This year’s Minnesota State Fair was special for the Minnesota Hmong community. Monday, September 7 was the first ever Hmong MN Day at the State Fair, an all-day event showcasing Hmong culture and
celebrating the 40th anniversary of the migration to Minnesota.
Community School of Excellence played a large part of the event as sponsor, by offering a booth, by having the CSE Dance Team perform, and by CSE Student Support Specialist, and Hmong comedian and activist, Tou Ger Bennett Xiong emceeing the day-long celebration.
Activities took place at Carousel Park from 10:00am to 6:00pm, where a packed crowd under perfect
weather watched over 60 different performers from traditional folk-art to hip-hop and contemporary rock including: The Kong & Shu Project, Hilltribe, City Wide Kin, Ka Lia Yang, the CSE Dancers, the Nkuaj Txuam Dej Dance Team, DJ Lady Bug, and many more.
Off to the side of the stage, Hmong chefs prepared their best egg rolls and papaya salad for the cooking contests, while Hmong artists painted live at the event. Fairgoers also visited the twelve community partner booths and participated in the arts and crafts tent hosted by Hmong Education and Resources Today (HEART) to make paper Hmong hats and story cloths.
“This was a community-wide collaboration and celebration on every level,” said event emcee Tou Ger
Bennett Xiong, who was also the Co-chair of Hmong MN Day. “From every dollar, to every minute, to
every product and skill that made this event possible, we’re proud to say we made this event
together. What a powerful way of rejoicing our Minnesota and American
Best demonstrating pride was when veterans of the Secret War walked up on stage. The audience
cheered the twelve military leaders who risked their lives to give the Hmong a chance for a brighter future. “Over 30,000 Hmong men and boys died,” said Col. Sai Nou, helping the audience appreciate the sacrifice that opened the door to come to Minnesota.
In addition to Carousel Park, Hmong MN Day was featured in the State Fair Parade, where Mr. and Miss Hmong Minnesota walked, and the CSE Dance Team performed. Liz Xiong, Hmong MN Day event coordinator, said she hoped to promote “meaningful education and cultural pride.”
CSE is thrilled that we were able to help accomplish this.
The Community School of Excellence Dance Team is making a historic march.
On Tuesday, July 7, the dancers performed at Target Field just before the Minnesota Twins baseball game. Thousands in attendance watched on the jumbo-screens as the girls danced on the field.
The Dance Team performed as part of a larger event hosted by the Minnesota Twins called Celebrate Diversity, which also featured an African American singing group and a Native American dance troupe.
CSE Student Support Specialist, Tou Ger Bennett Xiong, reached out to the Twins organization when he heard they wanted the Hmong to participate.
"They wanted Hmong kids in traditional outfits to be greeters at the game for Twins Diversity Day," said Bennett Xiong. "I got in touch with the Twins rep to say we can do so much more than greet and pose for pictures. I pitched the idea of dancing on the field, sent some YouTube clips (of the CSE Dance Team), and it took off from there."
By being part of the opening performance, the CSE Dance Team demonstrated one of the many unique and bright cultures that make Minnesota special.
CSE Dance Team coach Mei Vue said she was "very happy and grateful" for this opportunity for her dancers to perform for their largest audience ever.
She was surprised, too. Time was short. They had just three weeks to prepare. Vue organized a new choreography for a stadium with people seated around them. Usually, the Dance Team performs on stage for an audience in one direction. The dancers were a little nervous.
"Our team has never danced on a stage like that," said CSE Dance Team Captain, Shoua Thao.
Also, most of the Dance Team's performances are in front of Hmong audiences. This time, most in the stands were not Hmong.
"I absolutely think about that," said Thao. "To show [non-Hmong people] how we perform is exciting!"
Just before the walking out on the field, the whole team was excited. "Everyone was jumping," said Thao.
The girls performed their routine with excellent precision and walked off the field proudly.
"I'm very happy the dancers did a great job and they worked so hard...they never thought they could be in front of thousands of people," said Vue.
The CSE Dance Team showed our state just how dedicated and pronounced the Hmong culture is--and at a historic time. This is the 40 year anniversary of the Hmong's arrival to the Minnesota.
The CSE Dance Team's next performance will be at the Rice Street Parade in St. Paul on July 24.
The Community School of Excellence is proud to have been part of this special event. We are grateful to the Minnesota Twins for giving us this opportunity. We look forward to having our Dance Team represent our school and the Hmong community on July 24 at the Rice Street Parade.
To learn about CSE, explore this site. To register your child, click here.
It was a tale of two worlds. One was McDonald’s, shopping malls, and freeways. The other was motor scooters, barefoot soccer, and wandering farm animals. For three weeks, these worlds came together as a group of students from the Community School of Excellence (CSE) embarked on a life-changing trip.
The trip was divided into three parts. The first was Thailand’s city of the north, Chiang Mai. Here, the CSE Global Connections Team visited the tallest mountain in Thailand (and enjoyed the cooler temperatures). They got their first look at a Hmong village with beautiful gardens and residents selling arts and crafts. Then, they marveled at the elephants during an elephant show. Here, students were able to do more than just see the animals.
Intrigued by the lifestyle, Neh Reh said he would like the chance to come back to Thailand and see about becoming an elephant trainer himself.
There were more Karenni onnections at the Elephant Park, including Kayan women selling souvenirs, one of whom was an old friend of CSE chaperon, Poe Meh.
“We were friends in high school,” said Poe Meh as the two met and hugged.
