Abdel and Alina are a Cuban couple living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, though living is proving difficult. They do not speak english, they eat on $107 a month in food stamps, they reside in Bowling Green Towers, paid for by the government, and have an array of cardiac, pulmonary and spinal problems between them. Before their problems, the first thing they would tell you is how much they have to thank God for their new life in America. They look past the trouble and recognize what relief they have received from escaping working for the Cuban government and still having each other.
Abdel and Alina follow along in the Bible with the mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.
Abdel wears a back brace to help his posture and keep his spine in proper position. Alina emphasizes the importance of a good diet and eat only what their doctor has recommended, including fruits, vegetables and low salt intake, which Alina deviates from time to time, while Abdel sparingly treats himself to apple juice.
Thankful praying occurs before and after every meal. They also pray before starting their car, reaching their destination, prior to a doctor's appointment, after they have heard their diagnosis, and wherever they can find time.
With not much financial aid, the Ramirez' decorate their home with pictures of loved ones and appliances and trinkets found in the hallways of Bowling Green Towers that would otherwise be thrown out to for garbage. Abdel considers himself a decent handyman and has fixed lamps and a stereo system on which they love to play Cuban music.
The Ramirez' proudly drive a Dodge Neon that was given to them by a fellow church member, which they have personalized with a handicapped sticker, a Rosary and a Cuban flag. They have also acquired an American citizenship tape to play during their journeys to church, the doctor's office, and ESL (English as Second Langage) classes. Though they have remembered majority of the answers of the tape, such as George Washington, the Statue of Liberty, and Washington D.C., they have only memorized the phonetic sounds and remain curious about America's symbols and historical figures.
Abdel received blood work to determine his cardiac problems, which he still does not fully understand. The Ramirez' drive one hour to the closest doctor who speaks spanish, although her staff does not, which still leads to communication problems.
The ESL class of Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College is an open class, provided for all international immigrants. Multiple cultures are represented, but the teacher only speaks english and cannot effectively communicate the problems to the students. Abdel and Alina feel that they do not learn anything, but they go simply out of hope in persistence.
Abdel has trouble walking some days due to his spinal issues, but he refuses to let Alina open the passenger side door for herself, and she happily obliges.
The Ramirez' live with their possessions boxed up, waiting for a confirmation to live in a more suitable environment to accommodate their health problems. The government has denied multiple locations that would prevent Abdel and Alina from walking the 4 flights of stairs to their room when the elevators go out, and to escape the tobacco smoke filled hallways. Despite the denials, the Ramirez' live in optimism for their future, and are thankful for how far they've come.