Friday, December 30, 2011

Thailand Blog 12-31-2011

Travel in Spirals Blog 12.31.2011

Picture of Qeej Boy at Pu Chi Fa

Chiang Mai Thailand –

Chiang Mai University Students

We arrived in one of the most well known cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai. It’s vibrant and full of tourists from all over the world. Before we me up with College students from Chiang Mai University, I got phone call from Matthew Stewart and Song who are community organizers from Lacrosse, WI and were in Thailand for their own Hmong International project. Matthew and Song are the lead organizers of “Widening the Circle,” an annual Hmong and Native American Conference at UW Lacrosse. They just happened to have arrived that day right off the plane and wanted to check out our workshop at Chiang Mai University. We met up with Hmong students who were all kind enough to make time and attend. They have a Hmong organization at the school called Hmong CMU. We showed the Travel in Spirals documentary and got feedback. We also did a workshop where we had them listen to Hmong Hip Hop songs from Tsis K, Duce Khan, Pagnia Xiong and watch the “Hmoob Yuav Tsuv Hlub Hmoob” video. The students were a little hesitant first but we had incredible discussions on world wide Hmong unity, the struggles of Hmong in the Mountains, how they felt about Hmong American musicians/artists and how people recognize cultural identity as influential Hmong people in other countries. There were amazing leaders in that student group. They spoke about a project where the student group Hmong CMU would go into Moutain villages and pass out toys to little children.

Here is a list of Hmong songs that I have been listening to in Thailand and spreading to the people:

1. Proto J – Tseg Neeg
2. RARE – Tsa Taub Hau Siab
3. Duce Khan, Tsis K, Logo – Tshaib Plab
4. Hmoob Yuav Tsuv Hlub Hmoob – Organized by the Kong and Shu Project
5. Mai Yia Vwj – Muab Kuv Ib Sib Neeg

Chiang Mai University

CMU Students (The other side of the room are all Hmong Women students)

IMPECT Organization

We got connected to a good friend Kaub Hawj who was featured in the Travel in Spirals film presenting about Paj Huam. He is one of 3 Hmong employees at IMPECT (Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association).
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this organization had a Hmong Executive Director Ntsuab Vwj (Joua Vue) that seemed to be very passionate about her work uplifting Hill Tribe people in Thailand. This organization preserves culture and also advocates for the rights of many indigenous groups in Thailand. They are trying to create a center space for Hmong culture classes, arts and youth. They want to partner with Hmong American Non-Profit Organizations and build towards world-wide unity and support for preservation of Hmong culture and identity.
For more about IMPECT:

The Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), which coordinates the “Highland People Task Force”, a local advocacy network, has been working for more than 15 years to increase the empowerment of ethnic leaders and networks in promoting indigenous and highland ethnic peoples by both cultural and development aspects.


Doi Pui

We visited Doi Pui, The Hmong village that has been transformed into a tourist attraction in Chiang Mai. This used to be a real Hmong village and it still is like Hmong families still live there but now has the aspect of Hmong culture for sale and spectacle. The Hill tribes of Thailand have become a popular for tourists to visit. There are many things that people can learn about Hmong culture there too. There is a museum about Hmong culture and history. There were examples of Hmong houses. Most of the original houses have been turned into stores, markets to sell cultural items and other souvenir type stuff. We were guided by a good friend and master’s student at Chiang Mai U, Yia Lee and we checked out the Hmong House example they had… he stated that its looks just like the house he grew up in. The Hmong people at this village are making a living but I overheard that the children of this village are disconnected with the genuine Hmong village life and struggle also. The most shocking experience for me there was that I felt that a few of the people that worked there pronounced Hmong words very oddly. I asked Yia why those Hmong people spoke that way and he responded those people were not Hmong. They are either Thai or other Hill tribal people that have picked up the language by being around Hmong people for long periods of time. Wow they got me.

