Pii Mai Lao, No Twitter Lao

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It’s that time again. I get drunk and I want to wipe my existence off social media again but good news, I’m not drunk (why not, right?) but do I want to wipe my face off of social media again? I’m back on Instagram but still am very uninspired from that so I’m still figuring that out. Still no Facebook because fuck Facebook. Then there’s Twitter. Oh, Twitter. Now that IG is on my shitlist, Twitter is my favorite form of #socmed because I learn a lot and I laugh even more. There are so many clever, hilarious, and very smart people #onthere from (literally) all walks of life. I’m not joking, look at my list of followings and you’ll see a variety of parents, activists, and more cool Lao people I did not know existed. It has ignited the activism bone that I always had but never knew how to express. Seriously, Twitter is awesome.

It is so awesome that I want to be a better twit …. terer. Sometimes I really think it’s great to walk away from something you love so you can step back and love it even more. Now that April is here, I have that excuse more now. April is the month of Pii Mai Lao (Lao New YearApril 13ish-15ish), which is arguably the biggest celebration of the year for Laotians, and I guess this would be the exact equivalent of “out with the old, in with the new” sentiment. Water is a huge symbol in celebrating Pii Mai so, for the month of April, I’m dousing the shit out of my twitter to take a hiatus from my favorite platform.

That’s where I feel guilty: the Lao online community is already so limited that I feel like I am removing another unknown perspective. I’m quite possibly many people’s only source to a Lao-American perspective in modern parenting, interracial marriage, refugee experiences, public education, and anything else you didn’t know Lao Americans were a part of. As sad as I am to leave this month, I know you’ll be in good hands. To follow the Lao Twitter experience while I’m gone, please check out @thaoworra‘s Lao Voices and Nicky Chaleunphone‘s Lao Community for fellow Laotians online.

If you want a visual reminder then my Instagram can showcase the Lao American experience in a few filters. If you need more details with lots of frilly word vomit, my blog has that tiny little unknown Lao voice so you won’t ever have to say, “No, I don’t know a Lao girl who writes about motherhood, marriage, and the world around her. Never. Nope.” because you’s a liar since I’m still here.

Am I the only Lao person you ‘know?’ Online or otherwise?

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Season 5 ‘Archer’ Invasion: 6 Things You Need To Know To Appreciate Laos and The Series

Just two episodes into the 5th season, FX’s Archer still got me locked in. The spy animation comedy did the normal run with forever favorite one-liners and crazy longing for Super Agents Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin; Bob’s Burgers) and Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler; Talk Soup, Ghost Whisperer) to just have sex already but also revealed an otherwise special location plot. It wasn’t until the very end of the premiere episode (“White Elephant”) where Archer is envisioning the only viable direction to go is to “Go Vice” thus revealing where in the world the ISIS crew Sterling has haphazardly landed; a place that is very dear to me and the inspiration of this blog: Laos!

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I am not saying that Laos will cover the rest of the season or if Archer will be in Laos for more than an episode but it got me all fan-girl over the mention of the motherland. What I am most excited to see is how Laos will be portrayed geographically, culturally, and linguistically. I can only hope the designers for Season 5 did the Land Of A Million Elephants some justice so here are some things I noticed from the Archer premiere about Laos:

1) Lao Leader

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Instead of Whore Island, it’s just Laos (Landlocked). It looks as though Archer is leading a band of brown men again much like in Season 3′s piracy vacation on Pangu Island. With Chi (Chi Duong, yeah, I know) and what looks like Laotians by his side, Archer is leading one group of brown people to blow up another group of brown people. Where else in history have I seen this?

2) Lao People

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It will be interesting to see why Archer is leading one pack against another. Mainly, I’m interested in seeing how physically similar the characters resemble any family members of mine. (The kids’ Lao Grandpa, ahem) It’s not a deal breaker for me if I can’t recognize anybody I know used as a visual model.