The connections between CSE and the people of Thailand would continue.
CSE student, Neh Reh speaking to the elephant handler, a fellow Karenni
The next region of Thailand was to the northeast: Chiang Rai Province. This region was home to the main reason for the trip: CSE meeting their sister school.
The school was 75 minutes from a town called Thoeng, where CSE students and chaperons stayed in their modest motel. From there, the CSE vans rode through miles and miles of breathtaking, lush, green hills nearing the Laos border before approaching the mountain village of Huai Khu. This is where CSE students met the students of their sister school also called Huai Khu.
After introductions, students went right to class. First was Thai language class. Then it was English. Thus, each school’s students were able to help their peers from across the Pacific with their respective non-Hmong languages. After language, then art, they finished the day by interviewing one other about their daily lives.
“I noticed they combined Hmong and Thai languages,” said CSE student, Yer Yang. Meanwhile, CSE students might use an English word that would confuse the Huai Khu students. All of the students learned that language is both something that endures over time but also evolves. Differences in language, though, didn’t keep them from becoming friends.
One friend Yer made was with a student at Huai Khu who demonstrated a big difference between their respective lifestyles. He was a 20-year-old man who was only in the 8th grade.
“He had to drop out to help his family,” said Yer. Students in America don’t have to do that.
After helping his family with farming, he returned to school. “He didn’t give up on education,” said Yer. “It was very inspiring.”
The following days, the students got to know each other outside the classroom: sharing meals, playing sports, and even working on chores. “I feel like we really connected,” said CSE student Yayoua Xiong.
Other CSE students felt connected to the land. Yer grew up in Laos. She recognized the conditions at the school as similar to hers as a child. Bee Yang was born at a refugee camp near Bangkok. The camp was called Wat Tham Krabot, and the Global Connections Team visited during their final stretch of this tour in Bangkok.On the last day, Huai Khu threw a farewell party.
Ruins of a former Hmong refugee camp at Wat Thom Krabot
“I remember playing at night with cousins,” said Bee recalling her experiences at the now-leveled camp site.
These days, there aren’t many children left to play. Only five families live in this open-field area, as the former refugee homes have been torn down.
The Global Connections Team spent their final few days in and around Thailand’s largest and central city, Bangkok. Here, students visited the US Embassy, the Grand Palace, and ended their time in Bangkok—and all of Thailand—by seeing the city and beyond from atop the tallest building in all of Thailand, Baiyoke Sky Tower. Overlooking the huge city offered a lasting overview of the country.
And we're back!
Early yesterday morning, the CSE Global Connections students made it to the finish line. And there waiting were Mom and Dad...and CSE administration...and some pizza!
It may have been 3:00 am, but the students were hungry for some usual American food. And now back, it's time to get back to school and their usual lives.
Only now they do so wiser about their world.
Parents: thank you for supporting letting your students experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Chaperons: thank you for leading the way and caring for the students in Thailand.
Students: thank you for being well-behaved and open to new experiences that you'll take with you for the rest of your lives.
Our final day in Bangkok--and in Thailand--offered a pair of perspectives.
First, The CSE Global Connections Team went to the Grand Palace. This multi-building complex features a museum of Thai history and artifacts, decorative temples for worship, and the Grand Palace for state gatherings and events.
This is one of Thailand's most popular attractions and perhaps the single best representation of the Thai culture.
Next, we sought a literal overview of this city. Earlier in our trip, we had been to the tallest mountain in Thailand. This day, we enjoying its tallest building, the top of the Baiyoke Sky Tower.
We got to enjoy one last, beautiful view before flying home the next day.
As we progress in our trek, we see new places and learn more things.
So we've got more stories to share.
Five more CSE 8th grade Global Connections participants share theirs here.
Enjella Meh: Cash Card
It is quite interesting for me to use the cash card instead of cash at Tesco Lotus. Everyone gets a cash card with a 100 baht on it, which is about $3 and can buy any hot food in the food court that they like with the card. It is a fun and easy to use the card. It is especially nice that I don't need to worry about counting Thai money and holding several bills in my hand. Also, after they swipe my card, I get a receipt that shows how much money I still have on my card. Every time we go to the food court for dinner, I buy one hot meal and a cold drink with ice because the weather is very hot in Thailand. Sometimes, I spend all the money on my card. If there is any money left on the card, I give it back to my chaperon. Then, our chaperon Ms.Kazoua will exchange it back to cash.
Gabriella Du Meh: Community Service Project at Huay Khue School
May 8, 2015, was our second day of attending Huay Khue School's schedule. It took us about one hour to go from our hotel to the school. We left at 8:00 am and arrived to the school around 9:00am. By the time we got there, I saw that Huay Khue students were shoveling and moving sand from one place to another place. Not long after, CSE students joined the group and worked with a great attitude and smile on their faces. I was really happy to be able to take part in their community service project and saw both schools’ students were working as a team. Therefore, we got the job done in a short time. I learned that teamwork gets the job done in a short period of time.
Kay Meh: Street Pho Shop
Let me tell you how lucky we were! We went to eat pho at the shop that was close to the hotel that we stayed at in Chiang Rai on May 8. It was just a minute walk to get there. We walked there after we were done with our daily reflection evening meeting.
The pho was really yummy, because I put a lot of pepper in my bowl. My friends also had a lot of pepper in their bowls too. It was really fun to go out with the entire group of students and our chaperones. I will never forget the memory of the 8th grade Global Connection Program in my life.