Lis Txais

We visited a Hmong Elder named Lis Txais in Lampun which is an hour away from Chiang Mai. We documented him playing and speaking about the Hmong Flute “Lub Raj” and gave me a book of a writing system for the Hmong language. He had Hmong symbols of this writing system painted on his house. He also stated that he did not feel any poetry or lyrics in the Hmong language that does not meet the requirements of the rhyme structure in Paj Huam should NOT be called Paj Huam. For example we have been calling Rap songs written in the Hmong language Paj Huam Meskas (American Paj Huam Poetry) because it was the closest thing we could reference in Hmong culture to Rap music, Lis Txais says stop that haha. He just says we can call it Ntsiab Lub which can translate to meaningful words or words of importance but we should never call it Paj Huam. I believe Lis Txias is a purist at heart and wants to keep traditional art forms such as Paj Huam they way he know it to be. I think about if we keep Paj Huam for example in its purest form, does it leave room for growth/innovation of the art form? How can it relate or connect to future generations especially since many traditional Hmong arts are in danger of being discontinued.

Here is an example of a Paj Huam poem that me and my cousin Pha Vue wrote together. Keep in mind that we are beginners at writing Paj Huam poems.

This is a part of a Paj Huam poem set in a 7-3, 8-3 rhyme pattern. The 7th word of the first line rhymes with the 3rd word of the second line (qhub and ub). The 8th word of the second line rhymes with the 3rd word of the third line (tseg and ceg) and the pattern would continue 7-3, 8-3 throughout the whole poem.

Kuv nrias txog Hmoob txoj kev qhub
Ua taub ub, peb-cov-laus tso tseg
Txhob sib ceg, peb pab tiv taiv
Yuav Tsuv Saiv Suav peb-hmoob kev caiv

Kuv pom txog Hmoob muaj zog kawg,
Peb Tsis tawg txuas-ntxiv yam tom ntej,
Qhia ua ntej rau nej paub txog,
Peb lub zog tsis-yog tas* li no

Lis Txais' House


I woke up to songs from The H Project in Thailand because I gave my cousin Pao Vue a copy of the CD back in 2008. He still listens to these songs til this day. It brought back inspirational memories.

Description of The H Project:
THIS IS ART FOR SOCIAL CHANGE is what you ll read on
the cover of The H Project CD. The H Project is a compilation
CD that includes a variety of musical genres that include rock,
hip hop, r&b, folk, spoken word, poetry and so much more by
artists from around the country who have written songs and
poems to raise awareness about the current human right vio-
lations and possible acts of genocide of the Hmong people in
the jungles of Laos in 2005.

Zos Qhuav vs Hoi Kue (Hib Khwj)
The differences between the Hmong Village Hib Khwj that my Aunt Joua’s family used to be in compared to Zos Qhuav where she currently lives is size, height, energy and temperature just to start off with. Aunt Joua says she moved to Zos Qhuav to have more farming area space and just chill out more in a quieter village. Hib Khwj is known to be one of the largest occupied Hmong villages near Chiang Rai/Pu Chi Fa areas of Northern Thailand. It is known to have many children now that they had to build a second school in the village. Zos Qhuav is way higher up the mountain in areas where people did not live 20 years ago. Because Zos Qhuav is so high up it is actually chilly… even when most of Thailand especially flatland areas are hot. I had to wear my winter jacket I wore on the flight from Minnesota to sleep every night. Hib Khwj can get cool at night but it gets hot there. There are only two stores in Zos Qhuav that sell convenience items compared to multiple stores in Hib Khwj. The population is so small in Zos Qhuav that the children there have to attend schools in nearby villages such as Hib Khwj. It’s nice to be around the energetic active environment of Hib Khwj but Zos Qhuav was a great place to focus, relax and be creative.

Children of Hib Khwj

The Next Blog will be about experiences Hmong New Year in Thailand and The New Band I helped create in Thailand called "Yog Kawg!"

I will get at it when I get back to the US in 4 to 5 days.

Thank you for reading.

Tou SaiKo Lee

Yog Kawg!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12.23.11 Post WRLD Thailand

Fooood we have been getting at!

Strawberries with crazy sugar

Tamarind Candy!!

Farmer's Market in a small town

Stir Fry in Thai

Corrected Mistakes from the last blog post

The fruits we were eating from the last post are not little pomegranates, those are Passion Fruits!

