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Interview with Seltene Gebretinsa in Logan, Utah, 2015 May 16

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Interview with Seltene Gebretinsa in Logan, Utah, 2015 May 16

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Seltene Gebreselasie Gebretinsa tells about his birthplace in Eritrea, a little bit about his family and his religion. He talks about his 11 year service in the army as an impetus to flee his country and become a refugee. He discusses his journey as a refugee, first in Malta, and the process to eventually come to the United States. He talks about adjusting to living in the United States, from taking classes to learn English and working to support himself. He talks about his wife and children he left behind, and his hopes of being able to have them join him in the United States.
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CACHE VALLEY REFUGEE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
TRANSCRIPTION COVER SHEET
Interviewee(s): Seltene Gebreselasie Gebretinsa
Present: Seltene Gebreselasie Gebretinsa, Hilary Warner-Evans, Berhane Debesai
Abraha, Heidi Williams, Megan Olsan
Place of Interview: Logan Public Library, Logan, Utah
Date of Interview: May 16, 2015
Language(s): Tigrinya
Translation:
Interviewer: Hilary Warner-Evans
Interpreter: Berhane Debesai Abraha
Recordist: Heidi Williams
Photographer: Magen Olsen
Recording Equipment: Tascam DR-100mk11 linear PCM recorder; Senal ENG-18RL
broadcast-quality omnidirectional dynamic microphone
Transcription Equipment: Express Scribe with PowerPlayer foot pedal.
Transcribed by: Susan Gross, May 22, 2015
Transcript Proofed by: Hilary Warner-Evans, May 24, 2015
Brief Description of Contents: Seltene Gebreselasie Gebretinsa tells about his birthplace in Eritrea, a little bit about
his family and his religion. He talks about his 11 year service in the army as an impetus to flee his country and
become a refugee. He discusses his journey as a refugee, first in Malta, and the process to eventually come to the
United States. He talks about adjusting to living in the United States, from taking classes to learn English and
working to support himself. He talks about his wife and children he left behind, and his hopes of being able to have
them join him in the United States.
Reference: HW = Hilary Warner-Evans
HWI = Hilary Warner-Evans’ words interpreted by translator
SG = Seltene Gebreselasie Gebretinsa
SGGI: = Seltene Gebreselasie Gebretinsa’s words interpreted by translator
NOTE: The interview was conducted with the assistance of a live translator, Berhane Debesai
Abraha. The interpreter was there for the whole period. False starts, pauses, or transitions in
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
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[00:01]
HWE: Okay, it is May 16th, 2015. This is Hilary Warner-Evans interviewing Seltene
Gebreselasie Gebretinsa.
SGG: Yeah.
HWE: And he is a member of the Eritrean community here, in Logan, Utah. We are at the Logan
Public Library, in the Temple Fork Room. And Berhane Debesai Abraha is translating
into Tigrinya. And also present are Heidi Williams, recording, and Magen Olsen, doing
photography.
Can you – we’ve actually already gone over part of this – but can you give me your full
name and your birth year?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: His birthday is January 1, 1975.
[Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: And his name is Seltene Gebreselasie.
HWE: Okay. And can you tell me about your family?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Okay, no problem; I can tell you about my family: I was born in east Africa, in Eritrea,
and my father is Gebreselasie Gebretinsa. Okay.
SGG: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: And I was born in southern zone, it’s called Zoba Debub in Tigrinya, and the place he
was born in Segeneiti – it’s a small village.
[Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: It’s around 70 kilometers south of the capital city Asmara.
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SGG: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: I was born and raised in Segeneiti, and when my age reached 18, I went for National
Service.
SGG: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: And I have been in the army for around 11 years, and life was not comfortable for me.
And I just left the country and moved some other place.
HWE: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yes.
[Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, he has one sister, and there are four boys. Aand there was another brother –
[Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, he died in the war with Ethiopia before 1994 – the War of Liberation with
Ethiopian’s army; he died in the struggle.
HWE: And are you the only member of your family here, in the United States?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, he’s the only one.
HWE: What languages do you speak?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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SGGI: He speaks Tigrinya.
HWE: And what ethnic or religious community do you consider yourself to be a part of?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He is a Christian; he is a follower of Eritrean Orthodox Church.
HWE: Can you tell me a little bit about Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[06:31]
SGGI: Eritrea is a beautiful and comfortable country to live, but at this time because of the
situation of the war and the political system, it’s not becoming favorable for the people to
live in it.
SGG: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, at this time Eritrea is kind of in a war, so everybody is in the army for ten years or
more; so people cannot live their life, cannot support their family – so everybody is
leaving to help themself and to improve their life and the life of their family. So that’s
why I move out of the country: in search of a good life, and better life.
HWE: How long did you live in Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He was living in Eritrea starting the date of his birth, 1975, up to 2008.
HWE: Can you tell me about the experience of leaving?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, I am married and I have two children; since I was in the army I cannot support