Taw Meh: Long Neck Village
It was really a fun day for me on the day of May 2nd. After the elephant ride, we walked to the longneck (known as Kayan) village. I really enjoyed looking around the village and stopped at several shops. There I saw a beautiful Kayan lady with traditional clothes on. More interesting was that I saw on her was the gold color ring that she was wearing on her neck. I later found out that she was Ms.Poe Meh's friend. She was really nice to talk to. We spoke to each other in Karenni language. She let me wear the ring on my neck. Then, I asked my friend to take some pictures of me with her.
Mathida Meh: Khusang Waterfall Park
It was a hot day and we were excited for the waterfall but when we got there, we saw how the water was dirty with nasty things like leaves and maybe leeches. The water was warm, but my friends and I still got into the water and played around. My other friends were all looking to catch a fish on the other side of the water, so I followed them. But we didn't catch one, so we went back to the park and bought ice cream at an ice cream stand near the park by the streets. It was very refreshing eating it after running around tiredly. I was happy that I have experienced new things while I am in Thailand.
Winding down our Global Connections Trip, and fresh off of the educational (US Embassy) and serious (former Hmong refugee settlement), we took the day yesterday to kick it...at the Siam City Amusement Park!
The water park and rides kept our group playing and smiling the whole day.
Yesterday, the CSE Global Connections Team explored an unsettling aspect to the Hmong in Thailand.
Wat Tham Krabok is the name of a temple-village for Thai Buddhist monks. It's also the name of the Hmong refugee compound that used to exist right next to it.
Today, the refugee settlement is all but gone. The families have moved out, the buildings have been torn down, and even the cemetery has been dug up. The closing of this camp wasn't an agreeable conclusion for the Hmong. Neither was its existence agreeable to the Thai government.
Following the closing of the official refugee camps in the 90s, Wat Tham Krabok began as a settlement for the Hmong who either didn't or couldn't assimilate into Thailand, Laos, or emigrate to the US. More and more Hmong came until their numbers were about 20,000.
The Thai government didn't approve of this settlement, but the monks at Wat Tham Krabok temple supported the Hmong. Eventually, American representatives arrived to help see many of the camp inhabitants come to the US. Then the Thai government forced the rest to leave and tore down the buildings--and the cemetery.
Today, four families are able to stay, living life as they had when the camp was populous: farming and making/selling inexpensive jewelry. CSE 8th grade students got to see where some of their relatives used to live. And all of them were able to imagine what life was like for many Hmong in Thailand before emigration.
One CSE students had a flashback to his childhood. "I remember that statue," he said when seeing the tall, black Buddha similar to one from his camp.
We then visited this statue and the temples and saw how the monks next door live their lives.
This day, the Global Connections Team connected not just to another part of the world, but to their peoples' history.
We are in Bangkok.
For the final leg of our Global Connections Trip 2015, we are spending four days in Thailand's largest, most exciting city. And we started things off yesterday with a visit to the US Embassy.
The CSE 8th graders had already visited the US Consulate office in Chiang Mai early in our trip. The visit to the embassy allowed CSE students the chance to hear more from US diplomatic leaders.
Each gave a speech and answered questions from the students. The students learned about foreign policy, how the US helps other nations, about economics and trade, how to become a foreign services worker, and then about what it's like to work in another country for the US government.
All this was shared because our students were inquisitive.
"Your students ask such great questions," said embassy political officer and presenter this day, Norman Pflanz.
Through it all, the students learned how nations connect and what it's like to work in a field to help make this happen. It was an appropriate message for our trip.
The CSE Global Connections Team didn't just say goodbye to their sister school this week. We also said goodbye to Chiang Rai province and the wonderful team of drivers who transported us all over northern Thailand.
Whether through bumper to bumper traffic in cities or breezing through the countryside; whether over new asphalt or limping and bumping atop steep roads of the hill country, these men got us everywhere safe and sound.
They became part of our adventure as drivers, translators, experts on the area, and friends to our group. And we parted ways with them as we did our sister school: with thanks and a gift.
Yesterday morning on the way to the Chiang Rai airport, each Global Connections group offered their driver some words and a token of gratitude.
If ever you need transportation in Thailand, these are your guys. They were ours, and our trip wouldn't have been the same without them.
So much is happening here in Thailand, it's hard to keep up. Good thing we have many individuals to help share the stories.
Here are six more short stories shared by our Global Connections 8th grade students.
Sarena Vue: Sports Day
Today we went to Huay Khue School for Sports Day. It was cold and raining in the morning but got hot in the afternoon. We taught the students there how to play games and sports. One game we taught them was Simon Says. We played Simon Says inside their cafeteria. We also taught them two sports; football and basketball. About two or three girls participated in football. Football is a fun sport. The teacher from Huay Khue even played, and he got a touchdown! I was amazed. It got hot after lunch. I didn't want to play anymore sports, but I couldn't say "no" to basketball. I enjoyed playing basketball with my new friends. The girls that played were pretty good for beginners. They're so athletic- explains why they have so many trophies.
I want to encourage the students to keep on playing the sports and games we taught them, because one day they can teach kids who don't know how to play. I hope they enjoyed Sports Day, 'cause I did.
