We lived for months as refugees before finally finding solace in Grand Rapids, Mich. We are involved in virtually any arena where words are spoken or written – the court system, schools, medical facilities, workplaces, and factories.
I think Hawaiian food is totally different from Sri Lankan food.
I looked for a Sri Lankan restaurant to eat at, but I could not find restaurant here.
Sometimes I wanted to ask questions to the instructors, but I felt shy and nervous, because if I said something wrong, I thought other students might laugh at me.
So I was so quite in class by looking at the blackboard and the students without doing anything.
It’s amazing to consider the fact that today, in western Michigan, people speak more than 120 languages.
And it’s even more amazing for me to be part of helping many of those immigrant families integrate into our society. My story begins aboard a boat with 100 others in the spring of 1975, my family and I reeling as our beloved homeland of South Vietnam fell into Communist hands.I wanted to make a network of connections and contacts with Srilankan people, and I wanted to support them by providing opportunities to socialize and attend religious services with people who know my language and culture.But, unfortunately, I couldn’t find many Srilankans in Waianae. I knew if I wanted to rent a house I would need money.You know you are helping another person as well as your community.And every time you are sent to work, you are learning something new.• For more, visit The education system at Waianae High School was different from the one in Sri Lanka.Most of the time I couldn’t understand the subjects, and I didn’t even know what people were talking about.I served as a liaison between the UN and the governments of Japan and Korea and Indochinese refugees, many of whom required resettlement all over the world. Realizing there was a growing need here for my skill set, I started a business in my basement – Liaison Linguistics – to help non-English-speakers. Especially satisfying is serving the nearby Kentwood Public Schools.That became my encore career and, now, my lifework. ) I employ some 250 interpreters and translators, some of whom are fluent in as many as seven languages. Twice a year, we partner with mothers and fathers attending parent-teacher conferences.Early on, I was intrigued by the idea of becoming a schoolteacher, but language issues prevented me from doing well on tests. Our expertise in rare languages and dialects sets us apart; we can also translate documents in 30 different languages.Most of the teachers were very kind, but one, responding to a low score I had made, sneered at me, “You should have done better; you’ve been here a year already.”Undaunted, I enrolled in English as a second language classes while continuing my formal education, and I graduated in 1980 from Grand Valley State University as a licensed practical nurse. Mercy Health is a partnership of hospitals, physicians, and health-care providers in western Michigan.