Sitting in my warm room and looking at all of my souvenirs from Thailand, I reflect on my experiences in Thailand and how much I have grown from it.
When I think about a culture shock experience from my trip, one word comes to mind: privilege. I never thought of having much privilege here in the United States being a minority who’s parents were refugees; my family did not have much but we were fine with what we had. I lived a simple life and did not noticed how much privilege I had until I met a Hmong Thai woman in Chiang Mai. After telling her I was Hmong and I was from America, she talked about how I was able to visit her and how she was not able to do the same even if she worked all her life. I was shocked to hear her statement, but I knew deep down she was correct. Having the chance to meet this Hmong Thai woman and other Hmong Thai people made me realized how lucky I am and how much privilege I had compared to them.
My experiences in Thailand brought me closer to answering my personal questions about identity. As a Hmong American, I struggled with how to define myself, a struggle my parents share as well. Where do I belong in the United States? I am not Caucasian nor am I part of the known Asian ethnic groups like the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and etc. Meeting the Hmong Thai people and having the chance to talk to them made me realize one thing about my own identity. I realized that my identity should not come from how others view me or label me but it should come from a much deeper place. Although many of the Hmong Thai has lost their much of Hmong culture, their Hmong identity remains strong. Identity can come from anything an individual holds symbolic and one thing I hold dearly is the journey of my parents and my ancestors. I know that the Hmong identity will continue to live on as long as there are people willing to claim that identity and learn about the journey of the Hmong.
As I sit in my room thinking, I know that my journey has just begun. The vast wealth of knowledge and priceless memories I have made in Thailand will forever be a part of my being. Thailand, Thailand, Thailand, you are truly an amazing place. Till we meet again.