Bee Yang: Hall of Opium
Through the dark hall I saw the sculpture of horror. It was of suffering and madness, a sight I'd rather not remember. On May 10, early in the morning we drove our van to the Hall of Opium. The Hall of Opium is a museum that focus it's exhibition on a flower call Opium. When we first walked into the exhibition we watch a film. The film told a story of a misused flower that could either save a life or take it away. Then we walked through the history of opium. In one of the exhibition it shows the different ways people have try to smuggle drugs. One part of the exhibition shows some celebrities that became addicted to opium and other drugs.
One thing that stuck out to me was that China was enslaved for over a century to opium and was colonized by the British. The First Opium War ended when China signed a treaty with Britain and gave away Hong Kong to Britain, which they ruled for 150 years. The museum revealed an ugly truth which history doesn't.
Katryna Yang: 7-Eleven
Everywhere in Thailand there are these convenience stores that are like Super America except they don' t have gas. You can find them in a strip of businesses or in a standalone parking lot, these convenience stores are called 7-Elevens. As you enter these stores, the cold breeze of AC brushes against your sweaty face. This place to me is like heaven because there are so many different options of snacks to choose from. I end up getting a lot of different items to bring with me but a lot less money in my pocket.
Yer Yang: The Golden Triangle
On May 10, we rode on our vans to see the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle is a park located in the northern of Thailand, where a lot of people come to see the three rivers that meet together. It's call the Golden Triangle because it covers three separate countries which are Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. When we arrived there, my first sight was a huge Buddha statue. He was standing on top of a cloud near the cliff, facing the Mekong River. It's like he was watching over the three separate countries.
I went to sit on a bench near the edge of the cliff to looked at the river, which was an amazing view. The river was like chocolate cream. There were mosquitoes and ants all over me though, like I was model with a bunch of fans. Looking at Laos, there were a bunch of old memories flowing through my mind like electricity. Then, the dam of my tears started to explode because it reminds me of my siblings that are still in Laos.
We then went to see an old temple in the park with the Huay Khue students. I went to bow to the Buddha inside of the temple and get my fortune paper. It said that I'm like a flower that grew under the dry season with no rain nor water. But, one day, there will be a certain person come to save me, so for now I have to be patient. The fortune paper is so true about me.
I noticed something after visiting the Golden Triangle Park: that the Golden Triangle turns out to be the Golden Tear that helped me remember my old past with the rest of my siblings. Our time apart might be four years, but no one can erase our memories together.
Julia Yang: Wifey Material
On May 11, we went to our Huay Khue school for Sports Day. When we got to the school, we had to meet in the lunch room, because it was raining. When the Huay Khue students came to the lunch room, the teacher decided to play some group activities. We had to move all the tables and benches and sweep the floor. The group activities were fun, but then it stopped raining so we were able to play sports outside After playing outside for a long time, it was time for lunch. All the students came down to the lunch room to the lunch room. I waited for my food then sat down and ate.
After lunch, Ms. Kazoua asked for volunteers to help the other girls with dishes. Sonia, Bee, Nkauj Hmoob, Mathida, Yer & I went to go help. They do dishes at the school really different from how we do them. They don't have a sink to wash their dishes. They wash the dishes outside and they would always rinse the dishes twice to make sure they get all the soap off. But doing the dishes with them was fun, we got along and became friends with the girls. I wish I could do the dishes with the girls again.
Gaochia Kue: Sleeping Mountains
In Minnesota the weather is so bipolar. It's like me when I don't get food. Minnesota has all kinds of weather: rain, hail, sleet, snow, very hot or very cold. That's the weather in Minnesota. The weather in Thailand is very hot most days. During the rainy season it can be kind of scary because of landslides, trees falling, and the chance of getting struck by lightning, etc. After our first night of rain and second day it sprinkled a bit. When CSE students went to our sister school that day, we saw a lot of fog in the morning. It was the day we did community service. The mountains looked like they had a big fluffy fog blanket over it, as if the mountains were struggling to get up in the morning.
Saying goodbye is hard when the connection is meaningful and strong.
Yesterday, CSE students and staff on the Global Connections trip said their goodbyes to our sister school in northern Thailand, Huay Khue.
After six days of sharing classtime, playing sports, eating meals, going on field trips, and even doing chores, Huay Khue threw a Farewell Party to celebrate the powerful six days for the school--and the entire Hmong community.
For this farewell event, students from both schools performed song, dance, and presentation. Then leaders from the school and the community addressed the crowd. Finally, the schools exchanged gifts. CSE received some artwork and prepared chicken. Huay Khue received school supplies, including six laptops--four of which were presented by CSE's computer club, the Asian Penguins--and friendship bracelets braided by our students.
After the ceremony, it was time to eat. We shared a wonderful meal and continued to get to know one another.
Then it was time to say goodbye with many hugs, waves, and photographs. Huay Khue welcomes any CSE volunteer to come to Thailand. They are thrilled with the relationship built and look forward to having the Global Connections Team come again.
Though our 8th graders will move on to high school, they fortunately have these photos (and even a couple of emails exchanged) with their new friends.
"I want to come out over my summer break," said one CSE student.
The work we did at Huay Khue epitomized and summarized the entire purpose for our Global Connections trip. While we're sorry to see our time at our sister school come to an end, we're grateful and happy to have made (and to continue to make) such a positive impact.
Thank you Huay Khue and great job CSE students for expanding your world by helping and connecting with those from another corner of it.
Hmong life in Thailand.
Following Sports Day with our sister school, we were treated to a tour of their village, also called Huay Khue.
The CSE Global Connections Team had visited a couple of other Hmong villages in earlier days of our trip, but this day's was without the tourism influence. This was simply a Hmong hill farming community.
