| Sarah M. | Maggie
| Benjamin | Emily
| Benjamin | Nate
| Jeremy | Abigail
| Benjamin | Cristina
| Benjamin | Cristina
| Jeremy | Abigail
| Mariah | Abigail
| Maggie | Mariah
| Tim | Mariah |
Abigail | Benjamin
| Abigail | Nate
| Emily | Abigail
| Nate | Tim
| Sarah M. | Pao
| Benjamin | Martha
| Erika | Erika
| Jenny | Jeremy
| Benjamin | Izzy
L. | Izzy S. | Sara
Dr. Lo is a naturopath doctor. He knows
all the Western kinds of medicine with their high technology
and stuff, but he also knows natural medicines and traditional
Hmong herbal medicines. This just goes to show you that shamans
aren’t the only Hmong doctors.
I used to think absolutely zip of baskets
and their uses. But on the trip we met a basketmaker, and
he told us that in Laos, baskets were made of bamboo cut in
thin strips. They were used to hold dishes, since there weren’t
any cupboards. I never thought of that. He also told us kids
could make baskets before their teens, but once they were
teenagers they HAD to.
I learned that Hmong blacksmithing is actually
quite similar to American blacksmithing. ..[But] the differences
are that the Hmong make things that their culture absolutely
needs while American blacksmiths make things that look nice
and hard-worked-on, so that they can make more money. The
difference I see is greed and helpfulness.
When the Hmong started working at Lemke
Cheese, the Americans working there felt intimidated. [They
worried] the Hmong would come and take their jobs, and they
[thought] that when they talked in Hmong, they were probably
talking about them. These and many more rude suspicions were
said about the Hmong, none of them true.
When the Hmong came, companies said Hey!
More workers! We’ll take ‘em! and gave the Hmong
jobs. One of those companies was Lemke Cheese. However, there
were problems. A major one was friendship. When Chang Yang
was hired the workers weren’t very happy. But Chang
went around and made friends with them! Now they’re
as happy as can be. Chang also made friends with HIS boss.
They go on picnics together.
While most people didn’t want to
hire Hmong people when the Hmong first came, Lemke actually
wanted to hire the Hmong, because the Hmong are very strong
and resourceful. Why would a cheese factory need strong people?
Because some of the blocks of cheese are over 70 pounds.
We don’t often think about who puts
those wrappers on our cheese, or who makes the shoes we put
on every morning, but if you get Kraft Cheese or Win-Brenner
outdoor boots, it could very well have been a hard working
Hmong man or woman from Wassau.
After the trip, I realized that the
Hmong are not just Asian people in colorful, traditional clothing
who dance, sing, and practice Shamanism. They do not just
have jobs at the bottom of factories doing dirty work. Many
Hmong have high positions in all kinds of fields, and many
have started their own businesses....At the cheese factory,
I realized Hmong could have very important jobs like Chang
Yang, and even if their job isn’t the most fun or the
most profitable the Hmong workers smile and chat, and overall
have a nice time. I thought that was really neat....Some Hmong
people got together and realized that many Hmong refugees
new to the country needed jobs. So they started the shoe factory...I
thought that was really thoughtful and caring to make the
factory for others...We saw many things on the trip, and each
changed my perspective, and now I see the Hmong as really
awesome, normal people.
I never knew the Hmong can be a boss of
a cheese processor.
Before we had been learning about
the traditional Hmong culture with shamanism and qeej and
all that, but now I see a whole new Hmong culture....I never
thought a Hmong person would be the manager of a cheese packaging
company. Or the head of a boys and girls club. Or play a game
that almost the same as duck, duck, goose...
Sometimes you’ll notice how Hmong
people’s English isn’t the best but then most
Hmong people know about five languages including English!
You wonder how they got the time to do that with all the work
they had to do back in Laos. I think that a lot of Americans
think the Hmong are stupid. Do you call knowing five languages
stupid?! I don’t. I think a lot of Hmong people are
smarter than many Americans.
This trip has taken me on a journey mentally
and physically through what is the same between my culture
and the Hmong....One stop that changed me was the Hmong Christian
Church. It showed me that when a big change happens to a people
they adapt to the culture around them. Some stay the same
and think [traditions] are important, yet others believe that
moving on and experiencing a new culture is important...
Have you ever noticed how some Hmong
call Laos their home and some call the USA their home? What
All the Hmong people and American people
we have interviewed or met have their own ways of doing their
cultures. Outside, we are all different. But on the inside
we are really all the same.
I jumped off the diving board and held
my breath as I landed into Hmong culture, deeper, deeper,
until I reached as far as I could get. Then, I started going
up, seeing less and less until I reached the surface, where
I found my own culture waiting there for me.
Until next time, when I’ll be able to hold my breath
longer, and I’ll go even deeper into Hmong culture...
This is probably something everyone asks,
but WHY? Where did it all come from? Why is Hmong culture
the way it is? Why do Hmong do what they do and European Americans
don’t? This question will probably never be answered.
Do you wonder about those things too? Maybe.
The Americans didn’t help [the Hmong]
much. We wanted them to leave. We made up rumors that weren’t
true. We paid them less at their jobs than we would pay [others].
[But] it was our fault in the first place that the Hmong came
because we recruited them to help us fight the [Vietnam] war.
We were the ones who got them in trouble in the first place...They
had to leave Laos or die.
Before the trip I thought Hmong ball toss
would be very boring. Just standing and throwing a ball back
and forth. But on one trip we actually did the ball tossing.
I got to know what it was really like, not boring, not exactly
fun, but a nice slow activity that is the center of conversation.
– Izzy S.
Before I went on this trip I thought that
Pakou, Mark and Pao were not very traditional Hmong. But now
I know they could be very traditional and they just aren’t
at school...One example is when the dancers were performing
I thought they would be very traditional, but when I talked
to them I felt like their culture was a lot like mine. One
of them was even Christian. It is sort of like the saying,
don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge a
Hmong by their name...Just because they were Christian didn’t
mean they weren’t Hmong, and just because they were
Hmong didn’t mean they weren’t Christian....