them, I cannot do anything. And it was for a long time. So I want to improve my life and
my family’s lives. And I leave Eritrea to the Sudan’s border; then from Sudan he went to
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Libya, through the desert there. He crosses the Mediterranean to Malta; and from Malta
he came to the United States.
HWE: Did you spend any time in a camp while you were coming over?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He was in Malta from 2008, up to 2012, under the Refugee Commission.
HWE: What was it like being with the Refugee Commission in Malta?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: So Malta’s refugee camp was kind of good, because you are free to move out. So he was
not in the camp, he was working in Malta –
[Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya]
SGG: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He was working with some farmers on the farm. So while he was a refugee, until he
comes to the United States, he was working earning money, and he was supporting his
family and himself. So they didn’t have anything to worry in Malta, because they could
work and they were working.
[10:57]
HWE: So how did you – when you were working on a farm back in Eritrea.
HWEI: Eritrea.
HWE: Right?
HWEI: [Repeating statement in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, I was born in a farming family, so I was raised with them – so I was working on a
farm.
[Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
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HWE: Can you talk about the food or the medical care that you received when you were in the
refugee camp in Malta?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Okay, in the refugee camp in Malta, for the first seven months we were under the
Refugee Commission until they finish all our registration and until they check and
double-check our information. So they were providing us food, the house was clean; they
give us shelter, clothes and bed. But after seven months, when they finish the registration
stuff, we were allowed to leave the camp and to work. So after that I was working and
earning money myself, and I was living by myself.
HWE: What kind of work did you do?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He was working with the local farmers.
HWE: Okay.
SGGI: So they got a big farm. He was working with them.
HWE: How did you celebrate, like, holidays when you were living in the camp?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[14:06]
SGGI: Okay, he say it was okay; Maltans, they have a lot of holidays – and we celebrate all
holidays with them. And their biggest holiday is Christmas, and we were celebrating it
with the people.
SGG: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: And their second holiday was Easter, and we are celebrating it with them.
HWE: What kinds of things did you do for Christmas and Easter?
HWEI: [Repeating question in Tigrinya.]
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SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, he is saying he was so close with the family he was working with; they were kind
of parents for me. And for the purpose of work he was rented in front, close to them; so
most of the time, 25% of the time, he was celebrating the holiday with them.
HWE: And how did that differ from how you celebrated it back in your home country?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: It’s kind of the same – they didn’t have any difference.
HWE: Okay. So did you eat like any particular foods, or do anything particular?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He said in Malta they kind of live in extended family, so most of the time on holidays
they don’t cook – they just go out all together. So since he was working with them, they
always take him with them, and they go out and order food and get it; they don’t cook at
all.
HWE: Okay. And did you do anything else besides go out to eat? Did you go to church or
anything like that?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[17:51]
SGGI: Okay. In Malta they always go to church Saturday evening and Sunday morning. So the
church was close to my apartment, and I kind of know their language at that time – so I
used to go to their church.
HWE: Now was it like an Orthodox church?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: No, Catholic.
HWE: Okay.
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SGGI: It was a Catholic church.
HWE: So was that very different for you to go to a Catholic church, instead of Orthodox?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He said for him it doesn’t make any difference because in his home town, tthe place he
grow up, the majority of the people are Catholics, and few are Orthodox; so he knows
what Catholic is, and their culture.
HWE: And in the camp – were there other people from Eritrea there?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: A lot.
HWE: Was that the majority of the people there?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: The majority of the refugees were Somalians and people from West Africa.
HWE: So did you end up celebrating at all with other people from your home country? Or did
you mostly just go with the people you were working for?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, he was saying the refugee’s holidays – they are always the same, so he was
celebrating it with the family he was working; but the public holidays – he was
celebrating them with the people from Eritrea.
HWE: What kinds of public holidays did you celebrate?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[21:39]
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SGGI: He said the religious holidays are the same, so he would sometime celebrate them with
the family he was working, but holidays like May 24th (that means it’s Eritrean
Independence Day) and June 20 (it’s kind of Memorial Day – we call it the Martyrs’
Day) – he was celebrating it with the Eritreans.
HWE: And how did you celebrate those holidays?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Most of the people – after they were allowed to leave the camp in war, they rented their
own apartment, so they would celebrate the whole island. So when there is holidays they
rent a big hall, and they prepare food and drinks, and they celebrate it together.
