Spoken or Written

The Hmong language is a difficult one. There are certain words and sounds that not even native speakers can say. In the beginning the Hmong language was only a spoken language, but in the 1950s missionaries went to Laos and created an alphabet using the Romanized Popular Alphabet.

The Hmong alphabet consists of 56 consonants, 14 vowels and 8 tones. The tones are letters that will indicate how a word will be said. The consonants are: j, s, v, m, g, d, b and (none).
The written language is much more complex than the spoken. There are times when I am writing to my siblings and struggle with the correct consonants and tones, because I grew up well acquainted with the English alphabet.


Dancing along

Hmong dance has started to become popular again in the recent years with the younger Hmong generation. If you have never seen Hmong dancing, it can be an extremely beautiful and mesmerizing . Throughout the years Hmong dance has made a huge transition from extremely basic moves to very modern and more interactive actions.

In the beginning, Hmong dance was basically a two step dance (side to side) with some meaningful arm movements. As the dancers became older, the dance moves also matured with these performers. The steps have become much much more intricate, with necessary hand and feet coordination.

Hmong dancing may not look difficult but it is no joke. Choreographers will work their dancers until the routine is perfect. Many groups will practice their routines several months before a competition (usually held during Hmong Sports Tournament or the Hmong New Years). Prizes have changed just as much as the dancing has. Many years ago, competition winners would not only receive prize money but they would also be featured in music videos with Hmong artists. Now, the prize is a prize money, respect and honor; which could arguably be even better than being featured in a music video.

This is a performance from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. The event is the largely anticipated “Taste of Toj Roob Dinner” held by the Hmong and South East Asian American Club on the campus (HaSEAAC).

Bigger Picture

One of my favorite things to do growing up was paj ntaub. Paj ntaub is Hmong embroidery, that is a simple cross-stitch however, the simplicity of the stitches only add to the complexity of the overall design (complete piece). If you look at the bigger picture you will find something extravagant.

The stitch starts in one corner and ends in the opposite corner, pull through and resurface one hole down, pull through and finish by bringing the needle to the opposite corner again. These stitches are made until the design is complete.

The blue lines indicate when the thread should be on the top and the green lines indicate when the thread should be on the bottom.


This is a piece that is nearly finished sewn by my mom. As you can see paj ntaub is about design and colors, you will see a lot of alternating colors.


From a young age, I was taught to embroider. It may just be a lifestyle thing, but my mom taught me how to sew because this was one of the main ways that families earned money when living in refugee camps. Women would work day after day, neck craned over the piece of cloth so they can finish and sell the beautiful pieces to provide for their families.

Knowing how to sew paj ntaub is something I pride myself in because the pieces of cloth mean more to me than just clothing. This cloth represents the beauty and creativity that Hmong people have. It is a representation of hardship and resilience. Finally, within each stitch made our Hmong tradition continues.

Justices Journey

This is an image taken, March 13th 2016 during the candlelight vigil held for victims Jesus Manso-Perez and Phia & Mai Vue.

This week the families of Phia & Mai Vue and Jesus Manso-Perez will be awaiting a verdict about the man that murdered their loved ones. On March 6, 2016, Phia, Mai and Jesus were murdered by Daniel J Popp. They were targeted because of their ethnicity; they were targeted for the way they looked. Popp left a total of 8 children orphaned because of his hate towards people who are different from him. This week is not about Popp, it is about the justice that these families deserve.

In this day and age, people still have to be afraid of persecution. If you have read my previous posts about the Hmong American experience, you will know that the Hmong have been persecuted for many centuries. You would think that we have come a long way in this country, and that there is no longer hatred towards other races and ethnicities. It is not right that the families of these lost lives have waited this long for justice. The journey for the families that have been affected is a long one.

Updates about this tragedy here.

Holiday Cheer!

It is officially November! Do you know what that means? The holidays are right around the corner; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and many more holidays celebrated in the United States. Well, the end of the year also brings the new year, so in celebration the Hmong people noj peb caug, which many people know to be (and is directly translated to) “eating 30”!

This celebration happens once a year, many Hmong still living in South East Asia will spend the entire year preparing for this event. The living situation is much different, so they must spend a lot of time saving up money, sewing new clothes and maintaining their livestock. Here in the United States, these things are more accessible – money, clothing and food. In this case, the Hmong in the United states only partake in preparations when they are ready to noj peb caug.

During this event, the father of the family will call the wandering spirits of his children. Then he will honor the ancestors by replacing the old shrine with a new one; he will call the ancestors to have a meal and will ask them for good wealth and prosperity.

A widely known superstition during this time is to refrain from spending money, I remember when I was a little girl, my mom would always tell me to refrain from spending money for three days. It is believed that if you do not spend money during these days, the next year you will make more money.

There is also a community celebration that many know as the “Hmong New Year”; this is when the entire community come together to celebrate the coming of a new year. This is where the new clothes come in; people will dress up in their best clothing. These celebrations are still popular to this day. The best known New Years take place in Minnesota, California and North Carolina because these areas have a large Hmong population.

What holidays or traditions do you celebrate?

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.