3) Chi

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The last time we saw Chi was in 4.9 (“The Honeymooners”) playing the oh so stereotypical manicurist for Archer in the Tuntmore Towers Hotel, where he joined Lana as pretend-newlyweds (we all wish!) to stake out the North Koreans. In the premiere vision, we now see Chi as Archer’s Asian sidekick.

4) Lao Language

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I’m not exactly sure what Chi was saying because it did not resonate as any part of the Laotian language to me. I’m no linguist but trust me when I say I understood not a damn thing. Sure, it could be another one of the four specific dialects in Laos but I’m still not so sure. Wait, the visual model/designer is Vietnamese, not Laotian. Ruh-roh.

5) Lao Landscape

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Lao looks legit, I guess. It reminds me of Predator more than rice fields and mud roads. Okay, I had never been over to Laos so I don’t have much to say other than “Look! A tiger!” Here’s to hoping the landlocked country’s lush floodplains and high atop mountains make a cameo.

6) Lao History Lesson

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If you are a huge U.S. history buff then you may know that the Lao Secret War was a horrific moment in the small country’s history and a shame on the United State’s. It would be neat if the show led into a history lesson of how damaging the Vietnamese invasion was to the neutral country of Laos. Oh, wai– you didn’t? Well, now you know.

Watch Archer on Mondays, 10 pm on FX

Do you watch Archer? What do you know about Laos?

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Raising ‘Em Lao: Letting Your Biracial Kids Dance With The Other Culture

Perhaps the biggest perk of being raised bi-culturally is that it is double the fun. Lao culture has a strong footing in how I would like to raise the -Noys to experience the world but lest us not forget the other identity:

Photo courtesy Perfect Moments in Time Photography in Seattle, WA

Photo courtesy Perfect Moments in Time Photography in Seattle, WA

Humnoy and Lanoy are half-Caucasian (or white, whichever PC term you prefer) and I cannot forget that. I once heard that “Asian genes are strong” and I was vainly excited because that part of my identity is so strong for me. It has influenced every bit of life I intentionally plan for my kids down to their names. We live in America, the kids will have American friends, and we dominantly speak English in our home. If I wanted the kids to hear full conversations in Lao, we’d need at least another Lao-speaking person in the household. If I wanted the kids to learn to write in Lao, I’d need to have my mom teach them. If I wanted to let the kids embrace the songs of my people, I would need to stand through Lao lam (pronounced ‘lum’), a form of Lao folk music, and admittedly not particularly my favorite aspect of the Lao life. I just had to let it happen and it did in one moment with their dad.

What happens is a show of what I stereotypically place on the spectrum of “shit white people like.” I didn’t even realize that the Other Culture’s appreciation would come without such effort until one quiet evening after dinner when GH entertained the kids long enough for me to clean up. All GH did was turn on his white guy playlist to see first-hand how The Other Culture is strong:

Which aspect from which side of family is the strongest for you or kids?

For further reading, please go laugh and laugh at this Yahoo Answers thread: “White people songs

This Is What A Laotian Four-Generation Gap Looks Like

20131228-020004.jpgFour years after his wife died, he still is living in the home where he relocated his entire family from war-torn Laos in 1979. His eldest daughter would bear a daughter as her eldest as well. This daughter would go on to have her own children. Within same home, the 81-year-old Laotian patriarch has been able to get to know the newest generation of refugee descendants and holiday visits are a time where this four-generation gap meet.

He would call her “Ee Theek Noy” (“Little Girl Theek”) because everyone knows how she looked exactly like her mother as a baby. Theek is the family’s first female grandchild and now have some -noys of her own. My grandfather is lamenting how Lanoy shares my baby traits of peach fuzz hair and many tears in new environments. While she is basically frightened of anyone other than my boobs, Lanoy has still somehow connected with Paw Tao Yai (“big/great grandpa”) just at the cutest distance.

