Today at the Kaj Siab House, we learned how to play the top game. We also saw the food that they cooked. The food that they cooked were egg rolls, stir-fry, rice/sticky rice, and this noodle dish. There were also music at the Kaj Siab House. The instruments were k’eng, flutes, and see saw (Xim Xaw). At the Kaj Siab House, we had a lot of fun. We played a top game. The player will have to throw the top and try to hit the one that is spinning on the ground. If you knock it down, you’ll get a point or something.
Today I observed that Hmong egg roll dip is almost kind of like the Chinese egg roll dip but the Chinese dip is sweeter and they don’t have any pepper in the egg roll dip and there was a different one and that one was hotter than the other one and it was tiny. There was a qeej player and his name was Et I think and he was dancing when he was playing the qeej and I thought it would take a lot of practice playing the qeej and dancing at the same time and I thought if you play the qeej like him you would have to take a lot of breath to play a long song. When we were playing Hmong games I observed that the rubber band game was different than the one we played at Bayview. We call it the qej kog kai and when we play in group and we play it we jump in a different way. The game we played was kind of similar to escape the tops.
At first when I looked at the food I thought I’d not like it. But when I got the plate I did not know what to get. When I looked at the food, well it smelled good and looked good. I only like the rice, bread, soup and punch. I liked the rice because it’s sticky and tasty. I liked the bread because it has the taste of canela etc. I learned that you can’t trust the lunch by its cover. The same thing as with a book. The games were great. The first game you played by throwing the rock and ten sticks up and catch the rock. If you catch it you go on but if you don’t that means you lose. I learned if you get all of the ten sticks you start the game again but of course you start out with two sticks. If you win that one you start another game but this time three, then four, then five sticks and etc. Another game is jumping over the string. I couldn’t do any of them well except the first because it was low. Then it got higher until no one could jump over. I forgot the rules and I didn’t bring my note book out so I didn’t write anything down so I can’t write anything about the rules.
Today at the Kaj Siab House I learned how to play Hmong games that I never had heard of and seen played before. I also learned that Hmong like hot spicy foods and have rice you eat with your fingers. Many different cultures have different foods than I am used to. I learned that k’eng players not only played k’eng, but they also dance to their music and most Hmong cultural music has meaning that speaks for itself. Today going to the Kaj Siab House on the bus I was a little nervous on how the Hmong elders would react. I also wondered how the food would taste and if it would be very spicy. When the school bus pulled up I was pretty frightless, but I still had a little bit of it. We entered the Kaj Siab House and the smells were familiar and different. The smells of people was the same, but the air smelled a little like the food. After we got out our note books, we headed out for a quick tour of the building. Mr. Wagler asked if anybody wanted to see the food and interview the cooks. I think that everybody went to interview the cooks.
I never thought I would have had so much fun as I had at the Kaj Siab House. The food was delicious, the entertainment was awesome, and the games were so fun! But the Kaj Siab House sure gave me some surprises. First of all, when we came out of the room where we had put our coats and backpacks, a man passed in front of me. Behind him was an elderly man. I let him pass. He then stopped in front of me, reached down and tousled my hair. Then he went on. I was amazed how welcoming they were to us! They did so much. Next stop was the kitchen. They were making noodles, pork, carrots, stir-fry and egg rolls (those were just the main dishes). There are different dishes in which different things are made in. For example, big bowls are usually for things like stir-fry and noodles, since they serve a lot of those. Then we all gathered in a big room at the center of the Kaj Siab House. First there were acknowledgments, then some speeches, and then a gift to the Kaj Siab House. It was a big wooden sign that said, “Welcome to the Kaj Siab House” in big letters with translation in Hmong on the bottom. There were designs all around the words and a frame that looked as if it was made of bamboo. The entertainment followed. First a man came out with four flutes. He told us that Hmong think flutes can speak to you. The first flute was called the tambla. It was big and played a little like our flute, except it was lower and bigger. Next there was a little flute, played a bit like a recorder, except it was higher and more piercing. The man sometimes slid his fingers when playing it, perhaps to make it quicker. The lei mei was the next flute he played. It was skinny, and it looked like the little flute, but it sounded more like a tambla. Next was the little tambla. It sounded like the tambla, except quicker and higher. After that, he asked us if we had heard the flutes talk. I don’t know if I did. The next piece of entertainment was a teenager playing the qeej (keng). He wore Hmong clothing and he had bare feet. He was making gestures with the qeej in a sort of dance. As he danced the coins on his clothing jingled, making even more music. Last in the entertainment was a player playing the Hmong violin. It had a wider bow than ours and he moved around while he played it. Its strings were very taught and pulled away from the wood/bamboo. It had only a few strings but it was interesting to listen to! After lunch, we learned how to play some Hmong games. Spin the top is one. Another is jump over the rope. One is a little like jacks, except it’s played with sticks and rocks. We tried to play all of them! I was having so much fun that I didn’t want to leave. All of the people encouraged us to come back. They sure were hospitable hosts! I hope we’ll go back soon.
