Chiem-Seng-Yaangh, born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, currently living in Sacramento, California.

Video Timeline

Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.

00:00  – Introduction

00:44 – Clip 1
Recalls earliest memories of his village. Helped his family with harvesting crops.

04:09 – Clip 2
Talks about communists attacking his village. His family was relocated by the Royal Army to a temporary camp in the “middle of nowhere”.

10:26  – Clip 3
Remembers soldiers coming into village and the villagers preparing a feast. The elders assured the soldiers they were staying, but as soon as the soldiers left, the villagers packed up and left.

11:46  – Clip 4
Recounts family’s middle-of-the-night escape. Chiem-Seng helped carry some of the family’s silver pieces.

15:00  – Clip 5
Recognizes that his family was fortunate to be in a village on the west side of the Mekong River. Escaping to Thailand, therefore, did not involve crossing the river.

15:53  – Clip 6
Explains that not everyone left the village at first because they had hoped they could stay.  But eventually all of the people left the village.

17:16  – Clip 7
Discusses life in the temporary shelters in Thailand, where there was a lot of death and sickness.

19:32  – Clip 8
Explains the family dynamics in the refugee camp and the help his mother needed, leading her to remarry a widow, who also had a child. Chiem-Seng explains that “forming families” was a common practice in the refugee camp.

20:51  – Clip 9
Explains that in the refugee camp, families had to build their own thatch houses, similar to the ones in their old village. The Mien people were hunters/fishers and would go out and hunt for fresh meat, (deer, monkey and hogs).

24:51  – Clip 10
Describes the Thai soldiers as “mean and vicious” and that they were at the mercy of the soldiers. They had no citizenship, no rights and if you complained they would put you in a dungeon.

27:13  – Clip 11
Explains that the UN and Thai government arranged interviews to determine if people were eligible to go to another country – United States, France or Canada. In order to go to the United States, someone in your family had to have served in the army through the CIA. His step-father and brother-in-law helped qualify the family.

31:03  – Clip 12
Describes leaving Laos and how he didn’t want to leave because they had just built their house.

37:49  – Clip 13
Explains the death curse in more detail. The death curse is when someone calls on evil spirits to put a curse on someone. It is a ritual ceremony and is considered a serious threat.

39:31  – Clip 14
Describes the refugee camp where he played and would go to the farm to help his parents. Sometimes they would go to the city to help the farmers, but most of the time he played (fishing, swimming) – but there was also a lot of abuse by the soldiers, hunger and crying.

41:22  – Clip 15
Discusses what happens when people were trying to survive in the camps – thefts, fights, and they were not allowed into the city.

42:58  – Clip 16
Explains the process of coming to the United States through the Refugee Resettlement Program. The apartment complex (Portland, Oregon) where his family was resettled was mostly made up of other refugees from Laos.

45:16  – Clip 17
Explains his first experience with formal education – he felt that everyone was tall and big. He was placed in a desk in the corner – when everyone got up to leave to to go the next class, he thought the school day was over, so he walked the mile home.

50:35  – Clip 18
States that his escorts were rotated, until they found a student who spoke Hmong, which Chiem was also fluent in. This student became his unofficial translator.

51:32  – Clip 19
Describes being picked on and getting hit. He was pushed into a locker by a group of kids and also remembers being sent to a storage room by a teacher for talking.

53:46  – Clip 20
Explains that white families adopted him to help immerse him into the culture by inviting him to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and that helped him at school.

55:57  – Clip 21
Describes being in Portland, Oregon, for 14 years and provides information about his educational background.

56:32  – Clip 22
Discusses the origin of his name and what he chose to study.

1:01:06  – Clip 23
Explains that he was able to pay for college through financial aid and work study; he also had a scholarship for people who wanted to teach.

1:01:53  – Clip 24
In response to a question about how he knew what to do with regards to applying for college, Chiem-Seng explains that he had a mentor to guide him and there was a teacher who specifically helped refugee children get into college.

1:04:33  – Clip 25
Recalls people who encouraged him and helped him along the way.

1:05:45  – Clip 26
Discusses his career path and how he started working at a non-profit.

1:16:28  – Credits

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