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Berhane Debesai Abraha interview transcription, May 17, 2015

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Berhane Debesai Abraha interview transcription, May 17, 2015

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Interview with Berhane Debesai Abraha on the third floor of the Ray B. West building on the campus of Utah State University, May 17, 2015. He talks about his home country of Eritrea, his transition to life in the US, his plans, and the hardships refugees face in the community.
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CACHE VALLEY REFUGEE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
TRANSCRIPTION COVER SHEET
Interviewee: Afeworki Woldemichael
Present: Afeworki Woldemichael, Heidi Williams, Magen Olsen, Berhane Debesai
Abraha, Hilary Warner-Evans
Place of Interview: Mr. Woldemichael's apartment in Logan, Utah
Date of Interview: 17 May 2015
Language(s): Tigrinya; English
Interpretation: Berhane Debesai Abraha: Live translator
Interviewer: Hilary Warner-Evans
Recordist: Magen Olsen
Recording Equipment: Tascam DR-100mk11 linear PCM recorder; Senal ENG-18RL
broadcast-quality omnidirectional dynamic microphone
Transcription Equipment: Express Scribe
Transcribed by: Hilary Warner-Evans, May 21, 2015
Transcript Proofed by: Hilary Warner-Evans, May 25, 2015
Brief Description of Contents: Afeworki Woldemichael talks about his family and home in
Eritrea. He discusses his time in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he met his wife and had two
children, his journey to the United States, living in Connecticut, Idaho, and Utah. He discusses
his adjustments to life in the United States, and expresses hopes to improve his English to be
better able to communicate with the people of Logan. He talks about what the future of his
family will be like when his wife and children come join him.
Reference: HWE= Hilary Warner-Evans (Interviewer)
HWEI= Hilary Warner-Evans' words being interpreted by
translator
AW= Afeworki Woldemichael (Interviewee)
AWI= Afeworki Woldemichael's words being interpreted by
translator
BDA= Berhane Debesai Abraha
HW= Heidi Williams
NOTE: The interview was conducted with the assistance of a live translator, Berhane Debesai
Abraha. The interpreter arrived about ten minutes later than the interviewer, photographer, and
recordist but is present from the beginning of the transcript. False starts, pauses, or transitions in
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project: Afeworki Woldemichael Page 2
dialogue such as “uh” and starts and stops in conversations are not included in transcript. All
additions and added information to transcript are noted with brackets.
TAPE TRANSCRIPTION
[00:01]
[Checking microphone. Indistinguishable talk from HWE, BDA, and AW. AW tapping
mic.]
HWE: Okay. It's May 17th 2015. This is Hilary Warner-Evans interviewing Afeworki
Woldemichael, a member of the Eritrean community here in Logan, Utah. And we're at
his apartment in Logan. Also present is Berhane Debesai Abraha, who is translating, from
Tigrinya and Magen Olsen, who is doing the recording, and Heidi Williams, doing
photography. So, can you give your full name again and your birth year?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya]
AW: Okay. May 24, is birthday next Monday [laughs]
BDA: [quietly] Sunday.
AW: Yeah, my–. Yeah, next Sunday. Yeah.
AWI: His birthday is May 24th [unclear]
AW: Yeah.
HW: [to BDA] And yours is twentieth.
BDA: Mm-hm
AW: May 24.
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: 1979
AWI: Yeah. May 24th 1979.
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: Afeworki Woldemichael.
HWE: And what languages do you speak?
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AW: Tigrinya.
HWE: Can you tell me about your family?
AW: Yeah.
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: Okay.
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to Interviewee.]
AW: Okay First, my brother, Nguse Gebreyohannes [??]. Gebreyohannes. And the last name,
Woldemichael. Woldemichael. By Tigrinya, Woldemichael. By English, Woldemichael.
[laughs]
[02:16]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: Yeah.
AWI: Yeah, his oldest brother is Nguse Woldemichael, but the way we write it is different so
we– [Speaks in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: Gebreyohannes.
AWI: Nguse Gebreyohannes Woldemichael. Okay.
AW: Second– My mother born ten people.
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: Yeah.
HWE: Wow.
AWI: His mother have ten children.
AW: And we have seven people. And three people is died.
AWI: He's got seven siblings and three of his siblings, they died. Deceased.
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AW: Two brothers in the independence. [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AWI: One of his brothers, he died when we're struggling for independence. That means before
1991 against Ethiopia, the war. And the other brother died when we were defending our
country in the second war between 1997 to 2001. And his eldest brother he died from too
much alcoholism.
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
[04:12]
AWI: Do you guys need the names of all his siblings?
HWE: [hesitates] Probably not, but–
HWEI: [Repeating statement in Tigrinya]
HWE: –I don't know.
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AW: Nine boys and one girl. [laughs]
AWI: He got eight brothers and one sister including him as one of the ten. So now he got six
brothers and one sister.
AW: Yeah.
HWEI: Five brothers?
AW: Six brothers. One–
HWEI: One sister.
AW: One sister.
HWEI: Or five brothers. [Asking question in Tigrinya]
AW: Yeah. [laughs] [Speaking in Tigrinya]
