Blog Archives

Ithacan Immigrant: Marie Jose

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Mary Jose, a native of Costa Rica, who moved to the US with her siblings through family reunification.  This fall, she will be leaving the Ithaca area so she can study at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Her aspirations include returning to Costa Rica and opening a non-profit for low income people who are diagnosed with cancer.  Mary Jose came to ISP to get help applying to become a U.S. citizen.  The picture below was taken last week at Tompkins County’s Supreme Court after she received her citizenship certificate. 

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came here to study and have a better future so I can open a non-profit back in Costa Rica.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My father decided to live here and I joined him later.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

It was beautiful.  I came here in the summer and my brother used to take me on bike rides and I remember thinking it was really green.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Last year was the first American Thanksgiving that I had so I can say that was my favorite American food.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Ithaca Bakery – I like the chicken noodle soup and their French vanilla coffee.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The buildings.  I grew up in the city and there were a lot of buildings.  Ithaca has a lot of trees.  The people in Ithaca are friendlier- people always say good morning and hi.  When I first got here, I wondered why people were always saying hi to me.

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Pakala

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We interviewed Pakala, a Thai national, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant.   Pakala moved to the U.S. with his mother in the 70’s when he was a teenager.  He expressed that he’s been here so long that he feels like he is already a U.S. citizen but finally decided to take the steps to formally become one.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

My mother had a job with the government with USAID right out of university and the last place she worked was in Laos.  When Laos fell to communism she was placed in the U.S. 

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My life has taken many twists and turns.  My relatives live here and I needed a haven.  Ithaca became a haven for me.  I ran away from reality and found a haven in Ithaca – as cliché as that sounds.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

The truth?  I was born in a large city and had lived in large cities so I thought it was quaint and at the same time I felt so far removed from everything else I had known.  That drive from Whitney Point to Ithaca, I felt like I was traveling back in time in a time I didn’t know because of the farm land, the farm houses and the old tractors.  But I grew to love it.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

My mother makes a mean meatloaf.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Buffalo Bookstore.  There’s a sense of community; a sense of everyone knowing everyone else.  I like the interaction of people there.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

I find that Ithacans, as a community, care more about what makes the world whole – they look beyond the front door more.  I find that to be admirable and rare.

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Voda

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We interviewed Voda, a Nigerian national, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant who moved to upstate New York after he married.  Voda originally came to ISP to access our legal immigration services and has returned to get assistance in applying to become a U.S. citizen.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came to New York City for vacation and that’s when I first met my wife.  I went home, and after that I visited the U.S. again for her birthday, went home, and then came back a third time and got married. 

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

We moved to Ithaca because my wife is from around this area and she wanted to be close to her family.  She thought this would be a good place to raise a child.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I looked at it like it was too quiet and boring for me.  I was sad for a couple of months and then I started acknowledging the beauty little by little and finally realized wow, this place is really beautiful.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Double quarter pounder with cheese and a vanilla milkshake.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Dick’s Sporting Goods – they have clothes that last long.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

Ithaca is kind of a tourist destination.  It has so many beautiful places that my hometown doesn’t have.  My hometown was about the same size as New York City but it’s not a tourist location.

Ithacan Immigrant: Gaw

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Gaw came to the U.S. almost 15 years ago as a refugee from Burma and was resettled in Ithaca with her family.  Since then, several extended family members, including her sister, husband, and 5 boys, have also moved to Ithaca through the U.S. Refugees Admissions Program.   Over the years, Gaw and her family members have accessed various services we offer at Catholic Charities including our citizenship & naturalization services.

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ISP: Why did you come to U.S.?

I was living in a camp in Thailand for two years and then came to the U.S. as a refugee.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My husband had a friend living in Ithaca and so we came here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I thought Ithaca was quiet – I liked it.  But at first I was scared to come here because I didn’t know English.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

I like salad – I really like vegetables with dressing.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

I don’t really do much of the shopping because my husband takes care of that.  He usually goes to Wal-Mart and Wegmans.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

In Burma, I lived in a village and we had to hide and were always scared. It seemed like over there we had to try to make everything safe all the time.    When we came here we were free.

Ithacan Immigrant: Zaw

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Zaw who originally came to the U.S. as a refugee from Burma.  Zaw recently returned to the U.S. after living abroad in Thailand for several years where he produced songs using the name “Eazy Iam.” According to Zaw, artists in Thailand would hire him to create their music and from that point he would come up with the instrumentals, write the lyrics and record them.   We’ve been helping Zaw take the steps to bring his fiancée to the U.S.

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ISP: Why did you come to U.S.?