I spelled the name of the village we were staying at incorrectly. It is not called Zos Quav whiceans poop village. It is called “Zos Qhuav” which means The Dry Village. What a difference one letter can make for a Hmong word… sheesh.

Hip Hop

I have been working on a new song in the Hmong Language with my cousins Pha Vue who is also going to perform Hip Hop and Pov Vue who wrote the chorus/melody and plays the guitar for us.

My cousin Pha told me he was inspired by what I do in 2008 and wanted to write his own Hip Hop songs about Hmoob Tob Siab (Hmong People in the Mountains). We worked on both our verses together and this is what we came up with.

Here are excerpts from the song:

Tou SaiKo verse excerpt

Lawv Hais Tias peb haiv neeg Hmoob tsis muaj teb chaws,
yog li ntawv peb sawv daws yuav sawv uake, kom kho-khov*

yam tom ntej nos. Txhuab hnub, txhuab hmos.
Peb lub siab khwv tsis muaj kawg,

tiaj li Ib Txuj tsiv teb tsaws chaws

*tau txoj kev Cawm Dim vim peb muaj zog kawg.

Pha Vue verse

Peb Hmoob toj Siab nyia rau khau khiab,
rau yav tas los, Noj Mov ntshe dej
koom ib rab diav, nyob hau thaib teb,
peb yeej txob nyem, tseem muaj kev hlub.

Pov Vue Chorus

Muaj neeg hais tias, jes khoo dej
noog khoo ntuj, peb hmoob khoo roob
los txog hnub no, tsi muaj kev hlub,
thiaj poob teb chaws, nyob nyias ib sab ntuj
Peb sib nriav, sib cuag,
txawm txoj sia, tuag mus
peb coj hmoob, tsis tuag, mus ib sim (4)
peb hmoob, sib hlub mus ib sim

We are planning on performing this song together for Hmong New Years in the Hmong villages of Thailand. We asked a band to play with us too but let's see if it works out.

Pha Vue "MC Power"

Pov Vue on Guitar and Melody

I apologize that I have not been able to finish this blog due to limited time and something went crazy with the internet and blog structure.

I will try to finish it next time- PEACE Tou SaiKo Lee

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Back in Thailand for We Rock Long Distance 2011

We Rock Long Distance: Thailand blog

For more info Check out:

Yes I have returned to Thailand since 2008 for a new project with ethnomusicologist and filmmaker Justin Schell. I am planning to reconnect, learn and shake things up like when trying to get out the last few drops of siracha sauce from the bottle. I am hoping to perform again at the Hmong new years in Thailand late December. Also get at other Hmong artists, musicians and poets in the villages and universities of Norther Thailand. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who supported us for this project. I will not forget your love and support.

Here is a blurb from our purpose.

While in Thailand, Lee will reconnect with family members still in the Hmong villages around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, learn about the traditional poetry of kwv txhiaj and paj huam, collaborate and record with singers and poets, conduct workshops, and explore the connections between Hmong hip-hop in Thailand and Hmong hip-hop in America as he explores the global movement of hip-hop amongst the dispersed Hmong people.

We made a documentary called Travel in Spirals from the footage collected in 2008.

Here is info on that
Travel in Spirals Description:

'Travel in Spirals' tells the story of Hmong hip-hop MC, spoken word poet, and community organizer Tou SaiKo Lee as he journeys back to his birthplace of Thailand. Born on the Nongkhai refugee camp, his parents fled Laos after the Vietnam War and came to America when Tou was two months old. Taking its title from the spirals in Hmong paj ntaub, the story cloths that for many years were a way for the Hmong people to tell their history before a written language, 'Travel in Spirals' documents Tou’s journey to the source of himself and his heritage almost 30 years after he left.

With the help of amazing linguist Sherry Ly, we translated the documentary from English to Hmong language. We are planning to show the documentary in villages and universities of Northern Thailand.


We got dropped off at the Minneapolis airport by my mom Chy Yang Lee and the enigmatic Rebel Song.

The flight was 20 something hours...