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AWI: He has five brothers and one sister. Including him there are seven surviving siblings.
HWE: And you have a wife too, right?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: Yes.
HWE: Yeah. Do you have any children?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: Yeah. Two boys.
HWE: And are they back in Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: They are in the Ethiopian refugee camp.
HWE: Okay. How old are your children?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: One, four years. And the other, [speaks in Tigrinya.]
AWI: His oldest is four years and his youngest, he will be two in September.
[06:04]
HWE: What ethnic or religious community do you consider yourself to be a part of?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: Orthodox.
HWEI: Eritrean Orthodox mission?
AW: Yeah.
AWI: He is a follower of the Eritrean Orthodox church.
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HWE: And you are a follower of the church here in Logan, right? Or, I mean, not Logan but in
Utah.
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya].
AW: Yeah.
HWE: Can you tell me about your birth county?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AW: My country very good, has mountains. All the mountains. Utah, the same in Utah.
[laughs] Good country. [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He says, Eritrea is beautiful. It has so many mountains just like Utah. It has highlands and
lowlands. It has two seasons.
HWE: And are you– You're from the highland part?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He is from the lowlands.
HWE: Oh, okay. So, what did your family do for work? Were they a farming family?
[8:07]
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: They were irrigation farmers.
HWE: Okay.
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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AWI: Yeah, they are irrigation farmers.
AW: Yes.
HWE: What kinds of crops did they grow?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya]
AWI: Corn, Sorghum. Do you guys know Sorghum? It grows like corn but there's grains on the
top.
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya].
AWI: And Dagusa.
AW: [laughs]
AWI: I told you, remember, it's used for local drinks. They raise it, but– [speaking in Tigrinya
to interviewee.]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.] [laughs]
AWI: He doesn't know how to call it in English, but we just call it Dagusa and we use it for
drinks, local drinks. And, is it called sesame? It's a grain. They use it for oil? Sesame.
HWE: Yeah, sesame.
AWI: Yeah, sesame.
HWE: How long did you live in Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: All day. [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: All my life until I moved to the Ethiopian refugee camp.
HWE: How old were you when you went to the camp?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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AWI: He was twenty-seven going to twenty-eight years.
HWE: Why did you leave Eritrea?
[10:00]
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: There was no job and no job opportunities so I just wanted to improve my life and I
moved for a another place.
HWE: And what was the experience like of leaving?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: His home town is near the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia and it was a war. Eritrea and
Ethiopia, they are in kind of semi-war yet. And where he raised, the area he was raised,
he knows everything, where to go, which to go and he knows which front line, which
lines are Ethiopian front lines. So it's easy for him. He can go daytime or nighttime
because he knows who is where so it was not a big deal for him to cross the border.
[12:00]
HWE: So when you crossed the border, you went to Ethiopia. And were you trying to go
anywhere– What was your final destination you were attempting to go to?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya].
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: Yeah, when he leaving his home town in Eritrea, he got two options. His first option was
to stay in the refugee camp and to work to America and other countries, maybe Europe,
maybe Australia. If that option was not possible, his second option was to go to Sudan,
Libya, cross the mediterranean and to go to Europe.
HWE: Okay. What was your experience like in the refugee camp?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AWI: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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[BDA's phone rings and he turns it off.]
[14:00]
AWI: He said, life was tough in the refugee camp because they didn't give them anything. At
first, they were giving them only fifteen kilos of wheat.
AW: Per month.
AWI: Per month. Sometimes you don't have money to grind them and make them into bread or
something. Sometimes he just boiled them, put salt on it, and just eat it. But after that,
some of them, they get money, borrow it from friends and some of them they just get– Or
they have to work for themselves in that area, farming, whatever they can.
HWE: And did you end up working while you were there?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: Yeah, in the surrounding areas near the refugee camp they were working physical
work, laborers, sometimes on the grain harvest. In seasons they work as weeders because
we have to weed the fields by our hand.
HWE: And, so with the money you earned by working eventually could you buy more food?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[16:08]
AWI: So at first they were giving them only 15 kilos of wheat and a liter and a half of oil so
