Som Subedi is stuck in traffic. He’s running late to check on one of his flock: a 37-year-old woman who’s among scores of newly arrived Bhutanese immigrants he watches over like a worried parent.
Ran Gurung is on Subedi’s watch list. A refugee advocate, he fears Gurung is not adjusting well since arriving in June from a camp in Nepal, where her husband mysteriously vanished. She came to the U.S. alone, with only a few relatives already here for support.A pedestrian accident near Gurung’s apartment has created the gridlock. Subedi nervously consults his watch twice within a minute. Finally, the traffic eases and he finds a parking spot. He races into the Rose Manor apartments, rushing past a woman speaking Spanish to her infant. He knocks at Gurung’s unit, but there’s no answer.
His cellphone rings: Gurung was the one hit by the car; she was walking to buy milk to serve him tea.
Subedi’s eyes grow large. Since he joined Lutheran Community Services in 2010, the 33-year-old has attended to Portland’s Bhutanese immigrants. He meets them at the airport, giving them a $100 bill, telling them: “Here, this is to get you started. But remember, money doesn’t grow on trees.” He helps them find shelter and introduces them to other Bhutanese to alleviate the shock of a new homeland.
Subedi and other members of the Hindu minority in Bhutan were banished by the king of their Himalayan mountain kingdom in an ethnic cleansing that began a quarter-century ago. Since then, tens of thousands of Bhutanese have moved to refugee camps across neighboring Nepal. Subedi spent two decades there. His father harvested rice for 30 cents a day, and the family lived in a thatched-roof bamboo hut with mud beds, before the U.S. agreed in 2008 to accept 60,000 Bhutanese immigrants.
(The following story originally appeared in LA Times, which is partly reproduced here with due permission from the reporter John M Glionna and also from Erica Varela of LA Times -Ed)