Today at Kaj Siab House I learned about cooking, Hmong instruments and about Hmong games.
We interviewed some Hmong women about the dishes they made for lunch. The first one was a noodle dish. It had thin noodles, and vegetables in it. The next one was one that had baby corn, pepper, and vegetables, and a sauce on it. It also has pork in it. It is stir fried. In the egg rolls there are noodles, carrots, meat and eggs. They are delicious!
First there was a man who played four different kinds of Hmong flutes. The first one was a long, deep sounding flute. The second one was a small, high pitched flute. When he played that one he moved his fingers very quickly. The third one was a thin, medium sized flute. It was low sounding but not half as low as the first flute. The third flute was a medium sized flute that was pretty thick. Its pitch was in between high and low. The next performer was a qeej player named Etti. He danced really fast while he played the qeej. It didn’t sound like he took one breath. The next man played a Hmong violin. The sound was very high. The bow is underneath the strings. The bottom kind of looks like a drum.
Outside we played a game where you make a top spin on a board with a stick with a string on it. You wind the top up in the string then whip it onto the board. Then other people try to knock your top off with their tops. The game is very fun. Another game is where you try to jump over a string of rubber bands. You can push the rubber band down a bit, but then you jump over it. That was my favorite part.
I learned how to play a Hmong game a lot like jacks, one game I didn’t know the name of that had spinning tops in it, and a game where you jump over a rope of rubber bands.
There was purple colored sticky rice, normal white rice, some rice noodle dish with pork and some green leafy plant and a dish sort of like cashew chicken except with baby corn and mushrooms. They also had egg rolls. They were my favorite food there.
They had two kinds of drinks at the Kaj Siab House, some kind of grape Kool-Aid and a squash. They also had water fountains.
Today I learned a lot about Hmong games that are really fun. I think its unusual that there are men’s games and women’s games. In my family, if we like a game we play it. We don’t have to be a certain gender. I also learned that there are a lot more Hmong instruments than the k’eng. I think the violin looking one was interesting because of its sound and where you place it on your body when you play it. I also didn’t know that the k’eng sounded like so many instruments we’re playing. I think it’s kind of cool that way. What was also interesting was the rice was purple. The rice I usually eat is white or brown, not purple. I noticed that Hmong food is a lot like food in the other cultures of Thailand, like the really thin noodles I’ve ordered all the time in Thai restaurants. I also thought that, in a way, Hmong culture is a lot like my culture. For an example, they like games and I like games. But, then again, when I think of games, I think checkers or tag. When they think of games, they think of hit the top with another top, jacks, or jump over the rubber band.
At the Kaj Siab House there were padaus and a little qeej hung up on the wall with the pandau. The Hmong women were cooking some food to eat. Some of the Hmong women cooked a noodle dish and it looked delicious. In the noodle dish they cooked the meat first and then made the vegetables and put them in the bowl. If you put the noodles in boiling water the noodles would get softer. The stir-fry dish had lots of vegetables in it. The egg rolls had eggs in them. The egg rolls could also have any kind of meat. Lee Pao Yang is a flute player because he looks like he has a lot of flutes. Tha bli is a flute that he plays. Tha gia is what Lee Pao has. The laylay sounds low and not very loud. Et was playing the qeej and dancing with the qeej. He was wearing Hmong clothes with money on the clothes. The qeej looked like it was singing. Et is also a Hmong singer. Et is a junior student. Sea saw is like an instrument. It’s a stringed instrument. The sound of the sea saw is soft and gentle.