they could not do anything with it. So they work and they earn money and they have to
buy tomatoes, onions, and other stuff to make their own soup. But starting 2009 they
started giving them around 800 milligrams of sugar, might be around two pounds of
sugar, per month. And some times they were giving them some kind of soup. It's made up
of wheat or something like that. So the only thing they have to do is work and earn
money and make their own food.
HWE: What kind of medical care was available at the camp?
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HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: The medical care, that was okay. But the problem was the medical care was provided by
IRC. I think it's the International Refugee Commission. But all the doctors are Ethiopians
and they speak Amharic. And they just wanted to speak Amharic. They don't want to talk
in Tigrinya. And they don't know Tigrinya. But relatively they are okay and if you can
communicate with them you get good medical care.
[18:04]
HWE: So was your wife with you in the camp?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: Okay, his wife is Ethiopian. He met her. She was his friend, or girlfriend. So they were
living together when he got his process finished and he already got his visa. They make it
official. They get married. [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: On September 20th, 2012 they make it official because he was coming here. If he has to
claim her as a girlfriend that doesn't work. He has to marry her. But they met in Ethiopia
in 2010 and they were staying together.
HWE: So when you were in the camp you were living with your wife for most of that time?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
[19:48]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He met his wife in the Ethiopian villages because he was going over there to work. Then
when they get pregnant, when she had a baby, he brought her over to the refugee camp
because the baby is his. The baby is Eritrean even though he was born in Ethiopia. So he
brought her to the camp and the baby has to register as a refugee like him. Then he
convinced her, hey, better stay with me. If I get a chance to go abroad then I'm going to
claim you as my wife. Then she stayed with him. But first, until she got her first baby,
she was living with her parents and he was living in the camp but he was working outside the
camp. And at that time he saved some money and he bought a carriage, something you
pull with the horse. [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: But sometimes they pull it with a donkey. So he was working with it transporting stuffs
over there.
HWE: And can you describe your living conditions in the camp?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.] [coughs] Sorry, I have to drink water. [Repeating
question in Tigrinya.]
[21:51]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: Yeah, at first life was so hard. Because of all the people over there. They speak the same
language because they are on the border with Eritrea, but all cultures and the way we
think is different. And we are enemies. We are at war. So at first we don't want to talk to
them. They don't trust us. We don't trust them. But we [??] them. We work with them.
We start trading with them, buying stuff from them. And they buy stuff from the refugees.
And then we start to just become kind of one people. Nobody cares for the refugees and
that. But at first it was hard.
HWE: And were you living with anyone else when you were in the camp?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya]
[23:45]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya]
HWEI: [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
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AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[26:05]
AWI: Yeah, at first when he was crossing into Ethiopia in 2005, you know, when the refugees,
when they, you go in the office, they call, they give you some paper work. They arrange
to interview you and they give you some coin to get the wheat and the oil. But they just
say, hey, you can get wheat and oil with this one but you are on your own so he doesn't
have anything. He doesn't know anyone in the camp. So there was a tea shop over there
and the tea shop was just made up of tin but they sell teas. So he was sitting over there
and some of the refugees who came before him, maybe a year or so, they saw him and
they told him, “Oh, you look like you're new. Where do you live.” And he said, “I just
arrived here. They drop me here by a car. I have no where to go.” And they told me,
“Okay, you can live with us.” And he lived with them for two years. Then after that he
started working in the surrounding areas and he started saving some money and over
there you just build your own home. Nobody owns the land. It just belongs to the refugee
camp. So there were some people, they were going to Israel in the Middle East. So they
just sold their home to him and he bought that home and he started living by himself. And
in 2008 the refugee commission from the United States, they started registering to come
to the United States and they got a group case. And they were waiting for their group case
and meanwhile he met with his wife. They got a child. Then she moved back with him.
Until he comes here, he was living with his wife. And he was talking about his two
friends, the ones who accepted him first. One of them, he came to Denver but for some
reason he deceased. And the other one, he didn't get to come to America. They rejected
his case. I don't know why but he's in Germany.
[28:07]
HWE: How did you celebrate holidays when you were in the camp, or did you celebrate them at
