See Lor, born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, currently living in Elk Grove, California.
Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.
00:00 – Introduction
00:46 – Clip 1
See shares earliest memory from Laos: visiting the burial place of an older sister.
02:19 – Clip 2
Remembers being carried as family fled through jungle, but relies more on her parents’ descriptions of descending from the highlands of Laos to cross the Mekong River.
02:51 – Clip 3
Recalls life in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand. Parents grew vegetables in the camp, but food was still scarce.
05:52 – Clip 4
Although father fought for CIA, as the oldest son, he delayed coming to America until his parents and younger brothers were able leave refugee camp. They were one of last families to leave Thailand (1982).
07:18 – Clip 5
Shares memories of leaving refugee camp, including elders’ stories of sidewalks of America paved with gold and people-eating dragons and monsters.
08:51 – Clip 6
Recalls coming to second camp where parents learned basic English as well as how to use appliances, such as a stove.
10:06 – Clip 7
Describes process of parents transporting suitcases and 8 children to the airport.
11:25 – Clip 8
Talks about plane flight to America, scary but exciting. Brother became ill during the long flight, so they were diverted to San Francisco (en route to Denver).
13:12 – Clip 9
Spent a few days in San Francisco while her brother recuperated in a hospital. An uncle sponsored the family.
14:41 – Clip 10
Describes flight to Denver, seeing the Rockies “covered with salt,” and relatives meeting them at the airport. Talks about school experience and inspiring ELD (English Language Development) teacher who took her to first movie (Footloose), bought her first toy, and her first McDonald’s Happy Meal.
22:21 – Clip 11
Credits her ELD teacher, Eva Owens, with introducing her to the “environment of America,” including basketball.
23:16 – Clip 12
Recalls one of her first school friends telling her about “skiing.” She soon learned about snow (which was not salt). Although, as a 4th grader, it was often a scary and lonely learning journey, she had many people supporting her along the way.
25:38 – Clip 13
Talks about family leaving Denver after a year. Attended Cal Middle School and then on to CK McClatchy High School.
30:52 – Clip 14
See’s greatest challenges as a refugee were learning English and dealing with poverty. Although a “social bug,” she kept her voice to herself. Praised parents’ ability to grow food for them and provide basic needs. As oldest daughter, See stepped up “to be the change” and advised sisters not to marry young.
35:00 – Clip 15
Talks of her commitment to preserving Hmong history, a missing chapter in her college course on Vietnam War. As a mother, See wanted her daughters to know where Hmong people come from. “To be Hmong is to to tell a story.”
40:42 – Clip 16
Stresses importance of educators building relationships with their students and learning their “case-by-case” backgrounds. Hmong students, like many refugees/immigrants live in two worlds: dealing with needs of parents and siblings, but wanting to fit in the mainstream culture.
44:49 – Clip 17
Stresses importance of knowing your own story. Encourages Hmong students, for instance, to learn stories of grandparents and parents.
47:20 – Clip 18
Talks about her calling to be a Hmong shaman (healer). Hmong shamanism is a traditional way of healing, yet also an evolving practice. The goal is to balance the needs of the soul with physical needs.
52:40 – Clip 19
Recalls parents renting plot of land in Sacramento to grow their food. Remembers food stamps and public housing. Despite living in poverty, parents supported education. All 12 siblings now have successful careers.
58:13 – Clip 20
Explains fears of visiting Laos, as country may not yet be safe for Mien refugees to visit. Mother’s parents are still in the mountains of Thailand, choosing not to come to America. See’s goal is to visit Laos one day and bring her books to school children.
1:01:13 – Clip 21
Recognizes that Hmong veterans will not be alive much longer. Is committed to saving their legacy. Views writing as a way to preserve culture, history and language.
1:03:55 – Credits