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Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Photo: Thierry Bal
Artist Richard Woods’s cartoon-like fake bungalows, installed for Folkestone Triennial, are a commentary on the surge in second homes along the coast.

An English artist who favors cartoon-like architectural constructions has created six bungalows for a Folkestone Triennial installation called Holiday Home.

Kathryn Bromwich interviewed him for the Guardian. “Born in Chester in 1966, Richard Woods graduated from the Slade School of Art in 1990. … [For the triennial] Woods has created six colourful bungalows, situated in unexpected locations around the town.”

According to the interview, the artist is trying to reflect general concerns about who gets housing. People who can afford a second home? Immigrants from Calais across the Channel?

” ‘I was in Folkestone 18 months ago and got given this strange leaflet saying, “Have you thought about turning your property into cash?” – basically, “give up your house so someone can buy it as a second home”. The idea grew out of that: to make six identical bungalows and install some in very desirable locations, some not, but keeping it very open-ended. There’s been equal [numbers of] people coming up to me and discussing the second home issue, and immigration. …

” ‘There’s one house in the harbour, floating around – somebody heard through gossip in the town that it was going to be floated to Calais and back again. Some people are genuinely interested in whether “boat people” will move into the houses. But then lots of people in the town completely get the project.’ ”

The interviewer asks, “What can Folkestone tell us about wider trends across the country?

” ‘It’s a compressed version of the UK: all those issues that are prevalent everywhere are kind of heightened. On a clear day we can see Calais … Folkestone has very broad, different economic groups and because of its proximity to London people are moving here wanting a second home. People have asked if the homes are going to be available for local residents or just people from London.’ ”

The exhibit runs until November 5. More at the Guardian, here.

I’m sitting in my second home as I write this. There is no question that second homes in resort areas make housing extremely difficult for year-round residents. That’s one reason I support efforts to build affordable housing with subsidies, but I’m afraid it’s just a drop in the bucket.

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Here’s a nice story by NY Times reporter Dan Bilefsky about a British Muslim bake-off contestant who is a winner on many levels.

Bilefsky writes, “Prime Minister David Cameron praised her coolness under pressure. Bookmakers monitored her performance as they do election candidates.

“Television watchers admired her raspberry mille-feuille and soda-flavored cheesecakes — along with her blue chocolate peacock, and a mountain of éclairs in the form of a nun.

“The victory of Nadiya Jamir Hussain, a petite 30-year-old, head-scarf-wearing mother of three from northern England, in a wildly popular reality show called ‘The Great British Bake Off’ on [Oct. 7] has been greeted by many in Britain as a symbol of immigration success …

“Ms. Hussain’s popularity, bolstered by her self-deprecating humor and telling facial expressions, helped the final episodes of the baking program, in which contestants vie with one another to make a variety of desserts, attracting well over 10 million viewers per show, according to news reports. She has also become a darling of social media, with more than 63,000 followers on Twitter as of [Oct. 8]. …

“Ms. Hussain’s triumphant final dessert, a ‘big fat British wedding cake,’ offered a multicultural message of sorts by fusing her Bangladeshi and British identities. The lemon drizzle cake was decorated with jewels from her own wedding day in Bangladesh and was perched on a stand covered with material from a sari in red, blue and white, the colors of the Union Jack.”

More here.

Photo: Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions, via BBC
Nadiya Jamir Hussain, the winner of “The Great British Bake Off.” 

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Here’s what I did on my day off from work.

First I went with Erik and my husband to see my middle grandchild take a swimming class. The class is held at an assisted-living facility, and Erik thinks it’s ideal because they keep the water warm, something babies appreciate as much as old folks.

Along the side of the pool is a long window that gives a view of the Seekonk River through the trees.

Then we went to watch Erik become a citizen. I have been to one other naturalization ceremony, which I blogged about here, and I feel qualified to say that they are moving. Today we had 32 new citizens from 19 countries.

The administrator who delivered the citizenship oath was surprised that there were two Swedes, unusual in Rhode Island. One was Erik. The other, an acquaintance as of today, may come with his family to tomorrow’s Santa Lucia at the home of a Swedish friend Suzanne met through the baby music class.

catch-me-Papa

121213-diving

 

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Portland, Maine, has a reputation for being welcoming to immigrants and refugees. As a result, newcomers have been giving back, taking seriously their training in how to start a business, for example, hiring people, and boosting the city’s economy.

In this story by Jess Bidgood at the NY Times, we learn about Portland’s “class intended to help immigrants from warm countries cope with the cold.”

Bidgood writes about newcomers “squeezed into a plain conference room at the city’s center for refugee services … to be schooled in a central piece of Portland’s cultural curriculum for its growing population of new arrivals, many of whom are asylum-seekers from Central Africa: the art of handling a Maine winter.

“The instructor, Simeon Alloding, a human services counselor here, sat at the front of the room, ticking off winter’s many perils as clip art images of a penguin and an elephant decked out for cold weather hovered in a PowerPoint presentation behind him. ‘Everyone here has fallen, right?’ Mr. Alloding asked as he began a discussion on how to navigate the city’s icy sidewalks. ‘You don’t walk too fast, you don’t take long steps.’ …

“On this slushy morning, there were more attendees than could possibly find seating, and late arrivals clustered around the entrances to the room, many still wrapped in winter coats and hats despite the stifling heat of the room.”