Most of the people at the center are Hmong elders. There are two story cloths and one of them is a picture of them escaping Laos and it shows them in the USA. But both of the cloths have writing on them, which they usually don’t. Next to one of the cloths there was a mini-qeej but I am not sure if it really works. There also are some pictures of the Hmong villages and people in them. For lunch they made a noodle dish with pork, onions, peanuts and a lot of vegetables. They made the noodles soft by soaking them in water and then they stirred the vegetables in. Another dish was a chicken stir-fry with some onions, peppers, nuts, baby corn, and some mushrooms. That dish was very spicy. They are able to make a lot of food quickly for about fifty people in like two hours. They also made egg rolls. The egg rolls, of course, had eggs, carrots, noodles and some pork. At the place there was a picture of a Hmong house and what was around the house. I think that they are going to use it to help them build one for the exhibit. There was also a big huge fan on the wall that had a picture of a Hmong village on it. The Hmong flute sounds a lot different than the ones that I hear. There are a few different sizes of flutes and they all have different sounds. There was also a Hmong violin and it had a bow and everything, but it only had one string so you would have to work differently on the Hmong one. There was also a game called tulu and they played it for us. You have to take a top thing and spin it with a stick and string onto a piece of cardboard or hard surface. Then each team has a chance to hit it off with another top and string. Another game is a game that is kind of like jacks, only with a rock and sticks. Once you get all ten of the sticks, you start over and you have to pick two sticks up, and the next time three sticks, etc. another game is when you take a bunch of rubber bands and tie them together like a rope and you keep raising it higher and you have to keep jumping over it. I forgot one thing about lunch. There was a lot of rice. There was this different kind of rice that was purple and sticky but it tasted the same.
Kaj Siab House is a place where Hmong elders can get together and talk in Hmong about both old and new times. Though most people there speak Hmong, some people speak English, too. They helped translate. One on informational poster on the wall, I read about a typical Hmong household, which would consist of a house, a storage shed for food, a community school, a blacksmith’s shop, pig pen, cow barn, horse stall, chicken coop and a fenced-in garden. The food they served us was delicious. There was a noodle dish with noodles as well as pork, carrots, peanuts and onions. We also had two different kinds of rice, one white and the other sticky. The egg rolls were filled with the noodle dish and they were my favorite. Later, we heard a handful of Hmong instruments played, four different flutes, the keng and the Hmong violin. After that we were introduced to some Hmong games. One was a top game, and another was a game where you have to jump over a huge rubber band. The last was a game like jacks but it was played with sticks and a stone.
Pao Vang is a manager at the Kaj Siab House. There’s a woman whose name is Sheng Vang. She said to all the people that were at the Kaj Siab House that the people who work there made the dinner for the people who work at the Children’s Museum because they are helping the Kaj Siab House. Coral gave Tim a sign that says welcome to Kaj Siab House. They made it for the house. There was a musician that played some instruments called ndaj plai, ndaj jhia and another kind of flute. There’s a boy called Et Yany and he goes to East High School and at Kaj Siab House he played the qeej. Chang Xiong played a sea saw and it kind of looked like a violin. When we went to the kitchen, they made some noodle dish, egg rolls and more things that had vegetables in them. I really liked the peppers. Outside, some elders played touloue. I don’t really know how to explain things like how you play this or what it’s made of.
