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Yeng Xiong

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Yeng was born in Moos Manj, Laos. She and her family fled across the Mekong River into Thailand after the communist takeover of Laos. She lived in Nong Khai and Ban Vinai Camps in Thailand. She has 10 surviving children, 11 in total. She emigrated in 1988 to America.

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Transcription

Recorded in October 2014

Voiceover:

Kuv lub npe hu ua Yeev Xyooj Kuv tuaj teb chaws no yog xyoo yimcaum yim ntawd ces kuv tuaj teb chaws no. Lub cuaj hli ntuj vas thib kaum tsib xwb ces kuv tuaj txog teb chaws meskas no lawm. Kuv yug rau teb chaw moos mauj naj kus mab teb chaws ntawd lawm. Kuv yug xyoo ib txhiab cuaj puas plaub caug xya lub yim hlis kaum tsib.

Kuv tsis muaj dab tsis, kuv tsuas muaj ib daim nyias no ua puav pheej tseg xwb. Kuv daim nyias no vim nyab laj tuaj tuas nas ces khiav tsov khiav rog los yus tau daim nyias no ev me nyuam xwb. Ces thaum khiav ntawd ces kuv yeej tau daim nyias no ev kuv tus me nyuam nce toj nqis hav. Tab sis txog hnub ntawd ces hais tias nyob tsis tau lawm, ces thiaj xav hais tias, hla teb chaws mus rau teb chaws thaib teb seb puas nyob tau. Es thiaj muab daim nyias no ev tus me nyuam tuaj mus tuaj mus seb yus ev yu cov me nyuam tuaj mus kom yu laus lawm los seb yu cov me nyuam puas loj hlob tuaj kom txhob txom nyem no las mas. Ces thiaj muab ev tuaj.

Ces kuv muaj peb tug me nyuam. Muaj ib tug ces twb muaj peb xyoo ntau lawm. Muaj ib tug muaj ob xyoo, ces tus ntawd muaj kaum ib lub hlis. Ces kuv thiaj xav hais tias muab nog rau tus txiv ris los tsam daim nyias zawm nws lub qhov tso lawm ces nws ua tsis tau luam dej. Ces kuv thiaj muab tus nrab nog npuab kuv nrab qaum. Muab tus me me nog npuab tu hlob nrab qaum, ces ev, ev ob tug sib tshooj. Ces tus tub hlob ua muaj peb xyoo ntau ntawd ces kuv thiaj nqas ntawd xub ntiag. Hla dej naj qhoom los mus.

Ces thaum los mus ces, ces tus me nyuam ntawd ces peb yeej muab me ntsis kuas tshuaj rau haus ces nws tsis tsuas quaj lawm. Ntshais ntshais tsam quaj ces nyab laj hnov no ces. Nws yeej nyob twj ywm thiab tab sis nws kuj hais hais lus tias poob ov. Poob ov. Poob nos ces , txawm xav tias ib tsam yog nws yuav poob no ces thiaj lis saib na has nws yeej tseem nyob thiab.

Tab sis qhov ntawd ces los txog qhov twb yuav hla rau thaib nav yom. Ces dej ceev ceev heev ces ntshe thaum kuv tus txiv tig rov qab mus kho daim nyias nrauj no ces thaum ntawd nws lem rov qab mus ces nws nphav ces peb coj niam tub ntxeev taub haus duas hauv lawm nas. Ntxeev taub haus duas hauv lawm, Ces tus me nyuam poob lawm tsis nhov qhov ntawd lawm. ces thaum ntawd kuv yeej tsis paub hais tias xyov tus me nyuam poob thaum twg lawm no, kuv yeej tsis paub lawm tab tsis kuv tus txiv pom ntab dawb lias lawm ces nws mus vuag ob peb lwm tsis tau ces . nws ho xav hais tias tsam ob tug ntawd kuv ho tuag lawm los si, ho poob lawm thiab nav. Ces thiaj rov qab los xyuas na has tus nrab twb yuav poob thiab. Ces nws thiaj lis muab tus nrab cov los puag ntawm xub ntiag. Ces nws thiaj muab tus hlob rub mus khawm nraum nws nrab qau, ces kuv txoj hluas mas khis rau ntawm nws ov. Tus hlob mas khis rau tawm kuv, tab sis tus nrab thiab tus me me ces tsis khis hluas.

Kuv thiaj xav hais tias thaum xyuab tau cov hluas ntawd ces kuv thiaj xav hais tias. yu cov kwv tij coob coob ces cias muab rau cov kwv tij, ob tug me nyuam ntawd khi txoj hlab nyias ces tau lawm. Tiam sis tsis zoo lis yu lub siab xav. Txoj hlab yias ces thaum dauv lis no rau hauv ces txoj hlab nyias xoob lawm. Ces tus me nyuam thiaj poob lawm.

Ces tam sim no kuv lub siab mas, kuv thiaj xav hais tias tej zaum yog kuv muab ua tsis yog lawm es tus me nyuam thiaj poob lawm. Yog kuv txawm muab khi ces, poob lawm los kuv yeej pom. Tas sis kuv tsis khi ces thiab tau poob tus me nyuam lawm.
Es tam sis no kuv thiaj tsis muaj tus me nyuam ntawm lawm. Es kuv thiaj tshuav kaum leej xwb.

Nws yeej ua luam dej xwb tab si thaum peb los yuav txog thaib, thaum tus me nyuam ntawd yuav poob mas nws twb yeej hnov dab tsis los dawm nws ua ntej lawm ov. Ces ua li kuv hais li hmoob cov lus no ces thaum ntawm luab twb muab tus me nyuam lawm los tsis paub.

