When I was a kid, I thought that Los Angeles was on another planet (which my mom found so funny she didn’t really clarify until much later). The tiny train at SeaTac that took you to the airplane that would take you into space and eventually land you in Magical Los Angeles, land of Disneyland and my aunt’s swimming pool and tiny fridge filled with Diet Caffeine Free Coke. Basically heaven. The ride on the tiny train was the first leg in the greatest journey that landed you in the greatest place. I loved it.
In September I finally had a real, legit, grown-up reason to geek out about the tiny train: I rode it to an interview with Krishna, a twenty-something Bhutanese refugee who, after 17 years in a refugee camp and a few more finding his way around Seattle, works full time at the Great American Bagel Bakery at SeaTac.
Krishna is one of thousands of people who share a similar situation. More than half of the people who work at the airport are immigrants and new refugees like Krishna. His best work buddy is a 60-something Japanese immigrant who’s been slicing bagels here for decades—when she started the job paid $3.35 an hour. Krishna showed up at SeaTac three and a half years ago having never seen a big city or ridden in a car, or been able to get a job—and quickly became one of the hundreds of refugees and new immigrants who come back to SeaTac in search of work.
That day the airport, and the tiny train, became a much bigger, more complicated place than I had ever realized.
Krishna is just one of the many people I had the privilege of interviewing over the past year, as I put together a short radio series on the refugee experience in and around Seattle for KUOW (thanks to their Program Venture Fund!). I also got to hang out with Somali cab drivers, spend an evening at home with an Iraqi family, observe incredible feats of Nepali cooking, and watch a young woman from South Sudan duke it out over long division techniques with a ten year old from Kenya. And now you can listen to it all.
The four-part series is airing all this week on KUOW 94.9 (Seattle) in the 5am, 8 am, and 2pm hours; and again at 5:50pm and 9pm.
You can also visit the series webpage to listen to all for segments, see photos, and explore statistics on refugees in Washington State.