The first Hmong family came to Sheboygan in 1976. From a photograph [we were shown], we all figured that this was a pretty big family but nothing compared to the 6,500 Hmong there are in Sheboygan now!
An interesting thing we learned was about Bosnian refugees. Bosnian people are not Hmong people. They’re totally different, but they went through basically the same hardships and journeys the Hmong people went through. They were being bombed out of their homeland and didn’t come to America because they wanted to—they had to!
In 1982 there were problems with gang membership [among the youth in the Hmong community. They joined gangs] because a lot of young Hmong have to live in two worlds: at home (Hmong) and at school (American). The Hmong often are torn! They ended up choosing a gang as a way out.
Another man taught us how to play tub lub. It is a game that Hmong people play, often at New Years. You have a stick with a small rope on it; you wind a top up in the small rope. Then you hold the top in one hand and the stick in the other and whip the top onto the ground. Then you pull back on the string and the top will spin. Other people will try to knock your top off. They let us spin the tops in the hall, it was super fun!
Then we went to play Tub Lub. Everybody went to play but me because I thought I’d do bad, but when I saw other people playing and making mistakes [so I thought I would try]. I went up to the line when it was my turn, I made a mistake but it started to get fun so I went again and the second time, I did it! It stood up and spun! I am not lying but I couldn’t try again because we had to leave.
The top game was made for girls because this man had three daughters and no sons and wanted a son, so he invented the top game and said whoever beats one of his daughters can marry her and play tub lub with the dad. This way the dad would have a son in law and not be lonely any more.
At the end of our visit the Hmong man gave us some paper with Hmong designs on them that you can color. I am coloring my designs for Christmas presents!
The Hmong people said they let the other refugees work there because they feel they had to go through the same difficulties as the Hmong.