Pob Zeb and Paj Sua

In honor of Halloween, I will be sharing a ghost story with you this week and next week. These stories have chilled me to the bone and I hope to spread a little Halloween terror.

The story begins with a man named Pob Zeb; he was becoming older and his parents had asked him to find a bride because soon, they will be too old to help him with his wedding. Back then, many men had to travel across many mountains and vast terrain to find a girl fitting their expectations. From one village to another, the journey could last many days; once the men arrived to these villages they will stay with relatives and find women to court.

Pob Zeb and his friends would make this journey to another village. As luck may have it at the first village they visited, he found a beautiful, filial, hardworking woman fitting and even exceeding his expectations. This woman was named Paj Sua, in the village she was sought after because her beauty was incomparable and she was extremely humble. Pob Zeb would visit Paj Sua during the day as she did her chores diligently; Pob Zeb would ask, “Paj Sua, are you willing to come with me and be my wife?”

Paj Sua would reply, “if you really love me, then I am willing to go with you.” For the next few months, Pob Zeb would go back and forth between the two villages to see Paj Sua until one day; Pob Zeb‘s mother became ill. He was told to stay home, so he could go look for herbal medicines for his mother. While he was taking care of his mother, Paj Sua was waiting for him. They were so in love that she could not figure out why he has left her without notice. As the many days past, there was no Pob Zeb in sight and Paj Sua became depressed.

When Pob Zeb‘s mother gained her health back, he quickly went to see Paj Sua. From the distance he can see Paj Sua‘s village, it looked unkempt. When he finally entered the village it was empty; there seemed to be no inhabitants but he can hear the deep growls of stray dogs. Still no signs of liveliness as he slowly made his way through the village to Paj Sua’s house. Upon arrival, he saw a small fire going through the cracks of the wood and knocked on their door. After a few silent moments, the door slowly swung open to reveal a single person, Paj Sua.

Pob Zeb, quickly embraced her and questioned where everyone had gone to. Her response was short, “they all went to sleep at the garden,” since this was common practice back in those days he thought nothing of it. They sat around the fire place and she refused to look at him, her hair covered her face while she crouched over to blow air into the fire. Each time she blew maggots would fall out of her mouths. At this point, Pob Zeb had become too scared to say anything. The presence in the house has now changed to something ominous, but he did not want to alert Paj Sua. He ate very little dinner and they prepared for bed.

After laying next to Paj Sua for what seemed like hours, Pob Zeb slowly peaked over at his girlfriend to find a rotting and bloody face. His suspicions were correct, his beloved girlfriend has died and is now roaming the Earth as a ghost. He started plotting his escape at this point, and came up with the idea to go use the bathroom. Pob Zeb whispered, “Paj Sua, I really need to go to the bathroom. You stay here while I go outside, okay.”

However, Paj Sua refused, “just pee at the foot of the bed, I don’t want you to leave.”

Pob Zeb quickly thought of  a new plan, “okay, if you’re scared I will leave then hold onto this end of my sash.” He quickly untied his sash and gave her one end while holding the other. After making his way out of the house, Pob Zeb tied his end of the sash to a wooden post and ran as fast as he could. Paj Sua called for Pob Zeb to come back there was no response, so she quickly got up to see where he was. When she saw what he had done, she was furious, her rotting face became more distinguished and she ran after him.

Pob Zeb! I will catch you!” she screeched, he did not know how long he was running for but before he knew it, it was morning. He continued running until he got home to tell his parents of what has happened. His parents immediately called a shaman to come perform rituals to fend off his dead girlfriend. They have changed his name, so when Paj Sua comes searching for him she will be misguided. In the Hmong culture, ghosts do not recall certain things about their past lives.

So, this will bring the story of Pob Zeb and Paj Sua to an end. This is only one of many variations of this story that I have heard. If you are interested, I will provide a link of many more Hmong Ghost Stories here.

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Love Language

Communication is actually a very beautiful thing. The way we try to portray our feelings to those who we find most important is very beautiful. In the Hmong culture, sharing our feelings can be difficult and uncomfortable. The elder generations do not realize the importance of love in our actions and the younger generations do not realize the importance of love in our words.