Straw roofs, small gardens, adults busy with chores or childcare, and the children running around playing and looking at our group.
"It looked like my old house when I used to live in Thailand," said student Pao Vang. "It brought back memories when I'd go out everyday and play and come home when it's dark. I'd play with the animals and neighbors."
"Do you miss that time?" I asked.
"Yes," said Pao. "Its my childhood and I don't want to forget."
"Alright team, it's time to get out there, work together, play hard, and build friendships while doing it!"
That's what a coach would say to the CSE Global Connections students in anticipation of Sports Day with their sister school students at Huay Khue.
The students did not disappoint.
The rain fell hard yesterday morning, but that just meant that all the students got to start the day with some indoor games: Simon Says and Number Groups.
Then when the rain let up, it was time to take it outside. Volleyball, basketball, and football games began, with CSE students and chaperons showing their Thailand counterparts how to throw and play football. In the afternoon, it was time for Huay Khue to show CSE a thing or two on the soccer field. And in between, more teamwork when some CSE students helped with the dishes.
On the way back to the hotel, we chaperons asked students, "Are there some students at Huay Khue you'd now consider your friends?" Two boys responded, "Yeah, we have like three or four!"
Sports may be considered just fun and games, but they do a great job of bringing people together.
Yesterday the CSE Global Connections Team saw three countries in one view.
The Golden Triangle is the meeting point of Thailand, Laos, and Burma. But CSE did more than just SEE the other countries.
To end the day, we took a boat ride along the great Mekong River--and then crossed it into Laos.
Over the border, our 8th graders were greeted by a large outdoor market in this special, economically-liberalized section of Laos open to travelers from across the river.
Now our students can return home saying they visited two countries. Globally connected indeed!
Another few days in Thailand, another 72 hours of adventure in this new world. And now seven more students have stories to share.
From elephants to slingshots, we hope you enjoy these CSE 8th graders' experiences written by them, for you.
Tee Peh - The Elephant Ride
While in Chiang Mai, we rode on elephants at the Elephant Park. When I first stepped on the elephant, I felt like the warriors going to war from the history of Thailand. When the elephant took the first step, I felt scared because the elephant was rocking back and forth. Then when the elephant went into the water, I held on tight to the bar because the elephant shook everything. Halfway through the ride, I wasn't afraid anymore. So I let go of the handle bar and enjoyed the ride.
When we were about to get to Long Neck Village, the elephant driver asked us for our phone to take pictures of Neh Reh and I. He got off of the elephant head, and I got out of the seat and onto the elephant head. He then took pictures of us, and after that he got back onto the elephant head and went straight to Long Neck Village. The elephant ride was amazing, and it was my first time riding one. I hope you enjoyed my short story of my first time riding the elephant.
Neh Reh - The Slingshot
We took an elephant down to the Long Neck village. It was just a street of vendors, but it was beautiful because they sold a hand-made clothes. I met some Karenni people there. They were fun to talk to. Then, Mr. Yeng and I started to look around. Up on the top of the street there were some Hmong villagers. There was this kid shooting a slingshot. Then Mr. B started to walk up. He saw this kid who was really good at slingshot. The kid let us try it. Mr. Yeng, and Mr. B, and I took turns shooting small rocks at the plastic bottles hanging on the strings. It was the first time for Mr. B he was terrible at it. It was fun. Mr. Yeng and I always laughed at Mr. B when he try to shoot, because he always missed it. When we were done we gave the kid some money and headed down. It was a fun time.
Saul Ratsavong - The Ox Ride
After our elephant ride, we rode ox carts back to the vans. It was really sunny but the ox carts had umbrellas for shade. Stepping onto the ox cart it smelled like poop, poop on a farm. But the poop wasn't just from the oxen. It was from the nearby elephants and chickens running around.
As we were riding along, I looked at the oxen and saw tears running down their faces because the driver whipped them when they didn't listen. But it was very scary too when they get whipped because they get mad. I thought it was fine, though, because the driver was good at controlling.
During the ride we saw lots of beautiful places like rice farms and villages. While heading to the stop, the driver asked if we wanted to control the oxen and we said no because it was scary. I kinda wanted to but it was too risky. I'm not good at driving with animals.
Timmie Thao - The Night Bazaar
One night after finishing our homework in our hotel in Chiang Mai, our whole group went to the night bazaar. The bazaar was a couple of blocks away, so we could walk there. When we got to the bazaar, we first ate dinner in a large room with many small food vendors. I had fried crab pieces. After dinner, we went shopping.
The night bazaar were many small vendors, and each one sold different things--some inside large, open buildings and others along the streets. The bazaar was crowded and large, so we only walked along two stretches. I saw speakers with water in it, so I decided to test it out before buying it. They worked okay, so I bought them for 1000 baht or about $30. When we went back to the hotel I quickly set it up when I got to my room. When I was finished I blasted music.
Damien K. Her - Working With Our New Sister School
On May 7th we visited our new sister school, Huay Khue. We followed their schools schedule and had classes like Gym, Art, Thai, English, and Computer Class. We interviewed the students that went to school there at the end of the day. All of us would interview male and females of how their daily life is and what time they would do their daily activities, then we would write down what they have answer. One of our expectations is to interview at least 2-3 students. My experience of interviewing a male student was hard because I barely speak Hmong and my partner that I was interviewing laughed but I had Mr.Yeng's help. But the good thing was that my partner understood some English I spoke and it made it easy for me to talk to him. My partner also spoke his vocabulary really fluently like he was born in America which was really impressive.