At the Bangkok airport I saw Ronald McDonald doing the Thai greeting "Sawatdee"
(Note: We did not eat there)

At the airport, I also saw a National Geographic Thailand Travel book which has a Hmong woman on the cover.

The flight from Bangkok airport was one hour. We got picked up at Chiang Rai airport by family (Aunt Joua, Cousin Pao and a Khmer homie named UV) with a Toyoda truck. We drove three hours to the Hmong village "Zos Quav" where they live in Northern Thailand which is not on the map.

Gardening / Farming has been the heartbeat, survival and identity of the Hmong people throughout history. I am always amazed by the scenery of gardens by Hilltribes that reside along Mountains.

The Rice Fields for Real On second day we got to experience my Aunt Joua and her three sons (Pao, Pha, Hua) fan out debris from rice stalks seeds "Yaj Nplej" and I also got to "Ntuas Nplej" hitting the seeds from the rice stalks.

Why do Hmong people live in the Mountains?
Aunt Joua answered this by saying that Hmong people could be free in isolation and focused on farming and family life without influence from control or corruption of outside world. Also being amongst the mountains keeps Hilltribe people away from diseases and pollution that may be around the flatlands. It keeps them healthy through natural food, physical activity and being amongst nature/plant-life.

Using our Cabbages. We drove by huge piles of cabbages along the recently paved roads up the mountain. Hmong people along with other Hilltribes were asked to grow significant amounts of cabbage by the Thai government for relief efforts of the recent flood that has devastated areas in Thailand last month.

Txom Nyem
Aunt Joua says that they can earn up to what would be equal to $5 farming all day, each day.
My dad once told me that they were so poor, up to 5 People would share one spoon when eating a meal together. A person would take a scoop of food and pass it the next. When it was time to eat we all had our own spoon and fork at the table so I mentioned what my father said about the one spoon for 5 people. My cousin Pov Vwj who recently graduated from Mission college replied- that's how he ate meals growing up. I actually feel that my family in Thailand is still struggling as much as when I visited them in 2008...tabsis they seem to be as strong of a bonded family as ever working together to thrive.

Electricity and paved roads came to many Hmong villages in the mountains within the last decade in Thailand.

Laundry and Dishes (Everyday people)
We hand-wash our own clothing with a special soap and dry them out on wires. Me and cousin Pov wash dishes in the backyard.

Pomegranate We got to eat deliciously sour young pomegranate fruits that are soft and had to use a spoon to scoop. Different from eating them in the US.

*Deep Breath* ...its a recognizable feeling and reconnecting with my relatives there from last time felt "rooted" to me. It took a while to get use to living in the village but its a spectacular feeling all over again. The truck took us around curvy roller-coaster like roads by many different villages of Hmong, Mien, Chinese, Liso and other people that have made Mountain tops their home. Getting settled now and ready to do some creativity and interaction in a few days. Thank you for reading. - Tou SaiKo Lee

Hmong Village "Zos Qhuav"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Caption with Action

This year's Hmong National Development was one of the most attended ever.

HND Nationwide Artist Collaboration!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Noj Peb Caug (Eat 30) Xyoo Tsiab (New Year)

The Eat 30 Blog

Noj Peb Caug (Eat 30) Xyoo Tsiab (New Year)

Hmong New Year in the Hmong villages of Thailand can be 8 to 10 days depending on how much fun people are having. Each village has their own Nyob Zoo Xyoo Tshiab (Happy New Year) celebration.

It seems to be a bit much but if you think about how there is not much going on during the rest of the year for Hmong folks living in the villages, it's all farming and making money and then they finally can have their fun at the Hmong New Year.

I saw many beautiful Hmong outfits during the celebration walking on dirt roads with gust of dusts swirling around. They use tennis balls to ball toss and there were many places that sold nava, papaya salad, pho, meat on a stick and more. There was a mainstage where people performed paj huam and dance routines.

Oh yeah, the tennis balls are not sold for people to ball toss. I tried to buy one. The village leaders give out all the balls to toss and it is more of a controlled environment with encouragement, distance and rows. There are also Hmong elders that ball toss but they seem to stand farther away from each other and toss it higher. It seems like they are having more fun.