Nws yeej hnov los dawm nws ces ua ua luam dej ib me chim ces kuv tsis hnov nws nti lawm nav. Ces kuv hais rau nws tias, “Ua cas chim no koj ho tsis ua luam dej lawm?” No ces nws hais tias, “Aub! Muaj ib tug niag dab tsis loj loj phoom kuv txhais kav hlaub os. Es tus ntxhib ntxhib os.” Ces kuv hais tias, “aib, ntse xwb. Tab sis mas kuv twb nyob nram hav no, koj twb nyob pem toj nev, twb tsis phoov kuv nes. Ho phoom koj?” “Cev ko taw xua seb puas pom lawm,” Ces nws hais tias tsis pom lawm.

Ces kuv los txog rau thaib teb, ces kuv twb los poob rau sab ntug dej tim ces , lawv hais tias khuam rau nram rau nram ntug dej nav, ces kuv yeej mus nrhiav tag yeej tsis tau lis lawm ov. Kuv yeej mus nrhiav tag tsis tau. Ces cov tib neeg ua tuag es lawv muab hlais hluas rau hauv hav dej mas pw pawg lug rau ntawm ntug dej lis nawb. Tab sis yeej tsis pom kuv tus lawm ces. Kuv thiab lis ua ib siab hla los mus rau pem noom qhais, ces thaum ntawm nyob deb deb dej lawm ces kuv yeej tsis pom.

Kuv thiaj los nyob rau vibnais tau yim lub xyoo ntawd ces, kuv los yug tau peb tug me nyuam tim thaib thiab mas. Ces kuv tuaj rau teb chaws meskas nos ces kuv tuaj yug tau tsib tug tim no ces tag nrho kuv cov me nyuam yog kaum ib tug.

Thaum ntawd kuv tus me nyuam xiam lawm ces kuv tsis ev lawm os. Kuv yeej muab khaws cia ob peb hnub ces kuv muab coj los thuav saib ib xwb os. Kuv xav tias muab ntxhuas ces tsam nws dhaus tus pa.

Twb nte nte lawm los lub siab lub ntsws ntseeg khis rawv rau. Es kuv hais yog ntuj mob teb mob es yus kho kho tsis tau ces yus tsis tu siab thiab mas.

Subtitles:

My name is Yeng Xiong . I arrived here in 1988. I landed in America on September 15.
I was born in the town of Moos Mauj or Najkuemab. I was born on August 15, 1947.

I don’t have much but I have this baby carrier as a keepsake

Due to the war, we had to move around often so I used this mainly to carry my children
We fled and I used to carry my children
We couldn’t stay in the country anymore
We thought it would be a good idea to try and live in Thailand
We used this to carry our children to a better place in hopes of giving them a better life
At that time, I had 3 children: 1 3 year old, 2 year old, and an 11 month old
I was worried that if my husband carried the children the baby carrier would be too tight and prevent him from swimming

So I put the middle child on my back and the baby behind him, one on top of the other
Then I carried my 3 year old son in my arms as we crossed the Mekong River

When we were fleeing we gave the baby a bit of opium so he wouldn’t cry
We were so afraid that the communist soldiers would hear if he cried

Although my baby was quiet, he kept saying “fall. Fall.”
It was if he was telling me he was going to fall, so I was worried and checked. He was still there

When we almost reached the riverbank, the current was so strong
When my husband swam back to adjust the baby carrier, he bumped us, and we all went under

We all went under and that why I was unaware that I had lost my baby
I don’t know exactly when I lost my child

I didn’t know, but my husband saw him float away

He tried to swim to catch him but couldn’t. He feared he would lose the other two children as well so he turned back

When he came back to check on the children, the middle one almost slipped out too. So he carried him in his arms and piggy backed the oldest.

My string was tied to my husband and the oldest child was tied to me

But the middle child and the baby weren’t tied to either of us.

When we made the string, we decided to give out the string to our many relatives. I thought it would be enough that the children were strapped to me with the baby carrier. But things don’t go the way you want them to.

The baby carrier loosened when we went under the water. That’s why our baby was lost. In my heart, I feel as if I made a mistake and that’s why I lost my baby. If only I had tied my baby to me, I would have seen him if he slipped out. But I didn’t and I lost him so now I only have 10 children.

My husband swam ahead and before we lost our baby, he felt something brush his leg. In the Hmong belief, it may or may not have been a sign of a spirit taking our baby. After some time, I couldn’t feel him moving so I asked him, “Why aren’t you swimming?” So he said, “Something big and rough touched my leg.” I told him, “It must’ve been a fish. Wouldn’t I have felt it too since I am over here?” He then said, “I’ll see if it’s still here.” And used his leg to search the water. “It’s gone.”

After we reached Thailand, people said he washed up on the river bank. I went to look everywhere and couldn’t find my baby at all. The people whose strings were cut, who didn’t make it, they all washed up on the bank. Only my baby wasn’t there.

So I decided to move on and we went to Nong Khai which was far from the river. I then lived in Ban Vinai refugee camp for 8 years and had 3 more children there.

Then, when we moved to America, I had 5 more children. In total I had 11.

After my baby passed away, I never used that carrier again. I keep it safe and once in a while, I will bring it out to look at. I thought that if I washed it, it would lose the scent. Even though its been a long time, I still miss him a lot.

If, instead, my baby was too sick to heal, it would have been less painful.