Hmong elders tend to come off very demanding and unfriendly because they do not wish to use flowery language to make us feel better. However, behind word that is spoken is a purpose of love; any parent that chooses to critique their children will do so out of love, in hopes that their children will learn to become better and to exceed expectations from extended family. Sometimes children do not realize the hidden meaning behind their parents judgement because there is a slight language barrier. Many Hmong children growing up in countries that have a different primary language will agree with the existence of a barrier. For example here is America the primary language is English, children are sent to school where they will learn English and many begin to forget the Hmong language. As children become older, they will use Hmong less and cannot improve their Hmong speaking. Hmong is like any other language, you must practice regularly or you will lose the ability to speak, read and write.

As a result, children become cold to their parents and their relationship begins to suffer. Although the relationship is still suffering, children will do little things to show love for their parents. They will bring home good grades because their parents are always pushing them; they will try to speak more Hmong because their parents wish for better communication. Children have soft-hearts for their parents and will do these things for them, maybe even more.

I would like to encourage Hmong children to practice speaking Hmong, so that your relationship with your parents can become stronger. Your parents will not be with you forever, so build a good relationship with them; one you will not regret. This will be our journey to tomorrow.

Disclaimer: Do realize I am speaking generally and not explicitly.

Racism Today

Racism is real and alive. It is what people experience when others are ignorant; this is what people experience when others are xenophobic. It is extremely disturbing to know that US history has come a very long way but, we are still no where near destroying the xenophobic mindset that caused so much destruction in our history.

As a Hmong(Asian) American woman, I will say it is disturbing to know the amount of hatred many other races feel towards us. Many people are still ignorant about the Secret War and how that has affected all of the Hmong population. Educate yourself, before you claim knowledge about an entire race and ethnicity.

People have been using the words “ching chong” to insult and degrade Asians. Many many people were claiming Asians are being too overly sensitive about these words because they are not an exact curse word. All those people claiming that “CHING CHONG” is not racist, should know that these words are mocking more than 50 ethnic languages(not including the minorities and unofficial languages)! These words are used to dehumanize Asians; these words are used to mimic and taunt us. These words are used because others felt the need to create a derogatory term for something they did not understand.

For those who claim “ching chong” is not offensive, if you are not Asian, you do not get to decide. If you are Asian, you should be more aware of how these words are being used against you, to insult and degrade you. This is only one term used in a derogatory way towards Asians; there are so many other things that are said and done. There are so many things going on in the world, hopefully our journey will result in a better tomorrow.

Refugee Status

Hmong history goes a little like this; live peacefully, be forced to assimilate or be killed, run for your life, repeat. So I bet your wondering, “who are you talking about?” well, I’m talking about me. I’m talking about my story, my family’s story, every untold story of the Hmong fight for survival.

Hmong are the indigenous people that lived in the southern mountains of China; back before the Chinese resided in those areas, the Hmong people lived peacefully and prosperously. As the Chinese Empire grew so did the hostility between these groups; the Hmong could no longer live peacefully as they were forced to assimilate under empirical rules. To escape this persecution the Hmong fled as refugees to South East Asia, where many still reside to this day. They created and adapted the lifestyle that some young Hmong descendants -like myself- are accustomed to and know well. Some of these practices include farming large plots of land, sewing paj ntaub – also known as embroidery- and preparing for yearly celebrations.

This is how the Hmong lived for quite some time, as peaceful farmers, however the communist scare in the 1940s and 50s would change the lives of many. The United States had allied with the Hmong in Vietnam, I will not go into much detail about the Secret War but after American troops retreated the Hmong faced massive genocide and many Hmong recall this time as when lub teb chaw tawg, directly translated to the country breaking. The Hmong fled once again as refugees to Thailand awaiting their promise to the United States. Families were separated and children were orphaned. This directly affects all of the Hmong who are currently in the United States today, we all have someone in our families that know the destruction of war. We all know someone that faced death; whether they survived or not. This was our Journey to Today.