all?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He said, it depends on your attitude and on your brain. If you got things you put it first,
food and other stuff. If you don't have anything, just buy vegetables because they are the
cheapest over there. Just, you have to do what you have to do.
HWE: And did you get together with other people to celebrate at all?
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HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[30:14]
AWI: Yeah, he said, we were refugees. Most of the time we lived close to each other, we hung
out together, we discussed about what we have to do because we don't want to live on the
welfare of the refugee camp. We want to earn money and improve our life. So during
holidays we always shared what we got. Some people have money. Some of them they
don't have. So if your neighbors or other people you know, if you know they don't have
anything and if you know they are bachelors or singles, you just invite them, “Hey, come
tomorrow. I'm going to make food or buy a sheep or a chicken, whatever you've got, or
meat.” If they are families, because families they want to spend the holiday together, you
just share what you've got with them. You tell them, “Hey, tomorrow is a holiday, I know
you guys don't have anything. Here's this thing and celebrate the holiday.” But you share
whatever you got. It can be meat. It can be food. It can be vegetables. Whatever.
HWE: Did you do anything else besides just eat together?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
[32:00]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [laughs]
AWI: He's saying, we just get together. We make coffee. If they've got a woman most of the
time the woman do coffee. If they don't have a woman, they just make it themselves. And
we discuss about their cultures because some people they were from the highlands, some
people from the western lowlands, some people from the eastern lowlands, that means
from the coast of the Red Sea. And we discuss about the way they live in their areas, how
they live, how they celebrate things, their culture and they just communicate and discuss
about cultures and things. And I asked him, do you guys dance, he said, how are we
going to dance? [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [laughs]
AWI: They don't have record or a CD player or something to play the song, so you don't dance
without the music.
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HWE: There were no musicians?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: There were musicians. They were funded by the IRC. Or because they were by the IRC.
But they perform only on the holidays assigned by the IRC. It can be a Women's Day, a
Refugees' Day, Eritrean Independence Day. But they don't celebrate all holidays.
HWE: What kinds of instruments did they play?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[34:03]
AWI: They played guitar, organ, but–
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya]
AWI: –we got our own equipment. We call it Krar. It's kind of guitar. But there was nobody
that could play saxophone. Because they had the instrument, but there is no person who can
play it.
HWE: And was the way you celebrated holidays in the camp, was that similar to how you
celebrated them in Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating in Tigrinya.]
AW: Yeah.
AWI: Yeah.
HWE: Did you get a sense at all of how Ethiopia felt about having all of the refugees in their
country?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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[37:15]
AWI: Yeah, at first it was hard and they don't even like us, because they were even physically
attacking us, because there were some people who lost their teeth. There was a guy who
was hit by an ax. And they are refugees. The only thing they can prepare their food is by
firewood. And there were some people who went for the fire wood and the locals they
were beating them. They were telling them, “This is our wood, what the heck are you
doing with it?” They're all women. They got their wood and the locals, they just put fire
on the wood. They are not taking it. They just put fire on it, but after some time, the
government, the Ethiopian government. It was governing all the locals. It was telling
them, “Hey, these guys are refugees in our country. We have to help them. We are the
same people. We've got some political problems.” But some of them even, they were
born in Ethiopia but after the war broke, they were deported back to Eritrea because they were
born in Ethiopia, by blood they are Eritrean. They were deported. But the government
tried to discuss with the locals. And with the refugees too. So they start to get off it and
they were telling them they can get benefit because they accept the refugees, they can
have political benefit from it. And there was some refugees' organization from the
Netherlands. They came to the camp and they were teaching the refugees how to improve
their life, how to breed chickens, how to make beans because it was forest, and when they
were teaching the refugees, they were also teaching the locals together. So the locals
think, oh, so if we keep the refugees, we can get a lot of benefit. And they start trading
with them finally. Their difference doesn't exist and they start living together. But first
they were all hostile and they don't want them to be in that area.
[39:08]
HWE: How did you learn about the US refugee program?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[high pitched feedback noise 40:18]
[40:59]
AWI: At first, when he was living in Eritrea, he doesn't have any detailed knowledge of the