HWE: And what kinds of food and drinks did you have?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: For the foods they buy meat and some of them they prepare ingera, and they just make
food just like the way we do at home. And for the drink they just buy beer.
HWE: So for the meat would you get like a whole animal?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: So they were buying beef from groceries.
HWE: Okay. And did you get the beer from the grocery too?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [Laughs]
SGGI: Yeah, that is the only way – you can buy it from groceries [laughs].
HWE: [Laughs]
So how did Malta feel about the refugees coming in from Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
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SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[25:06]
SGGI: Malta is a small island, its population is around half million, 500,000. So at first, when
the refugees come to their area, they didn’t like it because it’s a small country, and there
are a lot of refugees; but some time they get used to them, so they were friendly. Then
after they get their refugee status, American Immigration System, they came to them and
they give them asylum to the United States.
HWE: So did you feel safe when you were there?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He says the country is so nice – it’s a free country, nobody talks to you, nobody even
asks, nobody stops you. But when they first arrived in Malta, the people they don’t like
them; sometimes even if they see another Eritrean or another refugee on the bus they just
leave the whole bus. But after some time they get used to them Then they didn’t care
anymore.
HWE: And how did you learn about the U.S. refugee program?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: There was a refugee office over there, a refugee commission office, so he go over there to
the office, and there are a lot of refugee places to go: Europe, Canada, America (or
United States of America), and Australia. You choose which area you want to go, you
just go and you settle with them and they take care of your process.
HWE: Okay, so you can choose which country you want to go to?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[28:42]
SGGI: They ask you question and if you want to go to Germany, France, Holland (or the
Netherlands), Slovakia, and Hungary. I don’t want to go that places, so I tell them that I
am not going to these places and they give me opportunity to go to the United States.
HWE: And how did you apply to do that?
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HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, at that time, the United States were taking a lot of Eritrean refugees, so as soon as I
know the United States taking refugees, I went there and applied. And it took me around
seven years to process everything. And I did my interview and they gave me the
congratulation paper. That means they accepted him. And after that he came to the United
States.
HWE: So did someone in the office help you do that process, with all the paperwork and stuff?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, in their office they have a translator, a paid translator, so I go through the process.
In Malta at the Immigration Office you cannot do it the way we do it in Africa, because
in Africa you can bribe stuff like that, but in Malta you cannot do that; you have to go
through all the process. They provide you translator, and they check everything, your
background and other stuff. And when you pass everything they tell you when you come.
When you finish your immigration process, then when they approve you, you just come
to the United States.
[31:34]
HWE: And can you tell me a little bit about the journey to the United States?
HWEI: You mean the airplane journey?
HWE: Yeah, or how you go from Malta to the U.S.?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Okay. So when all their process is done, when their flight is scheduled to show up in
Malta, the Refugee Commission – they took them to the airport; they put them in the
airplanes and they showed them their chair and they told them, “Good luck, have a nice
trip.” And from Malta, they fly to England for a transit. And in England some people
were waiting for them – and the same thing: these people, they took them to the next
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airplane, and they put them on the airplane (they same the thing), “Good luck, nice trip.”
And after that, from England they landed in New York.
HWE: And were there other Eritrean refugees going on the plane with you?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: There were four Eritreans and three Somalians on the plane.
HWE: So you came to New York first. Did you fly, then, directly from New York to Salt Lake?
Or did you spend time in another place in the U.S.?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[34:51]
SGGI: Okay, when they come from Malta, their destination was not New York – it was Las
Vegas, Nevada; but they stayed two days in New York because the weather was bad.
Planes could not fly that day; so they stayed two days. Then after the weather got normal,
they flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, for their final destination. And he stayed three months in
Las Vegas.
[Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWE: What time of year was it when you were flying?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: [Speaking in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: It was December 7, 2012.
HWE: What were the first months like in Las Vegas?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
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SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He said, Las Vegas is okay, but I didn’t like it – it’s too hot. But I stayed there for three
months because he was going to English classes. After he finished the first three months
of the class, then he moved to – [speaking Tigrinya to interviewee]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He moved to Logan.
HWE: Where were you taking English classes in Las Vegas?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He was going to the Catholic school church, because this Catholic school – the Catholics,
they got an organization for the refugees (they help with their flight and other stuff). So