When it gets dark, they have performances on the mainstage that range from singing to dances mostly that's about it. I recorded many performances and thought about how these youth really enjoyed to perform but did not have teachers to help them, a performance space to practice or sponsorships from businesses. It is not the most quality performances but people really enjoyed themselves, its all they have all year and they make the most out of it.

I passed along a DVD of the Minnesota Hmong New Year celebration performances to the main organizer days later. Just about everyone in the village showed up and the event goes until about 11pm which is a big deal since it gets dark by 5pm and most people usually go to sleep around 8pm.

During the day, Fresh Traditions performed at The New Year Celebration in Huoi Kue. It was more appreciated by elders than the youth that were in attendance... arrrggghhhh. But people were captivated by a collaboration of Hip Hop and Kwv Txhiaj, younger and older generations that they have never seen before. And speaking of Hip Hop, it was the first time many people, young and old in the village were exposed to a Hip Hop performance.

I started off having the audience participate with me "When I say Nyob Xyoo, you say Xyoo Tshiab" (in Hmong). Most people participated. I told the audience to put thier hands in the the air from side to side (in Hmong). Like 5 people participated and 4 of them were Hmong elders... I had the audience clap with me to a beat, they were all off beat. We live in different rhythms. I don't think the audience is into Hip Hop music... yet. As usual G-dogg, Grandma Youa Chang stole the show and was admired by all the elders there. The Hmong University students are more knowledgable about Hip Hop and actually to add to that Hmong college students are more exposed to many things around the world when they are able to live outside of the village on the college level.

By the 7th and 8th day I was tired of the Hmong New Year, but people there were into it everyday! People would have two Hmong outfits and change back and forth for each day. People that did not wear Hmong outfits were said to dress like Thai people. In America when Hmong people do not dress in traditional Hmong wear they say we dress like Americans to the Hmong New Year.

The Hmong Thai International New Year

Held at "Pas Khib Nyiab" (Garbage Land) because the land used to be an area where all garbage is dumped on, but now it's been cleaned and remade into livable land with residents on it. Once a year it becomes like the Hmong State Fair. The reason that it is International is because Hmong musicians, dancers and singers from Laos, China and America come to Thailand to participate in the festivities.

4 Days of celebration. 2 stages with an outside movie theater. The main stage was huge. It was an incredible sight to see food, merchandise, product stands, huge games for kids, and carnival games all by Hmong folks. There was one carnival game that I was fond of where the participant had to toss a plastic basket onto a field of soda bottles and the objective is to cover the soda bottle. If you win than you get the soda bottle. Yaaay!

There was a couple of Hmong dance groups from Fresno, CA there. I spoke with them briefly and they are all in high school. The Hmong Lao Singers are the most successful at selling thier CDs and making music in Southeast Asia. Some say because thier music and Hmong pronounciation is not as influenced by the country they live in. And they just know how to hustle better than anyone else. There were hardly and Hmong American CDs for sale and I never heard of the Hmong American singers that were performing there.

I kind of understand now about the music in the Hmong language inluenced by the melodies of the country that the singer grew up it when I heard the Hmong Chinese singer. It sounded just like the Chinese songs except it was in Hmong but because I am not used to the melodies and style it was hard to catch the Hmong words as much so it was a bit wierd. But the voice was definately beautiful. I am referring to a former post where I had Hmong Thai listen to Hmong American songs and some of them reacted awkwardly to the songs even though it was in Hmong because of the unfimiliar melodies. But they felt the singers had nice voices.

I have never seen a Hmong concert with such a huge Hmong crowd from all over the country react to a band in the way that the Hmong Thai responds to the performance of Laib Laus. The audience went crazy for them and they knew every word of every song. They have so much command and influence over the people and the audeince ranged from little kids and youth to adults and elders. The lyrics are about love and life exeriences. I would say they have as much influence to tthe Hmong in Thailand as Bob Marley had in Jamaica. In America, we know who they are but it's more like only people in the know dig them. You can check thier music at:

The Hmong youth at the Hmong international New Year are all alternative and rocked out with tattoos, piercings and crazy hair.

