As I stepped off the yellow school bus I saw a white, square, one-story building. There was a sign that read: United Refugee Services. At first I thought the building was kind of dull, but little did I know what was in store inside.
I thought it was interesting that some of the things hanging [on display] weren’t just crafts and things from Laos. There was a bulletin board all about government for the refugees so they would understand government in America. [The bulletin board had] a newspaper clipping with all the presidents and descriptions about them, a written English test, and facts about what’s going on in the world right now.
[There was a doll] dressed in traditional clothing but her skin was pale, her hair was brown and she had blue eyes with extra long eyelashes. She didn’t look like any Hmong person I’ve seen. There are many reasons why this could have been. Maybe that was the only kind of doll they had or maybe the makers were going to sell it to non-Hmong people and thought they would like it better as a European person. (I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a doll that looked like the culture it was from.)
On the bus back to Randall I thought about how different this experience was from Kaj Siab House, but [also] how similar in how kind people were, and generous and welcoming. Thanks URS!
About 20 years ago, United Refugee Services started helping refugees [including] about 5,000 Hmong, 700 Cambodian, 700 Lao and even about 150 from the former Yugoslavia. The United Refugee center [helps] people get new jobs, [find] homes and adjust to their new lives, language and skills
The United Refugee Service doesn’t only help new Hmong refugees, they also help Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees learn English, find a job and resettle in the community. They have a food pantry for refugees that have just come and can’t support themselves.
We all saw a picture of a refugee camp. It was very large and I could see the fence around the refugee area.
Some women wore traditional Hmong clothing to the [event at] the center. Jenny said they looked young and pretty wearing traditional Hmong clothes.
The Children’s Museum has been coming here since July to get lots of information about what life was like [for the Hmong] in Thailand and they’ve gotten a lot. That’s because there a lot of people here who [lived] in the [Thai] refugee camps.
While we were there we took a look around at [all the] neat things they had on display. One thing I looked at in detail was the story cloth.
At first I thought it showed a Hmong village in Laos. But then I noticed, down toward the bottom of the story cloth, it showed people with baskets on their backs [like] the ones they use for the market. I finally figured it out when I looked at the bottom; it showed a person laying out vegetables on a stand. It was, in fact, a Hmong market place.
[Another story cloth] had white writing underneath each scene. “It’s like a sewn comic book,” I said.
I had three main delights. My first one was eating egg rolls and drinking Koolaid. My second one was finding out about a new instrument called a “kieta.” My third delight was when I was eating an egg roll and looking at a [Hmong] doll and old man walked up to me, speaking Hmong. I could not understand him but finally I understood what he meant. He meant to feed the egg roll to the doll! So, I pretended to feed it to her.
Hmong flutes are usually for girlfriends and boyfriends. When he plays he doesn’t jump around, he just walks and sometimes bends down.
I noticed that many of the flutes sounded like a lot like the qeej. All of them looked kind of plain, but the sound they made was incredible!
All the games [we played] were fun, but it was [even] more fun [playing them] in front of an audience and the class and to have classmates cheering you on. I like these games because they played them in Laos and played them for fun. Now games have batteries; you would never [need to] go to a toy store to get [the things you need for these games]: rubber bands, sticks, old flip-flops. No way! It was very nice for them to have us. Thank you!
[A man] picked [some] kids from our class to play a marble game that none of us have ever seen. You take turns trying to shoot a marble into a hole. If [your marble is] within a hand length [of the hole] you can just put your marble in. After you get the marble in the hole, [the other player] tries to hit it. If you do, you win!
In one game, you put a lot of rubber bands on a stick, loosely, so they can fall off. You put the stick on the ground and draw a line about ten feet away. You also need a partner and some shoes. Standing by the stick, you each throw one shoe, the person who gets closest to the line goes first. You stand behind the line and try to hit the stick with the shoe. If you hit the stick and knock some rubber bands off it the ones that are not touching the stick are yours to keep. Wherever your shoe lies is where you stand for your next turn. The person who gets the last rubber band wins.
At the URS, we met Yang Cha [who] had a Hmong rifle. It was used to hunt and protect the family. The gun has [belonged to his family] since the Vietnam War started. It has a special rock that makes sparks when it goes off [and] you have to reload it every time you shoot. It can shoot about 50 yards.
The Hmong people there were so welcoming to us and happy for us to be there. I feel so comfortable with the Hmong people now.
Open House at United Refugee Services