The people here in India ask me if I am Chinese, Japanese or Korean? There is no simple way to tell them that I am Hmong, so I simply say I am from Uganda (just to throw them off). It is interesting and complicated being Hmong in India. Never in life have I felt so ALONE. It’s a great feeling, don’t get me wrong. It’s mysterious.
At the same time it kills me to not claim my Hmong identity. When I say I am from America they laugh and say, “So you’re a mixed vegetable.” I don’t get it but I nod and shrug. My host parents don’t really understand what Hmong is, too. I’ve showed them pictures but I think they’ve concluded that I am some sort of Asian from Southeast Asia. Uncle understands a little, but not entirely. I don’ blame them, I mean majority of U.S. citizens don’t even know what Hmong is in the states.
Also, for the first time in my life I miss being Hmong. I miss speaking Hmong, eating Hmong food (especially spring rolls and egg rolls, YUM YUM!!!), making Hmong jokes and just being able to say “I’m Hmong” without having to go through the entire history. Ua ib tus tib neeg Hmoob tsis yoobyim.
I realized that beyond the city of St. Paul (and other Hmong communities in the US) no one knows how, what, when, where, why and who Hmong people is when I first got to college. Now that same epiphany is hitting me in the face again – this time harder. In the U.S. majority of the people don’t know about my culture. Beyond the U.S. no one knows what my culture is. To the world the Hmong people does not exist. I’m sure there are a lot of other cultures and heritages that I don’t know of, too, but all of this is fascinating to me.
I know this shouldn’t be such a big deal for me, but it is. Maybe I’m turning an ant hill into a mountain, but I cannot just walk away from the fact that I am Hmong. It runs in my blood and I grew up with that pride. It’s a lot like Hindustani. The most Hmong I get here is Pagnia Xyooj and Paradise.