At the Kaj Siab House, I learned how to make some Hmong foods. To make a noodle dish, you make the noodles soft in water. Then you put pork and vegetables into the noodles before mixing them all up to make egg rolls. You basically put this stuff in the wrapping and you have an egg role. These things are not very traditional. I also learned what the traditional Hmong household is like. It has seven pieces. The first one is a home, of course, then there is a storage place close by. There is also a school and blacksmith, there is a pig pen, stables, cow place and a chicken coop. There is also a fenced-in garden. A funny Kaj Siab House custom is that when they say something is at a certain time, it is thirty minutes to one hour after that (today we were right on time). Hmong people use all sorts of things to represent Hmong history and culture. At the Kaj Siab House, we saw quilts called story cloths representing farming and immigration. We also saw a fan that had a painting of a Hmong village, in Laos, probably. I learned how to play some Hmong games there, too. In one of them, one team spins a top like thing on a board with a stick and string. The other team has the same materials to try to knock it down. In another game, you throw up a rock and a bunch of sticks, let the sticks fall and catch the rock. Then you throw up the rock, pick up a stick, then catch the rock with the stick in your hand. You keep doing this until you have all the sticks, kind of like jacks. The last game I learned is very simple, you merely jump over a long rubber band. To play some Hmong instruments, this is what you do. To play a Hmong violin, you put a barrel-like thing and bow across the strings. You blow into qeejs and Hmong flutes.
When we first got to Kaj Siab House, we first put our coats away. Then we went into the main area and had welcoming speeches for a half-hour. Then came the performers. The first was a man who played four different flutes, and he played them all for us. On the first, it sounded like a kazoo was in harmony with a jug blower, or a set of pan pipes. The second was more kazooish, as though there were now several people with one set of pan pipes. The third was amazing. On the lower notes it was the sound of blowpipes, the upper notes, a qeej. I do not remember the fourth. The next performer was a qeej (pronounced keng) player. As he played the qeej, he did an intriguing and mesmerizing dance, and it was obvious that he was barefoot. I didn’t know why. The final performer was playing a Hmong violin, a one-stringed instrument. It had a drum-type base and a long stick to which the string was attached. I cannot describe it beyond this. Next, we went to the kitchens. We saw some of the things the Hmong cooks were making for lunch. They were making a noodle dish, egg rolls, and other things which I didn’t see. Then it was lunch. After lunch, we went outside. We saw a game called Toolee. They took large tops and spun them with string on sticks. Then someone else threw a top at the spinning one, trying to knock the top over. Then, we tried to jump over a giant rubber band, held shoulder high. There was an element of sport about it, with some mention of good teams and strategies. But I did not latch on.
Some Hmong culture I observed is that they are great dancers and musicians. My favorite instrument played was the qeej. The man who played the qeej danced to the rhythm of his playing. He was wearing traditional clothing and strapped to a vest were hundreds of little coins so that when he danced they clanged together and made a cool sound. Another cool thing about Hmong culture is the food they make. It was delicious. I especially liked the bowl of soup broth with noodles, many vegetables, and peppers. Everyone except me thought that the peppers were very hot. My personal favorite thing that I observed today was the games Hmong people play. The one I liked the most was the one where people would start a big wooden or plastic top in the middle and two teams tried to knock it off a board that was under it. If a person on your team knocked it off, your team got a point!!
We went to the kitchen where they make these wonderful things. The egg roll is one of the favorites among our class. They showed us, well, actually, they told us how to make them. You put pork (or whatever meat you’d like) in and some noodles and vegetables in a bowl. Then you wrap some of the noodles, vegetables and pork in the egg wrapper and work. Most of their food ways they’ve adopted from America. They served Kool-Aid and had stir-fry and nice combinations of both cultures.
On the street, Hmong wear clothes just like you and I. But on special occasions, and sometimes when playing instruments, they wear their traditional clothes. Traditional clothes often have coins hung on them. They often have bright colors like bright pink and neon orange. They tend to have triangles and circles, too! They have spirals, too!
Well, today we saw a ‘k’eng being played. This k’eng player would play and travel around and do dances. He’d go in circles in one place at first, then he’d go in circles with one foot up. Then he began to go in a big circle, spinning around. Near the end, he went in zigzags, too! Someone played something called the Hmong violin. It has a wooden bow and two strings. There’s a barrel down near the bottom with a silver shine. These instruments sound like something you’ve never heard before. The k’eng is supposed to talk to spirits. That way, people can tell when you’re faking. These instruments are used for more than music.