The state of the octogenarian’s health leaves very little windows of interaction. My grandfather is mostly resting his aching body in his room once shared with the love of his life and comes out to eat his meals. When we visit, he interacts with the great-grandbabies by kissing their heads and warning them to stay away from the stairs in a cute, soft great-grandpa way. He would have to get so close to each great-grandchild as his increasingly clear-colored eyes are failing to differentiate which -noy he’s kissing. Like I said, Lanoy is not very fond of unfamiliar faces so she doesn’t immediately reciprocate Tao Yai’s affection. When she is ready though, this is what Laotians, four generations apart, look like:

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What generation are your kids?

This Babywearing Photo Carries Many Emotions About Life In Laos

As much as I tout Lao culture being the best thing about my identity and how Lao food is an underrated ethnic scene, I actually have never stepped foot into my motherland. My mother hasn’t either since 1979, the year she escaped war-torn Laos with her younger siblings and parents to seek refuge in the United States. My grandfather, my mom’s father, was a farmer in Laos as are most poor families in the land-locked country in Southeast Asia sustaining their own food system to survive. As the oldest female child in each of our families, my mother and I do share one thing: a burden only an older child has.

In honor of International Babywearing Week (yup, totally a thing), I started out looking for images to highlight the ancient and cultural practice of babywearing, the act of wearing a child in a cloth carrier of some sort. I mean, Laos is the home of one of the original “crunchy moms.” Sorry, you’re not that crunchy. Not sorry. I found plenty of beautiful images of fresh-faced moms and sleep-drunk babies on their backs but the photo pool shifted my focus to a more specific theme: children and babywearing. Yes, actually babies wearing babies. Why is a child wearing a baby almost the same size?

As any able-bodied adult may be equipped to pitch in, both parents in Laos tend to the now-yellow fields of rice to prepare for harvesting. *Many farm fields are actually far, far from home in behind mudslides and atop mountains. As a Laotian-American, I cannot recall the age of my earliest babysitting of my three younger siblings because I was that young. Young as in my parents trusted me to have a responsibility to make sure these kids were safe, if that can be appropriate for a child in elementary school. In Laos, this isn’t shocking, it’s necessary for burdens to bear on the entire family, no matter the age, in order to survive. A child wears a burden and keeps a younger sibling safe, warm, secure. All the things every child needs. Ironically the very thing the care-giving child desperately yearns for but suppresses for family duty.

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“A young pub thawj girl takes good care of her baby brother while Mum and Dad are out on the farm in the mountains near Luang Prabang, Laos.” – Paul Wager Photography from Facebook

*This scenario is actually very rare as many mountainous peoples’ homes are near the farmlands, even in the mountains. It is unlikely that nursing mothers were that far away from their infants this young. The children were nearby for this reason but out of the actual fields where the others would tend to the fields.

About Paul Wager: “Paul Wager gave up his life of photo journalism in Australia to venture into the ethnic diversity of Laos.” You can see more beautiful and haunting photos from Laos at Paul Wager’s website and Facebook.

How did you celebrate babywearing this week?

You can find me tweeting my hatred for pants on twitter, filtering the shit outta mom lyfe on Instagram, pinning food I’ll never make on Pinterest, and being a SEO creep on Google+

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Yeah, I Said It: I Hate Visiting My Family

I quickly remember why I hate coming here just as soon as I zip up three-persons packing for the weekend. Not only is it a four-hour drive with two littles but it’s so much more damn work for me when we visit my folks. I so despise the obligation nagging at me to celebrate Lao New Year, which befalls in mid April, with my family. It starts out where I’m excited to expose my kids to my family’s culture, eat Lao food, and support the Buddhist community and ends up in me regretting thinking I could ever get Hum to nap or arrive at a ceremony on time. I hate visiting my parents because:

It’s a house full of Asians With little to no information (or belief) in modern birth control, usually Laotian families are large. I am the oldest of four and being the only child to not be living at home. If you are familiar with stereotypes, Laotians are not a quiet group of people. We use high pitches and some yell-talking to properly convey a single point. Sprinkle in a couple of drop-in relatives and you’ve got a hot recipe for stimulation overload for kids.