The refugees help each other with translation, but some questions are hard to answer, like how to know what tomorrow’s weather might be.

“Miguel Chimukeno, from Angola, rose to ask a question in Portuguese, which another student translated to French, which the French interpreter, Eric Ndayizi, posed to Mr. Alloding.

“ ‘He’s low income — zero income — and you said they should watch TV and know some information. How does he get TV?’ Mr. Ndayizi asked.

“ ‘There’s nobody that’s going to issue out TV’s,’ Mr. Alloding said. ‘My only suggestion is that you talk to your neighbors.’ ”

More.

Photo: Craig Dilger for The New York Times

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I liked a Nov. 19 editorial in the NY Times: “Day Laborers, Helping Hands.” It shows that attitudes about immigration can be affected by circumstances.

“About 50 or so people gathered outside a storm-ruined taco restaurant on Saturday morning in Coney Island, on a backstreet behind the Boardwalk near the Wonder Wheel. They were day laborers, Hispanic men and women who have been spending weekends as a volunteer brigade, helping other people chip away at the mountains of debris and accepting nothing in return except work gloves, face masks and safety information cards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They came from all over the region, including a day labor hiring center in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, that Hurricane Sandy had washed away.

“It’s not unusual to find day laborers looking for work after a disaster. What was striking was the warmth and gratitude they found. They even had an official welcome, from the local state assemblyman, Alec Brook-Krasny, and two City Council members — Domenic Recchia Jr. of Coney Island and Vincent Gentile of Bensonhurst.

“They thanked everyone for coming and pledged to get the Bensonhurst work center open again. A man from the laborers’ union gave a safety lecture. …  ‘We are all New Yorkers,’ said Mr. Recchia, who had brought a box of masks. An observer used to the anti-Latino screeds of politicians on Long Island, a few miles east, marveled at the sense of community — the feeling that after a disaster, immigration status didn’t matter, only a willingness to help.”

Although I took this photo in downtown Boston, the union mural seemed fitting, suggesting the importance of keeping fairness in mind after the crisis has passed.

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Suzanne knows what sorts of stories would be good for this blog. I love one that she passed along at Thanksgiving.

It’s by Elizabeth Rau at East Side Monthly, and it’s about a charitable effort to help refugees acclimate to a new life while working.

“The holidays are upon us. What to do?” asks Rau. “You can drop a ten-spot on useless things … or you can buy a bag of granola made here in Little Rhody.

“This wholesome, mostly organic granola is irresistible: It tastes good and is lovingly whipped up by refugees trying to start over in a country that can be intimidating and tough to figure out.

“The Providence Granola Project was founded by Keith Cooper and Geoff Gordon during a deep talk one night about how to help people who come to America with nothing more than a suitcase.

“Keith, a Yale graduate and former campus minister who lives with his family on the East Side, had one of those aha moments. He’d been making granola for years in his kitchen. Why not turn his hobby into a business and mobilize refugees too? The two friends shook hands. A company was born.

“That was five years ago, and Providence Granola is still going strong. In rented space at the Amos House soup kitchen in South Providence, the company makes 1,000 pounds of granola a month.  …

“For years, Keith worked at the International Institute of Rhode Island, settling refugees here. … Keith was moved by what he saw at the institute — dignified and hard working men and women who want to succeed. With so many obstacles in their way — no money, language barriers, a different culture — you’d expect them to give up. But they don’t.”

Granola has given many of these people a new start. Read more here. And here. Read especially about Zaid Wadia, a 35-year-old Iraqi refugee, determinedly upbeat and grateful despite a very tough past life.

Photograph: image by Ryan T. Conaty

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I usually try to get to an event or two at the annual Concord Festival of Authors, and one year I ended up attending readings by new novelists held at Kerem Shalom temple.

Iris Gomez, an immigration lawyer, was one of them, and I bought her novel Try to Remember. The protagonist’s Puerto Rican/Columbian childhood in Miami was fascinating, but hard for me to relate to. Why, for example, would the family not seek help for a clearly deranged parent? Painful to observe.

I passed the book along to a colleague from the Dominican Republic, who immediately got what Gomez was trying to convey. She said, “Omigosh! This is the story of my life.” When the Latino employee group was looking for speakers, Gomez was chosen to join WBUR radio’s “Con Salsa” host José Massó for a lunchtime presentation.

It was interesting to learn about Gomez’s other life, as an immigration lawyer, and to hear her describe the duality of the immigrant experience. She grew up trying to bridge her family’s world and that of the new country. Today she bridges the worlds of  novelist and a lawyer, in both cases trying to build understanding.

From the website at her day job: “Iris Gomez joined [Massachusetts Law Reform Institute] as an immigration attorney in March 1992, is a nationally-recognized expert on asylum and immigration law, and directs MLRI’s Immigrants Protection Project. Prior to joining MLRI, she was a Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. She also worked as a law school lecturer, a public defender, a farm worker lawyer, and has been the Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Law Center. She graduated from Boston University School of Law.”

José Massó was a dynamic and entertaining speaker. With both humor and seriousness, he told us about his culture shock coming from Puerto Rico to a supposedly liberal college on the mainland and about how he developed his concept of a third way for immigrants, one that takes from the two cultures but makes something new.

Photograph of José Massó: WBUR

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