he was going there – it was for free. The first couple of months when you show up here,
you need to get your social security, you have to get your ID (that is a kind of work
permit). So I was waiting for the papers, but I decided to go to school instead of just
sitting and wait for the papers.
HWE: Were you there with other members of the Eritrean community?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[38:21]
SGGI: When he come from Malta, he was with three other Eritreans (that means four of them),
so they were all assigned to Las Vegas. So four of them, they give them one house with
three bedrooms; so they were staying together for the first three months. And after three
months he moved to Logan.
HWE: And the others stayed in Las Vegas?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: They stayed there; they are still there.
HWE: What else was Las Vegas like, besides too hot?
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HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He said Las Vegas has a lot of big building, beautiful places: hotels, houses and other
stuff – but it’s not like Utah; I didn’t like it. He can’t see a lot of stuff there.
HWE: So you were in like a more rural area when you were in Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, he was more in a rural area. Then he moved to a small town.
HWE: How could your situation, when you first came to the United States, have been improved?
I mean, in terms of like the help you received.
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[41:28]
SGGI: When they first showed up – the United States government helps us a lot: they do
whatever we need necessary. When we first show up they give us 1100 dollars each in
our hand, but we don’t know anybody in this country, so they ask the Refugee
Commission to rent house for them. So they help them to rent a house or apartment with
their money. And everyone, they were given – [speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: [Speaking in Tigrinya to interviewee.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: They were giving them 350 dollars every month. They were assigned to take 350 for
eight months, but as soon as he moved in the third month he get 350 dollars every month
for the first three months. And he came to Logan, so they cut the money they were giving
him.
HWE: Oh. So when you decided to move to another place they stopped giving you the money?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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SGGI: He said you can take it – they don’t stop it, but most of the time if you got a job, I don’t
need any assistance. So thanks God when I moved here, I got a job, so I don’t want to
take money anymore.
HWE: Did you not have a job in Las Vegas?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: No.
HWE: Okay. How long have you lived in Logan?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Two years.
HWE: And where do you work?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: JBS Beef Company.
SGGI: JBS Beef Company in Hyrum.
HWE: What is like here?
HWEI: You mean work, or?
HWE: Work and just life in general in this area.
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[44:05]
SGGI: He likes Utah – it’s a good place to live; I didn’t see any bad things here, so it’s a nice
place to live here.
HWE: Do you feel like you’re included in the Logan community?
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HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: This is a good place to live. Most of the time we spend our time at work, so he cannot say
anything about any other people; they cannot say they include me, they didn’t include
me, but every time we are at work and at home.
HWE: Do you live with other people here?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
HWE: Oh, you live on your own, right? You said that already.
HWEI: [Repeating the statement in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, he got two roommates.
HWE: Oh, okay. Okay, is there anything that you think would make you feel more at home
here?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He said now I want to stay in America, so I am improving my life and I am looking for a
better opportunities. We are waiting for this country to grow up and for us to get more
opportunities.
HWE: How is living here different than living back home?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[47:44]
SGGI: Life in America is so expensive, rent is expensive; you cannot live if you don’t have
work. And even though you are not going to live with anybody, everybody wants money.
Back home, life is not expensive; so, for example, if you don’t have any apartment to
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live, you can live with families, you can live with other people for some time; you can
share with everybody. But here you have to work hard and pay a lot of money for life.
HWE: How has it been renting an apartment or house?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He said when I compare with Malta – In Malta I used to have my own one bedroom
apartment and that one bedroom includes everything: furniture, bed, kitchen utensils,
refrigerator, and everything – and he was paying only 150 dollar for it (150 Euros for it).
But here, rent is so expensive it’s just – cannot compare; it’s too expensive.
HWE: And what is your landlord like?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[50:29]
SGGI: Yeah, he is sole renter of the apartment they live in now – the landlord, we never sees
him. There was a time when we used to go over their place, but now they got a drop box;
we just write a money order or check, you just drop it. They don’t say anything; they
don’t even come to the apartment.
HWE: What would you like people in Logan to know about you and other members of your
community here?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
HWEI: [Speaking to interviewee in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He is saying I would like to thank for, not only for Logan, but for the government of the
United States, because they know we got in trouble, so they are helping us: they are
bringing us over here, and they tried to find jobs and apartments for us. So I came to the
United States in Las Vegas when I came here, and they’re still helping me. But the state