No Nap Toddler Speaking of which, Humnoy is off his already scattered schedule. I soon realize that I am a fucking badass schedule guru when we’re at home compared to this crazy circus of a nap coming down from a sugar high at 4:30 pm. I just give up and lay down with Lanoy and whatever other family member is up can supervise her crazy big brother until he zonks out from exhaustion.

I get no help You’d think in a place with four, sometimes five, adults that you can get some help with supervising or at least entertaining a rambunctious toddler. Well, boo fuckity hoo am I wrong on that. Combined with the first two bullet points and a toddler seeking attention from somebody, I’m super irritated and frazzled in this house.

I’m usually solo parenting This is just an extension from previous thought. Every chance we get to come visit my family, it seems like my husband is also trying to get away. He likes to go and run off to go play bikes with his friends in the town over about two hours away. So, essentially, when he says he wants to go visit my family, I can smell his ulterior motives out from under the guise of just wanting to be around my family a house full of crazy Asians (see bullet point 1).

We have different discipline methods I thought it was difficult enough struggling with discipline differences with GH at home but it’s definitely more annoying when it’s with your immediate family. My parents are old-school discipliners and definitely try it with my kids but I think they know better than to follow through with their giddy threats of a slap on the behind for getting into the water cooler. I either bite my tongue and redirect their comment/threat, as playful as it is, so Humnoy can move onto a desired behavior or activity.

At least when we’re home, I can control the environment and work the resources from the familiar surroundings. Here, it’s a lost cause and a disaster. The only thing that keeps me sane is all the Lao food I get to inhale without a dietary care in the world. If it weren’t for that, my family wouldn’t get to see my kids nor would the kids get to be a part of the Lao community in my hometown because I hate coming here. Alas, here I am struggling with a fussy infant and No Nap Toddler just for a cultural experience. It’s usually worth it but right now, I’m just really tired.

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How often do your kid(s) see your family?

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When Your Kids’ Azn Grandma Messes Up Their Laotian Names

When we decided to wait for birth day to find out the gender of our second child, it also meant both the Bébé’s real (first) name and the Laotian nickname would wait too. With Humnoy, his nickname was chosen by my mom when we found out we were expecting a boy. When his little sister was born, we asked my mom what would be the new baby’s nickname. She was given the Laotian nickname for “little girl.”

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Fair enough, I think. It’s sweet and would look good on paper. I then ask my mom how she would spell the nickname and she said “L-a-n-o-i.” Okay, so off I go revealing and spelling my kid’s name as I (thought) had heard it. Well, apparently my mom changed her mind.

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I find the mistake as a mini blessing in disguise. While it’s not a dire identity crisis because it is just her nickname, I still feel strongly that it is connected to me and her. I am very active on my social media (e.g., hashtag #here, hashtag #there) because that’s where I have my ‘tribe’ of mommy friends vs real life ones that are few and far between. It is so meaningful when my community interactions engage in conversation about my children. This post is just clearing some confusion coming up because I will now use the second spelling of her name. I really prefer the -”noy” ending because it matches her big brother, Hum’s, nickname and what are two Laotian siblings if they don’t share a part of a (nick-) name or two.

How did you name your child(ren)?

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A Quick Guide to Understanding Laotian Names

Contrary to popular online usage and recognition, I did not (legally) bestow upon my child the first name of ‘little testicles.’ My first-born is known by Humnoy and I would like to clarify that it is his Laotian nickname and not his official first name. I decided long ago that this blog would keep my family’s anonymity so it goes to say that Theek, Humnoy, and Gym Hottie are not our actual names on paper.

You see, in Laotian culture, oftentimes babies are given nicknames well before a name is decided. And you will also see that they are not the most flattering or serious of nicknames. ‘Hum’ means “testicles” and ‘noy/noi’ means “small/little” then you figure out the rest. Legend has it that this tradition of giving babies far-from-endearing nicknames was started to ward off spirits that may want to steal the child because of beautiful names (i.e., their first name). If they’re nicknamed ‘Thooey’ (“Fatty”) or ‘Dahm’ (“Dark”), then ain’t no scary monster-ghost gonna come get your “fat” or “dark,” new baby.

