All posts by Mena Kaziong Lee

Blog post #2 – Coming Home

Returning home from Thailand for about a week now, I’ve come to reflect a lot about my identity and my surroundings. As I compare my experiences, I am reminded everyday how lucky I am to have a proper toilet, air conditioning, transportation, and an education. I have been telling my friends and family about how coming home from Thailand has transformed my outlook on how I want to lead my life and take care of the people I love around me. Thailand was a true eye-opener for me in appreciating what I have now, and taking advantage of what I have offered to me each day. Visiting my parents made me realize how special small talks are and cooking with my mom in the kitchen again made me realize how special these moments are to me as I continue to learn and reflect on my experiences in Thailand.

My Thailand experience really made me appreciate who I am, and where I come from. I am so glad that I have gotten this experience to learn my family history and appreciate what makes me Hmong. It was also interesting to not feel like a minority in Thailand because it felt like I belonged there. Having a sense of belonging and being able to truly be Hmong in Thailand made me feel more comfortable and have a closer connection to the things we were learning each day. To come back home and be a minority is a little different because I am now questioning if every act or service I get is because of my race in America.

I don’t quite know yet if I would return back to Thailand at this moment, but I am glad I got something meaningful out of this trip as I hoped and anticipated for. Thailand will always have a place in my heart as I move forward. I will always remember the friendships I’ve made a long the way, the struggles, and mindfulness, and the place my ancestors once called home.

Children = The Future


As I reflect learning about the children in Thailand and their futures, I see that there is a glimmer a hope and prosperity in their futures. However, learning about the children trafficking, the poor educational system in place that makes it hard for families to afford schooling for their children, and also learning about how Hmong villages only provide primary school, or not even, a standard education for their children saddens me.

First off, learning about the children trafficking in Thailand and forced child labor really intrigued me because I wanted to truly help the future generations. However, I witnessed first hand children working at the night market that same day we learned about the 7 tips to stop and prevent child labor. These two innocent girls were selling peanuts and flowers to tourists and natives at the night market. It was about 9:30PM already and still, from what it seemed like these two girls were forced to sell these items before the night was over, when they should have been sleeping to get up for school the next day. I sat there contemplating if I should have called the help line, or just observe and absorb my emotions as I watched these two girls sell their items. There was no smile, no motivation, and no emotion on the faces of the two girls. My heart was crying, but the tears of reality didn’t come out.  These girls are the future of Thailand. They need an education in order to succeed and not have to work on the streets to earn a living. There are other ways to get past the hardship that they may encounter, but this seemed normal to the natives here. Although there are child labor laws in Thailand, why aren’t they doing anything more? I noticed that at the night market, there was little to no police or security enforcing these laws.

Another incident that made me truly value children and education is when we visited the boarding school Chen Dao. These children come from different backgrounds, different tribes and villages, and yet they seemed to co-exist as a community. Learning about how these innocent children can be saved through education and school from issues of sex trafficking, drugs, child labor and orphanage is so powerful to me. I truly believe that school and education can lead the way towards a better future for these children and that no matter the differences, educating each other about how similar we all really are is the glimmer of hope we all want to see in the future of these children. It was so welcoming to me to see how easily these students welcomed us and wanted us to co-exist with them as they have co-existed with each other in school. I was also amazed on how smart and intelligent these students were when we played our game charades. The true meaning of happiness and joy from these students was truly getting an education and going to school, and it brought me joy and happiness seeing the smiles and laughs on the student’s faces.

However, there are so many unanswered questions I still have as I absorbed my thoughts and feelings of seeing these children struggle.  Seeing the struggle to have an affordable education and the struggle of making it through the trafficking and child labor issues in Thailand made me realize how privileged I am to be in America. Sometimes I feel like we take things for granted, such as free primary and secondary school. There are numerous cases of high school drop-outs in the U.S. and still, these children in Thailand would do anything in their power to even get a chance to go to high school, like the kids in the Hmong Village.  We take for granted that the U.S. has financial aid services that help with college tuition and that we don’t necessarily have to pay college all on our own.

I can now understand and truly appreciate children and education from witnessing these two cases while in Thailand. It is no wonder why my own parents always encouraged me to go to school and get good grades at a young age, because my parents lacked a formal education while growing up in Thailand and in the U.S. Our future in the hands of our children, and we can all work together to overcome these barriers that take children away from these privileges they deserve.

Blog post #1

  1. The experience I gained at the Wat Temple was the first time I had exposure to the religion and customs of the Thai people. By observing the meal ritual and the monk’s interaction with the people  very interesting to me because I think it’s really interesting to see other cultures and learn about other customs besides my own. Another example of a cultural shock to me was that I was expecting the temple to be those types of temples you would imagine through pictures online. I was surprised that having a location and a roof can become anything you want it to be.
  2. One learning goal I have during this trip is to be open minded and expose myself to as many cultural learning experiences as possible through food, religion, villages, and the city life there.
  3. Mena!