“Without rice,” said Mu Naw, “we cannot live.”
But on Tuesday, that now-constant worry was salved, for the time being. A 25-pound sack rested at the hem of Naw’s bright purple sarong as she stood beside friends outside the worn City Heights apartment building whose units have, in the last two years, slowly been occupied by refugees from Burma.
She squatted down as the others curiously inspected containers of baby spinach and tomato sauce delivered by workers from the Episcopal Refugee Network, a local nonprofit. She reached into the sack of rice and took a palm full, letting it run through her fingers. Her neighbors crowded in for a closer look, some reaching down to test the quality of the grain they would divide among themselves.
“Yes, it’s good! Very good!” they all agreed as they stepped back.
Naw’s neighbor sang as she plunged into a box of oranges, and filled her plastic bag. “Very good.”
Since 2006, roughly 200 families have arrived in San Diego from the southeast Asian country of Myanmar, formerly Burma. They came by way of the teeming refugee camps in neighboring Thailand and Malaysia, where some lived for as many as three decades, fleeing repression from the Burmese government’s crackdown on the country’s seven ethnic minority groups.