to leave them behind. One was in high school and the other was six years old. I was sad to leave my Mom and Dad in the Marshall Islands. After three months, my husband came to the U.S., too.
My sister worked at Best Western in Dubuque and got me a job. I worked three-four months with cleaning and making beds. The work was very hard and with long hours of work. I did not understand much English. Sister Corrine and Sister Ruth taught me at the Lantern Center. They taught me how to speak but my English was poor.
I got a job at Holy Family Hall at the Franciscan Infirmary. I was learning to talk by talking with the sisters. My English was very poor. Now it is good. I really like working with the sisters. They were really nice to me. Good benefits and good pay. Some workers were very good to me. My supervisor was nice but she is not working here anymore. When I started to work, I don’t have training. I got training with the nurse aides who worked with me. I am not a CNA. I really like to be one but don’t know where I get that. I’m planning to but I don’t know how to do that.
I worked from 7-3 mornings. My husband works at night and gets home at 6:00. He takes me to work and gets the kids ready and takes them to school. Sometimes I drive to work.
The time the sisters all move to Clare House, I packed everything for sisters. Put in box everything they needed. Then we move and I unpack everything and put where they like it. It was fun, working together.
I have five kids all together. My oldest son came here and went in 7th grade. All my children go to Eisenhower. They got friends right away. First time they did not speak English. But in two months their English was getting better. They all graduate from Senior High. I really want my children to finish their education, go to college and get a degree. My daughter Vicky works at Clare House in the kitchen and sometimes nursing.
My oldest son is now 24. He lives with me. He was in the Marshall Islands for two years. There is no place for him. He is looking for a job. That’s why he came back. Mom, I am going to get a job. Mom, you always helped. He was really sick. He has an appointment at Crescent Health for a checkup. He has a driver’s license. Oh, where can he get training? One son is 23 years old. He has a baby girl. I have one granddaughter. They come to my house every day and I get to see them a lot.
I adopted one little girl, she is my guardian child. She is Marshallese. Right now, she is eight. She is going to school at Fulton. She always wakes up and gets ready for school. My husband takes her. He works at night cleaning and that is good for him. He likes the hours so someone is with the kids.
We Marshallese have a church. We always go to church on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. We get together and eat after church. People volunteer to bring food. Friends and family will get the food and bring it to the church. We always sing and dance when we are together. We want to sing our Marshallese songs with the same accent. We have birthday parties and invite everyone. A child’s first birthday is a big one. Before we start we pray and give the child to the pastor or the loved ones who do a blessing. Then we have a party.
It is different living in the United States. Lot different! You’re working and you are staying by yourself with your husband and your kids in one house. In the Marshall Islands, we are all together, husbands, kids, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles in a big house. I like it being with just me and my husband and my kids. I do miss the roses. I miss the food. I call my Mom and ask her to mail me some food but she can’t. My Dad came from the Marshall Islands and bring food. He left last week. My mother and father will come in May to visit. Can’t wait for them to come and see all the kids
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.