William Yang - Sports with Huay Khue
It was a hot, sunny day at Huay Khue school. It was time for sports class, and the girls started by playing chairball on the basketball court. In chairball a person stands on a chair holding a basket, and the teams have to pass the ball to get closer, then throw the ball into the basket. The other team was good, and CSE lost. When the girls finished, it was the boys' turn to play soccer. Four of my friends went out on the basketball court. No one else went, so I went in to be the fifth person. I was the left side defender, and I had to stop the ball from getting close to the goal and help my team.
The game started, and the other team got the ball. They passed it a couple of times then our forward went to steal the ball. Then they kicked it out, so it was our ball. The other team kicked really strong and kicked the ball far out when trying to score. My friend went to get it but couldn't find it. I went under a tree to get some shade. My feet were burning like my shoes were on fire. When we got the ball, our goal keeper kicked it in and we kept playing.
After a while they were able to break through our defender and then scored. Now it was our turn to start with the ball. Neh Reh tried to kill the ball by kicking as hard as he could from the beginning. They got the ball and came toward us. Our offense stole it and made a goal!
I didn't feel like playing anymore because my feet were burning. I switched with one of my friends then took off my shoes. The game went on for a short time then ended. The scores were tied with 1 goal. The game was fun and intense.
Chengseng Austin Yang - Thai Class at Huay Khue
We went to our new Hmong/ Thai sister school called Huay Khue. It was really fun to go there because of the classes they had. The classes we attended were Thai, English, Art, and Sport (Gym). Being in a Thai classroom was very interesting because the chairs are small and the window frames are wooden and the windows were open. The tables are also small, damaged, and out of shape. The classroom was also a little smaller than ours at CSE.
The Thai language I learned was interesting and the words were weird, but it was fun learning them because of the activities we did. The teacher would choose a volunteer and the volunteer would get a stick and point to the words while reading the story at the front of the class. The Thai characters look like random letters put together with a few lines and shapes.
Three countries; one afternoon.
That's what happens when you visit the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia.
This historically-important, modern day marvel is at the meeting point of Thailand, Laos, and Burma. It's the former heart of the world's opium trade but now marks a point where people come together for enjoyment and education.
It was even more special for the CSE Global Connections Team because our Thai sister school Huey Khue joined us as we wandered the area temples and then visited the Hall of Opium, a museum of the history and harm of opium and other drugs.
Leaders of CSE and Huay Khue also spoke to the students about the importance of education and staying connected. A very fitting message for this trip indeed!
Saturday's a good day to head to the market, and that's just what a few CSE Global Connections Team members did today.
Tucked away behind the storefronts, this market had your plants and animals for sale--many unique to this part of the world.
It was an education of edibles in Thailand.
It was a work hard/play hard day in Thailand for the CSE Global Connections Team.
This morning, we headed back out to our sister school, Huai Khu, in the hills of northern Thailand. Instead of classes, though, CSE students got to do some service work alongside their peers over here.
All the students got their hands dirty moving sand to where Huai Khu school will be laying concrete.
After a couple of hours of shoveling and wheel barrowing, CSE loaded up in the vans to spend an afternoon at a beautiful park decorated by a creek and waterfall.
The scenery, the ice cream, the resting from a hard morning of work: today was a day that had it all.
Yesterday, we saw a family reunion. CSE student Tommy Lee met his mother's cousin in Huay Khue, the village of our sister school.
She and her husband and daughter approached our group on the dirt road and asked for Tommy. He met them and offered a gift.
A big world becoming smaller and more connected on the CSE Global Connections trip to Thailand.
Three days ago, we offered our first blog of student-written stories from Thailand.
Today we share our second.
Though it's only been these few days since our first one, an experience as educational and adventurous as our Global Connections trip will provide many stories each day. So below are six new stories for you to read, enjoy, and share.
From Chiang Rai Province, Thailand,
-The Global Connections Team
Penelope Yang- Crazy Weather
Gloria Her - Magic Hands
On our last day in Chiang Mai, we went to an umbrella making place where people hand-made umbrellas. The first lady we saw pounded some fibers from trees and mixed it all together in water. She then put a rectangle shaped net into the water and out came the fiber pieces which turned into one big piece. It dried as paper. The next people we saw were the frame makers. They cut bamboo and made stick-like pieces for the umbrella.
As we walked passed this umbrella making section, we came upon a section of people who used an ink paint substance to draw on all sorts of things. They drew on hats, backpacks, phone covers, everything. They even had a little board next them with different designs. Most of them consisted of elephants. I had one guy draw on my phone case. It was an elephant with blue blankets. I had two more elephants drawn on my purse. They were gold. Other students and teachers lined up to get their personal things drawn on as well. If you're in Thailand, specifically in Chiang Mai, I recommend going to this place.
Klarabella Yang- The Hot Springs
Shoua Thao - Phu Chi Fa Mountains
It was a windy road, but so often are the ones worth taking.
Today, the Global Connection Team visited our sister school, Huai Khu, in northern Thailand. On the way, we passed the school we visited yesterday, Ban Rakpaedin. Today's school was indeed much further out, isolated in a hill village in the border region of Thailand and Laos.
For the next few days, our students will attend school, play sports, and even do some community work alongside their Hmong peers.
Today in classes, our students were lost in Thai language class, but took the wheel to help out during English class.