of Utah, they accept a lot of refugees from Eritrea, and they try to help them with work,
school, housing and other stuffs. So I appreciate the United States government for
helping the Eritrean communities, and I want them to keep helping because there are still
more people who needs extra help.
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HWE: Would you go back to Eritrea if you were able to do that?
HWEI: You mean to visit, or just go back entirely?
HWE: Both, I guess.
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[54:07]
SGGI: He is saying as long as the political situation is the same in Eritrea and the government
stays there, I don’t want to go there and I cannot go there because this government is not
treating us well. I have been in the army for 11 years. How can a person stay in the army
for 11 years without payment. But if administration changed, I would like to go visit my
families and see Eritrea; all the people of Eritrea are friendly and nice people. So I want
to go there and see them; it has been too long since the time I was out of Eritrea.
HWE: So you said earlier you had a wife and two kids in Eritrea?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, I have a wife and two kids.
HWE: Are you still in communication with them?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, I call them.
HWE: Do you send them money?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah.
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
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SGGI: Yeah, I am the sole helper of the [???] community.
HWE: Do they have any plans to come join you here?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, I applied for them to join me here, and the immigration system (or the Visa center),
they approved my application – they even called them for interview, but my children,
they are so small so I cannot take them out safely, so I don’t want to expose them in
danger because they are too young. So they are entirely dependent, so when they grow up
or when there is a possibility to take them out they will come and join him.
HWE: How old are your children?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: The boy is ten and the girl is eight.
HWE: What are you most proud of, in terms of having come here?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
[57:42]
SGGI: He said I am proud to be here because this country is a big country, and there is a lot of
opportunities if you think hard and work hard you can do whatever you want to do: you
can go to school – you can work and go to school. So the only thing you need to do here
is just work hard and think hard, and you just do whatever you want to do; you can reach
your dreams.
HWE: What are your dreams for the future?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [High pitched feedback noise begins 58:29]
SGGI: He saying when we come here I need to learn – so he was going to school [??] for four
months; and now he is going to the English school. So he his plans now is to work in the
daytime and go to school in the evening in order to improve his life.
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HWE: What, specifically, would you like to have change in your life after you learn English?
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [High pitched feedback ends 59:45]
[60:00]
SGGI: Yeah, I never went to school when I was back home, so I didn’t have education
background. So the reason I am going to school now is I don’t want to be illiterate,
because I will try to read and do his stuff on his own. And when his children show up (or
when they come to the United States) he just wants to help them [high pitched feedback
noise begins 60:20 when they are in school and other stuff, because he needs to learn the
language. If he don’t know the language, he cannot help his own.
HWE: I think that might be about it; do you guys have anything you want to ask? [To other
fieldworkers] No? Okay. Is there anything that we haven’t asked you that you think we
should know? [to interviewee]
HWEI: [Repeating the question in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.] [end feedback noise 61:34, begins again at 61:47 and
continues to end]
[End part 1 of 2 – 62:05]
[Part 2 of 2 – 00:01]
[high pitched feedback noise from beginning]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: He saying when they come to the United States when they are in Malta, they gave them
three days course how the United States government works and everything. And they told
them, “If you guys are married, your family will follow you here between six to eight
months. If you are not married, [end feedback noise at 00:37] and if you plan to come
back some countries can get married and take them to the United States, if better if you
become a citizenship, then it will be easier.” But his wife is in Ethiopia now, his children
are in Eritrea, but his wife is in Ethiopia; she did an interview a year ago, but she is still
waiting for the flight in Ethiopia. It has been more than two years since he has been here
and it has been more than a year since she did the interview; she is just waiting for the
flight. So there was some kind of misunderstanding. The way they tell them in Malta, and
the way things are going here – they are not the same.
HWE: Okay. I think this concludes our interview. Thanks for agreeing to meet with me. And we
do have like a release form to put the interview into the Archives at USU, and also, I
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think, [high pitched feedback noise begins 01:40 and continues to end] for it to be used in
our online exhibit, and also for– like we are going to have a community event on
Thursday that I will tell you more about.
HWEI: [Repeating the statement in Tigrinya.]
SGG: [Responding in Tigrinya.]
SGGI: Yeah, no problem; he will sign your paper.
[End part 2 of 2 – 02:25]

Source

Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives, Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project, FOLK COLL 65

Date

2015-05-16

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/xv67615
Cache Valley Refugee Oral History Project Digital Collection

Language

Type

Identifier

http://digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p16944coll14/id/101

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