Rumours Travel at the speed of sound. One day I went jogging up the hills in the village and when I started at the bottom of the hill a friend asked me if I was "exercising." I said yes. When I got to the top of the hill the Hmong people that were up there told me that they found out I was exercising today. I was like wow how did you know. They said a friend told them... rumours can travel fast for Hmong people. Like anything significant that has happened in the past the rumours will travel fast around the world. Like if something crazy happened here in Minnesota the next day my friends from California will call me to ask about it, then relatives from Laos will call about it too later. Whao... we need to use it to our advantage though.

The dogs of Thailand are cool, friendly and loose all over the place without leashes. There is no fear of dogs attacking or biting people compared to how dogs are seen in America as vicious and a history of attacks to where there needs to be dog catchers and dog pounds. In Thailand dogs are scared of humans, in America humans are scared of dogs. This is from the areas that I've lived in America.

I was able to visit and meet with Hmong students from Chiang Mai University and Mission College near Bangkok. We had conversations about comparisons of Hmong college students in America and Thailand. There is a huge difference of government financial support to students in Thailand and also the Hmong students tend to blend in with the student population. The difference in America is that we look different ethnically and skin color from students from other backgrounds so if there are any issues we will be treated as such because of it. In Thailand Hmong people look Asian just like Thai people and many other Asians that attend school there so it is easier for them to blend in and people would not be aware if they were Hmong. I hope this makes sense. It is a challenge when thinking of holding onto to culture, identity and language for the Hmong in Thailand.

There were actually students from St. Olaf college in Minnesota that were doing studies in Thailand for a few months. So I met up with some of them in Chiang Mai too. Chiang Mai University is a prestigious school that is difficult to get into. Mission college is a Christian school that has students from all over the world and they had a Hmong student from France attending the school before. Most college students can speak at least some English.

The term "Hill Tribe" was thrown around which refers to tribal people that live within the mountains of Thailand and what is considered "The Golden Triangle" which include Hmong, Akha, Mien, Lahu, Liso, Karen and more. The Hill Tribe people are looked down upon as a lower class of people and blamed for opium drug trade activities in Thailand. There are people that identify as Hill Tribe that have been arrested for drug activities but not every Hill Tribe person does it and Thai born citizens have been involved with drugs too. The corrupted aspect of it is that the Thai media (newspapers, TV) portrays and highlights when Hill Tribe people are caught with drugs and cover up news where Thai people have been caught for the same thing. Media propaganda against Hmong in a negative way has happened here in the US too so I have an understanding of what's going on.

So some Hmong people may be ashamed, embarrassed or just scared to identify themselves as one of the Hill Tribe people. It can put them at a disadvantage especially at an institution and because Hmong people are already struggling just to pay for school it can make the situation worse. I feel that there is a civil rights history in America that has paved the way for Hmong people here to really take pride in our culture and identity. I told them that Hmong Americans are so proud that some of us tattoo our clan last names on our arms, back or stomach. They were all surprised and not into the tattoo thing. They asked me if Hmong women get tattoos in America because they heard a rumor about it. I said many of them have tattoos and they gasped in amazement.... whao.

Assimilation will always be an issue no matter where we are especially for nomadic people that don't have our own country.

I met with a Hmong Staff person at Chiang Mai University named Dr. Prasit Leepreecha, Researcher and CESD Coordinator at The Center for Ethnic Studies and Development Department. It was an inspiring conversation and he is an extraordinary researcher with much to say about Hmong people. He has also written a few books of his research and studied in the U.S. for his Master's Degree I believe. He is also planning on teaching at UW Madison in the near future. You can look him up at this link:

I saw Pokemon, Harry Potter and Conan O'Brien on television dubbed in the Thai language.

My nickname in Thailand was Hmoob Mekas (Hmong American). Many people did not call me by my name just Hmoob Mekas even though there were other Hmoob Mekas in Thailand at the time. Little kids would point at me and say... "Hmoob Mekas" Even people that have never seen me before do that. Hmong people in Thailand know when they see Hmong Americans... because we are bigger in size. Let's just leave it at that. They also wear clothes that are tighter and some Hmong Americans wear baggier or looser clothing and Hmong American woman wear different types of make up.

