Home to many people is a place that brings you joy or people that gives you comfort. We search for a community to belong to, seeking others to make us feel whole. Thailand for the past 3 weeks has been home to me and I think it will always be. Through the people I’ve meet, the organizations I have partake in, and the culture I’ve engaged with, I’ve reconnected with my identity and learned about cultures that I have fallen in love with.
As a Hmong-American, I’ve struggled with my dual identity. Never feeling “Hmong” enough and not feeling “American” enough. In order to fit into the “American” culture I neglected my culture and was ashamed of it. I chose to not speak my native tongue: Hmong with my Hmong peers so that I wouldn’t be looked down upon. I chose to not learn about my Shaman religion and Hmong customs because I didn’t see a reason for it. Thailand changed it all.
Pha Nok Kok Village was the first Hmong encounter I had on this trip. I had the honor to meet the Hmong people of this village and the opportunity to see their way of life. As I was translating and communicating with the Hmong elders, I realized how important language is. Language allows people to connect with one another. One of the student from the Hmong Club of Chiang Rai Rajabhat University said that “although we are from different parts of the world, one thing we have in common is our Hmong language because we’re able to feel a sense of familiarity with that”. Being able to translate and communicate with all the Hmong individuals I have meet on this trip has reminded me why it’s so important to know my Hmong history, culture, and language.
Seeing different organizations such as the Karen Village and the Hmong Club of Rajabhat University working to preserve their indigenous culture has sparked me an interest of mine which is working with Hmong Organizations to preserve and educate our youth on the Hmong culture. There is richness in every culture. Thailand has allowed me to recognize the richness of my Hmong culture and all the cultures that we have encountered.
The past 3 weeks in Thailand have been pure happiness, learning, and warmth from those that I have encountered. Thank you Thailand for allowing me to find reconnect with my identity and helping me discover a passion of mine. I know this won’t be the last time here.