Keeping My Mien Culture

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My three siblings and I are first generation Mien-American. We’re pretty close—even our personalities are similar. But I’m the only one that can communicate with our grandmother.

My grandma helped raise us and she doesn’t speak English, only Mien. But my siblings never learned the language and they depend on me to translate.

They’ll ask me “Kasey can you help me ask grandma for money?”
And I’ll say “Why can’t you ask her yourself?”
“Cause I don’t know how.” They say. “She doesn’t understand.”
So I call out to my grandmother, “Ah Coo-ah, Thon-Di oy may boon Ninh nyanh.”

The Mien community is small and our traditions can easily be lost. I want to keep making our klang fen, a cold dessert that’s sour and spicy. I want to dance to our Mien disco at weddings. And I want to wear traditional Mien clothes to special occasions.

But my siblings are more interested in what shows are on tv and what new video games are coming out.

If we don’t do what we can to learn from my grandma’s generation now, I worry that we will lose the true essence of our culture. That’s where it all starts. And that’s where it might end.

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