I just wanted to state that I am back and have been sick since feeling this climate again, so I haven't been able to think and write this. I'm just getting my senses back together. People told me that the culture shock of coming back to America is worse to adjust to... they were right. I am still adjusting and my sleep patterns are all off. Honestly I don't feel I was gone long enough to miss America but... I do miss friends and family so in that sense it's good to be back. Plus I want to be here in this country to experience what happens with this Obama presidency. If Bush was still president, I would've found a way for me to stay in Thailand longer.

I'll have one more ending blog for my trip in Thailand with final thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hmong Artists in Thailand

Contrary to what I stated in a former blog.

"Life is not that Simple"
Farming to feed the family is just enough and a tough life with not much to spend. The family I live with actually makes the most money off of sewing Paj Ntaub (story cloth). They also make money off selling medicine but somedays they cannot afford to eat meat, just vegetables. Some families make just enough to eat scarcely.

"Education is Power"
Education is what can improve the conditions of the Hmong people in Thailand. But education is not just achieved through hard work, many Hmong students cannot afford to finish college, some students can't even afford to finish high school. Yes, they have to pay to attend high school level education. Most students have to drop out because there is no way that a family that earns income from farming and paj ntaub. If Hmong students are able to graduate and find a job working with Thai Companies or with the government, they can lift thier family out of poverty. Unfortunately not many students finish. Students are first educated in the village school and then they can move on to college or University if they can afford it. There is a Japanese program to sponsor hill tribe people to finish at a Unicversity level but it is not enough. One person sponsors one student. We need Hmong and American sponsors.

"Language is an Issue"
It is very complicated to communicate my true expression to people when I don't have a broad grasp of vocabulary in the Hmong language. The Hmong artists kind of get what I try to say but when you cannot speak Hmong well some people may look down on you or you can get ridiculed... owch. It is the perspective of being around Hmong people that live around only Hmong thier whole lives compared to Hmong Americans that come and cannot speak Hmong properly and mix with English. You have to be Siab Txia... (Cold Heart which means Patient or Unfazable.) I just roll with the punches but there are many people that are willing to listen and open thier minds to a lack of Hmong language. I understand the frustration of new Americans to communicate when they do not know enough English and get ridiculed for it. Even though my Hmong language is not great I actaully have something that is highly valued to people that understand. Knowing how to speak and write English well can land a person a good paying job in Thailand. Someone that can speak English as well as Thai can work with the government. Essentially a Hmong student can lift thier family out of poverty if they learn English and can find a job utilizing it.

"There are no Hmong Americans that are teaching English in the villages at the moment." Thai teachers that teach English do not teach it to be spoken understandably to westerners. I believe there is a call out now for Hmong American college graduates to come teach English to Hmong kids living in Thailand villages. Get at me for more info.

Hmong Artists!

I met with a local Hmong band in the village called "Dej Cawm Siab" the name means when dying of thirst, this is the first fresh sip of water. These teenagers did an acoustic set which I recorded. They are a full set band. They save money and borrow equipment to rpactice and do shows. Some band share thier equipment. They have so much heart and ambition but they do not have enough support or finances to really move foward.

There is one outstanding visual artist in the village named Pao Vang. He paints portraits, animals and nature and is also able to sell it to tourists and Thai people that can afford it. He had to pay a Thai artist to live with and mentor him and now he is running his own art business from his village home.

I met with Hmong filmmakers, actors and martial artists during the Hmong New Year in the village. Thes artists have some connections to Hmong Americans so they are able to sell thier movies in America. It is usually action, martial arts, drama type movies. The martial artists are "Hmoob Lawj Xeeb" practitioners which has been an ancient form of Martial Arts for Hmong people.

A young Hmong woman plays guitar and sings every night named Bo Nhia Thao to soothe herself meldicaly. She refuses to play in front of crowds for now but is extemely talented. I did a collaboration with her.

I was also able to record many traditional poems (Kwv Txiaj) from my Aunt Joua. I am currently learning one of her poems. She is one of the most passionate poets I've ever seen perform and breaks into tears when performing most of her poems about a lot of struggle in her lifetime.