refugee case for him to come to America. His main reason to go to Ethiopia was to go to
Israel because he can cross through Sudan, but the border is so tough he cannot cross the
Sudan. But since he lives by the border of Ethiopia he just crossed to Ethiopia. His idea
was to go to Sudan, then Egypt, to Israel. But he was in Ethiopia and he was working on
something, he was calling someone, things like that. And there were a lot of people going
to Israel. To go to Israel from Ethiopia, you have to go to Sudan first, then cross all this
desert. You have to go to North of Egypt, cross the Sinai peninsula, then you go to Israel.
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And it costs a lot of money. And so you have to get money from your parents if they've
got some. Or you need someone or some relative in the United States or Europe because
parts of it take a lot of money. And there are a lot of smugglers in the border between
Israel and Egypt. But when these people who go to Israel, they get together over there and
they start petitioning to the refugee commission for the United Nations. They tell them,
“We're Eritreans. We've got a lot of political problems. We've got a lot of refugees in
Ethiopia. You guys are not doing anything.” Then after that it is the UNHCR. I think it is
a refugee commission. They collaborated with the United States and they started giving
them group case and things like that. And they started immigrating to America.
[42:43]
HWE: Can you tell me about how you got to the US?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [laughs]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: Yeah.
AWI: When he was in the refugee camp, when they are approving him to go to the United
States they have to wait for a flight because they send you when they have empty flights
coming back from Ethiopia. His first flight was on January 15th, 2013. And they cancelled
it. And the second flight was March 5, 2013. They also cancelled it.
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya]
[high pitched feedback noise 44:09]
AWI: Then there was another flight scheduled for him on April 4th, 2013. So from the refugee
camp he moved to Addis Ababa because the airport is in Addis Ababa, the capital of
Ethiopia.
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AWI: And they cancelled it again.
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
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AWI: Then when you come to the United States you have to do medical check up for TB and
other vaccinations. It works only for six months. Because they cancelled his schedule
three times, his medical thing was expired. He has to retake it in Addis Ababa.
[high pitched feedback noise 44:52 to 44:56]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AWI: After he get his medical, after 44 days, on June 18th, they told him, “Hey there is a flight.
You're going to the United States on July 1st.” [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: Yeah.
AWI: Then he came to the United States on July the 1st. [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: So when he land, he went outside of the Bole airport where he take a flight to Egypt.
They got a transit. From Egypt they flew directly to New York. From New York they
took him by a bus to New Haven, Connecticut and he stayed there for five months.
[46:13]
HWE: Were there other refugees on the flight with you?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[high pitched feedback noise 46:26]
AWI: There were two Eritreans. There were Sudanese and Somalis too.
HWE: What was it like living in New Haven?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: At first, the air is cold in Connecticut. He was raised in the lowlands of Eritrea and it's too
hot. [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: Most of the time where he was raised, it was forty, forty-two, sometimes forty-five
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project: Afeworki Woldemichael Page
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degrees centigrade. [high pitched feedback noise begins 47:43] That means 100 degrees
Fahrenheit. So New Haven was so cold for him, so as soon as he arrived, when he got his
papers, he started working with a landscaping company his second month because he
came here to improve his life. [end noise 48:01] Then from his arrival after five months it
gets too cold because he came in July. In December it gets too cold, then he moved to
Idaho. [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[high pitched feedback noise 48:35 to 48:37]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: Mm-hmm.
AWI: So in Idaho he was working two jobs. One of them was growing with a potato company
and another one was with a cheese company.
HWE: And before you started work in the US, did you get any help from the government or any
religious organizations?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[50:00]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project: Afeworki Woldemichael Page
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AW: Yeah.
AWI: They were taking food stamps from the workforce of that state, that means Connecticut.
AW: [Speaking Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: And five months they paid him his rent. I think it's some government organization, he
can't remember their name but something to do with immigration.
[high pitched feedback noise 50:24 to 50:28]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: Immigration, immigrants.
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He's saying they are everywhere in every state. When you are a refugee they just help
you. They give you money and they help you. It was some kind of immigration services.