Lunch was good and spicy while the weather was equally hot.
After lunch was art class and computer class. We discussed starting an email pen pal program between students here and students at CSE. After classes, it was time for sports outside.
Tonight, CSE students reflected on meeting and working with their new friends. Some students said they were surprised by how hard the students here worked. Others shared that the students here wish to come and study in the US. All of the CSE students are excited to have met their new friends and look forward to spending the next few days with them.
This is why we came to Thailand.
Today, the CSE Global Connections Team visited Ban Rakpaedin School in rural Chiang Rai province. There, our 37 8th grade students paired with groups of their Hmong peers here in northern Thailand. They all sat in groups to discuss about the ways of life in each others' home countries.
Meanwhile, CSE staff was invited into the conference room to speak with teachers and administration of Ban Rakpaedin.
After the students and staff bonded, CSE enjoyed a tour of this school that has had a relationship with CSE for several years. It's been a productive and meaningful relationship for all these years, and it continued today here in Thailand.
Yesterday, the Global Connection team arrived to Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand to the city of Theung. Here is where we begin our school visits.
This first day, we got a good look at the place by hiking to the top of Pu Chi Fa on the Thailand/Laos border.
Today, we begin our school visits at Ban Rakpaedin School.
Whoa, what a journey it has been! Four flights, five airports--Los Angeles, Taiwan, Bangkok--and all this just to get out here.
And since our arrival, we've experienced this other world of Thailand--it's beautiful scenery, wild life... cities... villages, and of course the food.
Now we let the students tell you about it themselves, in this first of six student-written blogs highlighting aspects of their trip thus far.
The Flights by Tommy Lee
If you've ever been on an airplane, then you'll know that the thunderous sound of the two plane engines will deafen you to a certain point. The feeling of being overcrowded is always present on the planes, which has made some people uncomfortable. The food was surprisingly good, especially the chicken.
Getting to Thailand was the most tiresome part of our trip so far. So the group has been on four straight flights consisting of about 22 hours to get to Thailand. I feel like I've lived on those planes for an eternity. One huge issue for the group is jetlag. When the group first entered the airplane they were all excited, but when they got off they had really blank faces. No one talked for a while like they left a part of themselves on the plane.
The Food by Soomchai Lee
Over here in Thailand, the food is very different. The pho has this amazing taste because of the soup. It's better than the ones in America. Also, there's this food (my favorite so far) where it has pork on top of rice shape like a cup and is covered with a sweet brown sauce. Sometimes you get bored of the food in Thailand right away and just stop eating it, but most times you would love it and eat the whole thing.
Even though it is delicious, you may feel sick after awhile or feel like you need to poop. You may even have to go sometimes because it's not food you normally eat everyday at home. Besides all of that, the food is amazing. Even if it's new, you would love a lot of the food in Thailand, unlike when you try something new at a place at home and have a higher chance of disliking it.
The Consulate by Zahn Kong
We visited the consulate office in Chiang Mai. It was the United States' property. We gave our passport to the security dude for us to be able to get in. We went to check in the building, and the security dude said, ''Can you please take that belt off?'' in a nice voice. We sat down at the comfortable chairs and the guy that looked like a Christian guy talked for about five minutes then the general came and talked to us. He spoke about how the consulate started and a little bit about his life and career. Then a Thai lady talked after the general and talked about a little history about the consulate. We took a group photo and toured around the consulate after the Thai lady talked. After we toured, went to our next destination which was a street market not too far away.
The Small Village by Stephen Siong
We visited a small village in Chiang Mai called Doi Pui Hmong Village. It was a small village with small, bamboo cottages with Hmong and Thai people. We went and visited shops at the small village. They sold key chains, bracelets, necklaces, wooden elephants/frogs, etc. The items were very beautiful and pretty with the Hmong designs. I saw how their stuff was really creative because they use different cloths and maybe use paj ntaub on the stuff animal. They also sell snacks such as chips, chocolate, waffle sticks and more.
Outside of the small shops we saw a small waterfall and saw a museum with some of the history of the Hmong people and their tools. It was very hot and humid when we visited the village and the shops. We helped the people by buying their items. Every small shop we went to sold almost everything similar like stuffed animals (elephants and frogs) and key chains. The people in the shops were showing us stuff like jewelry, toys, and telling us the price and to buy it. Some of the people didn't have a shop, so they sold their stuff on the ground on a rug. They were either wearing sandals or bare foot.
The Elephant Show by Pao Vang
The elephant show was an amazing experience. Everyone got there tired in the morning but was eager to see the elephants. When we entered the arena, the elephants were lined up facing the stands for people to get their picture taken with them.
Taking pictures with the elephants was a scary experience. There was screaming tourists when the elephants were sucking and touching the tourists with their brittle and rough trunks. When the show started, everyone was eager to see what was going to happen. The elephants did some tricks: soccer, basketball, and painting. At the end of the painting show, the paintings were sold and everyone rushed to buy them. Everyone clapped and screamed for the elephants. The elephants bowed and the show ended. This was a fantastic show. I have never seen anything like it before.
The Raft Ride by Lee Xiong
The Elephant Park had more than elephants. It also had river rides. We rode on bamboo rafts. It was fun, but scary. The raft ride was smooth and very calming. It felt like a summer day fishing, because every time I go fishing it releases stress and anger for me.
The water was so brown it was like somebody spilled chocolate into the water. Also the water was really shallow. LOL There was a lot of elephant dung everywhere, even in the water floating. The ride was scary though, but at the end it was still fun. The fun thing about it was that Pao rode the boat and we got stuck, and how it was scary was that there were bugs.