I found some Paj Ntaub artists next door to where I was staying. They said their style is ancient and coveted of the snail shell and elephant's foot print. They said many Hmong in the past have survived off of sewing Paj Ntaub financially, spiritually and historically.

I had some of the Thai youth listen to Hmong American songs to get thier reaction. Some of the songs included: Ly VangSoua Thao and Liz Xiong's Tou and Mai songs, Shattered EchoZ - Peb Haiv, Tsis K's Mama song and Duce Khan's Mloog Zoo Zoo.

They felt that some of the Hmong was not pronounced properly and even though it is in the Hmong language, thier melodies are American influenced (Soul, RNB, Etc) and it is difficult for them to get used to at first listen. But most of them did like what they heard but said they have to get used to listening to that kind of presentation of Hmong songs. Oh yeah Tsis K is the exception.

" Artist Sponsorships"
Many of the artists from the villages look for Hmong American sponsors so they can continue thier art form and help themsleves financially through art. Hmong American sponsors could make or break thier artistic careers from paying for thier studio time to selling thier products for them in America. Most artists get sponsored if they have Hmong American relatives that are willing to put money and energy into them. Liab Laus is a prime example of a Hmong Rock band that got sponsorship from California and is now the most successful and revered Hmong artsists in Thailand. They are like the Rolling Stones, Nirvana, U2 of Thailand. People love them here!

This website was created by Thai Vang and other Hmong college students, young adults that want to connect and uplift thier communities. They pass out t-shirts and fundraise to help Hmong orphans with thier education and other needs. Please check them out and support them. I will breakdown more about them in my next blog. You can also check out Pao Vang's art work on this website. This website also promotes the preservation of Hmong culture and rights for Hmong people. These are the strongest and the New Generation of Hmong Activists in Thailand.

Breakdown Shakedown!
Hmong New Year is 10 days... which is a bit much but if you think about how they don't have any events throughout the year until Hmong New Year, it is understandable. Sometimes they stretch it to be more days.

Hmong People in the village seem to be immune to fire. They must be used to it. They lite up wood to cook and warm up water to shower with. They can touch fire and play with it without feeling pain.

There is currently no artists network is Thailand.

Wearing the "Playboy Logo and words" are the latest fashion trend. It is on shirts, shorts, pants,belt buckles, purses, wallets and jackets. I don't know if Hugh sponsored clothing for Thailand but many people wear the brand from youth to elders, from gang members to Hmong Christians. Most people don't know that it's an adult magazine and industry here in the US.

We visited this mountanous region and climbed it early in the morning when the clouds and low to see the sunset. This is a Thai national moument called:Pucheefa. There is a picture of it above. There is also a picture of Hmong people playing the qeej instrument while on the mountain.

Because of so much dust in the air, people wear those surgical hospitol Mouth Covers. Some people put cloth over thier faces so I decided to tie a bandana over my face like the western movies. The police will not pull you over for wearing it. Fantastic! There is a picture of me and grandma wearing those bandanas over our faces up top.

I got my Aunt Joua to sew Paj Ntaub over two of my hats. There is a picture of it above also.

To get everywhere most people drive off road type motorcycles. The Hmong people call them "tshuab" which means blow. I tried riding it for the first time. Kids in Thailand learn to ride it by age 12.

Food: In America, we consume a lot of meat per meal compared to Hmong folks in Thailand. Like e can get a thigh and leg meal at KFC in the U.S. for a songle person but in Thailand a thigh and leg of a chicken can feed a family of 6 by adding mostly green vegetables, rice and of course hot pepper. My Aunt Joua says less meat will make you less sick.

America is considered "Vam Meej" (Prosperous, Paradise) for Hmong people and Hmong artsists.

Hmong Thai artists have more time to create thier art work but have less money, less support and little opportunity to move thier art work forward.

Next Blog:

Xyoo Tsiab (Hmong New Year) in Thailand

The International Hmong New Year in Chiang Kham...

Held at:
Pas Khib Nyiab - Garbage Land
"It's like a Hmong State Fair."

It's an incredible experience for me. Hmong people from all over Thailand came.