“It’s that one, with the bikes. No, you just passed it. Yeah, that one.” I park and repark while Laine and Marissa, my fellow Nomads, collect sleeping gear from the back of the van. Then we just sit back in the dark, take a breath, and watch little drops of cold rain hitting the windshield, blurring the streetlights before heading inside. I don’t need to Google a city before getting there or know the schedule for the week, but I’m always curious about one thing: Who are we staying with?
In the beginning I would ask for details, anything to equip myself for that first conversation walking in the door. I always wondered, how do they welcome a pack of unknown travelers into their homes? How does this work? But there’s really no preparing for it. And it does work, like a miracle every time. We are learning that no matter who they are in their day jobs, our hosts are unfailingly the most incredible, interesting, open, and giving people you could hope to meet.
One of us cracks open the van door, the cold comes in, and that’s the signal to rush to the house. We pile out onto the street into a mush of soggy autumn leaves, but before we even make it to the sidewalk we hear excited voices calling us from the opposite direction: “Nomads? NOMADS!?!” and a flutter of footsteps as two figures come running at us from the darkened bus stop across the street. Next come the hugs, and that’s how we met Lexi and Grace before even getting a good look at them. Over the next week spent working together, talking, brainstorming all things LiNK and ordering everything off the menu at Hard Times Café, these two taught us a lot about what hospitality can mean. They opened our eyes to the wonderful stuff this movement is made of: passion, compassion, ingenuity, and AWESOME ENERGY!
Lexi and Grace were our introduction to the University of Minnesota Rescue Team; We soon learned that Kevin, Chris and the rest of the leadership are just as dedicated. They are forward thinkers and leaders in their community, bringing attention to one of the biggest challenges we face as a human race. We were thrilled to see them going all out to make the event a success, share as many refugee stories as possible, and start a real and lasting conversation with the audience. Talking with them after the event, it sank in that we are doing the exact same work from different angles, and we rely on each other for progress and support.
Our hosts bring LiNK into their lives. Whenever they let us into their homes or book an event, they make our work possible, real, and worthwhile. Their hospitality keeps us warm and grounded so that we can travel one step further with renewed strength. I don’t know how any of this would be possible without them. They are our homes away from home! They are our LiNK family.
To them, we want to say “Himneseyo!”: Keep your spirits up and keep working in the service of the North Korean people! You inspire us and reenergize us, and we are so grateful each time we meet people like you, each time we get hugged or high-fived in the streets. For ten weeks it is our honor and privilege to collect hugs and shouts of support and kind words on your behalf. We know that it’s all of you host families and Rescue Teams, teachers and wide-eyed young people taking action that give meaning to our work as Nomads and make it possible. To all of you, 힘내세요!
– Billy, Pacific Northwest Nomad