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Nov 24, 2015 8:41 PM

Coming to America: Manchester immigrant came to America with just $10

MANCHESTER- Suraj Budathoki may look like your average dad coming home from work, but the story of how he ended up in Manchester is nothing short of extraordinary. Seven years ago he arrived in the United States with $10 in his pocket.

"I had no clue what I would be doing and what my life would be," said Budathoki. "We had a lack of orientation of or limited orientation on the work, job skills or whatever we need to be doing in the United States."

Suraj's journey to the United States began in the 90s when his family was among thousands of people who fled Bhutan, a country that rests near China and India, during a sweep of ethnic cleansing.

"We left our house in the middle of the night. We carried nothing. I still remember we untied our cows and our goats. Everything."

He spent the next 20 years living in a refugee camp in Nepal.

"We had to stay to get a bucket of water for four to five hours in a line, and for food we used to get a limited amount for 15 days. The most miserable thing is to sit doing nothing."

The waiting finally ended in 2008 when Suraj got his ticket to America after the US government agreed to resettle thousands of Bhutanese. Suraj is among the nearly 2,000 living in New Hampshire.

"Now I can smile, but in refugee camp you have no reason to smile."
Since planting his feet on US soil, Suraj has nurtured his own version of the American dream. After graduating from Southern New Hampshire University, he now juggles two jobs, working 80 hours a week.

"So this is America. If we spend our labor, we can be something, and we can do something."

That determination helped him buy a house that literally has a white picket fence, but he admits fitting in is not always easy.

"Whether they hate it or love it, we are here. We know how to do work," said Suraj. "We love this country. So, we are here."

In Suraj's case, that includes his Bhutanese wife, Geeta, who happens to be his childhood friend.

"We knew each other from refugee camp, and my parents knew her parents from Bhutan, but I didn't know that I'm going to marry her."

Now the couple hopes in the future their only child can in some way repay the country that has gifted them with opportunity.

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