HWE: And is there any way that your first few months in the US could've [high pitched
feedback noise 51:04] been improved?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [noise ends 52:12]
[52:20]
AWI: Yeah. I don't know if they can do more, but they were giving us, they were paying for the
rent. And for the first two months, they give us 200 dollar for food stamp each month, but
after that they cut by 11 dollars so they were giving everyone in the whole United States
only 189. And when he moved to Idaho, they helped him with his rent for two months
and they're giving him food stamp for six months and after those they told him, “Hey
come to the work force for some interviews and we'll help you with additional food
stamps” but he told them, “Hey, I'm working and I can support myself. I don't need any
more food stamps” and [high pitched feedback noise 53:05] he didn't show up in the
interview.
HWE: And was– So you went from New Haven to Idaho and was it any warmer in Idaho than it
had been in New Haven? [laughs]
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project: Afeworki Woldemichael Page
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HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [laughs]
[54:04]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He said, he was talking to his friend in Idaho. He told them, “Hey, this area's too cold. I
cannot do it here.” His friend told him, “Okay, it's cold here but let's try it over here.
Come over here.” And he came to Idaho. When he was coming there was a lot of snow
coming down. And it was even cold even in the airport, [end noise 55:05] so he told the
security, “Hey, I'm staying inside. I'm not leaving until my friends come back, show up.”
Because his friends, [high pitched feedback noise at 55:09] they were not in the airport at
the time he was landing. So he waited inside the airport to wait for his ride but it was too
cold even in the airport. Then he started work then. Utah and Idaho, they are kind of the
same in weather but they are different than Connecticut. Connecticut is close to Canada
and close to the sea, the ocean, and it is colder than Idaho.
BDA: [to HWE] So what do you think? You came from the west coast– east coast. [laughs]
HWE: Me? About the weather?
BDA: Oh sorry. The interview is about him not about you. [laughs]
HWE: [laughs]
AW: [laughs]
HWE: How long have you lived in Cache Valley?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
[56:04]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He's going on his tenth month. Last month, on the 13th , it was his ninth month.
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project: Afeworki Woldemichael Page
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HWE: And did you go straight here from Idaho?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
AW: Yeah.
AWI: Yeah.
HWE: And why did you decide to come here after Idaho?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: Yeah, in Idaho he was working two jobs, almost 20 hours a day. He was sleeping just
three hours a day. And they were paying him only nine dollars per hour. So he was asking
friends for a better job with better payment. So came here. They work only between 9 to
10 hours in Hyram. And he gets paid 13.75 an hour. The job is hard, but I got time to rest.
That's why he moved to Logan.
[58:22]
HWE: And you work at JBS?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: Yeah.
HWE: Okay. What has it been like living in Logan?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He said, I like Logan. It's safe place. I don't have to worry about my security. And I work.
I support my relatives. I support my children and his wife. He's processing their visa. I
hope they will come soon. And most of the time when you move from one state to
another state you have to think about yourself and discuss with yourself, why are you
moving? So I told Logan had a better lifestyle, lifestyle than there was in Idaho, better
pay. So, so far, I cannot complain. Logan is a good place and I hope I will improve my
life better than I have now.
[60:31]
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HWE: Do you feel included in the community here?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: Yeah. Until now, I didn't encounter anything bad, not only in Logan but in the whole
United States. Sometimes, due to the language barrier, there might be some conflicts but
I'm sure it's because we don't speak English and they don't speak Tigrinya. But if I can
speak English and explain my culture and my needs, I hope I feel included.
HWE: What do you think could be done to make you feel more at home here?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
End part 1 of 2: 62:06
Begin part 2 of 2:
[00:01] [high pitched feedback noise from beginning to end]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He said, I think he needs to do more to study English and if he studied English, if he can
communicate with the locals, he will tell them how we live our [??] things like that. And
he learns the culture of the locals if they can communicate. If he can communicate with
the other people, just respect each other and live including each other, life will be easier.
But if we don't communicate with them, if we don't know the language, it will be hard.
But the only thing we have to do is learn English and explain ourselves.
HWE: Okay. How is your home here different than the one you had in Eritrea.
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [laughs]
AWI: He was living in a house but now he's living in an apartment.
HWE: [laughs]
AW: [laughs]
HWEI: [Speaks in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project: Afeworki Woldemichael Page