I came here with my family to start a new life.  I was a child then so I didn’t understand fully why I was coming here.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

At that time we came to any place we could – we needed to leave the refugee camp because the  living conditions were horrible there.  Ithaca was the first place that opened up and we decided to come here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I liked the environment – especially the trees.  I came here during the fall so I had never seen red trees or yellow trees.  I remember seeing lots of kids playing –  there was a lot of things to take in when I first got here.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Cheese pizza.  I had never had pizza before so when I first got here it was amazing.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

About 10 years ago it was the mall.  They had a lot of shops back then.  They had a lot more stores – Champs, Game Stop, Radio Shack and the Arcade.  If they still had those stores I would be there all day.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The living conditions.  We were living near the border in Burma and we lived in a bamboo type house – not really a house but a structure.  This was in the camp.  We didn’t have a road, it was very dusty and when rainy season came it was piled with mud everywhere. 

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Rosa

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We interviewed Rosa, a national from the Dominican Republic, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant.  Rosa came to the US through marriage and is currently pursuing her BA at SUNY Cortland.  She recently came to Catholic Charities to get help in applying for citizenship.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came here because I had married a citizen from the US.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My husband’s uncle married a local Ithaca girl so he was the first one who lived here.  In 2008, my husband moved from Texas because there were more jobs and it was a quieter life.  He was living here when we got married.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

It was beautiful – I came in the summer and it was like paradise.  There were lots of flowers, lots of colors and lots of green.  During my first spring I said wow to how beautiful the flowers were.  In my first winter I said – wow, I love the snow.  Now after many winters, I say okay, it’s winter.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

McDonald’s.  I like French fries and the grilled chicken sandwich.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

My favorite is Target.  When it’s the end of the season they put everything on sale and then you can find everything.  I like Kohl’s and Bon Ton for the clearance sales.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The difference is the beach, the weather, and the food. There, you are more free to go outside and play. I worked right on the beach and I could be outside all of the time.  The food is also different; we eat plantains, rice and the fruits are more tasty.

 

Ithacan Immigrant: Alice

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Alice, a Kenyan national, who is currently taking the steps to become a US citizen.  Before immigrating to the U.S., she was a professional bee keeper in her former country.  Alice is currently studying to become a entrepreneur at TC3.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came because of marriage – my husband was from here.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

My husband’s family was in Ithaca so we moved here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I loved the people in Ithaca.  They are always smiling at you and are kind.  They’re very nice people.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Five Guys Burgers  – I really like their combo burger.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Wegmans – they have everything under one roof that you need.  And it’s fresh.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

I have to say the change in seasons.  Here I have to deal with winter.  Also the time change is a big deal for me.  In Kenya the sun rises at 6:00 in the morning at sets at 6:00 at night.  I don’t like the time change here.  I get depressed when it starts to get dark here at 4:00 in the afternoon.

Ithacan Immigrant: William

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We interviewed William, a former Burmese refugee, for this week’s Ithacan Immigrant.  William was originally resettled in Texas but eventually made his way to Kansas City and decided to live in Ithaca several years ago so he could live near his cousin.  Over the years he accessed our services to find employment and to become naturalized as a US citizen.  William’s youngest daughter just turned 1.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

There was a civil war in my country so I came as a refugee.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

I first lived in Texas but had family in Ithaca – my cousin lives here.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

I thought the city was cool.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

Mushroom burgers.

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

The Ithaca Mall.  They have a lot of stores so it’s fun for me to go there.

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

The weather – there’s no snow in Burma!

Ithacan Immigrant: Nana

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Nana who is well-known in this area for his drumming and dance performances.  Originally from Ghana, he has been going through the citizenship process and hopes to naturalize this summer.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

  I came to the US to work – I came to explore my culture.  I teach and perform.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

 I find it to be very spiritual place – everything is organic.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

My first impression was that it’s wonderful.  Everyone is nice and everything is within walking distance.  It’s a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business which makes me be careful.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

 Steak and potato

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Green Star and Wegman’s

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

 I am able to share my culture here – back home nobody cares.

Ithacan Immigrant: Yao

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This week’s Ithacan Immigrant features Yao who was born and raised in Ghana and originally came to the US to attend Cazenovia College.  Currently working for Sticks and Stones as a farmer, Yao has been learning farm management practices he hopes to one day implant in his former country. He has been accessing our legal immigration services.

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ISP: Why did you come to US?

I came for education.  I came to learn skills to go back to Ghana to promote rural education and sustainable agriculture.  I graduated with a degree in international studies.

ISP: Why did you decide to live in Ithaca?

I’m doing a 3-year internship with Sticks and Stones to learn about farm machinery, serving and irrigation, and farm management.

ISP: What was your first impression of Ithaca?

When the plane was descending it looked like there were a lot of trees and I of Africa.  It was August and I could see trees around and thought it really looked like Africa but my friends told me to wait until December and it wouldn’t look like Africa.

ISP: What is your favorite American food?

chicken wings

ISP: Where is your favorite place to shop in Ithaca?

Greenstar

ISP: What is the biggest difference between Ithaca and your home town?

I see similarities and not differences.  I see love and people caring for each other.  Ithaca and my home town (Hohoe in the Volta Region) are both towns of redemption.