As I reflect on my experience at the Pha Nok Kok hmong village in Chiang Mai. I noticed that there is a similarity between the Hmong names in America and Thailand. As an Hmong American women I have two names–Hmong and English. My name is Shengyeng . The Hmong spelling of my name is Seev Yees. I also have an American name as my middle name which is Emily. Growing up it was easier to pronounce Emily in grade school, so I went with that name. It didn’t bother me much, because it was easier to write. However, I felt like a piece of me was missing. I’m still on the journey to find that missing piece.
During the discussion with the Chief of the Village I was curious about why the Hmong Thai have a Thai name. I learned about this in a recent Hmong movie that I watched. I never knew the reason why the Hmong Thai people changed their names to Thai. I wasn’t sure if they kept their Hmong name. It wasn’t until the Chief explained that ‘Thai’ is a Universal language. Since they live in Thailand it was easier to understand Thai. In order to adapt in the Thai culture they must have a Thai name, but still have their Hmong name. In addition, he even mention that sometimes nick names are given. With this explanation from the Chief I was reminded of my own name in America. I now have a deeper appreciation of my name whether it’s in Hmong or American.
As I got older I find myself using the name Shengyeng more and more. Sometimes I feel self-conscious using the correct pronounciation to others. However, over the years I had learn to embrace my first name in Hmong. I prefer for everyone to call me by my name Shengyeng. I believe that a person’s name is their brand. It should be carried with pride and corrected if misprounced by others. It wasn’t until I graduated from High School that I was reminded of the importance of my name.
Another experience was from the “What is your name?” activity with the High School students at Chiang Dao School This was definetely a reminder to listen. Just as Eve explained about the different languages and cultures. What I took away from the activity is that listening is important when there’s a language barrier. I had trouble learning the name of the Thai students, but with our body language and hand signals it definitely helped. I truly believe that language plays an important part in life. As Acharn Cathy mentioned from our debrief discussion, “language creates stronger relationships’.
In a nutshell, these experiences will help me grow and shape me as an individual.