PORTLAND, Me. — Charlene Masengu left the Democratic Republic of Congo late last year, hoping to get asylum status in the United States after a wave of political violence made life at home unbearably dangerous. She made it to this coastal city last month, just before it was covered in more than 30 inches of snow, and she wondered, briefly, whether she had made a mistake.
Ms. Masengu was squeezed, notebook in hand, into a plain conference room at the city’s center for refugee services. She and dozens of others were here 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.
... Northern New England would seem an unlikely destination for immigrants from Central Africa, but many new arrivals — who include a steady number of refugees and a rapidly growing number of asylum seekers, who say they are refugees but whose claims have not yet been evaluated — are drawn here by referrals from family and friends, as well as the relatively low crime rates of this region’s small and manageable cities.
... More than anything, he says, his students have to learn how to bring the weather into their daily calculus. “The weather forecast — you have to plan ahead. The best way to do that is wake up in the morning, put the TV on and look at the cancellations,” Mr. Alloding said.
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.”
One of the biggest winter-related issues refugees face, Mr. Alloding said, is dealing with the heat in their apartments. “Some landlords have evicted some of my clients,” he told the class. “There is a complaint that a certain population will open the heat at 90 and keep it on. They are under law to provide you with a temperature of no more than 67.”
Wouldn't it be better for all concerned just to pay neighboring Third World countries to take in the refugees?