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AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [laughs]
[02:20]
AWI: There is a lot of difference. The utensils here and back home are different. Back home we
use firewood to cook our food and other stuff, but here we use gas stoves. And for ready
to eat things we use a microwave here, but over there, nobody knows what a microwave
is.
HWE: Can you tell me about your experiences with your landlord?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: We don't even know who's owner of this apartment. They heard lives in Texas, and some
other company, they lease all the apartments. They got a drop box downstairs. Every
month, they write the money order and they just drop it. And they don't know who takes
the money or who owns these apartments.
[03:58]
HWE: So what happens when you have a problem like if your fridge breaks or something goes
wrong?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: So all of the refrigerators, they have a contact number, so if something goes wrong, you
just call that contact number and they deal with it.
HWE: Oh, okay.
HWEI: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: But so far they don't have any problems so they never use that number.
HWE: Okay. What would you like people in Logan to know about you and other Eritreans here?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
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AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He says, here in Logan, those who can speak English, they are so few. But I hope we can
learn English and discuss with the Logan community how they go, their political system,
the way they live, their culture, and more else. And I hope we can communicate with
them. But now there are only a few people who can talk to them.
[06:14]
HWE: If you could, would you go back to your home country?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He cannot go.
HWE: But if you were able to, would you want to?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: I don't think we are going back home but if the government or the system is changed over
there, if they can allow all the refugees to come back to Eritrea, if he becomes a citizen, I
might go for a visit, but I don't think I will go back.
HWE: What are you most proud of?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[08:00]
AWI: I'm happy because I'm healthy and I can work and support myself and my families. And,
second, although I know only few English, I am proud I can– I will try to make friends
and communicate with other people.
HWE: What are your dreams for the future?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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AWI: This time I cannot tell you about my dreams because I am working on bringing my
family, my wife and children, so when she comes here, we will discuss about our future
dreams with my family, my wife and my children. And after, if she comes here, we'll
both dream together, but if I dream something now and she dreams another dream, it'll be two
dreams and one family. So when she shows up here, we can discuss about myself, about
our future. We will buy a house and we'll improve our future life and future life of our
children.
HWE: Okay. I think that's all. Do you guys have anything you want to ask?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
[09:53]
AW: Okay. [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: He said, I appreciate you on behalf of myself and the other people in Logan or Utah.
Because you guys are working to get our culture and to take it to the people of Logan and
other people. So I appreciate what you guys are doing.
HWE: Thank you.
AW: You're welcome.
HWE: I hope we'll be able to do that correctly. Do you have anything else that you want to add?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
AWI: I don't have any other things to add, but I hope in our, in my future interview, things like
this or other stuff, I hope I will do it myself without a translator. I think I want to talk to
any person, man, woman, it doesn't matter, but I just want to do it myself without a
translator.
HWE: Okay. So, thanks for agreeing to meet with us. And we have a release form to sign that
has to do with putting the interview and the photos in the archives being used for an
online presentation.
HWEI: [Repeating statement in Tigrinya.]
[12:07]
AW: Okay.
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BDA: Does he need to write in English, or?
HWE: No, you can write in whatever language you want.
HWEI: [Repeating statement in Tigrinya.]
AW: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
BDA: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
AW: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
End part 2 of 2: [12:29]

Source

Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives, Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project, FOLK COLL 62

Date

2015-05-17

Rights

Reproduction for publication, exhibition, web display or commercial use is only permissible with the consent of the USU Special Collections and Archives, phone (435) 797-2663;

Relation

Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project
An inventory for this collection can be found at : http://nwda.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv67612
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project Digital Collection

Language

Type

Identifier

http://digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p16944coll14/id/98

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  1. CVRP_Berhane Debesai Abraha_2015May17_Olsen_T_FinalAugust.pdf

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