We look forward to sharing more stories as we continue our exploration and education from Thailand!
Yesterday was moving day for CSE's Global Connection.
Leaving an educational and activity-filled four days in Chiang Mai, students and staff loaded up into their vans and headed northeast to the Chiang Rai region.
On the way, we made two stops.
The first was to a hot springs. At this boiling watering hole coming from the earth, a lady sold quail eggs for people to hard boil and eat. We couldn't resist the roadside snack.
Then getting to Chiang Rai city, we stopped to see the modern wonder, the White Temple. Still being built, this ambitious and moving complex features a moat of hands representing the temptation we need to resist on our path of life.
With that, we continued on ours and made it to the small city of Theung. This will be our home for the next several days as we visit natural sights and, more important, visit other school in the region. We visit our first school tomorrow.
Yesterday, the Global Connections Team enjoyed a display of art and fashion--and much of it created for them! Outside Chiang Mai is a coop of local artists who demonstrate their craft and offer their services. We visited this place yesterday afternoon.
First, students watched the umbrella-makers create their products from scratch--from the paper-like fabric of the umbrella shade to the whittling and fastening of the stick frame.
Then students were treated with a display they wanted take with them--on their clothes, bags, and cell phone covers. Talented artists painted beautiful images for decoration, and CSE students and staff lined up.
Now these images will serve as memories for CSE's 2015 Global Connections Trip.
It was a beautiful way to observe and experience the local culture, and a terrific way to end our four full days in Chiang Mai. Today, we leave for Chiang Rai and CSE's sister school.
Yesterday, our Global Connections Trip participants enjoyed the best of the nature in Thailand.
First, students got up close and personal with elephants at the Elephant Park. Then the elephants put on a show for all the attendees.
Afterward, students hopped on bamboo rafts and flowed down the nearby easygoing river. And finally, students paired up to hop atop the elephants for a ride around the park lands.
A little wonder, adventure, and fun on this day near Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Incredible story from Thailand today. CSE Global Connections participants took part in an elephant ride and Karenni village stop. While in the village, CSE's Ms. Poe Meh saw an old friend from when she was in her Karenni refugee camp four years ago.
Her friend now works in the village selling items to tourists.
This inspired our other Karenni girls on the trip to learn about Ms. Poe Meh's friend and even try on their own neck rings.
Small world and incredible coincidence. A truly meaningful experience for our Karenni participants.
Yesterday afternoon, the Global Connections crew packed into their vans and rode up the nearby mountain, Doi Suthep, to the Hmong village, Doi Pui.
On the way were a few roadside stops, where students took advantage of the remarkable views back down to the city, Chiang Mai. It was the village, though, that offered the best views.
First, student and chaperons enjoyed a small, earthen museum honoring the ways of the Hmong and other mountain people of Thailand. Then, they walked up the hillside village along the gardens made up on dozens of small plots of beautiful flowers. Finally, all made their way back down to the vans through the alleys of the village lined with vendors offering local items for sale.
It was a great opportunity for the Hmong students to interact with Hmong on the other side of the planet. Seeing the same dresses and jewelry also offered a fashion tie between their people in Minnesota and Thailand.
Between the U.S. Consulate and the Hmong village, it was full and engaging day. Today, we are off for a interactive, once-in-a-lifetime nature experience: the elephant park.
This morning, our students in Thailand learned about international relations by visiting the US Consulate Office in Chiang Mai.
Yesterday, the CSE Global Connections Thailand trip enjoyed its first full day of exploration. We're in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and spent the day seeing the natural side of things.
First things first, we gathered in the lobby of our hotel and headed to breakfast: rice in chicken broth. A local woman came by to offer students flower necklaces for sale.
Then we went to see the lovely Wachirathan Waterfall. Students and staff hiked along the river under the falls before reconvening for our next destination, the tallest mountain in Thailand. It felt about 15 degrees cooler up there, which was welcome. There was more hiking around the woodsy trails as well as a small museum dedicated to the local wildlife.
At the end of the day, we gathered back at the hotel, where students completed their journals and reviewed what they saw.
They enjoyed the nature, but were most taken by the city. They thought Thailand wouldn't have nice buildings and cars and restaurants.
Today, we spend the day with the people of the area: first the US embassy and then an area Hmong village. #GCThailand15
And for most of us, the day was sort of a blur. Jet lag has made it hard to sleep at night and stay awake during the day.
We are now at our motel in Chiang Mai. We'll try for a sound sleep tonight and then a day to really start absorbing the world of Thailand. This will be assisted by our Hmong drivers, whom Kazoua is meeting with in the final picture.
As part of a team, when one member does something, we all do that thing. In that spirit, we participants of the Global Connections trip want all of you to experience our upcoming adventures.
It started this morning when 41 of us left CSE before most of you had arrived. We have with us laptops from the Asian Penguins as well as school supplies to deliver to our sister school in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
As of now, we're chilling at the Los Angeles airport awaiting our flight across the Pacific. Here we were this morning in Minneapolis:
Stay updated by going to the CSE website and checking out our blog for stories and pictures from Thailand. You can also "like" the CSE Facebook page to see updates and follow CSE's Twitter feed @globalCSE. We'll be using the hashtag #GCThailand15
We'd love to have you with us. We know this trip wouldn't be possible without all of you.
-CSE Global Connections participants