Monday, June 23, 2008
Brave young woman
A post today, to talk about this amazing woman that I had the good fortune to marry: Maty Bombay Diop-Cariaga. Let me state up front that I don't want this post to be a saccharine, syrupy, cloying mess. I try never to write that way. I assure you, dear reader, anything I commit to type on this blog is sincere and as close to the truth as I can manage.
That granted, I continue. I've said it before and I will say it again: the woman I married is a better person than am I. She's motivated; she's smart; she's deeply moral; and she doesn't have a mean bone in her body. And, above all, she is brave.
Maty came here to Portland in 2003, from one of Africa's poorest countries, Burkina Faso. When she arrived, she spoke minimal English, and had only an 8th-grade education.
Since that time she has become fluent in English (at least in conversational English; she's still working on reading/writing comprehension), studied at the local community college, applied for and been granted permanent resident status, and entered into the working economy. She has held two jobs here, both of which she found through her own pluck and determination, overcoming imperfect language skills and an alien culture.
Today, Maty embarks on a significant step in her continuing journey. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes begin at Portland Community College.
I wasn't there to see her set out from the house, but I know her now, after two and a half years of marriage. She put on her sweater (she's always cold...she's an African in the cool Pacific Northwest, after all), strapped on her backpack and strode out to meet the new challenge with determination and aplomb. She doesn't drive, so I assume she walked down to the corner of Hawthorne and SE 37th and hopped on the 14 bus, toting her laptop computer, her books, and her school supplies.
This class will be a challenge for her, I know. But I also have confidence in her determination, her emotional strength, and her smarts. Whatever may come in life, Maty will always face it with courage and compassion.
When Maty left Africa, it was with the knowledge that she would likely never again live in her homeland, in close proximity to all the people she knew and loved. But she set out, anyway, determined to make a new and better life for herself, without knowing what she would find in America.
Whenever I get to feeling sorry for myself (sadly, that is altogether too often), I try to imagine how it must have been for a young woman in Burkina Faso as she said goodbye to her family and friends to travel half a world away and start a new life in a completely alien country. Any anxiety I might have about changes in my own life seem silly.