My children (and I) have beautiful Laotian first names and, of course, embarrassing Laotian nicknames. Continuing with the theme of shamelessly anonymously blogging here at the Laotian Commotion, my brand new Bébé Girl will be known as none other as La Noi Noy. ‘La’ is a variation of the term for “girl” and you should remember from our first lesson what ‘noi/noy’ means.

Disclaimer: I clearly see now that my first-born got the short end of the stick on the whole nickname gig. Hope his sister doesn’t get taken to the Dark Side since hers is not as amusing.lanoi intro

So, recapping: what does Lanoi Lanoy mean?

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My Christmas Wish is Clean Birth Kits in Laos

Sometimes it’s not about the ‘birth you wanted,’ it’s surviving it.”

While childbirth in America is geared towards a strict birth plan or what to do with your placenta, the infant and maternal mortality rate in Laos is among the highest in the entire world. America has sterile hospitals and highly-trained staff so more and more mothers are informing themselves with resources and information to have a healthy delivery. While I fully support the movement of informed birth choices, I want to spread the word that not every mother is so fortunate to outline their birth environment in third-world conditions such as my family’s homeland of Laos. Here’s how you can help:

DONATE HERE: Clean Birth Kits

Donate Clean Birth Kits. $5 Saves 2 Lives.

Cleanbirth.org provides birthing supplies and training to nurses in remote southern Laos with the goal of preventing birth-related infections and death.

CleanBirth.org on TV

Why are Clean Birth Kits Needed?

This year approximately 1 million women and infants will die of infection after birth. For every woman who dies 30 more suffer a debilitating illness or permanent disability.

Many of these deaths are preventable by providing education about clean birthing practices and Clean Birth Kits, which promote and enable clean birth.

In Laos, where Cleanbirth.org is focused, 80% of births occur at home and only 20% have a skilled attendant present. Maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world.

Do Clean Birth Kits prevent maternal/infant deaths?

The WHO and United Nations have recommended CBKs for decades. According to Blencowe et al (reference) “A systematic review identified 30 studies showing that clean birth practices can substantially reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity from infection-related causes, including tetanus.”

Clean Birth Kits are designed to provide birth attendants and/or expecting moms with the tools they need to ensure a clean birthing environment.

What is in a Clean Birth Kit?

The Kits ensure the WHO’s “6 Cleans”: clean hands, clean perineum, clean delivery surface, clean cord cutting implement, clean cord tying, and clean cord care.

Each kit is sterile and composed of hospital grade supplies, including:

  • Padded blood absorbing sheet for comfort and easy clean up

  • Medicated soap to prepare a safe birth environment

  • Sterile surgical blade for cutting the umbilical cord

  • Cord clips for precision and to help prevent infection

  • Biodegradable bag

  • Pictorial instructions

DONATE HERE: Clean Birth Kits

About Kristyn Zalota:

Living and volunteering in hospitals on the Thai-Burma border and in Cambodia for a year (2009-2010), I learned of the lack of prenatal and postnatal care available to impoverished women. In 2011, as a doula at a government hospital in Uganda, I saw examples of unclean birthing practices. Subsequently, I researched maternal and infant mortality and learned about Clean Birth Kits, which aim to prevent the birth-related infections that kill nearly 1 million mothers and babies each year. read more

Can you help reach the goal to send 1,000 birth kits to Laos on March 1?

*Nurses in Laos are also requesting gently used flannel receiving blankets. Do you have any to spare? Please consider donating to Kristyn.

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Wordless Wednesday – A Ceremonial Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

If a normal apple a day keeps the doctor away, what about an apple that was a part of the ceremonial blessing for the New Year? An ode to baby-led weaning and Lao New Year with Humnoy!

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