It’s crazy to think that I’ve been in Thailand for a couple of days now. Though I am across the world, it seems like the home I know is only a drive away. Perhaps it is because I have a wonderful group of instructors and friends that fill my days with laughter and learning. Perhaps it is because I am always greeted with a smile, followed by a funny joke from the local Thai people. Somehow, my heart feels as ease. Hmong people call it kaj siab. It means that regardless of your troubles or worries, you feel happy with your present state. While I have had so many great experiences thus far in Thailand, something about seeing the Hmong village made a profound impact on me.
What I heard in stories and saw in movies came to life when we reached the Hmong village. For so long, my parents told me about their lives in Laos and Thailand. I never imagined that I would be able to see a Hmong village. I felt like I was home. Speaking the Hmong language made my spirit brighter. It made me feel more like me. Back in the US, my mother loves to garden. We own a small garden patch past Eagan, MN where we grow anything and everything. When we drove up to the garden patches in the Hmong village, it was like driving up to Eagan to my mother’s garden. A small part of me wanted to search for my mom amongst the fields. Whether in Thailand or in Eagan, MN, the smell of nature made me understand the importance of agriculture in the Hmong community. It’s a way of life for us. Growing and tending to crops is rooted in the Hmong culture. To rid of it would be to rid of the Hmong culture. I didn’t see that until now.
A lot of Hmong people who live in Thailand dream of coming to America. More opportunities.. a better education.. a life to live for. But what they don’t know is that it’s really the other way around. Many Hmong Americans wish to find a piece of their past, their roots, in Thailand. While Hmong Thai wish to move to America to find a piece of their future. We are not so different after all. No matter where we live, we strive to learn about the other. After our short meeting this morning, my understanding of the Hmong culture is being redefined. I’m questioning my identity and culture in so many ways now. All Hmong really are one, but what does it really mean to be Hmong anymore?