At WAHMA (Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association) we spent the afternoon with two youth groups. The groups [were established] to keep young people out of trouble. The first one showed us a game that involves teamwork. We had to build a structure using ten straws, fifteen marshmallows, and one balloon. Later, another youth group came and taught us some Hmong games. One was the Ball Toss.
In this game you get a partner (normally a girl if you’re a boy) and you toss a ball made of fabric. If you drop the ball you owe the other player a piece of jewelry or money. In another game, we’d lined up and when the line started to run around the leader tries to catch the person at the end. The last game we played was like Duck Duck Goose, but instead of tapping the person you leave a small object behind his back.
In Wausau at WAHMA some teenagers taught us how to play some Hmong games played in Laos and Thailand. First, we played a game called Ball Toss, a simple game where you toss a ball back and forth. This game was played mainly for the Hmong New Year. The game was made for boys and girls to talk to each other.
The second game we played has many different names such as Dog Chases the Tail and Caterpillar. You have a line of at least five people holding on to each other, and the person at the front tries to catch the person at the end without breaking the line. This game is harder than it sounds. [In Laos] they would play this game all night. The third game is kind of like Duck Duck Goose...
The first game we all tried was Ball Toss. Hmong people play this game at the New Year, mostly a boy and girl toss the ball to each other so they can get to know each other. Usually two people toss a ball with only one hand. The other game is called Caterpillar. The way you play it is a group of people holds each other on the waist and then the person at the head needs to catch the person at the tail. It keeps going in different patterns. I’m pretty sure this game was made to [create] community. This game shows me that whatever we do we need to keep hold of our friends...
“When all is said, and all is done, working together does not just bring out the best in all of us, it brings out the best in each of us.” That is one of the first things Mai Kao Moua told us. She is the director of the Hmong Women’s Circle. The group is fairly small, but Mai hopes that it grows to be like the Girl Scouts, and that teenage girls all around [the state?] can be in the program. One of the group’s main foci is on working together and teamwork. Hmong people are very much an ethnicity where others come first. “Back in Laos, you’d take care of your family and friends’ wants and needs before you take care of your own wants and needs,” Mai said.
Mai taught us a game that, although it wasn’t played in Laos, requires a lot of team work. My group was trying to make a structure of fifteen marshmallows, some straws, and a balloon. After the structure was completed, an egg would be dropped from above and the structure would have to support it. The game required a lot of teamwork, because it’s hard if one person tries to take over, but it’s also a problem when nobody wants to give ideas.
Three other games we played are traditional Hmong, and were played back in Laos. The most common game is Ball Toss, and it is still played at Hmong New Year and other times big groups of people get together. (My family and I saw it played at the Madison convention center during Hmong New Year this year.) The game is played with a teenage boy and a teenage girl. You simply toss a ball back and forth and chat to get to know each other.
Another game played back in Laos is very similar to Duck Duck Goose, but instead of tapping people on the head, the “it” hides a small object (such as a rock) behind one of the people in the circle. That person tries to chase “it” back to his/her place.
The last game we played can get pretty wild. In this game, a line of people hook on to each other, holding on to the back of the person in front of them. The line of players runs and wiggles while the person in front tries to touch the person in the back. Usually people get unhooked. We played with half a dozen kids at a time, but back in Laos they could play it with more than fifty!
This is a very fun and frantic game. First everybody gets in line with their hands on the other person’s shirt. You run around, and the person in front tries to touch the person in the back.... In Ball Toss, you toss a ball back and forth while having a conversation. The game is used by teenagers getting to know each other—especially girlfriends and boyfriends...